Skip to main content

The Dead Family Diaz: A Story of Family, Fiestas, and Friendship by P. J. Bracegirdle, illustrated by Poly Bernatene

The Dead Family Diaz: A Story of Family, Fiestas, and Friendship by P.J. Bracegirdle with illustrations by Poly Bernatene is a fantastic and fun addition to the woefully small selection of kid's books about El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico on November 1. For Mexicans, and many Americans, the Day of the Dead is a time to remember and appreciate friends and family who have died. At the graves of loved ones, altars laden with favorite foods and other items, especially the bright orange marigold flowers, are made to welcome the souls of the dead. There is singing and dancing and celebrating. Colorful skeletons,  delicately gorgeous tissue paper banners called Papel Picados and special candies make the day vibrantly festive rather than frightening.

The Dead Family Diaz: A Story of Family, Fiestas, and Friendship weaves the worlds of the dead and the living together in a story told from the perspective of Angelito (also the name for those who died in childhood), the youngest member in the Dead Family Diaz. In the Land of the Dead, spirits were high as morning came and the "dead sun chased off the dead moon." Angelito is scared by the possibility of encountering a living human during the Day of the Dead, the one day of the year when the dead walked among the living. Before his Huevos Muertos can even get cold, his big sister Estrellita, is teasing him mercilessly. She tells him that the living have "big red tongues and bulging eyes" and if you touch one they feel "hot and squishy!"

The family piles into their car and heads downtown to the elevator that will take them to the Land of the Living.

The family manages to squeeze into the elevator and emerges in the Land of the Living, smack in the middle of a central square where celebrations are under way. In the Land of the Living, every one seems to be wearing skeleton masks! Angelito runs and hides, getting separated from his family, and makes a new friend, Pablo. Assuming that Pablo is also from the Land of the Dead, Angelito befriends him and they prepare for an attack that turns out to be a parade. When the two boys realize that one of them is dead and one of them is alive, mayhem ensues. 

Both run off in opposite directions, but meet up again at the cemetery where their families, and the rest of the village, are celebrating. The boys reunite to give Estrellita a good scare.

The plot of The Dead Family Diaz: A Story of Family, Fiestas, and Friendship is simple and tidy, but that's just fine. There is SO MUCH to see in Bernatene's raucous illustrations. This is a book that all readers will enjoy, even those unfamiliar with Mexican culture.

Source: Review Copy


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

The Seeing Stick, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazini

The Seeing Stick is an original Chinese fairy tale written by the prolific (and prolifically award winning) Jane Yolen. First published in 1977 with illustrations by Remy Charlip (author and illustrator of the brilliantly fun picture book Fortunately and friend and muse to Brian Selznick, who asked him to pose as George Méliès while he was working on the Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Seeing Stick was reissued with new illustrations by Daniela J. Terrazini in 2009. I have not seen Charlip's version, but Terrazini's is a beautiful work of art and the book itself is yet another magnificently packaged book published by Running Press, the house that brought us Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling, yet another superbly and uniquely packaged children's book with artwork by Terrazini. Interestingly, both The Wikkeling and The Seeing Stick were designed by Frances J Soo Ping Chow.

The Seeing Stick begins, "Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there l…