February 29, 2016
Funny Bones by Duncan Tonatiuh
Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Have you ever seen figures of skeletons riding bicycles, dancing, or playing musical instruments? These are called calavera. The word is literally Spanish for skull and these figures are associated with the Day of the Dead or Dia del Muertos. This Mexican holiday is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd and is a day of remembrance for all our loved ones who have died.
These skeleton figures are the creation of an artist named Jose Guadalupe Posada. Early in his life, he was known as Lupe. As his work became more and more popular, he came to be called by his last name – Posada.
His pieces are meant to be entertaining and fun but there is always a message – this is what will happen to us all. In his lifetime, his etchings accompanied poems. Sometimes the poems were festive, funny comments on life. But those created during the Mexican Revolution were often dark and aggressive.
When this book won the Pura Belpre Award given by American Library Association in January, I was eager to get ahold of it for two reasons. 1. I adore calaveras although many people think they are grim and ghastly.
2. I also adore Duncan Tonatiuh’s illustrations.
It did not disappoint. I loved it for the lessons in Mexican culture and history, but there is so much more on this book. Definitions of art techniques used by Posada are scattered throughout the text as are the works of Posada and Manuel Manilla who also created calaveras. Tonatiuh’s work is hand drawn and then used to create computerized collages sometimes including pieces by either Posada or Manilla. The works of these two artists are fully credited in the backmatter.
I would definitely recommend sharing this with your young art lover or any other child interested in learning about other cultures. The illustrations are colorful and humorous and make you think about the many things we take for granted.