DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS

From the Celebrate the World series

The traditions and history of one of Mexico’s most important holidays are introduced in this latest of Eliot’s Celebrate the World series.

From setting up the flower-festooned altars to decorating the calaveras, the preparations depicted involve entire communities over several weeks. Characters in cowboy hats, sombreros, and baseball caps place the final touches on skeletons in full lucha libre regalia or spangled mariachi outfits. However, instead of accurately using Mexico’s name for the holiday, Día de Muertos, Eliot uses the English back-translation, “Día de los Muertos,” as is common in the U.S. even though the story evidently takes place in Mexico. Also, aside from stating that the celebration “is an ancient tradition,” there is no mention of its Indigenous, pre-European/Christian roots nor does the book actively distinguish between Día de Muertos and Halloween. The first-person narration vacillates between child and adult perspectives. “We do all this to celebrate the beauty of life and death rather than mourn it.” Gutierrez’s mixed-media illustrations are convulsive, crowded panes of frenetic activity. Exaggerated facial features border on stereotypical caricatures—snouts and bug eyes abound. Contributing to the crowded page design is the unfortunate choice of board rather than picture-book format. Consequently, the initial perception is that this series is geared toward toddlers, when it is the school-age child who would most benefit from the information in this book.

Pass. (Board book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1515-7

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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JESUS IS RISEN!

AN EASTER POP-UP BOOK

Jesus pops up.

“It had been three days since Jesus died on a cross, and his friends were sad.” So Traini (The Life of Martin Luther, 2017) opens his ingenuously retold version of the first Easter. Beginning with two unnamed women clambering down a rocky hill to the graveyard, each of the seven tableaux features human figures with oversized eyes, light brown skin, and solemn or awed expressions posing in a sparsely decorated setting. The women hurry off at the behest of the angel lounging casually in a tomb bedecked with large crystals and fossil seashells to inform the “other disciples” of what’s happened. Along the way the women meet Jesus himself (“Greetings, my friends!”), who goes on to urge disciples “hiding inside a locked room” to touch his discreetly wounded hands. He later shares breakfast (“fish, of course!”) with Peter and others, then ascends from a mountaintop to heaven. Though the 3-D art and the flashes of irreverence set this sketchy rendition of the story apart from more conventional versions, the significance of the event never really comes clear…nor can it match for depth of feeling the stately likes of Jan Pienkowski’s Easter (1983). In the final scene Pentecostal flames appear over the heads of the disciples, leaving them endowed with the gift of tongues and eager to spread the “good news about Jesus!”

Skip. (Pop-up picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5064-3340-0

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Sparkhouse

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

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BEAUTIFUL EGGS

For centuries, birds’ eggs of all kinds have been turned into works of art; this book introduces children to some of the traditional egg-decorating styles of a few cultures around the world.

Eggs, an ancient symbol of new life, have been decorated in different cultures using distinct techniques and styles; some of the more elaborate designs come from Eastern Europe. In beautiful cut-paper illustrations, Lindstrom presents eggs from Ukraine, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Slovakia. Also mentioned are cascarones from Mexico and washi eggs from Japan. Each style is presented in a double-page spread that has the name given to these eggs printed in display type. Brief, poetic descriptive text about the decoration media follows, concluded by a guide to pronunciation: The phonetic rendering of kokkina avga from Greece reads, “koh-kee-nah ahv-gah.” Despite the board-book format, this is not a book for toddlers. It will appeal to children who have reached the sophistication necessary to appreciate these expressions of folk art. It also requires fairly developed small-motor skills; even though children may not re-create the gorgeous eggs on the pages of this book, surely they will still be inspired to come up with their own creations. To this end, the last page is a fold-out stencil in the shape of an egg, to get them started.

A visual treat. (Informational board book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-950354-43-6

Page Count: 20

Publisher: Scribble

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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