Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras

illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. 40p. bibliog. glossary. index. websites. Abrams. 2015. RTE $18.95. ISBN 9781419716478. LC 2014042319.
RedReviewStarGr 3–6—Tonatiuh's latest delves into the life of artist and social commentator extraordinaire José Guadalupe Posada, best known for his literary calaveras, brief and amusing rhyming poems about skeletons dressed in clothes, going about their daily business. The beautifully expressive Day of the Dead-inspired illustrations on heavy paper pages sport borders of bones, grinning skeletons, and Tonatiuh's signature figures shown in profile, influenced by the ancient Mexican art of his ancestors. Simple yet effective sentences accompany step-by-step images detailing the artistic processes that Posada learned as a printer's apprentice: lithography, engraving, and etching. Reproductions of Posada's calaveras will help children appreciate Posada's passion for his profession, such as the broadside "Calavera Love," which depicts a gentleman skeleton proposing marriage; the poem concludes, "I am sorry, Señor. But that cannot be./You're handsome and all,/but too skinny for me!" Tonatiuh explains the poetry, posing questions about the artist's intentions and adding historical context, explaining the calaveras that Posada created in response to the Mexican Revolution. Extensive back matter includes links where students can see Posada's original work and an author's note that suggests using the calaveras "to learn and celebrate el Dia de Muertos."
VERDICT A stunning work, with great possibilities for lesson plans or tie-ins with Day of the Dead.

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