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Calavera Abecedario

Last updated Thursday, September 22, 2005

Author: Jeanette Winter
Date of Publication: 2004
ISBN: 0152051104
Grade Level: Kindergarten    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Oct. 2005

Synopsis: A title that features jaunty illustrations inspired by Mexican folk art and a short story about preparations for the Day of the Dead that includes within it an alphabet book based on the Spanish alphabet. The heart of the book is the artwork: vivid pastel clothing and scenery set against shiny black backgrounds and complemented by the bright white of the skeletons that form an integral part of the Mexican and Mexican-American celebrations. Skeletal characters in the alphabet portion of the book include ?ngel (angel) and bruja (witch), Kahlo (as in Frida, about whom Winter has written), and zapatero (shoemaker). While the glossary is helpful, the illustrations offer plenty of clues as to what each word means. The story that surrounds the alphabet concerns the family of Don Pedro, three generations of which join in the yearlong making of the papier-m?ch? skeletons for the fiestas in early November. An author's note includes information about the real Don Pedro, whose life inspired her book. This is a lovely book that approaches the Day of the Dead from an unusual angle, reflecting not only the close family ties common to Mexican life but also the non-"devilish" nature of the celebrations.

Note to readers:
•  Note the glossary at the end of the book with the translations of the words--practice pronunciation.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you know what the Dia de los Muertos/ the Day of the Dead is? How is it celebrated? (Volunteers who are more familiar with this celebration are invited to share what they know with others who are less familiar before the reading clubs)
•  What is a Calavera? Have you ever made one?
•  Do you get dressed up for Halloween? What will you be this year?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Do you think it would be fun to help make a calavera?
•  Based on the pictures, what do you think the letter stands for? What are the calevaras doing?
•  What?s another ?[letter of the alphabet]? word?
•  What job do you want to have when you grow up? What letter does that start with? What are other jobs?

Craft ideas:
•  Take the first letter of your first name and draw a calavera doing something relating to a word that begins with that letter.
•  Color a piece of paper with many different colors, filing in all spaces. Then, color over that layer with a layer of just black crayon. When you scratch the black layer, the different colors underneath are revealed. Scratch a drawing of Halloween or the Day of the Dead.
•  Bring ahead option: bring in cut-outs of skeleton parts (make copies of pictures on the internet?), and have the children glue the parts to a piece of paper.

Special activities:
•  Divide the class into two teams. Show one team a picture of a letter page, tell them the letter, and see if they can guess based on the picture what the word is. Then do the same with the other team.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!