Los Gatos Black on Halloween

Last updated Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Author: Marisa Montes
Illustrator: Yuyi Morales
Date of Publication: 2006
ISBN: 0805074295
Grade Level: Kindergarten    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Oct. 2007

Synopsis: From School Library Journal Montes smoothly incorporates Spanish terms into a rhythmic poem describing a moonlit Halloween night. Los esqueletos rattle bones and clatter in a dance, los fantasmas drag their chains and shriek their pains, and los muertos emerge from their graves to join other creatures at a haunted casa for music and dancing. However, the party stops dead with the arrival of trick-or-treaters, which causes the frightened spooks to hide, for The thing that monsters most abhor/Are human niρos at the door! The full-bleed paintings create a creepy mood with curving lines, fluid textures, and dusky hues. Rounded figures dance across the atmospheric spreads, which depict blank-faced skeletons, a toothy werewolf, and a child zombie with glowing eyes. The pictures are eerie enough to tingle spines, but the effect is leavened with bits of humor (witches perform skateboard tricks on their brooms, a vampire admires himself in a mirror that reflects only his clothing). The poems cadenced rhymes and descriptive language build suspense until the satisfying ending. Spanish words are easy to understand in context, but are also defined in a glossary with pronunciation guides. This book is just right for children who are beginning to find typical Halloween fare a bit too tame.

Note to readers:
•  There is a glossary of Spanish vocabulary in the back of the book

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Vocabulary: Harpsichord, hallowed, eerie, beacons, prance, shriek, loon, raps, bay, mansion, transparent, abhor
•  What do you think this story will be about? What kind of characters do you think will be in the story.
•  Do you think this book will be scary?
•  Does anyone know the difference between Halloween and Dia de los Muertos? --They come from the same tradition, Nov 1 is the day that you honor your family that has passed away. In northern Europe, Halloween/dressing up came about as a way of scaring away evil spirits. In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos evolved as a way of honoring your ancestors, and people picnic with their ancestors (either at the cemetery or at a shrine).
•  What do you think black cats do on Halloween? Why do some people think that black cats are back luck? Do you think that black cats are bad luck? (Superstitions)
•  What do you do on Halloween?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  The book has characters which may be scary. Are you scared of witches, ghosts, zombies, etc? What kinds of things are you scared of?
•  Why do you think the creatures are going into the mansion? What are they getting ready for?
•  How do you celebrate Halloween? What are you going to be for Halloween? Do you carve pumpkins? Do you go to a party like the characters in the book?
•  Who do you think is knocking at the door? Why are they knocking?
•  Do you think monsters get scared? What are they scared of?
•  Do you think the children want to party with the monsters? Are they scared of the monsters? Are the monsters scared of the children?

Craft ideas:
•  Cut out a black cat and decorate it. Glue it on construction paper and make the moon in the background.
•  Draw what you will do on Halloween.
•  Make a jack-o-lantern.

*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!