Just In Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book

Last updated Thursday, May 6, 2010

Author: Yuyi Morales
Date of Publication: 2008
ISBN: 1596433299
Grade Level: 1st    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2010

Synopsis: Señor Calavera, a dapper skeleton wearing a fedora and striped tie, receives an invitation to Grandma Beetle's birthday party. Zelmiro the Ghost reminds him that he needs to take a present and suggests that "the best present to give a friend is the thing she would love the most." The silent Señor Calavera collects gifts alphabetically, including an accordion (una acordeón) to make music for her, a jaguar to protect her (un jaguar), and 15 more years to add to her life (quince años). As these thoughtful gifts fill his bicycle basket to overflowing, the shimmering ghost encourages him to keep looking. When the skeleton loses control of his bike on the very hill where Zelmiro was buried, all the beautiful gifts are ruined. Grandma Beetle is blowing out her candles when the Señor finally arrives with the perfect tribute—Grandpa Zelmiro, who is a ghost no longer. Luminous, jewel-tone spreads chronicle the collection of gifts and pay homage to a rich Mexican culture. A comic book (una historieta) cleverly recalls Señor Calavera's first meeting with Grandma Beetle in Just a Minute (Chronicle, 2003). The floating, semitransparent form of Zelmiro the Ghost becomes the solidly human form of Grandpa Zelmiro, who lovingly embraces his wife. Part ghost story and part alphabet book, this trickster tale transcends both. Librarians will want to share it for the beautiful language, the spirited artwork, and the rightness of the ending.—Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN

Note to readers:
•  Please see reverse for pronunciation key- definitions are provided in the story.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Does anyone know what the "Day of the Dead" is?( A celebration of loved ones who have passed away.)
•  When is it? (The celebration occurs on November 1 and 2 in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2).
•  What is a calavera? (a skeleton)
•  Who do you think is on the cover of the book?
•  What are the cards on the inside covers (loteria cards)
•  What is Loteria? Has anyone ever played? (it is a mexican card game similar to Bingo.)
•  Does anyone here speak Spanish?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What do you think Senor Calavera is forgetting?
•  Who is Zelmiro?
•  Discuss each word given for the letters. Do they know what the word means? Have the kids offer up guesses for the definition.
•  Have the kids guess what will happen next...

Craft ideas:
•  Make a set of Loteria cards and play bingo with them! Prior to the read aloud time, decide with your partner 6- 9 simple objects or symbols (flower, car, circle, square) you want your kids to draw on 6-9 separate pieces of paper. Have the kids glue down the cards on a larger sheet of paper in random order. If time permits, play the game explaining that they need to get 3 in a row to win!
•  Make tissue paper flowers.
•  Draw a picture of Senor Calavera.

*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!