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<< Back to Mi familia calaca/My Skeleton Family

Mi familia calaca/My Skeleton Family

Publishers Weekly
Oaxacan folk artist Zárate creates papier-mâché sculptures of Day of the Dead–style skeletons that grin widely as a young skeleton named Anita introduces her family…Zárate’s sculptures exude personality.
- July 22, 2013  Visit Website
Kirkus Reviews
Though they are skeletons, this family couldn’t be friendlier … The details traditional Oaxacan artist Canseco Zárate includes charm as fully as Weill’s crunchy vocabulary … They may be dead, but their affection is palpable. Just right for the Day of the Dead or for a fresh take on family structures—tan lindo!
Though they are skeletons, this family couldn’t be friendlier.
Canseco Zárate’s papier-mâché sculptures grin out at readers broadly, as only skeletons can. Weill’s bilingual text gives them voice in both English and Spanish. Big sister Anita, wearing a yellow dress with red flowers and patent-leather Mary Janes, introduces first herself and then her family. Her brother Miguel, she confides, is “a brat” (“Él es muy travieso”); his bony knees stick out under his blue shorts. Juanito, the baby, on the other hand is “so cute!” (“¡Él es tan lindo!”)—and, indeed he is, with a little kewpie-doll topknot atop his bare skull. There’s her “hermosa mamá”; her “guapo papá”; her grandmother, who “gives…good advice”; her “sweet” grandfather; her “bisabuela,” who “tells wonderful stories”; and her pets: “¡Son mis mejores amigos!” The figures are posed alone or in groupings against varying pastel-colored backgrounds. The details traditional Oaxacan artist Canseco Zárate includes charm as fully as Weill’s crunchy vocabulary. Abuelita sports blue-rimmed cat’s-eye glasses; Anita’s great-grandmother uses a walker; the skeletal cat wears a pink belled collar. When posed in groups, they hold hands, wave and put arms round one another’s shoulders—they may be dead, but their affection is palpable.
Just right for the Day of the Dead or for a fresh take on family structures—tan lindo! (Picture book. 4-8)
- August 14, 2013 
School Library Journal
The photographed Oaxacan folk-art figures will make readers smile as each one has a fixed grin, as one would expect from a well-dressed skeleton … This book would be a welcome and culturally relevant addition to beginning-reader collections.
K-Gr 2–Anita, an adorable papier-mâché skeleton, introduces readers to her extended family. The text is simple and straightforward, appearing in both English and Spanish, using basic sentences to define the role of each family member or to describe them. This book could be used in units on teaching sentence structure or for independent reading. The photographed Oaxacan folk-art figures will make readers smile as each one has a fixed grin, as one would expect from a well-dressed skeleton. Anita’s mother is wearing strands of pearls, great grandmother is featured with her walker, and the dog is wearing a sweater. This book would be a welcome and culturally relevant addition to beginning-reader collections.–Maricela Leon-Barrera, San Francisco Public Library
- Maricela Leon-Barrera, San Francisco Public Library, October 1, 2013 
Midwest Book Review
For a bilingual, bicultural experience with a little macabre slant, read Mi Familia Calaca / My Skeleton Family with your elementary school student or child.
Mi Familia Calaca / My Skeleton Family is a bilingual picture story with big sister Anita introducing a cheery, well-dressed complete family, including brother, sister, baby, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, great grandmother and more, even a dog and cat. There is something a bit different about these spunky family portraits. Everyone is a smiling skeleton! Celebrating an ancient Mexican folk tradition of regarding the skeleton figure as a beloved, familiar friend or clown, Mi Familia Calaca / My Skeleton Family represents the complete skeleton family in colorful pictures of creative paper mache statues or figures, each with a cheerful smiling skull. The artistic creations of Oaxacan folk artist Jesus Canseco Zarate are amazing, new interpretations of the familiar beloved traditions of the Day of the Dead in Mexican culture. Each portrait page is accompanied by brief text descriptions in both English and Spanish. For a bilingual, bicultural experience with a little macabre slant, read Mi Familia Calaca / My Skeleton Family with your elementary school student or child.
-  Visit Website
De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children
Mi familia calaca / My Skeleton Family is great fun for the youngest children — both hablantes and English speakers — and can lend itself to a plethora of art projects during celebrations of El Día de los Muertos, and any other time as well. Highly recommended.
Except for what’s visually obvious, the close-knit familia Calaca is your typical extended family next door. Here, big sister Anita introduces her bratty brother, Miguel (“Él es muy travieso”), her cute baby brother, Juanito (“¡Él es tan lindo!”); her “hermosa mamá” and “guapo papá”; her abuelitos, who are “los mejores,” her bisabuela, who “tells wonderful stories,” and, of course, her pets (“son mis mejores amigos”).

All of traditional Oaxacan artist Canseco Zárate’s papier-máché (cartonería) skeleton family members, posed singly and in groups and photographed against bright pastel-colored backgrounds, have that wide, friendly smile that only skeletons can have. As well, his ‘50s and ‘60s fashion details perfectly frame what they have left for bodies. June Cleaver-like mom, in full skull makeup and high heels, sports a polka dot-print shirtwaist and a double strand of pearls. Office worker dad, in horn-rimmed eyeglasses, wears pencils in the breast pocket of his button-down shirt. Sister Anita is stylish in a flower-print dress and black patent leather Mary Janes. Abuelo wears a felt hat to keep his skull warm. Abuela’s fashionably blue eyeglasses frame her mascara-tipped eyeholes. Freckled Miguel’s bony knees stick out of his blue shorts. Baby Juanito, in a stroller, wears a cute blue onesie and has a neat little topknot on his skull. Gray-haired bisabuela, whose dress is accented with a lace collar, uses a walker. And the pets, of course, are fashionably decked out as well.

Each double-page spread, connected by the particular background color, mostly features a waving family member or hand-holding group on one side and English-over-Spanish text on the other; and Weil’s spare, whimsical text both balances and frames Canseco Zárate’s lively artwork. Mi familia calaca / My Skeleton Family is great fun for the youngest children — both hablantes and English speakers — and can lend itself to a plethora of art projects during celebrations of El Día de los Muertos, and any other time as well. Highly recommended.
- Beverly Slapin, January 12, 2016  Visit Website

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