The Day of the Dead, celebrated from October 31 through November 2,  is a time of both joy and quiet remembrance as families honor their loved ones who have died. While variations of the Day of the Dead are celebrated in many Latin American countries, some of the most well-known traditions are those from Mexico, where the celebration coincides with the return of the Monarch butterflies.

Each of the books on this list offers a unique interpretation of the holiday that will provide an excellent introduction for students who are new to the Day of the Dead, as well as an important opportunity for students who celebrate the holiday to share their own family traditions.

 

A Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of the Dead
By: Nancy Luenn
Illustrated by: Robert Chapman
Age Level: 6-9Reading Level: Independent Reader
When Abuelita dies, Rosita’s father encourages her to make a gift that she can leave at the altar on the Day of the Dead. Rosita likes the idea — but what can she make? This touching story captures the sadness of losing a loved one and the comfort of fond memories. The textured illustrations made out of cast paper add a unique and unforgettable dimension to the story. Bilingual text.

Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book
By: Jeanette Winter
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Pre-Reader
Don Pedro and his family make skeletons for el Día de los Muertos celebration in Mexico City. When the papier-mache Calaveras go to market on fiesta day, each skeleton acts out a letter of the alphabet. Richly toned illustrations in an appealing folk art style introduce the alphabet — from ángel tozapatero. This handsome book concludes with an alphabet glossary and a brief explanation of the Spanish alphabet.

Celebrate Halloween and the Day of the Dead With Cristina and Her Blue Bunny
By: F. Isabel Campoy & Alma Flor Ada
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Pre-Reader
As Cristina’s friends get ready to go trick-or-treating, Cristina explains her family’s traditions of the Day of the Dead. Alma Flor Ada and Isabel Campoy blend the traditions of the Day of the Dead and Halloween together in a story that young readers are sure to enjoy.  Spanish version available.

Clatter Bash! A Day of the Dead Celebration
By: Richard Keep
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Pre-Reader
Get ready for a party — these skeletons are ready to celebrate the Day of the Dead! They sing, they dance, they eat…but mostly they make a lot of noise! This playful book captures the festive mood of the Day of the Dead through its energetic illustrations and text, which consists of musical phrases and rhythms. The author’s note is written in English but incorporates Spanish words and expressions into the explanation.

Day of the Dead
By: Tony Johnston
Illustrated by: Jeanette Winter
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
“Above a small town in Mexico, the sun rises like a great marigold.” So begins one family’s preparation for El día de los muertos. The children are eager to try just a taste of this and that, but everyone says they must wait until the family is ready to take their offerings to the cemetery for a night of celebration and remembrance. The warmth of this story about one of Mexico’s most important traditions shines through the text and illustrations.

Felipa and the Day of the Dead
By: Birte Müller
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader
“When Abuelita dies, Felipa misses her a great deal. When she is told that people’s souls live on forever, she asks the donkey, the pig, and the llamas where her grandmother is hiding. They do not tell her. She searches high in the Andes but can not find her there either. In November, the village prepares for a celebration in which special treats, flowers, and candles are taken to decorate the graves and the cemetery comes to life with laughter, music, and stories. The child then feels close to her grandmother through the memories that her parents share with her.” — School Library Journal

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: Their Lives and Ideas, 24 Activities
By: Carol Sabbeth
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader
Product Description: Children will find artistic inspiration as they learn about iconic artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in these imaginative and colorful activities. The art and ideas of Kahlo and Rivera are explored through projects that include painting a self-portrait Kahlo-style, creating a mural with a social message like Rivera, making a Day of the Dead ofrenda, and crafting an Olmec head carving.

I Remember Abuelito: A Day of the Dead Story
By: Janice Levy
Illustrated by: Loretta Lopez
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
As a family prepares for the Day of the Dead, a young girl remembers her grandfather, and wonders when and how his spirit will return to visit. Perhaps, she thinks, he will come back with the Monarch butterflies who are returning to Mexico — as long as he doesn’t get lost! Warm, colorful illustrations bring the lovely setting and story to life, making this an excellent selection for younger readers.

Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale & Counting Book
By: Yuyi Morales
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
What’s an old woman to do when a skeleton comes to visit? Keep him waiting, of course, while busy doing things from 1 to 10, culminating in a festive birthday celebration. Lively language and illustrations make this original tale memorable.

Maria Molina and the Days of the Dead
By: Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by: Enrique O. Sanchez
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader
Maria’s story begins as she honors her baby brother on the first Day of the Dead. Maria is sad about the deaths in her family, but she feels a little bit better while she spends time with her family. When her parents go North to the United States, however, Maria has to confront a new kinds of sadness — until the family is again reunited and Maria helps them maintain their important traditions in a new place. Young children who have experienced loss or separation may feel a particular connection with Maria and her story.

Pablo Remembers
By: George Ancona
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader
This compelling photo essay from George Ancona follows the preparations of young Pablo and his family for the Day of the Dead as they remember Pablo’s grandmother. Ancona’s photos cover a wide range of the family’s activities, from a trip to the market to the family altar overflowing with marigolds. Ancona offers readers an authentic glimpse of daily life in Oaxaca, Mexico, as well as a sense of the love and care with which the family prepares for the celebration. Spanish version available.

Paper Crafts for Day of the Dead
By: Randel McGee
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
Learn how to make special paper crafts for the Day of the Dead, from skeleton pets to paper marigolds! Easy instructions make this an excellent book for learning about the holiday.

The Day of the Dead
By: Bob Barner
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
Bright illustrations convey the festive traditions of the Latin American celebration known as the Day of the Dead accompanied by a straightforward Spanish/English text. An endnote about the holiday as well as the inspiration for the art are included.

The Day of the Dead
By: Kerrie Logan Hollihan
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader
This non-fiction book provides children with an introduction to the historic origins of the Day of the Dead, as well as some of the well-known Mexican traditions connected with the holiday. Since many of the photographs include children and families, readers will get a sense of what this celebration is like for the youngest participants.

The Festival of Bones
By: Luis San Vicente
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader
With the humor and spirit of the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead, this imaginative festival depicts the travels, dances, and songs of happy skulls and skeletons. The easy rhyming text and the fanciful illustrations have a definite Mexican flavor.

The Spirit of Tío Fernando: A Day of the Dead Story
By: Janice Levy
Illustrated by: Morella Fuenmayor
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
Nando has many fond memories of Uncle Fernando, which he thinks of as he and his mother prepare to honor Fernando’s memory. When Nando goes to the market to look for things that remind him of his uncle, he wonders just how he will know that Fernando’s spirit has returned. Rich in detail, this story offers a perfect introduction to the Mexican customs of the Day of the Dead.

Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead
By: Judy Goldman
Illustrated by: Rene King Moreno
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader
Day after day, Lupita and Tío Urbano watch the Monarch butterflies arrive. Urbano says they are the souls of the dead ones arriving in time for Día de los muertos. When Urbano becomes sick and dies soon after, Lupita feels only sadness — until she sees the Monarchs and remembers Urbano’s words. The beautiful story and illustrations bring the true meaning of this important celebration to life for readers young and old.

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