A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Little Skeletons/Esqueletitos: Countdown to Midnight is a lively accordion-fold bilingual board book in the Canticos series, a collection of nursery rhymes and songs from the Spanish-speaking world. This book has a Day of the Dead theme, but the holiday itself is not mentioned in the text. In cute, cheery (not scary) black-and-white illustrations, it shows little skeletons ("skeletitos") having fun in a graveyard from 1 a.m. till midnight. There's a rhyming counting scheme in the text, starting with one skeleton coming out of his tomb when the clock strikes 1, then two skeletons eating at 2, three who flee at 3, and so on. Each page ends with the rat-a-tat lines "Tomb-a-laca tomb-a-laca tomb-a tomb-a / tomb-a-laca tomb-a-laca tomb-a-la," which kids will love repeating. Turn the book over to read the text in Spanish. There's also a clock with movable hands that can help kids learn to tell time. Not all of the characters are human skeletons. There are animal skeletons, too, including one little chicken, who looks like the bird in another bilingual Canticos book, Little Chickies/LosPolititos, based on the song “Los Pollitos Dicen."
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What's the story?
LITTLE SKELETONS/ESQUELETITOS: COUNTDOWN TO MIDNIGHT shows a skeleton coming out of his grave to join other skeletons -- human and animal --to eat, dance, and play in a graveyard between 1 a.m. and midnight. They find delicious food put out for them, as is the Day of the Dead custom, including rice, fruit, and cake. There's no actual mention of the holiday, but there are visual references, like the traditional cut-paper banner, papel picado.
Is it any good?
This lively board book is a celebration of a religious/cultural holiday that pictures cheerful skeletons having fun together. It's clearly a Day of the Dead story, but the holiday isn't mentioned. It also works as a counting book, starting at 1 (in the morning) and ending at 12 (midnight). Kids will enjoy the rhythmic verse and cute illustrations, and they may learn to tell time by manipulating the movable hands of the clock. Not to mention words and phrases in Spanish and English!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why skeletons come out of their graves in Little Skeletons/Esqueletitos: Countdown to Midnight. How much do you know about the Day of the Dead holiday? Do you celebrate it with your family?
Why is it important to know about your roots and celebrate the culture your family comes from? Name a special holiday that your family celebrates. Are there traditional songs you've learned from your family? What are your favorites?
Did you see Coco? What does that movie have to say about the Day of the Dead and skeletons?
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