Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos book cover

This nonfiction picture book is a festive introduction to the Mexican and Latin American holiday of Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos
by Roseanne Greenfield Thong; pictures by Carles Ballesteros
Albert Whitman & Company, Chicago, 2015
ISBN 978-0-8075-1566-2
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 23 x 29 cm
Picture book, nonfiction, diversity
Dewey: 394.266
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 4.7
4 out of 5 stars

It is important to respect the cultures and traditions of people in other parts of the world, and reading books that present accurate information in a fun and entertaining way is an excellent way to educate children. Many people who are not part of the Latin American or Mexican culture mistakenly believe that Dia de los Muertos is associated with the American holiday of Halloween. Dia de los Muertos by Roseanne Thong and Carles Ballesteros make this distinct holiday come to life so readers understand what makes it special.

Thong has used rhyming text, with interspersed Spanish words, to narrate the story of how one town celebrates Dia de los Muertos. The Spanish words are left to stand on their own; they are not defined in the narrative text. This works well in the story because in most cases the words are either recognizable because of their resemblance to the corresponding English word, such as “celebraciones,” or the illustrations provide visual clues to the word’s meaning.

The illustrations are colorful and festive, matching the tone of the text and the holiday itself. In the additional information in the back of the book, Thong notes that “the emphasis of this day is on the joy of life rather than the sadness of death.” The feeling of the holiday is conveyed well by the rhyming text and festive illustrations. Skulls are part of the holiday, and the illustrations are accurate, but in no way scary, in order to be appropriate to young readers.

Two pages of more detailed information about Dia de los Muertos is included in the back of the book, as well as a glossary to define the Spanish words. There are no pronunciation guides, which is unfortunate, although Google Translate or other online resources can fill that need.

The flow of the rhyming text, paired with engaging illustrations, would make this book an excellent read-aloud for Nov. 1 or 2, the dates that the holiday is celebrated. Teachers or librarians could compare this Mexican/Latin American holiday to Halloween to help children recognize the differences.

Additional resources
Latinxs in Kid Lit has a list of other books that explore the holiday’s beliefs and traditions: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2014/10/31/scholastic-highlights-books-that-celebrate-the-day-of-the-dead-el-dia-de-los-muertos/

The Program of Latino History and Culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History has created a guide to the holiday that is appropriate for teachers or librarians. The history and beliefs are covered, and lesson ideas and activities are included. http://latino.si.edu/dayofthedead/DODManual.pdf

National Geographic has general information about Dia de los Muertos, including stunning illustrations, suggested questions to pose to students, and quick facts.
For older students: http://nationalgeographic.org/media/dia-de-los-muertos/
For younger students: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/celebrations/day-of-the-dead/

6 thoughts on “Dia de los Muertos”

    1. There is a Sharing section for each post that you are writing. If you expand it, you can customize the message that is posted to Twitter. That section automatically fills with whatever is in Title, but you can delete it and type in customized info. It was really easy!


  1. Stephanie, I love your book choice here. I think that many kids would enjoy discovering Dia de los Muertos, and it’s especially appropriate for communities that have a Latino community or for libraries trying to do outreach to a local Latino neighborhood. We have very few Hispanics in my area, but there are some. There’s one family in particular that has a little girl who loves to come to the library and the family wants her to practice English, but still keep her roots. This book would be perfect for her and I’m going to make sure we have it in our collection. For the teens (since I’m a teen librarian, lol) I often include coloring pages of sugar skulls during October which they love. They also ask me questions about the Day of the Dead – even though this book is meant for younger children, there are sections and bits of information that could be used in a display to help older youth and adults understand the holiday better as well. Thanks for the nice illustrations and great description of this cute book!

    BTW, I think the tagging is working out well. I have one small difficulty with the layout of the blog: The title blends in with the star rating and the hashtag making it kind of hard to look at. Would it be possible to put the star rating and the hashtag in the body of the post, rather than in the title line? Just my humble opinion…


    1. Hi Laurel,

      I agree with you about the star rating, hashtag, and title being too much information, but that section is what is posted automatically to Twitter, so that’s why it’s there. I have posts set up in advance and scheduled to publish at 3 p.m. daily, so I need to see if I can change what gets posted to Twitter. If I can figure that out, I can make the title area less cluttered!

      Thanks for the feedback!


      1. Ok, you’re way ahead of me in the tech dept, lol. Nice that you can write it once and have it post everywhere! That’s certainly worth a little bit of clutter… 🙂


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