This picture book is a total celebration—of family, of memory, of tradition, and of joy itself.
Its cover embodies the way the book invites engagement with the dear departed in a bright and buoyant way. The characters may be looking back at the particulars of those they’ve lost, but they are fully in the present of the party too—mingling with them as represented by delightful, dancing (not-at-all scary) skeletons!
You can always spot a book illustrated by Ana Aranda because of her signature vibrance, whimsy, washes of color, shapes, nature elements, fun creatures, and inventive details. Her art is infused with exuberance! And this time it’s exceedingly special because it’s her author-illustrator debut!
Our Day of the Dead Celebration truly captures the happiness of the holiday for children. Kids will pick out elements of Día de los Muertos to enjoy like marigolds, calaveras/sugar skulls, Papel picador, and ofrendas/altars as well as other celebratory touches: music, tamales, and almond cookies too! And they will surely be inspired to investigate and memorialize their own family and friend ancestry after reading how Sisters Paz and Mar learn about their relatives through their parents’ stories and how they choose different ways to honor them: through food or poems (also called calaveras) or accordion music.
But there are some things only Abuelita will know, and they wait for her arrival while preparing for their visitors—”the living and the dead”! Because in my mind, the real star here is Abuelita herself, keeper of family stories, who arrives at the fiesta in a glorious parade of monarch butterflies.
This is a book that honors a holiday and also a way of being and seeing death. Something not to shy away from, celebrating the lives of those we love by remembering them in meaningful, connective ways.
A perfect story for looking back, which can be bittersweet, but here is extremely sweet as well as full of warmth and creativity. A medium for capturing the spirit of those we love and modeling how to relive the best bits of “all the relatives we miss.”
¡Hola! My name is Ana Aranda and I am an author, illustrator and creator or colorful art for kids of all ages from Mexico City!
My book Our Day of the Dead Celebration is inspired in the Day of the Dead or Día de Muertos which is one of my favorite times of year when we celebrate and honor our beloved loved ones. It is a day when we feel their spirits close and we share stories about them, we build altars with their favorite things and foods, and we create poems.
This book is very special to me because it is inspired by my family, friends and it contains a lot of hidden stories and memories, such as my grandfather’s accordion, my grandmother’s cookies, my grandfather’s travels, my grandmother’s favorite color, and more.
With this book I wanted to honor those that I miss and share a story where kids (especially Mexican kids) can see themselves in and see their culture celebrated.
What I’m most interested in the Day of the Dead is celebrating and remembering. Telling stories so that they are shared for generations and generations to come. I am interested in why it is important to remember and what can we do to do keep the memory of those dear to us very close.
This book was created with a lot of love, watercolor, ink, gouache and pink Himalayan salt on watercolor paper. The setting is based in the beautiful town of Pátzcuaro, Michoacán in Mexico where there is a lake, and in that lake lives the island of Janitzio. I took a research trip there and drew and took a bunch of pictures for the book. I also talked to many people who were preparing for the Day of the Dead.
Today I wanted to share with you all a craft where you can both write and color.
For this special day, we will color a skull, similar to the sugar skulls used to decorate altars.
In this skull’s skeleton you will have room to write down what is called a poem or calavera (which translates as skull). This calavera can be about a memory from a departed loved one, about a departed famous person, or someone still with us and their fictional and humorous encounter with death or “la Catrina.”
What you will need:
*Download this page and print.
*Colors, markers, or crayons to color.
*Your favorite pencil or pen to write the poem.
Step 1: color the skull with your favorite colors.
Step 2: In the skeleton’s body, write down the poem for someone.
It can be as long as you wish and can rhyme as well.
For example, here are two of the calaveras from the book:
Your favorite color was green
The best color ever seen.
You loved the spring
And birds that sing.
We miss you and your sneeze.
Did it really almost blow down some trees?
3: Enjoy and have fun!
Thank you so much, Ana, for sharing your story, photos, and this activity with us!! And big thanks to Penguin Young Readers for a review copy and images.
Ana Aranda is a children’s book creator, illustrator, and art instructor born in Mexico and living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been featured in galleries and museums in the United States, France, Mexico, Italy, Norway, and Japan. In San Francisco, she painted murals in the Mission District, for the Consulate General of Mexico, and for the prestigious de Young Museum.
Ana’s biggest inspirations are her childhood memories, the vibrant colors of Mexico, and music. Her work focuses on transforming the everyday into fantastical situations, and often include images from nature and whimsical creatures. She has illustrated picture books published in France, Italy and the US, including The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra, by Marc Tyler Nobleman (Nancy Paulsen Books), Our Celebración!, by Susan Middleton Elya (Lee & Low), Moth & Butterfly: Ta Da!, by Dev Petty (Nancy Paulsen Books), and Our Day of the Dead Celebration, her debut as author and illustrator, released by Nancy Paulsen Books. Forthcoming titles include How to Make a Memory, by Elaine Vickers (S&S/Paula Wiseman Books, 2023)