Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras

by Duncan Tonatiuh (Author)

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade
A Sibert Award Winner, Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Honor Book, New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2015 and International Latino Book Award Finalist!

Funny Bones tells the story of how the amusing calaveras--skeletons performing various everyday or festive activities--came to be. They are the creation of Mexican artist José Guadalupe (Lupe) Posada (1852-1913). In a country that was not known for freedom of speech, he first drew political cartoons, much to the amusement of the local population but not the politicians. He continued to draw cartoons throughout much of his life, but he is best known today for his calavera drawings. They have become synonymous with Mexico's Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. Juxtaposing his own art with that of Lupe's, author Duncan Tonatiuh brings to light the remarkable life and work of a man whose art is beloved by many but whose name has remained in obscurity.

The book includes an author's note, bibliography, glossary, and index.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Following on his Sibert Honor–winning Separate Is Never Equal (2014), Tonatiuh further marks himself as a major nonfiction talent with this artistically beautiful and factually accessible offering that effectively blends artistic and political content for young readers. (Picture book/biography. 7-13)

Copyright 2015 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Tonatiuh offers a comprehensive look at the life of Mexican artist and printmaker Jose Guadalupe "Lupe" Posada, while providing a crash course in lithography, engraving, etching, and studying art. Posada is best known for his calavera images (featuring the skeletons associated with Mexico's Day of the Dead), which Tonatiuh intermixes with his own brand of hieroglyphic digital collages. Reproductions of Posada's calavera images accompany questions that encourage readers to consider their meaning ("Was Don Lupe saying that... no matter how fancy your clothes are on the outside, on the inside we are all the same?"). With a wealth of biographical and contextual information (much of it in an extensive author's note), it's a valuable introduction to Posada that will leave readers thinking about the process of creating art and the social impact it can have. Ages 6-10. (Aug.)

Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 3-6--Tonatiuh's latest delves into the life of artist and social commentator extraordinaire Jose Guadalupe Posada, best known for his literary calaveras, brief and amusing rhyming poems about skeletons dressed in clothes, going about their daily business. The beautifully expressive Day of the Dead-inspired illustrations on heavy paper pages sport borders of bones, grinning skeletons, and Tonatiuh's signature figures shown in profile, influenced by the ancient Mexican art of his ancestors. Simple yet effective sentences accompany step-by-step images detailing the artistic processes that Posada learned as a printer's apprentice: lithography, engraving, and etching. Reproductions of Posada's calaveras will help children appreciate Posada's passion for his profession, such as the broadside "Calavera Love," which depicts a gentleman skeleton proposing marriage; the poem concludes, "I am sorry, Senor. But that cannot be./You're handsome and all, /but too skinny for me!" Tonatiuh explains the poetry, posing questions about the artist's intentions and adding historical context, explaining the calaveras that Posada created in response to the Mexican Revolution. Extensive back matter includes links where students can see Posada's original work and an author's note that suggests using the calaveras "to learn and celebrate el Dia de Muertos." VERDICT A stunning work, with great possibilities for lesson plans or tie-ins with Day of the Dead.--Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL

Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Duncan Tonatiuh
Duncan Tonatiuh was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Miguel de Allende. His books have received many awards over the years. He currently lives in San Miguel with his wife and children but travels in the US often.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
August 20, 2015
Age Range
6 - 10 years
Kirkus Prize
Finalist 2015
Orbis Pictus Award
Honor Book 2016
Pura Belpre Award
Honor Book 2016
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
Winner 2016

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