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It’s a common misconception that the traditional Mexican celebration of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an extension of Halloween, but nothing could be further from the truth. To begin with, Halloween falls on October 31st and Day of the Dead is observed on November 1st and 2nd. Both do honor the dead and fall on the eve and the day of “All Saint’s Day,” November 1st, but the way the holidays are celebrated and how the traditions have been kept alive are completely different.
Día de Muertos celebrates death as part of life. There are many symbolic elements to the celebration that make it take on a festive atmosphere full of color, smells, foods, and traditions to honor those loved ones that have passed.
One of the best ways to start teaching kids about the history and the true meaning of Día de Muertos is to get them books rich with stories, pictures, and activities. I’ve put together a collection of some of our favorite children’s books, many of them in Spanish and English, that are a treasure trove of information for Day of the Dead and that will just add a cool cultural sparkle to any kid’s home library or even as a gift for teachers.
Check them out and let me know in the comments below if I missed any musts!
1. Rosita y Conchita
Rosita y Conchita, by Eric Gonzalez and Erich Haeger, is probably the most adorable Day of the Dead book you will find because the story will pull all your heart strings. Rosita and Conchita are twin sisters, but Rosita passed away and Conchita puts up an altar so her sister can find her way back for Día de Muertos. The rhyme is absolutely flawless and poetic in both languages and the illustrations just jump out of the book.
2. Day of the Dead Crafts: More Than 24 Projects That Celebrate Día De Los Muertos
The Day of the Dead Crafts book is filled with cool projects that allow kids to use their creativity while celebrating and learning about this special holiday.
3. Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead, by Tony Johnston and Jeannette Winter, is an introduction to the Día de Muertos celebration. The story begins by a small town in Mexico where a family begins preparations for the annual celebration.
4. Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book
Calavera Abecedario by Jeanette Winter tells the story of Don Pedro and his family who make papier-mâché skeletons, or calaveras, for Mexico’s Day of the Dead fiesta. The book includes a calavera for each letter of the alphabet. The book also includes a glossary of Spanish words and an author’s note.
5. Day of the Dead Activity Book by Karl Jones
The Day of the Dead Activity Book by Karl Jones explores the traditions and history of Día de Muertos through a series of mazes, puzzles, and activities. The book uses press-out forms to create shrines and masks. Kids can also decorate their creations with the stickers included in the book.
6. Day of the Dead / Día de Los Muertos Stained Glass Coloring Book
In this book you’ll find sixteen line-art interpretations of Day of the Dead which find their inspiration in papel picado and the images of Mexican cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada.The book also includes bilingual text.
7. Day of the Dead / Día de Los Muertos by Bob Barner
This bilingual book by Bob Barner introduces kids to Day of the Dead through poetic storytelling.
8. Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead
Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead by Judy Goldman tells the story of Lupita, her family and the Day of the Dead celebration.
9. Day of the Dead (On My Own Holidays)
Day of the Dead by Linda Lowery is another wonderful book that introduces readers to Day of the Dead and describes how it is celebrated in Mexico and in the United States.
10. Day of the Dead / Día de Los Muertos Paper Dolls by Kwei-Lin Lum
This artful, bilingual collection features two paper dolls, 15 ornate costumes, a variety of altar offerings plus a bonus sticker poster.
11. Clatter Bash! A Day of the Dead Celebration
Clatter Bash! by Richard Keep is the story of a secret Day of the Dead fiesta that takes place at night. Skeletons rise from their graves to celebrate all night and before dusk they tidy up and leave no trace of their clatter bash. The book includes a two-page illustrated afterword of factual information about el Día de los Muertos.
12. Day of the Dead: A Celebration of Life and Death
Day of the Dead: A Celebration of Life and Death is part of the First Facts: Holidays and Culture books. It offers a brief description of what the Day of the Dead is, it’s origins, and ways people celebrate this holiday.