When I set out to make this list, I had NO IDEA how many great books were out there to celebrate Day of the Dead. It just took a little bit of digging. Between Amazon and my local library's card catalog I have found for you all of the must-read picture books (and more!) for Day of the Dead.
If you haven't heard of this holiday celebrated in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, make sure you visit the Day of the Dead Blog Hop hosted by Multicultural Kid Blogs that I participated in this year. You can find lots of information and ideas for celebrating there.
You probably know by now, books are our favorite way to learn and celebrate around here. I have so much fun making these Spanish picture book lists, especially because I always come away with more books in my library holds list that are new to me! I hope you enjoy these as much as I do, and if you have any to add, be sure to let me know about them in the comments!!!
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Adapted by Ana Galán
Illustrated by Rodrigo Luján
A fun story adaptation of the traditional rhyming kids song from Costa Rica where the calaveras come out of their tombs every hour. Learn how to tell time and explore the themes of Día de los muertos in the illustrations. (Bilingual)
Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale & Counting Book
by Yuyi Morales
Señor Calavera comes to Grandma Beetle's door, but she's not quite ready. She stalls him number by numer: "Just ONE more house to sweep . . . Just TWO pots of tea to boil . . ." Not specifically a Día de los muertos book, but has the same images and themes as the holiday in the illustrations. (Bilingual)
Just in Case: A Trickster Tale & Spanish Alphabet Book
by Yuyi Morales
Señor Calavera is on his way to Grandma Beetle's birthday party. But on the way Grandpa Zelmiro catches him to make sure he gets a present for Grandma Beetle. Señor Calavera ends up bringing a present for every letter of the alphabet! Lots of fun Spanish words to learn with this book!!
Día de los muertos
by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
Illustrated by Carlos Ballesteros
Another rhyming book! Take a walk through this small village from sun up to sun down and learn about all the symbols and festivities of Day of the Dead. There is a glossary in the back for all the Spanish words sprinkled throughout the text. This is a great first introduction to the holiday for little ones who haven't got to experience it yet! Lots of details and information, but simple enough to understand.
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Have you ever heard of La Catrina or La Pelona or La Flaca? Perhaps you have noticed these comical squeleton figures dressed as the living at Day of the Dead celebrations? Funny Bones tells the story of how the calavera figures came to be through the art and invention of José Guadalupe Posada, a political cartoonist in Mexico during the late 1800s.
by Raina Telgemeier
We have this one on hold at the library! I can't wait until it comes in for a number of reasons! My 8yo loves graphic novels (he wants to be a cartoonist when he grows up!), and this particular one about family and friendship tells the story of a family that moves to northern California for one of the sisters who has Cystic Fibrosis. Upon their arrival they encounter ghosts and the holiday celebrated in that area: Día de los muertos! We also have a family member that has Cystic Fibrosis and we are learning about Mexico and Day of the Dead right now . . . so this should be a very relatable story.
The Remembering Day (El día de los muertos)
by Pat Mora
Illustrated by Robert Casilla
Mama Alma walks through the garden with her Grandaughter Bella teaching her about the "Remembering Day" or Día de los muertos and asks that her family always honors her memory on this day after she is gone. Pat Mora always delivers wonderful stories that contribute to the celebration of Hispanic heritage. (Bilingual)
I Remember Abuelito: A Day of the Dead Story
(Yo recuerdo a Abuelito: Un cuento del Día de los muertos)
by Janice Levy
Illustrated by Loretta Lopez
A young girl helps her family prepare for Day of the Dead. She is especially looking forward to remembering her grandfather who recently passed away. One neat addition to this book are the extension activities it suggests: you can learn how to make a butterfly mobile (the butterflies are thought to represent the returned spirits of loved ones) and atole, a corn-meal based chocolatey drink usually shared this time of year. (Bilingual)
The Day of the Dead - El Día de los muertos: A Bilingual Celebration
by Bob Barner
Illustrated by Teresa Mlawer
English rhyming text tells tenderly about that Day of the Dead traditions. The real treat is the audio version with traditional guitar music you can buy to accompany the text! A similar read to the one above (Roseanne Greenfield Thong), except this is a bilingual text rather than a English-Spanish integrated text.
Day of the Dead
by Tony Johnston
Illustrated by Jeanette Winter
I looooove this one! Brightly colored, realistic illustrations show how a small town in Mexico has been preparing for weeks for this special celebration. Many Spanish phrases are repeated throughout the text as well, which makes this one a great Spanish-learning book too! You might recognize the authors name from other great books like P is for Piñata: A Mexico Alphabet or My Abuelita or The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote.
Day of the Dead Activity Book
by Karl Jones
Illustrated by Steve Simpson
Looking for some fun activities to do for Day of the Dead? This book offers lots of things to do! Crossword puzzles, punch-out 3D paper crafts, trivia and more. We haven't tried this one but the reviews on Amazon are pretty shining.
The Boxcar Children: The Day of the Dead Mystery
by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Do you have any Boxcar Children fans in your house? I do! My kids always think it's neat when lots of things we're doing line up or have the same theme. I just put this one on hold at our library so we can learn about this holiday through some of our favorite characters Benny, Jesse, Violet, and Henry.
The Dead Family Diaz
by P.J. Bracegirdle
Illustrated by Poly Bernatene
This story sounds like a fun one! A young skeleton boy from the Land of the Dead gets lost in the Land of the Living. At first he is afraid of the humans with "bulging eyes and squishy skin," but soon he finds a friend who happens to be alive! The two help each other out in a fun Day of the Dead adventure.
Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book
by Jeanetter Winter
An oldie but a goodie. This story was inspired by the artist Don Pedro Linares who became famous all over Mexico for his papier-mâché calaveras. Read from A-Z about all the things Pedro makes and does for Day of the Dead celebrations.
The Festival of Bones - El festival de las calaveras
by Luis San Vicente
Called a "bilingual primer" on the Day of the Dead, this cute story for younger readers tells about the big celebration from the perspective of the skeletons! One thing I love about this story is that it was written originally IN SPANISH and published in Mexico. *heart eyes*
Clatter Bash! A Day of the Dead Celebration
by Richard Keep
At dusk the skeletons come out to celebrate Day of the Dead. Join them in the fiesta of food, dancing, and music. Geared more for younger readers, this book is more about the colorful pictures than the text.
Little Skeletons (Canticos)
by Susie Jaramillo
We loooove Canticos board books! Canticos is a Nick Jr. company that promotes learning of Hispanic heritage nursery rhymes, finger plays, and songs. This book is based on the same Costa Rican song mentioned at the beginning of this booklist. Super fun for all ages!!
Mi familia calaca (My Skeleton Family)
by Cynthia Weill
Illustrated by Jesus Zárate
Not a Day of the Dead book per se, but definitely a great addition to this list. Little bitty readers will enjoy this book, or beginning Spanish learners. Meet all the members of the skeleton family (and practice names for family members in Spanish) that looks not too unlike any other family. ;) What makes this book stand out are the photographs of Oaxacan artist Jesus Zárate's papier-mâché folk art.
Celebrate the World: Día de los muertos
by Hannah Eliot
Illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
I can't lie. Some of the illustrations in this book creep me out. Haha! But overall this looks like a great book with diverse characters and good explanations of the holiday. I wanted to include it because it's a newer release and it's a board book! It's never too early to expose kids to other cultures around the world.
La Catrina: Emotions - Emociones (Lil' Libros)
by Patty Rodriguez & Ariana Stein
For our youngest of readers! These sweet Catrina illustrations are the perfect first-encounter with
Day of the Dead imagery AND expressing emotions. Lil' Libros has built such a great company that puts so much thought into first books for Latinos! Also a great read for Spanish learners!
Daniela's Day of the Dead
by Lisa Bullard
Illustrated by Molli Conger
Written in chapter book style, this book introduces geography and Day of the Dead facts alongside the central story where Daniela talks about her Grandpa whom she misses as she sets up an altar in his memory.
Coco (Little Golden Book)
from the Disney Pixar film
Of course we can't leave out a book from the Disney-Pixar film that brought this beautiful Mexican holiday into the mainstream consciousness of the United States. I'm getting choked up just thinking about this movie and the wonderful look it gives on the beauty of family and remembering.
Maria Molina and the Days of the Dead
by Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by Enrique O. Sánchez
What gorgeous illustrations this book has!!! Definitely take a peek on Amazon at the beautiful illustrations showing how Maria and her family celebrate the Days of the Dead celebrations. The book also has a recipe for pan de muerto to try!
El Día de los muertos
by Linda Lowery
Illustrated by Barbara Knutson
Where would we be without ancestors? This book helps us take a meaningful look at why this holiday is so important, why it's important to remember and celebrate those who have come before us. It's also all in Spanish which would be great for intermediate learners!
Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead
by Judy Goldman
Illustrated by René King Moreno
We just came home from the library with this one! I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I skimmed it and I'm excited to read it with the kiddos! This October we have seen SO MANY monarch butterflies on their way through to Mexico . . . it has been so magical. This story begins with Lupita announcing that the butterflies have arrived. Her uncle teaches her that they must never harm or catch the monarchs because they are the souls of their dearly departed. Soon her uncle passes away and the festivities of Día de los muertos begins. Lupita makes an altar for her departed uncle and the town goes to the cemetery to remember their loved ones. A somber tale of losing loved ones, but the ending has brings a little hope to a heavy heart.
Rosita y Conchita: A Rhyming Storybook in English & Spanish
by Eric Gonzalez & Eric Haeger
It looks like this one might be hard to buy or find at your library (at least when I checked!), but thankfully you can find it read aloud on YouTube. A story about two twin girls, one in the land of the living, one from el otro lado. Rosita is worries, as she sees others going to meet their families, that her twin sister has forgotten about her. But Conchita her sister can never forget! She fixes Rosita's favorite foods, plays her favorite music, lays out flowers to help lead the way . . . and after a long journey of feeling lost, Rosita finally finds her way to her sister Conchita.
The Book of Life
Rated: PG (for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images)
Manolo comes from a long line of bullfighters and his family has great expectations for him, but his heart is set on music. Before he decides which path he will take, he is face with a journey through three fantastical worlds where he must face his biggest fears. I am waiting my turn to borrow this one from the library, so I am not sure, but I'm guessing you can watch this movie in Spanish. The reviews I have read say it's a really artistic and charming story with themes of the Día de los muertos holiday and all its traditions. I bet you can watch this movie in Spanish, and if you turn on the Spanish subtitles you could count this as reading AND Spanish practice. ;) You're welcome.
Rated: PG (for thematic elements)
Young Miguel dreams of being a musician someday, unfortunately his family has long had a ban on music. He steals a guitar to sneak playing some music and finds himself in the Land of the Dead and befriending a trickster named Hector who is looking for a way to get to the Land of the Living. Together they both discover mysteries behind their own stories and learn just how strong family ties can be and how powerful the love they hold. And like I mentioned above, if this needs to count as reading, just turn on the subtitles! ;)
Friday y Diego en el país de las calaveras
by Fabian Negrin
It's Día de los muertos and little Frida and Diego start their Day of the Dead adventure in a candy store preparing for the day's festivities. An exciting turn of events happens and they find themselves in the País de las calaveras . . . all written in Spanish with gorgeous and detailed illustrations this would be a treasure to own . . . celebrating Day of the Dead with two of the most celebrated Mexican artists.
A Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating Day of the Dead - Un regalo para Abuelita: En celebración del Día de los Muertos
by Nancy Luenn
Illustrated by Robert Chapman
Publishers Weekly calls this an awkward and clumsy tale, that is saved by the "warm" and "inventive" collage illustrations. School Library Journal calls is a special tale for opening up discussions of losing loved ones. The story begins, "Rosita and her grandmother spent every day together. Her mother was very busy, but Abuelita always had time for Rosita." When Rosita's grandmother dies, she misses her very much and the strong bond the two shared. Día de los muertos is a time when Rosita can honor and remember her grandmother fondly.
Wow! What a list!! Are there any I missed? Which ones are your absolute favorites? Let me know in the comments below. :) And whether this year is your first year celebrating Day of the Dead, or if you're just an observer, or if this holiday has strong roots in your family, my hope is that you will be able to enjoy at least a few of these books with your family this month! ¡Cuídense mucho!
Want to download this list at a PDF so it's easier to look for them on Amazon or your Library's website? Here ya go!