Friday, October 17, 2008

Ghost Wings and Los Dias de los Muertos

In our little pumpkin town, Halloween festivities start the first week of October. Pumpkins are carefully scattered around our front walk. And this year we've grown a few of our own. The girls want to be princesses yet again on Halloween, but I'm hoping at least one of them will change her mind at the last minute. The little one suggested she could be a carrot, but they mostly laughed about it. I really miss all the homemade costumes I remember from my trick-or-treat days. You don't see too many cardboard box- tin foil robots around anymore.

I better put in an order for candy tomorrow. I want to get some naturally sweet lollys this year. I just can't have all those bite sized snickers around and they're not so great for kids' tummys either. A couple of years ago I gave out Halloween stickers, but they didn't go over so well with the older kids. The neighborhood parents probably weren't too keen on scraping stickers off walls either.

So in keeping with my theme about wanting a Halloween celebration that is a little off the mainstream this year, I've been reading the girls books about the Days of the Dead, or Los Dias de los Muertos fiesta, which is celebrated between October 31 and November 2. It is a Mexican holiday that is both noisy and fun but also pays respect to loved ones that have passed on... passed over... and are still with us in spirit.

Ghost Wings by Barbara M. Joose is about a young girl and the bond she shares with her grandmother. Every autumn they visit the Magic Circle, a place in the Mexican forest where the Monarch butterflies arrive by the thousands. One year the grandmother is thin and frail and she asks the little girl if she can still feel the butterfly that has just flown away from her arm. Her grandmother tells her that the butterflies, "carry the souls of the old ones, and the old ones never really leave." The symbolism of death and spirit is so beautifully rooted in the butterfly imagery. While the girl grieves her grandmother's death, she celebrates her memory with the Days of the Dead festivities and her return to the Magic Circle. Giselle Potter's illustrations were done in ink, watercolor and colored pencil and they are gorgeous. One of my favorite illustrations is of the girl choosing a chocolate and sugar skull from a stand in the Mexican outdoor market.

I will write about two other similarly themed books in the next few days. I like to talk about both Los Dias de los Muertos and Halloween traditions at home. Perhaps we'll go to the Oakland Museum this year. For the past 15 years they've installed a Dias de los Muertos exhibit and I'm told it's worth the trip across the bay. The girls will probably ask me, "Why are there skeleton princesses?"

1 comment:

  1. I am preparing Dia de los Muertos lessons in my school library and in search of good picture books. Ghost Wings was suggested because the first graders study Monarchs in detail and it is a great connection. Thanks for this review!


We love to read your thoughts : )