Dead Family Diaz: A picture book about overcoming stereotypes and finding a friendship in a new perspective
The Synopsis: Angelito’s family is excited to visit A Tierra De Los Vivos (The Land of the Living), but all Angelito can think about is how scary the living might be. Frightening images of Halloween are paired with his sister’s disturbing description of living beings with bulging eyes and squishy skin. The day of the trip, Angelito meets someone who seems to share his unease, and they team up to protect one another. Just when he thinks he is safe from the icky living, he and his new friend learn they are each other’s worst fears!
The Author: Canadian native P.J. Bracegirdle specializes in spook. His series, The Joy of Spooking, takes notes from his days of laundry duty at an asylum and his role at a haunted Scottish theater. The 2015 release of the Dead Family Diaz was met with praise, and a resurgence in interest in The Day of The Dead makes it a timely title.
What Makes it Special? The descriptions and careful, occasional use of Spanish makes the book both enjoyable and accessible for readers. While many books focus on the cultural significance of El Dia De Los Muertos, Bracegirdle focuses on the perspective of a young dead boy who has his own apprehensions about the living. While the story itself does not focus on the significance of the day, but rather the relationship with fear, the book does offer an informational page at the end which explains the holiday.
The illustrations are comedic, vibrant, and entertaining. Artist Poly Bernatene hails from Argentina, and bases his work in experimentation and diversity. It definitely comes through as the artwork is detailed with Mexican culture and traditions. This is a great book for kids who fell in love with Mexican-themed artistry of Disney’s Coco, or spook enthusiasts. Themes of family, friendship, prejudice, and cultural heritage makes this a great choice for many young readers.
The Afterthought: Don’t just read and shelve! Discuss the book with your readers as this builds critical thinking, vocabulary and fluency. Plus, you deepen your bond with your reader when you engage them in level-appropriate conversation about the media they consume. You send the message that what they read and how they think is important and worthy of your time.
The protagonist in this feature learns some pretty wacky ideas about the citizens of The Land of the Living. Ask your reader what things they have learned from books, tv, movies, and more about different kinds of people. Ask them if they think those things are true of false. Encourage your reader to participate open, honest and without fear of judgement. If you find your reader has a little prejudice, remember this is normal. Look for more books that might give your reader a little more information. Check out this list of books for follow-up reading sessions and conversations: https://coolmompicks.com/blog/2015/07/07/12-childrens-book-help-talk-to-kids-about-prejudice/.
Learn to Read Tip: A big part of learning to read is learning to read the world around us.
“The act of reading cannot be explained as merely reading words
since every act of reading words implies a previous reading of the world and a
subsequent rereading of the world. There is a permanent movement back and
forth between “reading” reality and reading words – the spoken word too is our
reading of the world” – Paulo Friere
If your reader understands the language and words that create a composite their world, they will have an easier time making sense of what they read in context to their world.
A medical journal makes sense to a doctor or medical field practitioner because they are familiar with the language of that world. Similarly, you can make reading easier and draw more connections for your reader by doing a little work prior to reading.
Try the following pre-reading activities:
- Watch a video and talk about The Day of the Dead.
- Look at drawings of skeletons and talk about what you and your reader see.
- Talk about what different cultures think happens to people when they die (demystify death with these books).
- Talk about what your reader sees on the cover of the book. Help your reader name what they see on the cover.
- Make a list of words or phrases your and your readers predict will be in the book.
All of this stimulation through wording, predicting, and cultural understanding will help your reader make connections in the text to help build fluency and comprehension.
Sound Focus: Gerunds are all around us. We probably could not do anything in the present without the gerund. Teaching a reader how to understand and creating “ing” verbs is key in creating great readers and writers.
Living = Live + ing
feeling = feel + ing
bulging = bulge + ing
turning = turn + ing
Help your reading understand the “ing” signifies immediate and continuous action. It’s about what is happening right now. Your reader should be experimenting and playing with words. Help them notice what happens to the “e” in words when “ing” is attached. Keep the learning hands-on by using word puzzles. Here is a good one: https://www.reallygoodstuff.com/prefix-suffix-and-base-word-puzzles/p/308198/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw5NnbBRDaARIsAJP-YR8zNVZEC8DLQW9wjZ1GOn2BVFG2jnm8ecsqmSg5FBd52g3pPkcvGB0aAt16EALw_wcB