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Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 09/15/2008 The title page includes an invitation to Grandma Beetle’s birthday party, and Señor Calavera can’t wait to go. A moan from beyond the grave reminds the not-too-scary dapper skeleton that he’s forgetting a present. Zelmiro the ghost admonishes Calavera to choose something that Grandma Beetle will love the most. What follows is an alphabetic array, from “Un acordeon, An accordion for her to dance to,” to “yerba buena. Good herb to soothe her day.” With each gift Calavera chooses, Zelmiro praises the skeleton’s choices but cautions him to keep searching “just in case . . .” Drenched in rich hues, the light-filled illustrations add a whimsical dimension to this trickster tale and Spanish alphabet book. When disaster strikes and all the presents fly from Calavera’s bike basket, there is nonetheless a happy ending that brings both story and alphabet to a rollicking conclusion. This companion to Morales’ award-winning Just a Minute (2003) will be a hit for storytime. - Copyright 2008 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 12/01/2008 After granting Grandma Beetle a reprieve from death in Morales’ Just a Minute, skeleton Señor Calavera is back, this time preparing to attend Grandma’s birthday party. On his way to the festivities, however, he is stopped by Zelmiro the Ghost, who reminds him that he needs a present. Señor Calavera embarks on a search for the best present, with each gift he collects corresponding to a letter of the Spanish alphabet, beginning with “un acordeón” and going down the line from there. Before Señor Calavera can make it to the party (or to the last letter of the alphabet), he hits an obstacle (Zelmiro’s foot, in fact) on his bike and crashes, ruining all his gifts. With no time left, Señor Calavera finally realizes what would make the perfect gift for Grandma Beetle—Grandpa Zelmiro, whom Señor Calavera delivers in the flesh (he’s apparently no longer a ghost) to the birthday party. Morales’ alphabetic litany is intriguing (for example, B is for “Bigotes. A mustache because she had none”), even poetic (I is for “Instrucciones. Instructions to find all things lost”), and her precise and conversational text is perfect for reading aloud. The patterns and repetitions in this original trickster tale also give it a strong folkloric grounding. Her magical realistic paintings call to mind Mexican folk art with their layered rich colors, ethereal supernatural beings, and small decorative details. Señor Calavera is a charming hero, with his cheerfully decorated skull, stripy tie, and jaunty fedora; this is a guy who puts brightly colored beads on his bike spokes, even if he does have dealings with the dead. Especially useful for Spanish teachers or those wishing to incorporate Mexican culture into the classroom, this is also a gleefully macabre joy in its own right. JH - Copyright 2008 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 09/01/2008 Gr 1-3-Senor Calavera, a dapper skeleton wearing a fedora and striped tie, receives an invitation to Grandma Beetle's birthday party. Zelmiro the Ghost reminds him that he needs to take a present and suggests that "the best present to give a friend is the thing she would love the most." The silent Senor Calavera collects gifts alphabetically, including an accordion (una acordeon) to make music for her, a jaguar to protect her (un jaguar), and 15 more years to add to her life (quince anos). As these thoughtful gifts fill his bicycle basket to overflowing, the shimmering ghost encourages him to keep looking. When the skeleton loses control of his bike on the very hill where Zelmiro was buried, all the beautiful gifts are ruined. Grandma Beetle is blowing out her candles when the Senor finally arrives with the perfect tribute-Grandpa Zelmiro, who is a ghost no longer. Luminous, jewel-tone spreads chronicle the collection of gifts and pay homage to a rich Mexican culture. A comic book (una historieta) cleverly recalls Senor Calavera's first meeting with Grandma Beetle in Just a Minute (Chronicle, 2003). The floating, semitransparent form of Zelmiro the Ghost becomes the solidly human form of Grandpa Zelmiro, who lovingly embraces his wife. Part ghost story and part alphabet book, this trickster tale transcends both. Librarians will want to share it for the beautiful language, the spirited artwork, and the rightness of the ending.-Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information. - Copyright 2008 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.