Time Is Ticking:
Susie Jaramillo on the Day of the Dead
Originally appeared on slj.com.
The author/illustrator Susie Jaramillo is the creator and publisher of the acclaimed “Canticos” books. Here she talks about what inspired her latest bilingual, foldout, lift-the-flap board book, Little Skeletons Countdown to Midnight/Esqueletitos: un libro de contar en El Día de los Muertos (Encantos).
The Day of the Dead (DOD) holiday, (El Día de los Muertos) from October 31 to November 2, is both a celebration honoring those loved ones whom we've lost, and whom I would like to think still walk among us, and a reminder that life is short and precious and we should treasure the time we have. I’ve always loved the iconography and pageantry that has surrounded this particular holiday. Mexican people have a way of being close to death. This comes through most vividly in our DOD celebrations. Death is celebrated with humor, eloquence, mysticism, sorrow, and style. With each “Canticos” book, we try to work in a teaching concept along with a nursery rhyme so that caregivers and educators can find more ways to use these books. When I came across the song “Esqueletos,” written around the numbers of a clock, I thought, “How perfect: We can help teach kids how to tell time, while reminding them exactly of how valuable time is. Each hour should be lived, no matter how simple, or how extraordinary, in the moment.
In Spanish we say “El tiempo (time) se aprovecha.”
Aprovecha is a wonderful word in Spanish. It means “to take advantage of something while you have the opportunity.” It gets used often, speaking to values of quick thinking and maximizing opportunities in Latinx culture, and there is no word like it in English. The “Tomb-a-la-ca” rhythm in the song is fun for kids to sing and dance to, and not to mention we get to do a play on words in the English version with the word tomb.
With Little Skeletons/Esqueletitos, I took a break from the acrylics I normally use for the “Canticos” books and just used pencil. The idea was to keep that rustic black-and-white look of the comical and powerful woodcuts by José Guadalupe Posada, or the eerily fantastic etchings of in his illustrated classic, “La Pulquería.” Little Skeletons/Esqueletitos is an homage to these wonderful illustrations with a “Canticos” twist for kids. While we like to pull characters from different nursery rhymes and bring them to life, usually with one character per book, here we brought together a whole cacophony of characters, properly outfitted for the occasion. They aren’t really skeletons at all—they are esqueletitos!! Adorable and adorned and out-and-about ’til midnight! Check out the sing-along video for "Esqueletitos."
About the author
Susie is an artist, entrepreneur, creative force and mom raising two bilingual children. In partnership with Nuria Santamaria Wolfe, she founded Encantos – a family entertainment and education company for today’s multicultural families. Susie is the creator behind Canticos – a bilingual baby and toddler brand with books, apps, and sing-along videos. Susie serves as Executive Producer of Canticos digital shorts which are now available across Nick Jr.’s digital preschool platforms: on NickJr.com/Canticos, Nick Jr.’s YouTube page and on the Nick Jr. and NOGGIN apps.
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