Duncan Tonatiuh’s Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras introduces readers to the art of ‘calaveras’, the playful skeletons popularized by the Mexican graphic artist Jose Guadalupe Posada at the turn of the twentieth century. Using hand-drawn and digitally collaged illustrations, Tonatiuh infuses Posada’s original art work with his own, resulting in a unique biography and information book that conveys the social and creative structures at work in the creation of the artwork used during the annual celebration of El día de los muertos. It also explores the way Posada designed special calaveras to comment on the social and political conditions of his time. “The extensive background information and resources support the readers’ understanding of the technical, social, and cultural contexts of Posada’s artwork,” says Denise Dávila, a national committee member of the Tomás Rivera Children and Young Adult Award. Readers of all ages are sure to appreciate this important biography.
Duncan Tonatiuh was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Miguel de Allende, in the historical state of Guanajuato, Mexico. Duncan Tonatiuh studied writing and illustration at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. His illustrations are inspired by the ancient Mixtec art. Duncan’s first book, Dear Primo: A Letter to my Cousin, won a Pura Belpré Illustration Honor; Diego Rivera: His World and Ours won the Pura Belpré Illustration Award and the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award; Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale was featured on the front cover of USA Today, received a Pura Belpré Illustration Honor for illustration and narrative and the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children Book Award; Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, received a Pura Belpré Illustration Honor, a Robert F. Sibert honor for best informational book, and the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children Book Award; Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Boook, won the Robert F. Sibert award for best informational book, earned a Pura Belpre Illustration Honor, and the Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children Book Award. Duncan currently lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with his wife and child.
Pérez’s historical fiction explores the devastating consequences of racism in the context of the worst school disaster in U.S. history. Set in New London, Texas in 1936 when oil drilling created new jobs, commerce, and a new school, we see a community reckoning with a legacy of tripartite segregation among White, Black, and Mexican families. When seventeen-year old Naomi arrives to this community from San Antonio, we feel her pride in being Mexican, her commitment to protect her younger twin brother and sister, Cari and Beto, and her fears as she encounters racist and sexual violence from school peers, shopkeepers, church goers, and her step-father, Henry, who is White. Naomi’s isolated life is transformed, however, when she falls in love with Wash, a young Black man who knows the lines drawn by racial hatred as well as the dreams that might flourish through family, love, community, and education. As Naomi and Wash’s love grows, so too do the pressures to conform to gendered and racial codes. In third person prose, alternating among the perspectives of Naomi, Wash, Henry, the twins, and ‘The Gang’ of White high school students, Pérez illuminates the contours of love and hate within a family and across a community.
Naomi and Wash’s desire for a community free from fear resonates with the demands of young activists today, and with Tomás Rivera’s call for Chicano literature that bears witness to those who search for truth, memory, community and equity. Such stories, like Out of Darkness, are often beautiful, difficult, and heartbreaking. Ashley Pérez has courageously imagined a time of unspeakable loss, so that young adult and adult readers might understand how we have come to live with such division and pain in our communities; and how we might imagine ourselves as change makers who will not let racism stand.
Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of the YA novels Out of Darkness (Carolrhoda Lab, 2015), The Knife and the Butterfly (Carolrhoda Lab, 2012), and What Can’t Wait (Carolrhoda Lab, 2011). Her debut novel What Can’t Wait won a spot on the 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for YA list, The Knife and the Butterfly was included in the 2015 YALSA Popular Paperbacks list, and Out of Darkness was named a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. Ashley grew up in Texas and taught high school in Houston before pursuing a PhD in comparative literature. She is now a visiting assistant professor of comparative studies at The Ohio State University and spends most of her time reading, writing, and teaching on topics from global youth narratives to Latin American and Latina/o fiction. She lives in Ohio with her husband, Arnulfo, and their sons, Liam Miguel and Ethan Andrés. Visit her online at http://www.ashleyperez.com/.