By Martha Rico
In the Latino culture, El Dia de los Muertos holds a special significance for families who have loved ones who have died. In Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead, by Judy Goldman and illustrated by Rene King Moreno, the story takes a new twist featuring a special bond between an uncle and his niece and their combined love for Monarch butterflies.
Tío Urbano and Lupita have a strong connection; they both enjoy marveling at the sight of Monarch butterflies. They believe that the return of the Monarch signifies that Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is fast approaching.
Tío Urbano teaches Lupita that the Monarchs are the souls of dead ones who have come back to visit. Over the following days, Lupita and her family prepare to celebrate El Día de los Muertos by setting up an arch of flowers and an altar, making special decorations and preparing traditional foods.
Meanwhile, Tío Urbano is not feeling so well and decides to take it easy and supervise the preparations. Several days later, Tio Urbano passes way. Lupita is comforted when she sees the Monarch butterflies flying overhead.
E Día de los Muertos is spent festively, with Tío Urbano on everyone's mind. Lupita is the only one to be visited by one last Monarch. Believing it is the soul of her beloved uncle, she smiles and whispers one last message to him.
This captivating story is sure to open up a discussion on death and dying. Readers will be quick to tell of a time when a loved one passed away and how they remember their loved one today.
The book also lends itself as an introduction to a lesson or project on Day of the Dead (the tradition is explained on the last page of the book). Spanish words, with a handy glossary at the end of the story, are interspersed throughout the book.
The illustrations are done in colored pencil and compliment the story well. They seem to evoke a sense of peacefulness to the message of the story. Incorporating this tale into a full lesson on Day of the Dead might include pairing this story with others on the same subject such as, Calavera Abecedario by Jeanette Winters or Day of the Dead: A Celebration of Life and Death by Amanda Doering.
Martha C. Rico is a school librarian and part of the Review 'n Receive book review program.