Review: I Remember Abuelito: A Day of the Dead Story / Yo Recuerdo a Abuelito: Un cuento del Día de los Muertos
Title: I Remember Abuelito: A Day of the Dead Story / Yo Recuerdo a Abuelito: Un cuento del Día de los Muertos
Author: Janice Levy
Illustrator: Loretta Lopez
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (bilingual edition)
Paperback: 32 pages
Ages: 4 – 8
Narrated from the point of view of a girl whose family is ready to celebrate the Day of the Dead, this is a heartwarming story about remembering loved ones who have passed away. Her Abuelito died a few months ago and the girl asks her Mamá how his spirit will visit them during the celebration. Mamá explains that she will feel him in her heart.
They go to the market to buy pan de muerto (bread of the dead) and calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls). The girl thinks and remembers her Abuelito. They used to play hide-and-seek and sometimes he couldn't find her. She wonders if his spirit might get lost. Mamá tells her that his spirit is like the butterflies, which come to their town every year.
Outside their house, Her Papá and Tía lay a path of marigold petals for Abuelito's spirit to find his way home. Afterwards, Tía helps her to decorate the altar, in which a photograph of Abuelito stands. She asks her Tía if his spirit forgets to come. Tía explains that the candle's light will remind him of his way back home. The girl looks out the window. Suddenly, she sees something wonderful. Hundreds of butterflies fly through the sky.
The family also goes to the cemetery and sprinkles marigold petals. The girl lays some of her Abuelito's favorite things on his grave. The family embraces. The girl feels a breeze and sees a butterfly resting on a petal near her feet. At night, Mamá tucks her into bed and she dreams of her Abuelito.
This is a really touching story in which young children learn about loss and remembrance. They also learn about honoring their ancestors. In this case, the story is about how people from Mexico and parts of Central and South American remember their loved ones during the Day of the Dead.
The text is both in Spanish and English, which is very helpful for bilingual families and those who want to learn about other countries' celebrations.
The illustrations are traditional, bright, colorful, and a bit sad. I thought that the butterflies represented hope and the beauty of what might be after we die.
Parents, educators, and librarians prepare yourselves to answer a lot of questions when you read this story to your kids or a group of children. My daughter asked several questions about the Day of the Dead, traditions, and loss.