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Book Talk: Mi Familia Calaca/My Skeleton Family: A Mexican Folk Art Family in English and Spanish, with Cynthia Weill

Halloween and Day of the Dead are quickly approaching. Celebrate by attending a presentation on Mi Familia Calaca/My Skeleton Family: A Mexican Folk Art Family in English and Spanish (Cinco Puntos Press, 2013) by Cynthia Weill. Weill's latest bilingual book for young readers showcases the skeleton, an important image in Mexican popular art. n her talk she will project images of the Mexican Day of the Dead, the calaca or skeleton in popular art, and the process of hand making each of the paper mache skeleton/family members by Mexican artist, Jesus Canseco Zarate.

"Oaxacan folk artist Zarate creates papier mache sculptures of Day of the Dead-style skeletons that grin widely as a young skeleton named Anita introduces her family. In brief sentences that appear in English and Spanish, Anita discusses her younger brothers Miguel ("He’s a brat!") and Juanito ("He’s so cute!"), as well as her parents and other older relatives. The, well, skeletal sentences make it easy for readers to draw connections between the English and Spanish words, and Zarate's sculptures exude personality, whether it's baby Juanito smiling in a stroller, wearing a powder-blue onesie, or the children’s 'beautiful mother,' decked out in a pink dress and pearls. Ages 1-6."
--Publisher's Weekly

"Though they are skeletons, this family couldn’t be friendlier … The details traditional Oaxacan artist Canseco Zarate includes charm as fully as Weill’s crunchy vocabulary … They may be dead, but their affection is palpable. Just right for the Day of the Dead or for a fresh take on family structures—tan lindo!"
--Kirkus Reviews

"The photographed Oaxacan folk-art figures will make readers smile as each one has a fixed grin, as one would expect from a well-dressed skeleton...This book would be a welcome and culturally relevant addition to beginning-reader collections."
--School Library Journal

Cynthia Weil, an alumna of Teachers College, developed a fascination for Oaxacan crafts when she taught in Mexico through the Fulbright Exchange. She has worked as an educator in the field of international development and holds additional masters degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Wesleyan University. She is trained as an art historian and continues to work with artisans around the world. Cynthia's first publication, Ten Mice for Tet (Chronicle Books, 2003), features Vietnamese embroidery in its celebration of the Vietnamese new year. Cynthia is the author of Count Me In: A Parade of Mexican Folk Art Numbers in English and Spanish (2012) Colores de la Vida: Mexican Folk Art Colors in English and Spanish (2011); and AbeCedarios: Mexican Fok Art in Spanish and English ( 2007), all published by Cinco Puntos Press.

Persons wishing to attend may rsvp via online support by Friday, October 25th.

Where: 306 Russell


Individuals with disabilities are invited to request reasonable accommodations including, but not limited to sign language interpretation, Braille or large print materials, and a campus map of accessible features. Address these requests to the Office of Access and Services for Individuals with Disabilities at (212) 678-3689,, or Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services at (212) 678-3853  (Voice/tty), (646)755-3144 (VP)




  • Jennifer Govan
  • 212-678-3022
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