book thoughts: Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes

Montes, Marisa. Los Gatos Black on Halloween. Illustrated by

Yuyi Morales. Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2006.  32 pages. 

$16.95 ISBN-13 978-0-8050-7429-1


Los gatos black with eyes of green,

cats slink and creep on Halloween.

With ojos keen that squint and gleam –

They yowl, they hiss…they even scream!


From the first page of Los Gatos Black on Halloween,the reader can tell that this is not your ordinary Halloween picturebook.  Marisa Montes’ bilingual rhymes are each beautifully portrayedin Yuyi Morales’ two page illustrations.  The story introduces eachcreature commonly seen on Halloween night in both Spanish and English. They each appear, moving towards their haunted destination, a monsters’ ball, and leading up to a surprise ending when they meet the scariest creatures of all!

              Yuyi Morales grew up in Mexicoand it is obvious that her illustrations draw from childhood memoriesof the Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. During this celebration, it is not uncommon to see skeletons and skullson display,sometimes painted or filled with candy.  So, it is no surprise that theskeletons and other Halloween creatures in the story seem to be in afestive mood, wearing their sombreros and smiling.  Marisa Montes alsohas roots in the Hispanic world, having been born in Puerto Rico. She carefully crafts each rhyme in the story, placing the Spanish nounsin such a way that a non-Spanish speaking child might be able todecipher its meaning even before moving on to the next sentence thatprovides the world in English.

              Ofcourse, Yuyi Morales’ artwork also assists the reader in discoveringeach word’s meaning.  The night sky is the backdrop to almost everypage, and Morales portrays each creature walking, flying, or stumblingto their destination.  The cool palette of colors she has chosen (lightblues, browns, and dark reds) create an eerie element but do not letthe mood become so intense it would overwhelma young child.  Montes’ words fly through the sky too, never appearingas normal straight lines of text, but as wispy, wiggly words thatfollow each gato, bruja, and fantasma across the pages. 

              Fora young child that is unfamiliar with the holiday of Dia de los Muertosthe images in this book may be a bit disturbing.  But if they havealready watched movies like Tim Burton’s animated classic The Nightmare Before Christmas,these illustrations may actually draw them in and open them up to a newlanguage and culture.  For a family with a young child that celebratesthe holiday of Halloween or Dia de los Muertos, this book would be agre
at way to get into the spirit
(pun intended)Los Gatos Black on Halloween would be a welcome addition for elementary school teachers or public librarians storytime shelves when they want to fit some multicultural elements into a holiday that is dominated by spooks and sugar. 

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