With this fifth addition to her Canticos line of songs for babies, Venezuelan-born Jaramillo partners Mexico’s Day of the Dead’s painted skeletons, or “calacas,” with a popular Latin American children’s song, “Los Esqueletos.”
This how-to-tell-time counting rhyme is punctuated by the catchy refrain “Tomb-a-laca tomb-a-laca tomb-a tomb-a, tomb-a-laca” and follows the nattily dressed skeletons as they emerge from their tombs (tumbas). The clock counts up from one to 12, while the bony party animals eat, dance, and play. The Spanish language lyrics beg to be shared with laugh-out-loud abandon. However, “esqueletitos” becomes the Spanglish word “skeletitos” instead of “little skeletons” for the sake of maintaining the meter. Unfortunately, this modification isn’t enough to make the stanzas work. The English-language translation is forced and awkward in too many instances. “When the old clock strikes the hour of three, / three skeletitos backwards flee!” Rather than rewriting the lyrics, Jaramillo must rely on near rhymes since the eye-catching black-and-white illustrations are identical for both versions. Sadly, aside from a clock with movable hands, the interactive elements of Jaramillo’s previous books are lacking here. The accordion-fold design, on the other hand, continues to ensure that neither the Spanish nor English text takes precedence over the other. A free downloadable app of the song is available for home enjoyment.
Worth it for the Spanish rendition—which those who don’t speak the language will be happy to have learned.(Board book. 1-5)