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Just a minute : a trickster tale and counting book

by Yuyi Morales


Publishers Weekly :

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When Senor Calavera, a dapper skeleton in a bowler hat, comes to call on Grandma Beetle, she puts him off with her quick thinking and her charming manner. "I will go with you right away," the pokerfaced, pleasingly plump woman promises. "I have just one house to sweep." After waiting patiently, Senor Calavera counts, "UNO One swept house," and assumes they will exit in short order. But the wily matriarch has a houseful of bilingually enumerated items with which to stall him (three stacks of tortillas to make, seven piñatas, etc.) and soon recruits the bony fellow to help. And with good reason: her nine (nueve) grandchildren are coming over to celebrate her birthday. Finally, having kissed all her grandchildren goodbye, Grandma announces that she's ready to go-but Senor Calavera has had such a good time as the party's 10th guest that he has already exited, leaving only a note that he'll be back for her party next year. Like the best folktales, the darker motivation for the skeleton's visit remains elusive for youngest readers, and the sly interplay between hostess and visitor makes light of his role. Morales (Harvesting Hope) whips up a visually striking book, and funny to boot. Her deep, glowing pastels and stylized human characterizations beautifully conjure the traditions of Latin American muralists, while Senor Calavera's ghoulish, goofy gallantry would make him the comic lead of any Day of the Dead festivity. Ages 4-8.

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School Library Journal :

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Gr 1-4-Vibrant contrasting colors and bold geometric shapes infuse this original trickster tale set in Mexico. Death comes to Grandma Beetle's door in the skeletal form of Se?or Calavera (Mr. Skull). "Just a minute," she sweetly explains. "I have just one house to sweep." So Se?or Calavera patiently takes a chair and waits, counting off Grandma Beetle's completed tasks in English and Spanish as one chore invariably leads to another. In the end, all of the hard work turns out to be preparation for her birthday party attended by her nine beautiful grandchildren, and Se?or Calavera is happily surprised to be counted among the guests. After the celebration, Grandma Beetle is finally ready to join him, but death has departed without her, leaving a note saying that he looks forward to her next year's gathering and a twinkle in Grandma Beetle's eye. This story is a delight. Morales's personification of death is never forbidding or scary, but rather a simple matter of fact. This deceptively simple read-aloud treat has as many layers as an onion, and is every bit as savory.-Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC

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