Funny Bones: Posada and his Day of the Dead Calaveras

Funny Bones: Posada and his Day of the Dead Calaveras
Written and Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

Publisher’s Summary:
Funny Bones tells the story of how the amusing calaveras–skeletons performing various everyday or festive activities–came to be. They are the creation of Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe (Lupe) Posada (1852-1913). In a country that was not known for freedom of speech, he first drew political cartoons, much to the amusement of the local population but not the politicians. He continued to draw cartoons throughout much of his life, but he is best known today for his calavera drawings. They have become synonymous with Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. Juxtaposing his own art with that of Lupe’s, author Duncan Tonatiuh brings to light the remarkable life and work of a man whose art is beloved by many but whose name has remained in obscurity.

Primary Source Pairing:
Jose Guadalupe Posada has a distinct and signature artistic style, much like author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh does. In this book, we take a visual journey through the life of artist Jose Guadalupe Posada as he creates prints and paintings of skeletons called calaveras. Tonatiuh uses sequenced drawings and immaculate recreations of Posada’s work to tell the story of how the calaveras became so famous.

For this primary source pairing, invite students to study the illustrations in the book and analyze an original print by Posada.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • How does this image make you feel?
  • Based on the description in the book, what tools were used to create this?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Calavera Oaxaqueña by Posada: Library of Congress

Additional Resources:
Duncan Tonatiuh’s website:
Duncan Tonatiuh’s name pronunciation guide: