Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book
Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book

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Annotation: In this version of a traditional tale, Senor Calavera arrives at Grandma Beetle's door, ready to take her to the next life, but after helping her count, in English and Spanish, as she makes her birthday preparations, he changes his mind.
Genre: Fairy tales
Catalog Number: #167101
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition Date: 2003
Pages: 36
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-8118-3758-0 Perma-Bound: 0-605-50763-5
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-8118-3758-3 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-50763-0
Dewey: 398.2
LCCN: 2002151386
Dimensions: 27 cm.
Subject Heading:
Folklore. Mexico.
Language: English
Horn Book
When Señor Calevera (a skeleton representing Death) comes calling on Grandma Beetle, she forestalls him by performing a series of tasks that result in her own birthday party. Señor Calevera has so much fun that he decides to return for Grandma Beetle another day. The rhythmic text incorporates Spanish and English numbers up to ten, and the textured acrylic and mixed-media illustrations show a not-too-scary Señor Calevera.
Kirkus Reviews
Winking and nodding as she goes, a Latino grandmother will charm readers as she charms Death Himself in this original counting-cum-trickster tale. When skeletal Senor Calavera appears at the door, Grandma Beetle bids him wait while she sweeps ONE house ("UNO"), makes TWO pots of tea ("DOS"), grinds THREE pounds of corn for tortillas ("TRES"), and so on, culminating in a festive birthday party at which Senor Calavera finds himself guest number TEN ("DIEZ"). As Grandma, round and brown, with sparkles in her eyes and gray hair both, bustles about, the expression on Senor Calavera's sugar-skull face grows more and more hilariously impatient—but by party's end, he's departed, leaving a thank-you note promising to be back for Grandma Beetle's next birthday. Lit with dancing lines and warm colors, Morales's illustrations enhance the appeal of this winning story even further. (Picture book. 6-8)
Publishers Weekly

When Señor 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, Señor 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 Señor 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 Señor Calavera's ghoulish, goofy gallantry would make him the comic lead of any Day of the Dead festivity. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)

School Library Journal
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 Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* What's an old woman to do when a skeleton pays her a birthday visit and beckons her to come along? Grandma Beetle, the heroine of this joyful book by the illustrator of Harvesting Hope BKL Je 1 & 15 03, stalls for time. Just a minute, she says; there's something she needs to do. One chore leads to another, but the skeleton can't mask his enthusiasm as Grandma cooks, fills pinatas, and performs other tasks, each one linked to a number from 1 to 10, uno to diez . Eventually nueve grandchildren arrive for Grandma's birthday party, and guess who else is invited? Even if children don't grasp the implications of the skeleton's visit, they'll enjoy seeing him join the fun, and when he extends Grandma's lease on life, the relieved, loving embrace she gives her grandchildren will satisfy young ones at a gut level. Like the text, the rich, lively artwork draws strongly upon Mexican culture, with hints of Diego Rivera in Grandma's robust form, and the skeleton resembling the whimsical figurines often seen in Day of the Dead folk art. The splendid paintings and spirited storytelling--along with useful math and multicultural elements--augur a long, full life for this original folktale.
Word Count: 651
Reading Level: 3.2
Interest Level: K-3
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.2 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 87420 / grade: Lower Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:2.4 / points:1.0 / quiz:Q35366
Lexile: 540L
Guided Reading Level: L

In this original trickster tale, Senor Calavera arrives unexpectedly at Grandma Beetle's door. He requests that she leave with him right away. "Just a minute," Grandma Beetle tells him. She still has one house to sweep, two pots of tea to boil, three pounds of corn to make into tortillas -- and that's just the start! Using both Spanish and English words to tally the party preparations, Grandma Beetle cleverly delays her trip and spends her birthday with a table full of grandchildren and her surprise guest. This spirited tribute to the rich traditions of Mexican culture is the perfect introduction to counting in both English and Spanish. The vivacious illustrations and universal depiction of a family celebration are sure to be adored by young readers everywhere.

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