instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

The Spirit Of Tío Fernando: A Day of the Dead Story/El espíritu de tío Fernando: Una historia del Día de los Muertos

Albert Whitman and Company, $14.95
ISBN 0-8075-7585-2
Call 1-800-255-7675 or contact the author at for autographed copies.

“This exquisitely illustrated bilingual children’s book (Spanish and English) is probably the best of its kind. I wouldn’t be surprised if both children and parents alike find it a gateway to the introduction about the Mexican culture, how people embrace death as a part of life and the excitements surrounding the celebration of The Day of the Dead.

Tío Fernando, the departed uncle, is believed to visit his family as a spirit on that day. I particularly praise Janice Levy’s ability to convey a complex message about death in a lighthearted way as I can feel the boy and his mother’s exhilaration in making the preparations prior to having Tío’s spirit as a long-awaited “guest.” They fixed Tío’s favorite meals and memorabilias on an altar and sang his favorite songs next to his tomb as a celebration of his life. They waited for his spirit to “appear.”

When it did, it came in their hearts as a warm and happy feeling. In addition to the author’s mastery of storytelling and simplifying a complex and often sad topic into an uplifting work, the watercolor illustrations by Morella Fuenmayor are also exceptional. They are very life-like with great lighting and excellent human anatomy depiction, which shows both professional craftsmanship and storytelling abilities. This is the one children’s book that all parents, who want to introduce their children to the other side of life (death) in an uplifting tone, cannot do without.”, Jennie S. Bev,
Managing Editor

“Commended title in the l995 Americas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. This award is given in recognition of a work published with authentically and engagingly presents the experience of individuals in Latin America or of Latinos in the United States. Selection based on quality of story, cultural authenticity/sensitivity, and potential for classroom use.”  

--Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP)

“This is my first year as a Spanish I teacher, and I had my students read El Espíritu de Tío Fernando: The Spirit of Tío Fernando, a great book by Janice Levy. It's bilingual and really for 4-8 years, but with students in the beginning level of Spanish, it's great to have simple, easy to understand words. I also had them work in groups on a project about different scenes from the story, which they either re-enacted or reproduced on posterboard. They also wrote a 1 to 2 page paper (in English) about how they celebrate either Día de los Muertos or Halloween with their family. On Friday, they had a vocabulary quiz over some key terms from the celebration and over the body parts. We also had a fiesta day, and we watched Day of the Dead in Janitzio while we ate panes de muertos, sugar calabazas, and other goodies. It was a fun and educational week-- the kids really enjoyed it!”

--Tamsyn Medina, teacher

“As the Day of the Dead approaches, Nando and his mother make preparations to remember Tío Fernando. Nando's curiosity leads him to ask the adults around him how his uncle's spirit will find him when it returns: "...Will I see him? Will he make noise? How will I know it is really him?" That night, Nando discovers his uncle's spirit in a place he least expects - inside himself!
Levy presents this story in both Spanish and English from the realistic viewpoint of a child experiencing the Day of the Dead celebration. She relates the customs of this traditional Mexican and Central American holiday.”

--School Library Journal


"The Day of the Dead is a time to remember people who have died, whom we will always love," Nando's mother tells him as they prepare to celebrate the holiday and honor Tío Fernando, who died six months earlier. After they decorate a makeshift altar, Nando's mother sends him to buy things that remind him of his uncle to take to the cemetery that night. Buying a "skeleton of marzipan candy and a cake baked narrow and skinny, like Tío Fernando," the boy wonders how he will meet his uncle's spirit. But after he and his mother have decked Tío's grave with marigolds and sung his favorite songs, Nando's heart is full, and he is sure that Tío Fernando knows that he is loved and not forgotten. Soft watercolor illustrations tenderly portray Nando's joyful experience. Including the traditional activities, and imbued with an authentic sense of the Mexican holiday, the warm, well-told story, provided in a bilingual format, will be welcomed as a picture book featuring a child's celebration of the Day of the Dead... a multicultural alternative to the typical fall Halloween program.



“Highly recommended! For children of all ages. Useful for Hispanic culture, for Halloween, for All Saints/All Souls Day. A rich, diverse story, warm and exhuberant pictures.

--Catholic Library World

“This children's picture book is suitable for Grades 3-5. The book is written in both Spanish and English. It gives students an appreciation of the century old Hispanic holiday, The Day of the Dead. It illustrates a traditional way Hispanic culture remembers and honors their lost ones. Written from a young child's perspective it describes the rituals and offerings of this holiday. In a soft and beautiful way it answers the child's central question: "Mother, How will I meet Tío's spirit? Will I see him? Will he make noise? How will I know it is really him?”

Use in the classroom This book teaches students that the greatest gift those who have died can leave with us is their living memories, the things they shared with us and the little things that make us like them. Rather than grieving the loss of a loved one, it teaches reverence for their spirit and joy in their memory. The book can be used in the classroom in a variety of different ways. It can be used as part of a celebration of The Day of the Dead holiday replete with sample offerings, breads, etc. It can be used as part of a mosaic/theme on Hispanic holidays and traditions. It can be used as a vehicle for Hispanic students to share their experiences with Anglo and students of other nationalities. As part of an exploration of this and other traditions, perhaps a grandparent of an Hispanic student can come into the classroom and discuss Hispanic traditions and holidays as they remember them growing up. Finally, this book can be used as a delicate way to explore the issue of death with young students and ways of examining death from the perspective of a celebration of life and living memory.”

“This very beautifully illustrated and informative book is full of surprises. The bilingual aspect makes it possible to use this story as a tool of validation and education.”

"ONE OF THE TOP BILINGUAL BOOKS! -News Channel 7, Wausau, Wisconsin

“The Day of the Dead is a positive and spiritual experience. It celebrates the continuity of family, generation to generation. It calls out to us that there is Good News from beyond the grave. It encourages respect for the elders. It challenges us to offer forgiveness. How can we look forward to the future if we are not willing to forgive each other in the present? Let me share with you ‘The Spirit of Tío Fernando.”

--Deacon Susan M. Reeve, Diocese of Northern California

“Bilingual book wonderful for both bilingual students and for others who wish to explore another language.”

--Sullivan County Boces, New York

“Excellent book to teach the Hispanic culture...excellent imagery brings this festival to life. Takes the reader step by step from the morning of the festival, including setting up the altar, buying the special food, through the visitation to the grave...leaves you with the feeling that this is a celebration, not a mourning. A wonderful source for the classroom!”

--Lane Ed.District, Oregon

“ Recommended title”

--The Horn Book Guide

“Very nice interpretation. Positive approach, not frightening, educational.”

--Delaware County Library System


“High quality material which meets the curricula-related needs and personal interests of children.”

--The Elementary School Library Collection, Williamsport, Pennsylvania


“God bless you for publishing this touching story!!”

--All Saints Religious Education, Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania


“Content is very good! Recommended!” 

--Fort Worth Christian School Review Group,Texas


“A welcome addition for bilingual library collections” 

--South Jersey Library Collective


“Recommended for building multicultural holiday collections”

--Madison School District, Wisconisn

“Warm, loving...understandable even to young school-age children.”

--Parent Council

“Good book!”

--Lincoln Public Schools, Nebraska

“A good way to practice reading Spanish and English.”

--Virginia Hutson,
l2th Grade English Teacher, Texas


“Good for E.S.L. Classes.”

--Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, California

“It is not a gloomy holiday - the children have fun! Exciting tale for Anglo and Hispanic kids.” 

--Association for Childhood Education International


“Welcome addition for study of Mexico.” 

--School District 279, Maple Grove, Minnesota