2009 International Latino Book Award for Best Children's Picture Book - English

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Pat and illustralor Amelia Lau Carling

Pat and Abuelos illustralor Amelia Lau Carling

In Pat's 2008 author note, she wrote, "Life is full of surprises. When my husband, a professor of anthropology, visited Japan last year, he saw a re-enactment of the Namahage, a similar tradition of masked men who made surprise visits to make sure children had been studying."

Namahage mask Namahage masks
2018: 10th anniversary

Groundwood Books, illustrated by Amelia Lau Carling
Available in English and Spanish Editions
Download a hi-res jpeg of the book jacket.
A Junior Library Guild Selection

In this delightful story two young children, Ray and Amelia, discover an old New Mexican tradition — 'los abuelos' — for the first time.

Long ago, in the cold midwinter of Northern New Mexico, village men would go up into the mountains, disguise themselves as scary old men and then go down to the village to see who had been good and who had been bad. The villagers would gather around huge bonfires, or luminarias, where the abuelos — wearing masks and covered with soot — would tease the children and then have them sing or dance around the fire. Afterwards everyone would enjoy a party with traditional treats such as bizcochitos (anise cookies) and empanadas (turnovers with sweet fillings).

This midwinter masquerade, which contains elements of Spanish and indigenous Pueblo culture, as well as sharing features common to solstice celebrations in other parts of the world, died out in New Mexico for a time, but has been revived in recent years.

Highlighted Reviews
Green star icon"After her family moves to the mountains of New Mexico and Amelia learns about the local legend of 'Los abuelos,' her brother succeeds in using it to frighten her. The legend—which bears some similarities to that of the well-known “Cucuy”—says that each year, soot-covered old men come down from the mountains to see if the village children have behaved. Following her brother’s taunting, Amelia hides under her covers and fears that los abuelos will come for her. Once the old men arrive however, a wonderful display of courage leads Amelia to discover the gentle truth behind the scary masks, and allows her to begin to enjoy what turns out to be a fun, traditional celebration, as much as everyone else. The end of the story displays Amelia’s entire village enjoying the yearly party following the descent of the masked men. Vibrant illustrations celebrate the traditional elements of the story and depict the abuelos’ ghostlike facemasks in a manner that should not frighten children. A perfect Halloween tale, despite the fact that it takes place in winter. Recommended for all Spanish-language collections."—starred review, Criticas

These "abuelo" masks were made by students at Hoffer Elementary School in Banning, CA.

Mask Mask Mask
Mask Mask Mask
Mask Mask Mask