The Book of Life Movie Activities

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

For many people in the United States, ''The Book of Life'' was their first introduction to Day of the Dead. These activities will give your students a chance to explore the Mexican holiday and the arts and crafts associated with it.

The Book of Life

The Book of Life is a 2014 animated film that explores Mexican folklore and mythology related to the Day of the Dead or DÍa de los Muertos. This film was one of the first movies on this subject that was marketed for mass appeal in the United States and helped increase awareness and appreciation for the Mexican holiday. As a result, it can be a good way to introduce students to Day of the Dead, Mexican folklore, and Mexican folk crafts and visual aesthetics. The following projects are designed to be adaptable to most grade levels. If used in a Spanish class, consider adding language components by having students watch the film in Spanish and introducing all major terms in Spanish. As with any activities involving Mexican culture, please remember that the addition of food can only be of benefit.

The Book of Life Movie Activities

Muñeca Activities

The characters in The Book of Life are designed like wooden muñecas, Mexican dolls that are a popular element of Mexican folk art. After students have seen The Book of Life, ask them to design two muñecas of themselves. One of these should be a doll that looks as they do now, and one should be a skeletonized/Land of the Dead version. Depending on time and resources, you can either have students draw their designs, or you can provide wooden dolls (the human figurines used by sketch artists will work well) for them to paint. If you use a physical doll, you could ask students to paint one side of the doll in their normal appearance, and the reverse in the skeleton appearance.

  • Materials: Paper and colored pencils/markers or wooden dolls and paint

Papel Picado

Another Mexican folk art that is very popular during Day of the Dead is papel picado, which involves colorful and intricate paper cutouts. Provide students with squares of colored paper and stencils of things like la Catrina, la Muerte, calaveras, candles, marigolds, and other symbols of the holiday. You can also let students design their own. Students will cut their designs out of the paper using precision knives, and hang the finished decorations around the classroom.

  • Materials: Colored paper squares, papel picado stencils, precision knives

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