A busload of spitball slinging schoolchildren are unloaded at a museum, expecting to spend the day menacing the world around them. However, they are greeted by Mary Beth, a quick-witted tour guide who seems knowledgeable in dealing with mischievous tricksters.
Grabbing their attention with an optical illusion that leads to a secret passageway, Mary Beth leads the children to an obscure room where she introduces them to a mysterious book. It’s the “Book of Life,” she tells them, and it contains all of the world’s stories. Inviting them into a particular story, Mary Beth begins reading about San Angel, a Mexican town brimming with myths and traditions. Family histories are reestablished with each generation, for instance, through participation in the Day of the Dead and bullfighting.
So Jorge Gutierrez’s The Book of Life begins when a group of children are enticed by the power of story. The central story unfolding in San Angel is being read aloud as one story among the world’s many.
Mary Beth begins her story three kids and two gods. The three young children—guitar strumming Manolo, bold and fake-mustache wearing Joaquin, and independent-minded María—rollick together about town, each filled with dreams that are like expectations for how his or her story might transpire. They look like wooden puppets—or figurines that Mary Beth can use to visually represent the story to the captivated children.
Manolo’s conflict is that he inherits a family tradition of bullfighting, but he prefers playing his guitar and, though talented at sidestepping charging bulls, doesn’t like the tradition of animal slaughter bound up with the sport’s expectations. ...1
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The Book of Life
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