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Tonight is Carnaval   Author

Tonight is Carnaval

Author: Arthur Dorros

ISBN: 014055467X
Summary: “A story about what life is like for many people in the Andes Mountains during the time of Carnaval each year.


Lessons by Debbie Palmer 


Note: Have used the Spanish spelling of “carnaval” instead of “carnival” throughout the lessons since that is how it is spelled in the book.

Social Studies


This book is set in the high Andes Mountains of Peru.  Your child could do some map work such as coloring in the area where the Andes are located, identifying Peru and its capital.  Below are two outline maps-- one of South America and the other of Peru.

South America Outline Map
Peru Outline Map


Also your child may want to color the flag of Peru.


The people in the book are Quechua (kay-chew-ah) Indians.  The Quechuas are descendents of the ancient Inca.  The Inca’s territory was mainly in the Andes on the western side of South America.  They are known for their complex road system that was maintained throughout the empire and their magnificent stone structures.  To learn more about this area and the people there is a picture book called This Place is High by Vicki Cobb.  Although it is a longer picture book the illustrations and information are engaging and could be read to younger students in sections.


Note: This is a more advanced lesson for older students. 

Carnaval is a celebration before the start  of Lent in many Catholic cultures.  Carnaval is celebrated here in the US in Louisiana and in many South American countries like Peru.  For this activity write each of the following words on an index card (You need 7 cards)…Carnaval, Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Semana Santa (Holy Week), Exploding Judas, Easter.  I have put the following words in order of their occurrence, but don’t give the cards to your student in order.  Read or discuss the following information and see if you student can put the cards in order of them happening.

“Carnaval is related to the words “carne” in Spanish or “carnivore” in English.  Carne means “meat” and this celebration is a way of saying good-bye to meat or other rich foods before the period of Lent.  During Carnaval there are parades.  Children fill emptied egg shells with colored water and have “egg fights” in the streets.  The last day of Carnaval is Fat Tuesday which is the biggest day for parties and parades before Lent begins.  Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent, a 40 day period in which Catholics prepare for Easter and give up things they enjoy (i.e. meat).  On Ash Wednesday, Catholics go to church and have a cross of ashes put on their foreheads.  The final week of Lent is called “Semana Santa” or Holy Week.  Holy Week is a time to remember Christ and His week before going to the cross.  On the Saturday before Easter many communities in Latin America will make a paper mache' figure of Judas Iscariot and fill it with firecrackers and explode the Judas figure since he was the traitor of Jesus.  The next day Easter is celebrated.”


Machu Picchu
On the third page of text it reads…”crumbling walls of buildings made hundreds of years ago when the Incas ruled these mountains.”  Even though Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas in Peru, is not pictured in Tonight is Carnaval, it is the most famous site that the Incas built. You could introduce your student to this fascinating ancient city through the following to go-along books:  This Place is High by Vicki Cobb and Lost City: the Discovery of Machu Picchu by Ted Lewin. 


Language Arts



charango (chah-rahn-go)-small guitar made out of the back or “shell” or an armadillo


zampoña (sahm-pon-yah)-South American panpipe

quena (kay-nah)-flute

Carnaval-celebration before the start of Lent

llama-a beast of burden used in South America

alpaca-a relative of the llama, but alpacas have softer wool that is used to make clothing



Andean music and instruments
See the back cover of Tonight is Carnaval for a picture of the four musical instruments featured in the book.  Check out a tape or cd from the library with Andean music on it for your student to listen to.  The most interesting  of the musical instruments in the book is the charango, because it is made from the back of an armadillo.  See this site for some pictures of it.


All the artwork in the book is called apilleras (ah-pe-yer-ahs) which are three dimensional wall hangings.  If you go to the back of Tonight is Carnaval you can read an explanation of how apilleras are made.   This type of art is very much like appliqué quilting.  If your student has an interest or you yourself do sew you could have your child make a simple wall hanging.  If you don’t sew you, you could make a “wall hanging” by cutting out different shapes from colored construction paper to create a picture.


If you own the book Draw Write Now: Book 8 you student could use pages 52 and 53 to draw a llama.  This activity would go well with the science lesson on llamas below.




There are many opportunities to practice counting in this book whether it be vegetables, people, or llamas!


On the inside of the front and back covers you will find rows of vegetables.  If your student knows how to multiply you could show them these pictures and have them figure out how many cauliflower, carrots, etc. there are by counting how many there are in a row and how many rows there are and multiplying those two numbers to arrive at a total.  For example, for the “coliflor” (cauliflower) there are 7 in a row and there are 5 rows, therefore there are 35 cauliflower plants.




Llamas are the main beast of burden used in the Andes.  They have several relatives that also live in the Andes (the alpacas, guanacos, and vicuñas).  They are distantly related to camels.  Llamas are used for transporting goods, for wool and even for food and milk.  In Tonight is Carnaval you will notice on the page where they are growing all kinds of potatoes that the llamas are wearing brightly colored tassels in their ears.  These tassels help people identify who owns the llama.

Llama printout


Potatoes are a starchy tuber.  They were first grown in southern Peru and were extremely important to the Inca.  Their use eventually spread to Spain when the Spaniards conquered South America and then to the rest of the world.  Today they are the most widely grown starchy vegetable in the world.  Did you know that there are many different varieties of potatoes?  There are russet (brown-red skin), white, yellow, red, purple/blue and even orange potatoes!  Take your student to a grocery store to see the varieties offered there.  A farmer’s market would maybe even have more varieties.  Also see if you can get a hold of some blue/purple potatoes for your student to try.  Also, be sure to find the page in Tonight is Carnaval that shows some of the different colors of the potatoes that they grow in the Andes. 




You could talk about how hard work is a part of life.  There are several verses relating to work in the Bible…Proverbs 12:24 and 19:15, II Thessalonians 3:10.

You could also talk about reaping what you sow.  If you plant potatoes what do you get in the end? Potatoes!  If you show kindness and goodness what will you reap in the end?  Galatians 6:9 is a good verse to go over for this concept.  Other verses include II Corinthians 9:6 and Galatians 6:7.