Books that share Hispanic American heritage
Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart
by: Pat Mora, illustrated by: Raul Colón - (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2005) 40 pages.
Doña Flor is a giant woman — and she seems all the bigger because she lives in a tiny village amongst tiny villagers. At first, Doña Flor is teased because of her size. But as she steadfastly treats everyone with kindness — reading to the children and allowing the townspeople to use her homemade tortillas as roofs — her benevolence wins the villagers over. And when the villagers believe they are in danger, it’s Doña Flor to the rescue! Winner of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, this folkloric tale comes with the added bonus of exposing young readers to Spanish.
Perfect for: Young readers who might be insecure about their size — big or small!
Find Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart at your local library.
by: Jonah Winter, illustrated by: Ana Juan - (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2002) 32 pages.
Childhood polio and a horrific bus crash leave Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist, with a broken, suffering body. Does she cry forever? No! She transforms her pain into playful paintings teeming with fantastic skeletons, jaguars, devils, and monkeys. Her courageous life is accurately portrayed in this richly emotional book, with poetic text, playful font, and surreal drawings. The book’s gritty theme, that inner strength can conquer all challenges, is ideal for young artists, little ones feeling under the weather, and complainers needing a pick-me-up.
Perfect for: Little ones who need a burst of inspiration.
Find Frida at your local library.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina
by: Monica Brown; translated by Adriana Dominguez, illustrated by: Sara Palacios - (Children’s Book Press, 2011) 32 pages.
Marisol’s cousin wonders why her hair is the “color of carrots” even though her skin “is brown like mine.” Marisol corrects him: “Actually, my hair is the color of fire.” Her words and actions match her independent, self-confident personality — but nothing else about Marisol matches. She loves peanut butter and burrito sandwiches, wears green polka dots and purple stripes at the same time, and speaks Spanish and English. (The book is written in both languages). When a classmate challenges Marisol to match, she dresses in one color and brings a regular PB&J sandwich for lunch, but everything feels wrong that day. When she tells her teacher why she’s feeling down, Ms. Apple writes her a note: “I like you just the way you are, because the Marisol McDonald that I know is a creative, unique, bilingual, Peruvian, Scottish, American soccer playing artist and simply marvelous.” Marisol skips all the way home.
Perfect for: Multiracial children and their friends and cousins.
Find Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina at your local library.
by: Chris Raschka - (Scholastic, 1993) 32 pages.
This unique book uses only 34 words to show how a friendship between two boys develops. After reading this book to your child, discuss the feelings each of the boys experiences after meeting for the first time.
Perfect for: Helping kids understand unspoken feelings and friendship.
Find Yo! Yes? at your local library.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music
by: Margarita Engle, illustrated by: Rafael López - (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015) 48 pages.
This magnificently illustrated children’s book is inspired by the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga. The 10-year-old Chinese, African, and Cuban girl held fast to her love of drums and eventually broke through the double standard of 1920s Cuba, where only men were allowed to play drums. Her story is told in rhythmic verse with a beat you can practically hear. “The drum dream girl dreamed of pounding tall conga drums, tapping small bongo drums, and boom boom booming with long loud sticks on big, round, silvery, moon-bright timbales.” Rich, vibrant images capture the movement of sound and Caribbean dreamscape.
Perfect for: Anyone with a dream that can’t be stopped.
Find Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music at your local library.
by: Campbell Geeslin, illustrated by: Ana Juan - (Atheneum, 2004) 40 pages.
More than anything, Elena wants to be a glass-blower, but in her region in Mexico, and in her father’s eyes, this is an art for boys alone. When she heads to Monterrey, where all the great glass-blowers live and work, disguised as a boy, she learns the depth of her own talent.
Perfect for: Kids who like realism.
Find Elena’s Serenade at your local library.
Horse Hooves and Chicken Feet: Mexican Folktales
by: Neil Philip, illustrated by: Jacqueline Mair - (Clarion Books, 2003) 83 pages.
Alternately funny, spooky, thought-provoking and magical, this is a vividly illustrated and accessible collection of Mexican folktales.
Perfect for: Kids who like myths and folktales.
Find Horse Hooves and Chicken Feet: Mexican Folktales at your local library.
Last Stop on Market Street
by: Matt de la Peña, illustrated by: Christian Robinson - (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015) 32 pages.
CJ and his grandmother ride the city bus after church in San Francisco. As CJ notices that other people have more stuff than he and grandmother, he starts to complain about it. “Nana, how come we don’t got a car?” he asks while they’re waiting in the rain for the bus. She responds to this and other gripes with understanding, gentle reproof, and wisdom. When CJ is envious of two boys on the bus playing music on an iPod, Nana points to a passenger with a guitar. “You got the real live thing sitting across from you,” she tells him as the man begins to play. Vibrant illustrations help convey Nana’s belief that people who live in poorer parts of the city become “a better witness for what’s beautiful.”
Perfect for: Young children, especially those who sometimes feel deprived.
Find Last Stop on Market Street at your local library.
Margaret and Margarita: Margarita y Margaret
by: Lynn Reiser - (Greenwillow Books, 1993) 32 pages.
Your child will love this bilingual (Spanish and English) book about a budding friendship between an English-speaking girl and a Spanish-speaking girl who meet in a park.
For our Spanish readers: A su nino le encantaraeste libro bilingue sobre una amistad que crece entre una nina que habla ingles y una nina que habla espanol que se conocen en el parque.
Perfect for: Celebrating differences and finding similarities.
Find Margaret and Margarita: Margarita y Margaret at your local library.
I Love Saturdays y domingos
by: Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by: Elivia Savadier - (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002) 32 pages.
A young girl tells about the Saturdays she spends with her white grandparents and Sundays spent with her Mexican-American abuelitos.
Perfect for: Kids with multicultural families and traditions.
Find I Love Saturdays y domingos at your local library.
Mango, Abuela, and Me
by: Meg Medina, illustrated by: Angela Dominguez - (Candlewick, 2015) 32 pages.
Family ties and determination overcome language barriers when Mia’s grandmother, Abuela, comes to live with her family from far away. Mia is eager to learn about her grandfather, Abuelo, and hear stories about the wild parrots in Abuela’s homeland. She also wants Abuela to read to her at bedtime. But Abuela doesn’t understand English, and Mia’s Spanish isn’t very good. Word by word, they teach each other. “Dough,” says Mia when they’re making meat pies for snack. “Masa” responds Abuela. They learn even faster after Mia and her mother buy un loro (a parrot) to make Abuela feel more at home. They name the bird Mango “because his wings are green, orange, and gold like the fruit.” Abuela teaches Mango to say words in Spanish and Mia repeats them in English. They practice new words every day until one night Abuela reads Mia’s favorite book to her “with only a little help” and tells her stories about Abuelo and their old house.
Perfect for: Children living with parents and grandparents whose first language isn’t English.
Find Mango, Abuela, and Me at your local library.
Nino Wrestles the World
by: Yuyi Morales - (Roaring Brook Press, 2013) 36 pages.
Niño is an energetic little boy who dons underpants and a bright red lucha libre mask to fight his imaginary competitors. Little ones learn a cultural lesson about lucha libre by reading title cards, nonsensical action words like Fwap, and some basic Spanish vocabulary, too.
Perfect for: Little boys who dream big.
Find Nino Wrestles the World at your local library.
Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates
by: Jonah Winter, illustrated by: Raul Colon - (Atheneum, 2005) 40 pages.
This beautifully illustrated book chronicles the career of Latino baseball star Roberto Clemente, from his childhood in Puerto Rico, through his major league career, and finally to his tragic death in a plane crash on his way to aid earthquake victims in Central America. This inspirational story follows Clemente from humble beginnings (his first baseball glove was made from a coffee-bean sack) to World Series fame in the major leagues to his legacy as a role model for aspiring baseball players and as a hero to the people of Puerto Rico for his humanitarian work.
Perfect for: Kids who like to read about real people.
Find Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates at your local library.
Tales Our Abuelitas Told: A Hispanic Folktale Collection
by: F. Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by: Felipe Davalos, Susan Guevara, Leyla Torres and Vivi Escrivia - (Simon & Schuster, 2006) 128 pages.
Gathered from the various spots on the globe that make up the Hispanic heritage – from the Basques northeast and Celtic northwest corners of Spain through the Arab influences of southern Spain to the Americas, these 12 stories have been polished by the retellings from one generation to another; from grandmothers to grandchildren. In this welcome addition to a folktale library, each story has an end-piece with specific information about the origins and versions of the tale.
Perfect for: Kids who like fantasy stories.
Find Tales Our Abuelitas Told: A Hispanic Folktale Collection at your local library.
by: Gary Soto, illustrated by: Susan Guevara - (Puffin Books, 1997) 32 pages.
This funny satire of the personalities and feuds in East Los Angeles features a cool cat named Chato who can’t believe his luck when a delicious-looking family of mice moves in next door. Chato hopes to trick them into becoming his next meal by inviting them over for dinner. He’s the one surprised, though, when the mice arrive with a family friend from their old neighborhood, who just happens to be a dog. The book is peppered with Spanish words. The illustrations are amusing, broadly drawn send-ups of the characters.
Perfect for: Inner-city children living in lively neighborhoods.
Find Chato’s Kitchen at your local library.
My Diary From Here to There/Mi diario de aquí hasta allá
by: Amada Irma Pérez, illustrated by: Maya Christina Gonzalez - (Children’s Book Press, 2002) 32 pages.
Based on the author’s childhood experience, this story describes the journey of a family moving from Mexico to Los Angeles for a better life. The story is written as diary entries in English and Spanish that will resonate with any child who has left people and places behind for an unknown future. “But what if we’re not allowed to speak Spanish? What if I can’t learn English? Will I ever see Michi again?” writes Amada Irma. Her father tries to ease her worries by sharing his own story of moving from Arizona to Mexico as a child. “It was a big change, but we got through it. I know you can, too,” he tells Amada Irma. Her father moves ahead of the family to find a job and get green cards for everyone in the family. When the family is reunited in California and settled in to their new home, Amada Irma realizes that her father was right. “I am stronger than I think – in Mexico, in the States, anywhere.”
Perfect for: Helping children realize that while change is scary, it can build character.
Find My Diary From Here to There/Mi diario de aquí hasta allá at your local library.
Too Many Tamales
by: Gary Soto, illustrated by: Ed Martinez - (Putnam, 1993) 32 pages.
It was a snowy Christmas Eve night and Maria was in the kitchen helping her mother make stacks of tamales for Christmas dinner. Relatives are about to arrive and the excitement is high, when Maria makes a mistake that threatens to ruin the party, and maybe even Christmas itself: she’s lost her mother’s wedding ring in the tamales. Maria’s cousins pitch in to help her find the ring. Fortunately, both Christmas Eve and a precious family treasure are rescued in the end.
Perfect for: Kids who like to learn about other cultures.
Find Too Many Tamales at your local library.
Prizefighter en mi Casa
by: E. Charlton-Trujillo - (Random House, 2006) 224 pages.
Chula Sanchez wished her parents hadn’t decided against naming her Esperanza. “Cause Chula means pretty and there ain’t nothing pretty ’bout me now.” Pape was driving drunk when he and Chula crashed. With the head of the household now paralyzed and unable to work, and Chula scarred with a disfigured face and the onset of epilepsy, the Sanchez family is struggling to make ends meet. Humiliated but still determined, Pape is convinced that El Jefe, the most revered prizefighter in Mexico, is their ticket to financial salvation. … As readers will learn, neither El Jefe, nor Chula are who or what they appear to be.
Perfect for: Kids who like realism.
Find Prizefighter en mi Casa at your local library.
The Alamo (A Day That Changed America)
by: Shelley Tanaka, illustrated by: David Craig - (Hyperion, 2003) 48 pages.
Told through the eyes of two survivors, this retelling offers detailed narration and sophisticated analysis of the March 6, 1836, battle in Texas. Outnumbered 20-1 by Mexican opponents, the Alamo’s soldiers fought heroically until all the adult men fighting were killed, or captured and executed. Reasons for the rebellion are objectively noted, with attention given to the Mexican perspective. Myths also are addressed. Readers can expect a vivid account of the violent massacre, discussion of the event’s aftermath, biographical information on famed participants (James Bowie, Santa Anna, Davy Crockett, William Travis), plus colorful maps, battle paintings, diagrams of the fort, old photos, and letters.
Perfect for: Youths interested in Texas, American history, American history with Mexico, and westward expansion.
Find The Alamo (A Day That Changed America) at your local library.
Becoming Naomi Leon
by: Pam Munoz Ryan - (Scholastic, 2004) 272 pages.
Naomi Leon Outlaw is many things: a great sister, a kind granddaughter, and an excellent soap carver, but she is having a harder time just being Naomi. Her journey to find her own true voice and reconnect with her father takes her from a trailer park in Lemon Tree, California, to a radish-carving festival in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Perfect for: Kids who have changed as they’ve grown up.
Find Becoming Naomi Leon at your local library.
I Lived on Butterfly Hill
by: Marjorie Agosín, illustrated by: Lee White - (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015) 464 pages.
Celeste lives in Valparaíso, Chile with her inspiring multigenerational family on Butterfly Hill. Things take a turn when a ruthless dictator overthrows the Chilean president, and Celeste’s friends and classmates begin to mysteriously disappear. Her parents, who are doctors, must go into hiding because they are considered subversives for helping the poor. Sent to live with her aunt in the U.S., Celeste struggles to adjust to a new life in exile as her country descends into turmoil. Based on the author’s experience growing up in Chile around the time of the Augusto Pinochet coup, the story offers a very personal entrée into a devastating chapter in Chile’s history.
Perfect for: Serious readers who enjoy a gripping story with weighty themes.
Find I Lived on Butterfly Hill at your local library.
Yes! We Are Latinos
by: Alma Flor Ada and Isabel Campoy, illustrated by: David Diaz - (Charlesbridge, 2013) 96 pages.
This collection of poems introduces 13 young Latinos of various ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. Michiko in Los Angeles is Peruvian and Japanese; Felipe in Chicago is Panamanian, Venezuelan, and black; and Juanita in New York is Mexican. Embodying the underrepresented diversity of the Latino community, the poems are matched with factual explanations of events like the Spanish Civil War and Cuba’s relationship with the U.S. Caldecott Gold Medalist David Diaz’s accompanying hand-cut illustrations evoke Latino folk art.
Perfect for: Young history buffs who are as curious about the world as they are about themselves.
Find Yes! We Are Latinos at your local library.
The Mexican Revolution
by: Louise Chipley Slavicek - (Chelsea House Publishers, 2011) 127 pages.
Rousing chronicle of the most violent uprising in the history of Latin America. In 1910 the Mexican Revolution broke out, with peasants, workers, and political reformers collaborating to overthrow the dictator, Porfirio Diaz, in only six months. A bloody decade of turmoil followed, as generals, ex-bandits, agrarian radicals, and wealthy oligarchs fought for control. More than 1 million Mexicans died in the chaos, and the nation’s economy was destroyed. But the revolution successfully imposed the largest redistribution of land in the hemisphere’s history. Major characters in the conflict are presented in this concise but thorough account —Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa, Francisco Madero, Alvaro Obregon, Venustiano Carranza, and Victoriano Huerta (“The Jackal”).
Perfect for: Anyone interested in Mexican history or fascinated by revolts for social reform.
Find The Mexican Revolution at your local library.