Chicano English Vernacular: Books for Children and Youth

The experiences of Spanish-speaking populations in America have resulted in a dialect some call Chicano English. Spoken especially in the Southwestern United States and California, it is not what happens when native Spanish speakers are attempting to learn English and still speak it brokenly. Rather, it’s a blending of the two languages, much like the experience of all who relocate to a new country or culture; there will always be a balancing act between celebrating the old and welcoming the new. When searching for books about young people who have this experience, or for characters who blend the two languages, you can try searching a specific nationality of Hispanic heritage (Puerto Rican American, Mexican American, Cuban American, etc.) as a subject term along with the subject “juvenile fiction” (for fiction) or “juvenile literature” (for non-fiction). To find bilingual books, search “Spanish language materials Bilingual” as a subject.

Online Resources

Do You Speak American? Spanish and Chicano English.
This website provides educators an extensive list of reading materials, resources, activities, and discussion guides for high school students learning about the development of Spanish-speaking and Chicano English in America.

Celebrating Diverse Latino Cultures, Literature, and Literacy Everyday.
This guide lists helpful suggestions for finding Latino children’s books, other print resources, services and outreach programs for Latino children, and ideas for planning Latino literacy and library programs. There are also guidelines for evaluating children’s books about Latinos, and finally, a list of recommended Latino children’s books.
Bilingual Picture Books

Ada, Alma Flor.
I Love Saturdays y Domingos. 2002.
A young girl enjoys the similarities and the differences between her English-speaking and Spanish-speaking grandparents.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. Ad11i]

Alarcon, Francisco X.
Angels Ride Bikes and Other Fall Poems. 1999.
A bilingual collection of poems in which the renowned Mexican American poet revisits and celebrates his childhood memories of fall in the city and growing up in Los Angeles.
[SSHEL S Collection S.811 Al12a]

Alarcon, Francisco X.
Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems. 1997.
A bilingual collection of humorous and serious poems about family, nature, and celebrations by a renowned Mexican American poet.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S.811 Al12l]

Montes, Marisa.
Los Gatos Black on Halloween. 2006.
Easy to read, rhyming text about Halloween night incorporates Spanish words, from las brujas riding their broomsticks to los monstruos whose monstrous ball is interrupted by a true horror.
[SSHEL S Collection Q. SE. M764l]

Mora, Pat.
The Rainbow Tulip. 1999.
A Mexican-American first-grader experiences the difficulties and pleasures of being different when she wears a tulip costume with all the colors of the rainbow for the school May Day parade.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books SE. M79r]

Mora, Pat.
Water Rolls, Water Rises. 2014.
A series of verses, in English and Spanish, about the movement and moods of water around the world and the ways in which water affects a variety of landscapes and cultures.
[SSHEL S Collection S.553.7 M79w]

Morales, Yuyi.
Just In Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book. 2008.
As Señor Calavera prepares for Grandma Beetle’s birthday he finds an alphabetical assortment of unusual presents, but with the help of Zelmiro the Ghost, he finds the best gift of all.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books SE. M792ju]

Morales, Yuyi.
Niño Wrestles the World. 2013.
Lucha Libre champion Niño has no trouble fending off monstrous opponents, but when his little sisters awaken from their naps, he is in for a no-holds-barred wrestling match that will truly test his skills.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books SE. M792n]

Perez, Amada Irma.
My Diary from Here to There. 2002.
A young girl describes her feelings when her father decides to leave their home in Mexico to look for work in the United States.
[SSHEL S Collection S.P4152my]

Perez, Amada Irma.
My Very Own Room. 2000.
With the help of her family, a resourceful Mexican-American girl with two parents, five little brothers, and visiting relatives realizes her dream of having a space of her own to read and to think. Based on the author’s own childhood.
[SSHEL Oak Street SE. P4152m]

Soto, Gary.
Chato’s Kitchen.
To get the “ratoncitos,” little mice, who have moved into the barrio to come to his house, Chato the cat prepares all kinds of good food: fajitas, frijoles, salsa, enchiladas, and more.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. So78c]

Young Adult/Intermediate

Alvarez, Julia.
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. 1991.
It’s a long way from Santo Domingo to the Bronx, but if anyone can go the distance, it’s the Garcia girls. Four lively Latinas plunged from a pampered life of privilege on an island compound into the big-city chaos of New York, they rebel against Mami and Papi’s old-world discipline and embrace all that America has to offer.
[Main Stacks 813 AL86H and Uni High Fiction Al86h2005]

Anaya, Rudolfo A.
Bless Me, Ultima. 1972.
Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will test the bonds that tie him to his people, and discover himself in the pagan past, in his father’s wisdom, and in his mother’s Catholicism. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world-and will nurture the birth of his soul.
[Main Stacks 813 AN18B, Undergraduate Library PS3551.N27 B5 1972, and Uni High Fiction An1881999]

Cisneros, Sandra.
The House on Mango Street. 1991.
The story of a young girl growing up in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago. Capturing her thoughts and emotions in poems and stories, she is able to rise above hopelessness and create a quiet space for herself in the midst of her oppressive surroundings.
[Main Stacks 813 C497h 1991, Undergraduate Library PS3553.I78 H6 1991, and Residence Halls Lincoln Avenue Circulating Collection 813 C497ho]

Cisneros, Sandra.
Caramelo. 2002.
The celebrated author of The House on Mango Street gives us an extraordinary new novel, told in language of blazing originality: a multigenerational story of a Mexican-American family whose voices create a dazzling weave of humor, passion, and poignancy–the very stuff of life.
[Undergraduate Library PS3553.I78 C37 2002, Residence Halls Allen Hall Circulating Collection 813 C497ca, and Uni High Fiction C497c]

Cofer, Judith Ortiz.
Call Me Maria. 2004.
Fifteen-year-old Maria leaves her mother and their Puerto Rican home to live in the barrio of New York with her father, feeling torn between the two cultures in which she has been raised.
[SSHEL S Collection S. Or85c]

Herrera, Juan Felipe.
Downtown Boy. 2005.
From June of 1958 to June of 1959, Juanito tries to stay out of mischief and be good as he, his mother, and his father move around the state of California, never quite feeling at home.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. H433d]

Jimenez, Francisco.
The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child. 1997.
A collection of stories about the life of a migrant family.
[SSHEL S Collection S.J564c and Main Stacks 813 J5641C]

Santiago, Esmeralda.
Almost a Woman. 1998.
In her new memoir, the acclaimed author of When I Was Puerto Rican continues the riveting chronicle of her emergence from the barrios of Brooklyn to the theaters of Manhattan.
[Main Stacks 974.71004687 Sa59a and Residence Halls Illinois Street Multicultural 974.7 Sa59a 1998]

Soto, Gary.
Baseball in April. 1990.
A collection of eleven short stories focusing on the everyday adventures of Hispanic young people growing up in Fresno, California. The smart, tough, vulnerable kids in these stories are Latino, but their dreams and desires belong to all of us. Glossary of Spanish terms included.
[SSHEL S Collection and the Center for Children’s Books S. So78b]

Soto, Gary.
Living Up the Street. 1985.
The author describes his experiences growing up as a Mexican American in Fresno, California.
[Undergraduate Library F869.F8 S67 1985]

Thomas, Piri.
Down These Mean Streets. 1967.
As he recounts the journey that took him from adolescence in El Barrio to a lock-up in Sing Sing to the freedom that comes of self-acceptance, faith, and inner confidence, Piri Thomas gives us a book that is as exultant as it is harrowing and whose every page bears the irrepressible rhythm of its author’s voice.
[Undergraduate Library F128.9.P8 T5 1967]

Villarreal, Jose Antonio.
Pocho. 1970.
Villarreal illuminates here the world of “pochos,” Americans whose parents come to the United States from Mexico. Set in Depression-era California, the novel focuses on Richard, a young pocho who experiences the intense conflict between loyalty to the traditions of his family’s past and attraction to new ideas.
[SSHEL S Collection S.V713P1970]