National Latino Books Month

This May we are celebrating Latino Book Month where we are highlighting incredible and inspiring Latino/a picture books. This month’s blog is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with Latino authors and Latino stories depicting themes of bilingualism, food, activism, cultural heritage, and folklore. Through a combination of biographical, auto-biographical, fictional, and non-fictional picture books we want to share the stories of Latino authors and the profound impact on children’s literature.

Aguilera, Claudio
9 Kilometers. 2023. Picture Book.
9 Kilometers is set in the beautiful landscape of southern Chile. It tells the story of a young boy who travels 9 kilometers (over five and a half miles) through the mountains and rainforests of Chile to get to school. The young boy on his long walk encounters butterflies, lizards, and passes the time counting his steps all 15,000 of them. This compelling story by Claudio Aguilera exhibits the perseverance of this young child and the realities many children face in their journeys to get an education.
SE. Ag937nu: E

Engle, Margarita
Water Day. 2023. Picture Book.
In this insightful picture book Margarita Engle spotlights a young girl’s community in Cuba where the entire community rejoices in the arrival of the water man who visits the town weekly to distribute water to her village. Water Day is an exemplary tale on the global water crisis affecting communities such as this small village that no longer has access to water. In order to access a water supply, the village must get help from the water man whose visits to the village are a celebration for the presence of water.
SE. En35wa

Fernandez Nitsche, Melisa
Cantora: Mercedes Sosa, the Voice of Latin America. Picture Book. 2023.
This biographical picture book tells the story of Mercedes Sosa a prominent Argentinian singer whose folk music about justice and human rights resonated with Latin America. Sosa’s passion in her music gave voice to the voiceless and became a symbol of resistance for not only her native country of Argentina but also of Latin America. Unfortunately, her music grabbed the attention of Argentinian government officials that led to her exile in the 1970’s by the Argentinian dictatorship. This picture book is an inspiring tale of the life of Mercedes Sosa. The author does a tremendous job through illustrious colorways and evocative language to display a figure in history that became a beacon for freedom and justice.
SB. So71fe

Genhart, Michael
Spanish is the Language of my Family. 2023. Picture Book.
Michael Genhart in Spanish is the Language of my Family reveals his own cultural experience through stories told by his mother on the experience generations of Latinos went through by being punished for speaking Spanish at school. This story centers around a young boy who is preparing for his school’s Spanish spelling bee and asks his grandmother how to pronounce certain Spanish words that he is having trouble trying to spell. As his grandmother helps him study, she begins to express how differently her life was during school when she was a little girl where she was only ever allowed to speak English at school. Hearing his grandmother’s story motivates and inspires the young boy to make his family proud. Genhart’s picture book highlights an inter-generational story on cultural pride, the heritage we share with our family, and the ties that bind each generation. This story highlights how new generations of Latinos and Spanish speakers are finding inventive ways to rejuvenate the language.
SE. G287sp

Kemp, Laekan Zea
A Crown for Corina. 2023. Picture Book.
It is Corina’s birthday, and she has the special privilege of picking out beautiful flowers from her abuela’s garden to make the biggest flower crown. Corina’s abuela helps her pick out flowers that each have a special meaning and symbolize members of her family who she holds dear. From sunflowers to morning glories, and coneflowers Corina’s flowers represent a story of love and tradition. This beautiful story demonstrates the symbolism behind Mexican flower crowns and Corina’s self-discovery as she takes part in her family’s tradition.
Q. SE. K3205cr

Liu-Trujillo, Robert
Jugo Fresco. 2023. Picture Book.
Follow Art and his father as they journey around the neighborhood in the search for fresh ingredients to help make a juice that can heal his father from a cold. Art and his father learn by the end of the book that the secret and most important ingredient to any fresh juice is “community” alongside carrots, cayenne, and collards. Robert Liu-Trujillo brings a warmth and vitality to Jugo Fresco and emphasizes the importance of community through the celebration of mixed families.

SE. L7408fr: SP
Menendez, Juliet
Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers. 2021. Biography.
In this collection of short biographies discover 40 influential Latin women from all over Latin America and the United States. Juliet Menendez reveals the paths these influential women took to get to where they are today. Through vibrant hand-painted illustrations Menendez celebrates these famous women and the triumphs they have achieved in their lives. The book features a variety of women across all disciplines from artists and scientists, to activists. You can expect any reader to feel encouraged to follow their dreams.
S.920.72 M5245la

Norman, Lissette
Plátanos go with Everything. 2023. Picture Book.
Platanos go with Everything by award-winning poet Lissette Norman is a lighthearted dedication to plátanos the star of Dominican cuisine. In this story Yesenia’s favorite food is plátanos. Plátanos can be sweet and sugary, or they can be savory and salty. Plátanos are a part of every dish in her Dominican household and through heartwarming language and warm colors you will find out why plátanos go with absolutely everything, especially with love!
Q. SE. N785pl

Otheguy, Emma
Martina Has Too Many Tías. 2003. Picture Book.
This charming and animated picture book reimagines the classic and beloved Caribbean folktale of “La Cucaracha Martina.” In this reimagining a quiet girl by the name of Martina is overwhelmed by her boisterous and loud family. Martina does not enjoy parties because parties are usually full of her tías wearing bold clothing and bellowing laughs; it can be too much for a quiet person like Martina. When Martina wanders into a pot of hot guava she is whisked away to a magical island where she can finally be in solitude and enjoy her peace. However, is she really at home? Follow Martina as she discovers what it truly means to feel at home and how introverted kids can still belong, even in a family full of extroverts.
SE. Ot3ma

Trejo, Jesus
Papa’s Magical Water-Jug Clock. 2023. Picture Book.
Papa’s Magical Water-Jug Clock focuses on little Jesus who is extremely excited to spend the day with his papa’s family business in landscaping. Little Jesus loves to ride in his Papa’s cool truck and see all the tools he gets to use during his workday. His Papa even lets him oversee the magical water jug which also acts as a clock! Papa tells little Jesus that once the water-jug is empty that signals the workday is over. With being entrusted with the magical water-jug Jesus wants to make sure that he executes his job to perfection. However, Jesus cannot help but give water away to all the thirsty animals he encounters such as the dog in the sweater, elderly cats, and a flock of peacocks. Before he knows it, he has given away all the water and the workday is not over, so Jesus begins to panic that he may be fired! Jesus begins to wonder if the magical water-jug is even all that magical. This mischievous tale of Jesus Trejo’s life lesson as a kid will be sure to warm your heart and have you giggling.
SE. T718pa


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]