Latino-themed Children's Books
DCPL children's collection contains hundreds of excellent children books that reflect the Latino experience. The following list brings together stories either written or illustrated by Latino authors and artists or tales that explore Latino characters and cultural identity. I have included an assortment of English, Spanish or bilingual titles in hopes that this list becomes a resource for children and families who want to read great stories that celebrate La Latinidad.
My New Mom and Me / Renata Galindo.
Renata Galindo is a Mexican illustrator and children’s book author. A Chicago Public Library 2016 Best Books for Kids, My New Mom and Me is her emotive story about diverse families and acceptance. The tale is about a puppy who is adopted by a cat and their process in becoming a family. I liked the pragmatism of the story: “Mom is learning how to be my mom, and I am learning how to be Mom’s kid.” Great for those looking for books about adoption and nontraditional families. Ages 0-8.
Radiant Child : The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat / Javaka Steptoe.
Jean-Michel Basquiat's parents hail from Haiti and Puerto Rico. Jean-Michel likes to draw and his parents like to listen to jazz and prepare meals of rice and beans. All the members of the family enjoy the arts: they read stories and poetry at home and take trips to theaters and museums. When Jean-Michel was still in school, his mother began to experience mental illness and had to move to a hospital. Jean-Michel created art to transform his inner sadness: he began to draw graffiti on buildings around New York City. More and more people began to like his work and eventually he became a very famous artist, known to everybody as "The Radiant Child." I found this to be an inspiring colorful book. The illustrations by Javaka Steptoe (his impressions of Basquiat's art) were made on reclaimed materials found in his native Brooklyn. Read if you're interested in books about mental illness, young artists or graffiti. Ages 0-8.
Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay / Susan Hood ; illustrated by Sally Wern Comport.
Ada lives near the capital of Paraguay. Because her neighborhood is next to a landfill, most adults work picking-up scraps to sell. One day, an environmental engineer comes to town to teach safety practices to the workers. During his spare time he teaches music lessons to the kids. With help from other neighbors, he begins making musical instruments out of trash so all the kids could learn to play music. After much practicing, Ada and the other kids learned to play beautifully and formed an orchestra. As they got better and better, the orchestra became famous. Ada and her friends now tour the world with instruments made of recycled trash. This book is based on the true story of the "Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay." You can click here to see a trailer of the Orchestra. Read if you're interested in musicians or recycling. Ages 0-8.
Rudas: Niño's Horrendous Hermanitas / Yuyi Morales.
Yuyi Morales, the author and Illustrator of this picture book, brings to life the Mexican sport tradition of Lucha Libre (wrestling). Cheer as your favorite opponents (Técnicos vs. Rudos) perform flying somersaults, or root for La Llorona as she appears on the ring. I got a kick off the listing of competitors and the bilingual dictionary at the end of the book. Read if you're interested in sports, wrestling, or Mexican folk traditions. Ages 0-8./p>
¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z!: Descubriendo el Bosque Nublado = Olinguito, from A to Z! : Unveiling the Cloud Forest / Lulu Delacre.
In 2003, a Smithsonian zoologist identified the olinguito, a new species living in the cloud forests of Ecuador. In this bilingual alphabet book, author Lulu Delacre guides us through the forest where the olinguito lives and lets us explore the exotic plants, insects and animals that inhabit this magical place. I enjoyed the story's use of haiku-like poetry to explore the alphabet. For example, the letter Q becomes "Y un quetzal que resplandece, en un cedro queda quieto." Read if interested in rain forests, animals, alphabet books. Ages 9-12.
From North to South / Del Norte al Sur / Story, René Colato Laínez; Illustrations, Joe Cepeda = cuento, René Colato Laínez; ilustraciones, Joe Cepeda.
Author Colato Lainez was born in El Salvador and now teaches in Los Angeles. His students inspired him to write this moving tale of a broken family. In the story, Jose, who was born in the U.S., lives in San Diego with his parents. One day, there is a raid at the factory where his mother works and she is deported back to Mexico. Jose and his father go to the border town of Tijuana to visit his mother at a halfway house for immigrants. Along with his mother, there are other families and kids living temporarily at the Casa until they can also go back home. With the help of Jose's mother, the kids plant seeds wishing that by the time the flowers bloom they will be reunited with their families. Read if interested in immigration, broken families, dreamers. Ages 0-8.
De la A a la Z. Puerto Rico / Georginia Lázaro ; ilustrado por Mrinali Álvarez.
A very special alphabet book where kids learn about the geography, culture, and people of Puerto Rico. Get ready to browse through colorful Illustrations of Old San Juan, the rain forest, turquoise beaches and Puerto Rico's mascot, el Coquí. This alphabet book is part of a series on Latin America, and there are more of them under the series title De la A a la Z. I find this book to be of special value for those who are planning a trip to the Island accompanied by kids. Read if interested in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, alphabet books. Ages 5-8.
The Pot That Juan Built / Nancy Andrews-Goebel ; pictures by David Diaz.
The book describes the process by which Mexican artist Juan Quezada creates his beautiful pots. Quezada pioneered the use of local materials to craft stunning pots in the traditional style of the Casas Grandes Indians. He also taught his family and neighbors to create pots. Thanks to the beautiful pottery that the families from the town now create, their once impoverished community has been transformed into a prosperous community of world-renowned artists. Of interest is the book's afterword detailing how Quezada’s pottery got to become world famous. Read if interested in pottery, artists. Ages 9-12.
Where Do They Go? / Julia Alvarez ; illustrated by Sabra Field.
Bestselling novelist and children's author Julia Alvarez's picture book is conceived as a poem for children that addresses the emotional side of death. The book aims to help young children become aware of the eternal connections that live on after death. The superb illustrations that complement the text invite readers to ponder on those who are now gone. Follow this link to watch a short video of Julia Alvarez discussing how the book addresses kids' questions on death. Read if interested in death, grief. Ages 0-8.
Friends From the Other Side = Amigos del Otro Lado / story by Gloria Anzaldúa ; pictures by Consuelo Méndez.
Literary voice Gloria Anzaldúa wrote this story, her first children book, in Chicano Spanish, a spoken style of Spanish used by many Mexican American people. It tells the story of Prietita, a young girl living in Southern Texas who befriends a recent newcomer from Mexico. Prietita shares her lunch with her new friend and saves him and his mother from being deported by the immigration police. Anzaldua’s own experiences helped her write this touching story that, among other themes, reveals the ugliness of discrimination from Mexican Americans toward “mojados” Read if interested in immigration, friendship. Ages 0-8.