Books offer wonderful ways to celebrate and reflect on who we are, where we come from, and who we look to be in the world. They can be the reflective mirrors of our lives and see the beauty and power that we project out into the world. They can also be extremely valuable as windows that help us gain insight and connect us with the lives, cultures, and experiences of those that are different from our own.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th-October 15th), we pulled together a list of books that celebrate Latino heritage, culture, and identity. From books about family traditions, legendary tales, brave luchadors, and contributions of important figures from the past and present, these books are good for not just sharing during Hispanic Heritage Month but all year long.
Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins and Sara Palacios (Ages 3-6)
It’s almost time for Christmas, and Maria is traveling with her mother and younger brother, Juan, to visit their grandmother on the border of California and Mexico. For the few minutes they can share together along the fence, Maria and her brother plan to exchange stories and Christmas gifts with the grandmother they haven’t seen in years. But when Juan’s gift is too big to fit through the slats in the fence, Maria has a brilliant idea. Here is a heartwarming tale of families and the miracle of love.
The ABCs of AOC: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from A to Z by Jamia Wilson, Krystal Quiles (Ages 3-7)
This empowering and informative book is the perfect conversation starter for young people interested in government and activism, and the ultimate gift for anyone who wants to learn more about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
From Advocate to Feminist, Grassroots to Queens, and Revolutionary to Zeal, The ABCs of AOC introduces readers to values, places, and issues that relate to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s life and platform. A clear and engaging explanation of each term is paired with a stunning, contemporary illustration that will delight readers. This is an alphabet book like no other!
Lucia the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza and Alyssa Bermudez (Ages 3-7)
Lucía zips through the playground in her cape just like the boys, but when they tell her “girls can’t be superheroes,” suddenly she doesn’t feel so mighty. That’s when her beloved abuela reveals a dazzling secret: Lucía comes from a family of luchadoras, the bold and valiant women of the Mexican lucha libre tradition. Cloaked in a flashy new disguise, Lucía returns as a recess sensation! But when she’s confronted with a case of injustice, Lucía must decide if she can stay true to the ways of the luchadora and fight for what is right, even if it means breaking the sacred rule of never revealing the identity behind her mask. A story about courage and cultural legacy, Lucía the Luchadora is full of pluck, daring, and heart.
Federico and the Wolf by Rebecca J. Gomez, Elisa Chavarri (Ages 4-7)
With his red hoodie on and his bicycle basket full of food, Federico is ready to visit Abuelo. But on the way, he meets a hungry wolf. And now his grandfather bears a striking resemblance to el lobo. Fortunately, Federico is quick and clever—and just happens to be carrying a spicy surprise! Federico drives the wolf away, and he and Abuelo celebrate with a special salsa. Recipe included.
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (Ages 4-8)
If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.
If Dominican Were a Color by Sili Recio, Brianna McCarthy (Ages 4-8)
The colors of Hispaniola burst into life in this striking, evocative debut picture book that celebrates the joy of being Dominican.
If Dominican were a color, it would be the sunset in the sky, blazing red and burning bright.
If Dominican were a color, it’d be the roar of the ocean in the deep of the night,
With the moon beaming down rays of sheer delight.
The palette of the Dominican Republic is exuberant and unlimited. Maiz comes up amarillo, the blue-black of dreams washes over sandy shores, and people’s skin can be the shade of cinnamon in cocoa or of mahogany. This exuberantly colorful, softly rhyming picture book is a gentle reminder that a nation’s hues are as wide as nature itself.
La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya and Juana Martinez-Neal (Ages 4-8)
El príncipe knows this girl is the one for him, but, as usual, his mother doesn’t agree.
The queen has a secret test in mind to see if this girl is really a princesa, but the prince might just have a sneaky plan, too . . .
Readers will be enchanted by this Latino twist on the classic story, and captivated by the vibrant art inspired by the culture of Peru.
My Papi and His Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, Zeke Peña (Ages 4-8)
When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her.
But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.
With vivid illustrations and text bursting with heart, My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a young girl’s love letter to her hardworking dad and to memories of home that we hold close in the midst of change.
Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales (Ages 4-8)
Fwap! Slish! Bloop! Krunch! He takes down his competition in a single move!
No opponent is too big a challenge for the cunning skills of Niño―popsicle eater, toy lover, somersault expert, and world champion lucha libre competitor!
Niño Wrestles the World is in English with Spanish vocabulary, and is a fun, colorful story about a boy wrestling with imaginary monsters (including an Olmec Head and La Llorona) and adversaries like his younger sisters. This is a joyful picture book about imagination, play, and siblings.
Pepe and the Parade: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage by Tracey Kyle and Mirelle Ortega (Ages 4-8)
Pepe wakes up energized to attend his first Hispanic Day parade. With new food to taste, music to dance to, and a parade to watch, Pepe couldn’t be more excited to celebrate and share his Hispanic heritage. Many of Pepe’s friends also attend the festival, celebrating their own Hispanic ties. Mexican, Dominican, Panamanian, Colombian, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Chilean, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Cuban cultures are all represented in the parade. A day filled with joy and pride, Pepe and the Parade is a jubilant celebration of culture and identity.
Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx/La juez que crecio en el Bronx (English and Spanish version) by Jonah Winter, Edel Rodriguez (Ages 4-8)
The inspiring and timely story of Sonia Sotomayor, who rose up from a childhood of poverty and prejudice to become the first Latino to be nominated to the US Supreme Court.
Before Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor took her seat in our nation’s highest court, she was just a little girl in the South Bronx. Justice Sotomayor didn’t have a lot growing up, but she had what she needed — her mother’s love, a will to learn, and her own determination. With bravery she became the person she wanted to be. With hard work she succeeded. With little sunlight and only a modest plot from which to grow, Justice Sotomayor bloomed for the whole world to see.
Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo: Bilingual Spanish-English by Monica Brown, Rafael Lopez (Ages 4-8)
In this vibrant bilingual picture book biography of musician Tito Puente, readers will dance along to the beat of this mambo king’s life. Tito Puente loved banging pots and pans as a child, but what he really dreamed of was having his own band one day. From Spanish Harlem to the Grammy Awards—and all the beats in between—this is the true-life story of a boy whose passion for music turned him into the “King of Mambo.”
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, Tim O’Meara (Ages 4-8)
Frida Kahlo, one of the world’s most famous and unusual artists is revered around the world. Her life was filled with laughter, love, and tragedy, all of which influenced what she painted on her canvases.
Young Pele: Soccer’s First Star by Lesa Cline-Ransome, James Ransome (Ages 4-8)
How did a poor boy named Edson—who kicked rocks down roads and dribbled balls made from rags—go on to become the greatest soccer player of all time? Here is the story of the boy who with great determination, lightning speed, and amazing skill overcame tremendous odds to become the world champion soccer star Pelé. Talented author/illustrator team Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome bring his inspirational story vibrantly to life. The theme of this Dragonfly Book is Sports.
Be Bold! Be Brave!: 11 Latinas who made U.S. History by Naibe Reynoso and Jone Leal (Ages 5-8)
Be Bold! Be Brave! 11 Latinas who made U.S. History, Sé Audaz! Sé Valiente!: 11 Latinas que hicieron historia en los Estados Unidos is a bilingual book that highlights 11 Latinas who excelled in various fields including medicine, science, sports, art and politics. By presenting the true biographical stories of these outstanding Latinas in rhyming verses, young readers will easily follow their journey to success. Some of the women highlighted include Antonia Novello (first female Surgeon General in the U.S.), Ellen Ochoa (first Latina to go to space), Sonia Sotomayor (first Latina Supreme Court Justice,) Rita Moreno (first Latina to win an Oscar), Selena, and Pura Belpre (first Latina to incorporate and promote bilingual literacy in Public Libraries).
Just a Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales (Ages 5-8)
In this original trickster tale, Senor Calavera arrives unexpectedly at Grandma Beetle’s door. He requests that she leave with him right away. “Just a minute,” Grandma Beetle tells him. She still has one house to sweep, two pots of tea to boil, three pounds of corn to make into tortillas — and that’s just the start! Using both Spanish and English words to tally the party preparations, Grandma Beetle cleverly delays her trip and spends her birthday with a table full of grandchildren and her surprise guest. This spirited tribute to the rich traditions of Mexican culture is the perfect introduction to counting in both English and Spanish. The vivacious illustrations and universal depiction of a family celebration are sure to be adored by young readers everywhere.
Me Encanta, I Love Puerto Rico by Gabrielle V. Degroat (Ages 6-8)
Welcome to the beauty of Puerto Rico. Its tropical landscape and beautiful, friendly people will greet you to the sun and the sand. History, culture, and of course the delicious menus will have you celebrating Puerto Rico with your friend, Pedro.
Sofia’s Party Shoes by Jacqueline Jules and Kim Smith (Ages 6-8)
Sofia finally gets to attend her first quinceanera! Her mom even buys her some new shoes. But when Sofia ruins her new shoes before the big party, Sofia might not get to attend after all. This early chapter book from the Sofia Martinez series includes Spanish words in the text, a Spanish glossary, discussion questions, and writing prompts.
Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh (Ages 6-9)
Diego Rivera, one of the most famous painters of the twentieth century, was once just a mischievous little boy who loved to draw. But this little boy would grow up to follow his passion and greatly influence the world of art.
After studying in Spain and France as a young man, Diego was excited to return to his home country of Mexico. There, he toured from the coasts to the plains to the mountains. He met the peoples of different regions and explored the cultures, architecture, and history of those that had lived before. Returning to Mexico City, he painted great murals representing all that he had seen. He provided the Mexican people with a visual history of who they were and, most important, who they are.
Queen of Tejano Music: Selena by Silvia López, Paola Escobar (Ages 6-9)
Selena Quintanilla’s music career began at the age of nine when she started singing in her family’s band. She went from using a hairbrush as a microphone to traveling from town to town to play gigs. But Selena faced a challenge: People said that she would never make it in Tejano music, which was dominated by male performers. Selena was determined to prove them wrong.
Born and raised in Texas, Selena didn’t know how to speak Spanish, but with the help of her dad, she learned to sing it. With songs written and composed by her older brother and the fun dance steps Selena created, her band, Selena Y Los Dinos, rose to stardom! A true trailblazer, her success in Tejano music and her crossover into mainstream American music opened the door for other Latinx entertainers, and she became an inspiration for Latina girls everywhere.
Bravo!: Poems about Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez (Ages 8-12)
Musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot―the Latinos featured in this collection, Bravo!, come from many different countries and from many different backgrounds. Celebrate their accomplishments and their contributions to a collective history and a community that continues to evolve and thrive today!
Biographical poems include: Aida de Acosta, Arnold Rojas, Baruj Benacerraf, César Chávez, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Félix Varela, George Meléndez, José Martí, Juan de Miralles, Juana Briones, Julia de Burgos, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Paulina Pedroso, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, Ynes Mexia, Tomás Rivera.
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano, Mirelle Ortega (Ages 8-12)
Leonora Logro o’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.
Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration–but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas–witches of Mexican ancestry–who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.
Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business–even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.
And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C Pérez (Ages 9-12)
There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school—you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malú (María Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.
The real Malú loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malú finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!
Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya (Ages 10-13)
Marcus Vega is six feet tall, 180 pounds, and the owner of a premature mustache. When you look like this and you’re only in the eighth grade, you’re both a threat and a target.
After a fight at school leaves Marcus facing suspension, Marcus’s mom decides it’s time for a change of environment. She takes Marcus and his younger brother to Puerto Rico to spend a week with relatives they don’t remember or have never met. But Marcus can’t focus knowing that his father–who walked out of their lives ten years ago–is somewhere on the island.
So begins Marcus’s incredible journey, a series of misadventures that take him all over Puerto Rico in search of his elusive namesake. Marcus doesn’t know if he’ll ever find his father, but what he ultimately discovers changes his life. And he even learns a bit of Spanish along the way.
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (Ages 10-13)
Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?
For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of José Martí.
What are some of your favorite books to celebrate Hispanic Heritage?