Even though Latinos are the largest U.S. minority group and are predicted to eventually become the majority, school curriculums have been slow to keep up with the nation’s changing demographics. Required reading lists contain few titles by Hispanic authors or with Hispanic characters, despite a thriving Latino children’s and young adult books movement. As book editor Adriana Dominguez points out, “we live in one of the most diverse societies in the world, and our children’s literature has to reflect the world they live in.
So that parents can supplement their children’s required reading lists, Mamiverse is proud to share this round-up of 50 top Latino children’s book that should be required—and desired—reading of any child and parent who wants to read books that celebrate and reflect a multitude of cultures.
Read Related: Ask a Librarian: Find the Right Book for Your Child
1. Santiago Stays: This short, simple brightly colored tale of a boy and his stubborn French bulldog dog comes with a happy ending and a surprise twist.
2. I Am Latino: The Beauty In Me: Close up photographs of Latino kids and families will help young Latino readers identify with its contents, and each section focuses on a different aspect of Latino culture.
3. Marisol McDonald and The Clash Bash: Marisol likes to be different, especially when it comes to her off-the-wall themed birthday party.
4. The Cazuela That The Farm Maiden Stirred: In this award-winning story, children observe the preparation of traditional cazuela as they learn Spanish words and make logical connections.
5. Ladder To The Moon: In this poetic story, Grandma Annie visits her granddaughter by coming down a magical ladder from the moon, and invites Suhaila to travel back to the moon with her.
6. Niño Wrestles The World: Fans of Lucha Libre will love this tale of Niño who likes to “wrestle” with the evils of the world.
7. What Can You Do With A Paleta: Bold bursts of color make this story of summer-time, popsicles and learning explode off the page.
8. Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match: Marisol is a young girl whose Peruvian-Scottish roots make her stand out. This delightful book is a welcomed celebration of uniqueness when peer pressure demands conformity.
9. Pancho Rabbit And The Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale: For some young readers, this is a simple tale of a rabbit’s bravery, while others will read into it the truth of migrants who search for work away from their homes, and how their families worry about them while they are gone.
10. How Far Do You Love Me?: In this short picture book, the question becomes a loving game played between mother and child, as both conjure up far off places on a journey across all seven continents in a testament to how far one’s love can reach.
11. I Dreamt: A Book About Hope: Although at times sad, this book’s ultimately uplifting series of dreams may help explain to a young child that although there are bad things that happen in the world, they are often outweighed by the good.
12. Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin: Through letters, two cousins share information about their neighborhoods, after-school activities, foods, traditions, and so forth.
13. Let’s Go Hugo!: This is a wonderful book about friends helping and encouraging one another not to give up even when one is afraid to try something new.
14. A Mango In Hand: A Story Told Through Proverbs: A wonderful story about sharing and generosity that will teach children a valuable lesson, nicely complemented by Serra’s delightful illustrations, which help readers envision what a typical Cuban village may look like through the use of colorful scenes of houses, parks, and Francisco’s home.
MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS:
15. Gaby, Lost and Found: With immigration reform front and center of the national discourse, this is a great book to spark discussions and take on the issue of children born and raised in the United States and living with the risk of losing one, or both parents.
16. Zombie Baseball Beatdown: The boys who read this—and its readers will be mostly boys—will love the frenetic action and high gross-out factor: puke jokes, a lagoon of cow manure, and snapping decapitated zombie cow heads.
17. Under The Mambo Moon: This is the story of a young girl named Marisol, who helps her dad at his music store. After each person in the store has selected a particular type of music, the following two pages provide a color illustration of people doing the dance along with a one-page narrative.
18. PICKLE: The (Formerly Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School: Meeting under the guise of the officially recognized League of Pickle Makers, Ben and four classmates team up to make their school year a little more memorable.
19. Whisker Tales and Wings: Animal Folktales from Mexico: In this collection, Judy Goldman retells five folktales from the Tarahumara, Seri, Huichol, Triqui and Tseltal people of Mexico.
20. Yes! We Are Latinos: In this boldly illustrated hardcover book, 13 Latino children are introduced with poems about their lives in the United States.
21. My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood: This book captures one boy’s love for the city of his birth, and how, with the love and support of his family, he was able to adapt and thrive in a new land.
22. The Ugly One: Readers who may feel themselves unattractive or inconsequential may especially find in Micay an inspirational role model, but many more will find the introduction to Inca culture entrancing.
24. Secret Saturdays: Compulsively readable, this thought-provoking read explores issues of teenagers’ cruelty to each other, the necessity of expressing feelings, and the nature of truth and friendship.
25. How Tia Lola Ended Up Starting Over: This is a great read aloud for families as they consider their heritage, hopes for the future, and fond memories of the past.
26. Wonder: As anti-bullying movements take center stage throughout the country, Wonder vividly demonstrates how a bullied child feels, and how one member of the family can affect the whole.
27. The Wild Book: This slim, literary volume could be of help to older children who struggle with dyslexia, especially if read within a family context. And for those with Cuban roots, the tribute to the island is truly extraordinary.
YOUNG ADULT BOOKS:
28. Enrique’s Journey: The True Story of a Boy Determined to Reunite with His Mother: This is a heartrending, at times shocking story of a young Honduran boy who, in his teens, left Tegucigalpa to attempt the trek to the United States in search of his mother.
29. My Name Is Cool: 19 Stories from a Cuban-Irish-American Storyteller: Antonio Sacre is a professional storyteller who is part Irish, part Cuban. He has built a storytelling career out of a mixture of personal anecdotes—including his much-exaggerated account of his father’s escape from Castro’s Cuba.
30. Tommy Stands Tall: Tommy and several of his friends decide to form a new club, the Gay Straight Alliance, but Tommy still struggles with the distance his sexual orientation has created between himself and his father.
31. The Book of Broken Hearts: This is a lovely coming of age book with sympathetic, engaging characters, and a sensitive yet realistic treatment of Alzheimer’s and the impact it has on families.
32. Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices: In this slender anthology, stories, poems and autobiographical essays (including one in comic book form) tangle with what it’s like to be a hyphenated American.
33. Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood: A triumph of life over hopelessness and death, this novel is utterly appropriate both for mature teenagers, and the adults who love them.
34. Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia: Despite some strong language, this is an excellent teen-and-parent read that raises big questions and provides big answers in equal measure.
35. Fat Angie: Fat Angie presents a strong female protagonist who feels vulnerable in every aspect of her life, to create a complex narrative that reads as elegant prose, while keeping young adult readers focused on the internal journey of the characters.
36. The Witches of Ruidoso: Elegiac, elegant and understated, Sandoval’s short novel about a boy’s first love, set in the 1890s in Ruidoso, New Mexico, is a beauty to behold.
37. Hammer of Witches: The setting is Columbus’s first voyage of discovery in 1492, but the real subject of the narrative is Baltasar’s stumbling efforts to discover his true powers.
38. Under The Mesquite: As tenacious as the rogue mesquite tree that grows in her Mami’s garden, Lupita struggles to find the strength to face the sudden changes and responsibilities that result from her mother’s illness.
39. You Don’t Have A Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens: The stories gathered here run the gamut from an encounter with alien invaders, to the kidnapping of a teenager, presumably to be sold into sexual slavery in Mexico.
40. My Migrant Story: In this series of autobiographical vignettes, Lilia Garcia provides readers with snapshots of the trip her family of migrant workers took each spring to Colma, Michigan.
41. The Missing Chancleta and Other Top-Secret Cases: Primary and intermediate age girls ready to move beyond picture books but still a bit leery of full-length novels will enjoy these stories of Flaca, a young detective.
42. Lupita’s First Dance: When plans change unexpectedly, or accidents happen, little ones can feel truly devastated. Here is an endearing pick-me-up, dust-me-off and keep-on-trucking story to help them cope.
43. The Cucuy Stole My Cascarones: Roberto is looking forward to his birthday because it will bring cascarones, eggshells to fill with confetti and decorate for the party.
45. Let’s Salsa: Among many others, this book includes a message to readers about how they can change not only their own lives, but also the lives of their family members, and their community at large.
46. The ArteKids Series: In this kid-friendly exploration of the arts, mini galleries featuring a variety of fine and folk art on a gamut of media invite readers to experience shapes, colors, and motifs with an artist’s eye.
47. Don’t Say a Word, Mama: This zany, heart-warming story is chock-full of the kind of mishaps kids enjoy. The vibrant illustrations of Blanca, Rosa, Mamá and the colorful vegetable garden help to bring the story alive.
48. Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems On Growing Up Latino in the United States: These 36 poems, divided into six sections dealing with school, the concept of home, the power of memory, difficulties faced in a new land, celebrations, and confronting the future, serve as a concise, beautifully captured snapshot of the Latino immigrant experience in the United States.
49. Maria Had a Little Llama: Maria is an indigenous girl who lives in the mountains of Peru, and illustrations feature traditional Peruvian dress and village life as a backdrop for the story.
50. La Familia Calaca: A Mexican Folk Art Family in English and Spanish: The book introduces readers to Anita’s skeleton family, each one presented on its own page with accompanying English and Spanish descriptions.