In the United States, Hispanic Heritage Month is observed every year from September 15th to October 15th and gives us all a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the many ways Hispanic Americans have enriched the culture and society of our nation. So to celebrate, I want to share some of my favorite picture books about Hispanic history, heritage, and culture.
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Our Day of the Dead Celebration by Ana Aranda
“A family honors their living and dead relatives as they celebrate this holiday with shared food and stories.
The Day of the Dead is a happy day when Mar’s family gathers together. There are favorite dishes to enjoy, games to be played, and most importantly, stories to tell. No one in the family is forgotten because this is the day of the year when the dead come to visit the living—and for this holiday it is almost as if they’re alive again, as the family takes great joy in celebrating the things that made them special. Mar realizes she is just like her Grandpa Ramón, who kept a journal. And her sister, Paz, plays accordian, just like their great-grandfather. There are so many things that connect them all—and at dinner, Abuelita spins even more stories that make them feel close to the ones they will love forever. Ana Aranda’s tender text and vibrant art make the joy felt on this sweet day totally palpable.”
Paletero Man by Lucky Diaz, Illustrated by Micah Player
“A vibrant picture book celebrating the strength of community and the tastes of summer from Latin Grammy-winning musician Lucky Diaz and celebrated artist Micah Player.
Ring! Ring! Ring! Can you hear his call? Paletas for one! Paletas for all!
What’s the best way to cool off on a hot summer day? Run quick and find Paletero José!
Follow along with our narrator as he passes through his busy neighborhood in search of the Paletero Man. But when he finally catches up with him, our narrator’s pockets are empty. Oh no! What happened to his dinero? It will take the help of the entire community to get the tasty treat now.”
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise, Illustrated by Paola Escobar
“An inspiring picture book biography of storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, who championed bilingual literature.
When she came to America in 1921, Pura Belpré carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy.
Brought to colorful life by Paola Escobar’s elegant and exuberant illustrations and Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lyrical text, this gorgeous book is perfect for the pioneers in your life.”
Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules! by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow Miller, Illustrated by Joe Cepeda
“When a sassy drummer starts kindergarten, the rules of school cramp her style. What’s a young rock star to do?
When Lupe Lopez struts through the doors of Hector P. Garcia Elementary in sunglasses with two taped-up Number 2 pencils—drumsticks, of course—poking from her pocket, her confidence is off the charts. All day, Lupe drums on desks, tables, and chairs while Ms. Quintanilla reminds her of school rules. Lupe has her own rules: 1) Don’t listen to anyone. 2) Make lots of noise. ¡Rataplán! 3) Have fans, not friends. But with her new teacher less than starstruck, and fans hard to come by, Lupe wonders if having friends is such a bad idea after all. Can it be that true star power means knowing when to share the spotlight? With its spirited illustrations and a simple text threaded through with Spanish words, this picture book is proof positive that being a strong girl moving to her own beat doesn’t have to mean pushing others away.”
Areli Is a Dreamer: A True Story by Areli Morales, a DACA Recipient by Areli Morales, Illustrated by Luisa Uribe
“In the first picture book written by a DACA Dreamer, Areli Morales tells her own powerful and vibrant immigration story.
When Areli was just a baby, her mama and papa moved from Mexico to New York with her brother, Alex, to make a better life for the family–and when she was in kindergarten, they sent for her, too.
Everything in New York was different. Gone were the Saturdays at Abuela’s house, filled with cousins and sunshine. Instead, things were busy and fast and noisy. Areli’s limited English came out wrong, and schoolmates accused her of being illegal. But with time, America became her home. And she saw it as a land of opportunity, where millions of immigrants who came before her paved their own paths. She knew she would, too.”
Nosotros Means Us: Un cuento bilingüe by Paloma Valdivia
“A moving bilingual ode to the unshakeable bond between a parent and child in the tradition of Runaway Bunny and The Wonderful Things You Will Be, from a New York Times bestselling creator.
If I were a sheep, you would be a lamb.
If I were a bear, you would be a cub.
As a mother holds her toddler, they muse over the way their love would translate if they were different animals. But no matter how they change, they will always be “us.” This bilingual story is a timeless ode to the unshakable bond between parent and child.”
Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua by Gloria Amescua, Illustrated Duncan Tonatiuh
“As a young Nahua girl in Mexico during the early 1900s, Luz learned how to grind corn in a metate, to twist yarn with her toes, and to weave on a loom. By the fire at night, she listened to stories of her community’s joys, suffering, and survival, and wove them into her heart.
But when the Mexican Revolution came to her village, Luz and her family were forced to flee and start a new life. In Mexico City, Luz became a model for painters, sculptors, and photographers such as Diego Rivera, Jean Charlot, and Tina Modotti. These artists were interested in showing the true face of Mexico and not a European version. Through her work, Luz found a way to preserve her people’s culture by sharing her native language, stories, and traditions. Soon, scholars came to learn from her.”
The Notebook Keeper: A Story of Kindness from the Border by Stephen Briseño, Illustrated by Magdalena Mora
“Based on true events, this inspiring story follows a mama and her daughter who are denied entry at the U.S. border, and must find the refugee in charge of “the notebook,” an unofficial ledger of those waiting to cross into the U.S.
Before, the sun drenched the yard. Our neighbor’s laughter danced in the streets. Now, the streets are quiet. Papa is gone, and we are no longer safe here. We are leaving, too.
In this moving and stunningly-illustrated picture book, Noemi and Mama flee their home in Mexico, and head for the US border. There, they look for “The Notebook Keeper”– the person in charge of a ledger for those waiting to cross, and they add their names to the book. As the days turn into weeks, and hope dwindles, the little girl looks for kindness around her– and inside herself. One day, when the Notebook Keeper’s own name is called to cross, Noemi and her Mama are chosen–for the generosity in their hearts– to take her place.”
Coquí in the City by Nomar Perez
“A heartfelt picture book based on the author-illustrator’s own experiences, about a boy who moves to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico and realizes that New York City might have more in common with San Juan than he initially thought.
Miguel’s pet frog, Coquí, is always with him: as he greets his neighbors in San Juan, buys quesitos from the panadería, and listens to his abuelo’s story about meeting baseball legend Roberto Clemente. Then Miguel learns that he and his parents are moving to the U.S. mainland, which means leaving his beloved grandparents, home in Puerto Rico, and even Coquí behind. Life in New York City is overwhelming, with unfamiliar buildings, foods, and people. But when he and Mamá go exploring, they find a few familiar sights that remind them of home, and Miguel realizes there might be a way to keep a little bit of Puerto Rico with him–including the love he has for Coquí–wherever he goes.”
Me Gusta by Angela Dominguez
“A stunning bilingual picture book that celebrates Latinx families by highlighting moments of connection and delight and feelings of safety and home, even through challenges and difficult times.
Me gusta your smile, tu sonrisa,
and your hugs, tus abrazos.
Me gusta when we explore this spectacular world, el mundo,
and gaze at all the stars, las estrellas.
But most of all, me gusta that no matter where we are, I feel at home, en casa, when I’m with you.
In the affirmative and encouraging Me Gusta, acclaimed author and illustrator Angela Dominguez combines Spanish and English in a poetic and touching story of family, reminding us that through the adventures and the heartbreak, love conquers all and transcends language.”
If Your Babysitter Is a Bruja by Ana Siqueira, Illustrated by Irena Freitas
“This bouncy, bilingual picture book is an enchanting, rollicking read-aloud for small ones with big imaginations.
On the night before Halloween, a new babysitter might be more than she appears. If she wears a black sombrero and cackles like a crow, she might just be a bruja! One little girl is determined not to fall victim to an evil witch or her cats. She knows bath time is really the bruja’s way of putting her in a boiling cauldron, and the only way to keep her at bay is with a magic potion—or is it?
With a boundless imagination and plenty of tricks up her sleeve, the young protagonist may just have the best night ever!”
Phenomenal AOC: The Roots and Rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by Anika Aldamuy Denise, Illustrated by Loris Lora
“An inspiring biography of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from Pura Belpré Honor-winning creators Anika Aldamuy Denise and Loris Lora!
In 2019, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest congresswoman in America. How did this young Puertoriqueña become an unstoppable force in politics? Find out in this accessible and engaging book for young readers.
AOC’s remarkable story begins in her childhood Bronx home and comes full circle the moment AOC became America’s youngest Congresswoman. Ocasio-Cortez’s empowering journey reminds us that everyone, regardless of their age, race, creed, wealth, or zip code, is capable of being a voice for change.
A glossary and resources for changemakers are included at the end of the book. “
Magic: Once Upon a Faraway Land by Mirelle Ortega
“In her debut as author and illustrator, Mirelle Ortega shares her own story of growing up near her family’s pineapple farm in Mexico, where she learned the true meaning of magic
I learned that magic isn’t good or bad, it just is. Sometimes it gives, sometimes it takes. Sometimes life blossoms, sometimes it wilts.
Growing up on a pineapple farm in Mexico, a girl discovers the true meaning of the word magic in this truly magical picture book about change and transformation of all kinds—what we can’t control, such as natural disasters and loss, and what we can. Magic can transform dirt into pineapples, seeds into trees, wool into blankets, words into stories, blank pages into pictures—a story into a picture book.”
May Your Life Be Deliciosa by Michael Genhart, Illustrated by Loris Lora
“A delicious and fortifying picture book inspired by the author’s family, featuring the Mexican tradition of holiday tamale-making
A 2022 Pura Belpré Award Illustrator Honor Book
“What is the recipe?” I ask. Abuela laughs. “It is in my heart, Rosie. I use mis ojos, my eyes, to measure. Mis manos, my hands, to feel. Mi boca, my mouth, to taste. My abuela gave it to me, and I am giving it to you.” Each year on Christmas Eve, Rosie’s abuela, mamá, tía, sister, and cousins all gather together in Abuela’s kitchen to make tamales—cleaning corn husks, chopping onions and garlic, roasting chilis, kneading cornmeal dough, seasoning the filling, and folding it all—and tell stories. Rosie learns from her abuela not only how to make a delicious tamale, but how to make a delicious life, one filled with love, plenty of spice, and family.”
Mi Ciudad Sings by Cynthia Harmony, Illustrated by Teresa Martinez
“After experiencing a devastating earthquake, the spirit of a charming and vibrant Mexican neighborhood might be shaken, but it cannot be broken.
As a little girl and her dog embark on their daily walk through the city, they skip and spin to the familiar sounds of revving cars, clanking bikes, friendly barks, and whistling camote carts. But what they aren’t expecting to hear is the terrifying sound of a rumbling earthquake…and then…silence.
With captivating text and lively, beautiful illustrations, this heartwarming story leaves readers with the message that they can choose to be strong and brave even when they are scared, and can still find joy and hope in the midst of sadness.”
My Town / Mi Pueblo by Nicholas Solis, Illustrated by Luisa Uribe
“In this bilingual picture book, cousins from opposite sides of the border visit each other’s towns and delight in their similarities and differences.
Two cousins live in two towns, separated by a river. But there is also a bigger divide—the US-Mexico border—which means they live in different countries. On the girl’s side, English is the main language, and on the boy’s it’s Spanish. The cousins love their towns, and they love visiting each other’s, where they notice some things are the same and some are wonderfully different, adding up to a vibrant world full of even more possibilities.
Author Nicholas Solis shows how border towns are special places, beautiful and dynamic, because two cultures can be better than one—and both cultures should be equally treasured and respected.”
Lola Out Loud: Inspired by the Childhood of Activist Dolores Huerta by Jennifer Torres, Illustrated by Sara Palacios
“A powerful and inspiring imagined story about real-life civil rights activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta that reminds us that even our biggest heroes started out small.
Her grandpa calls her “Lolita Siete Lenguas”—Little Lola, Seven Tongues, all fighting to be heard. Lola is trying not to make so much noise, but when she witnesses injustices in her own neighborhood, she knows she can’t keep quiet. Can Lola find a way to use her voice for change? ¡Sí, se puede!
Inspired by the real-life civil rights activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta, Lola Out Loud is a warm and rollicking picture book that reminds us that sometimes one strong voice is just what we need.”
The Little House of Hope by Terry Catasús Jennings, Illustrated by Raúl Colón
“When Esperanza and her family arrive in the United States from Cuba, they rent a little house, una casita. It may be small, but they soon prove that there’s room enough to share with a whole community.
“It was a little house. Una casita . . .
It was small.
It smelled like old wet socks. . .
But even though they were far from home,
The family was together.”
As Esperanza and her family settle into their new house, they all do their part to make it a home. When other immigrant families need a place to stay, it seems only natural for the family in la casita to help. Together they turn the house into a place where other new immigrants can help one another. Esperanza is always the first to welcome them to la casita. It’s a safe place in a new land.”
Sing with Me: The Story of Selena Quintanilla by Diana López, Illustrate by Teresa Martinez
“An exuberant picture book celebrating the life and legacy of Selena Quintanilla, beloved Queen of Tejano music.
From a very early age, young Selena knew how to connect with people and bring them together with music. Sing with Me follows Selena’s rise to stardom, from front-lining her family’s band at rodeos and quinceañeras to performing in front of tens of thousands at the Houston Astrodome. Young readers will be empowered by Selena’s dedication–learning Spanish as a teenager, designing her own clothes, and traveling around the country with her family–sharing her pride in her Mexican-American roots and her love of music and fashion with the world.”
Isabel and her Colores Go to School by Alexandra Alessandri, Illustrated by Courtney Dawson
“English, with its blustery blues and whites, just feels wrong to Isabel. She prefers the warm oranges and pinks of Spanish. As she prepares for class at a new school, she knows she’s going to have to learn–and she would rather not! Her first day is uncomfortable, until she discovers there’s more than one way to communicate with friends. This is a universal story about feeling new and making new friends.”
El Cucuy Is Scared, Too! by Donna Barba Higuera, Illustrated by Juliana Perdomo
“A boy and his monster confront their mutual fears in this unlikely friendship story that’s rooted in Mexican folklore
Ramón is a little boy who can’t sleep. He is nervous for his first day at a new school.
And El Cucuy is the monster who lives in Ramón’s cactus pot. He can’t sleep, either.
It turns out that El Cucuy is scared, too!
This gentle, perceptive story explores the worries that can accompany moving to a new place and beginning a new journey—and reveals how comfort, bravery, and strength can be found through even the most unexpected of friendships.”
A Song of Frutas by Margarita Engle, Illustrated by Sara Palacios
“From Pura Belpré Award–winning author Margarita Engle comes a lively, rhythmic picture book about a little girl visiting her grandfather who is a pregonero—a singing street vendor in Cuba—and helping him sell his frutas.
When we visit mi abuelo, I help him sell
frutas, singing the names of each fruit
as we walk, our footsteps like drumbeats,
our hands like maracas, shaking…
The little girl loves visiting her grandfather in Cuba and singing his special songs to sell all kinds of fruit: mango, limón, naranja, piña, and more! Even when they’re apart, grandfather and granddaughter can share rhymes between their countries like un abrazo—a hug—made of words carried on letters that soar across the distance like songbirds.”
With Lots of Love by Jenny Torres Sanchez, Illustrated by André Ceolin
“A beautiful, lyrical story about a girl who moves from her home in Central America to the United States, and everything she leaves behind and longs for—especially her Abuela—as she makes a new life.
Rocio has grown up in Central America, but now she and her family are moving to the United States. Rocio does her best to adjust to a new way of living, but there are many things she misses from her old life—Abuela’s cooking, Abuela’s pinata creations, Abuela’s warm hugs, and of course, Abuela herself most of all. But Abuela finds a way to send Rocio something special just in time for her birthday—a gift wrapped with lots of love—and that fills Rocio to the brim.”
The Coquíes Still Sing: A Story of Home, Hope, and Rebuilding by Karina Nicole González, Illustrated by Krystal Quiles
“A powerful story about home, community, and hope, inspired by the rebuilding of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017, written by debut author Karina González and illustrated by Krystal Quiles.
“This book is more than beautiful.” – Yuyi Morales, Caldecott Honoree and New York Times bestselling creator of Dreamers
Co-quí, co-quí! The coquí frogs sing to Elena from her family’s beloved mango tree―their calls so familiar that they might as well be singing, “You are home, you are safe.” But home is suddenly not safe when a hurricane threatens to destroy everything that Elena knows.
As time passes, Elena, alongside her community, begins to rebuild their home, planting seeds of hope along the way. When the sounds of the coquíes gradually return, they reflect the resilience and strength of Elena, her family, and her fellow Puerto Ricans.”
Until Someone Listens: A Story About Borders, Family, and One Girl’s Mission by Estela Juarez, Illustrated by Teresa Martínez
“When Estela Juarez’s mom is deported to Mexico, Estela knows she has to speak up for her family. Told in Estela’s own words,Until Someone Listens is a true story about a young girl finding her voice and using it to make change.
Estela’s family lives together in a happy home full of love. Or, at least, they used to… until their home was torn apart.
My mom had to go back,
to the other side of the river,
because she wasn’t born in this country.
For years her family fought and fought for permission for her to stay in the U.S. But no one listened. When Estela was eight, her mother was deported to Mexico.
Estela knew she had to do something. So she wrote letters: to local newspapers, Congress, the President, and anyone else who could help. She wrote and wrote and wrote until, finally… someone listened.”
Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler, Illustrated by Raul Gonzalez III and Elaine Bay
“This joyous romp through the neighborhood celebrates the bond between a father and a child, illustrated by an award-winning artist team.
Buckle up as a toddler’s tantrum is cleverly averted when a loving dad transforms an everyday neighborhood stroll into an extraordinary adventure, reminding us that all you need to chase away a bad mood is love and a little bit of imagination.
Brought to brilliantly-colored, kinetic life by award-winning artists Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay, Strollercoaster sings with details of a diverse and vibrant urban neighborhood bursting with life, enhanced by Spanish words embedded in the art. It’s the best ride in town!”
Yefferson, Actually / En realidad, es Yefferson by Katherine Trejo and Scott Martin-Rowe, Illustrated by Karla Monterrosa
“Introduce your little ones to standing up for themselves (and their roots) in both English and Spanish!
On his first day as the new kid in school, shy Yefferson’s name is consistently mispronounced to his discomfort and embarrassment. With his family’s support, Yefferson finds the courage to stand up for himself and his namesake.
Yefferson, Actually is wonderful new picture book to embrace in the pantheon of classic Back to School stories. Follow sweet and unassuming Yefferson – proudly pronounced with the sound the Y makes in Spanish, not the J in English – as learns to overcome what is a common, but often undiscussed hurdle for all shy kids entering a new school year: correctly teaching people how to say your name correctly.”
Leila, the Perfect Witch by Flavia Z. Drago
“In this charming picture book from the author-illustrator of Gustavo, The Shy Ghost,a witch who is spellbindingly good at everything discovers that baking is no piece of cake.
Leila Wayward is a little witch who excels at everything she does. She’s the fastest flier, the most cunning conjuror, and the most superb shape-shifter. She has won trophies for potions, herbology, and alchemy—and now she dreams of winning the Magnificent Witchy Cake-off! As the youngest in a long line of masters of the Dark Arts of Patisserie, Leila wants her entry to be perfect. But even with the most bewitching of recipes, she realizes a terrible truth: she’s a disaster in the kitchen. Luckily, Leila has three magical sisters who are happy to share their culinary secrets with her. What’s more, Leila discovers that baking with them is fun! Win or lose, she has already tasted the sweetest thing of all: acceptance—with a pinch of nightshade and a bit of mandrake. Filled with expressive and fancifully offbeat illustrations, Flavia Z. Drago’s enchanting story of trying your hardest despite your imperfections is sure to delight little witches and novice bakers alike.”
Rafa Counts on Papá by Joe Cepeda
“For fans of Guess How Much I Love You? and Just Me and My Dad comes a heartwarming story perfect for Father’s Day about a son and his papá who love to measure everything, including their love for each other.
Rafa and his papá love to count and measure together. They know how many branches they climb to their favorite spot, they know how high their dog Euclid can jump, and they know how far they can run. But there’s one thing Rafa can’t count or measure because it is infinite: the love that he and his papá share.
Pura Belpré Honor illustrator and author Joe Cepeda celebrates curiosity and shows the tender and playful relationship between father and son on every inch of the page. With a subtle nod to introducing concepts, from real objects to the abstract, readers feel the immeasurable love of this Latinx family as Papá delights in spending time with Rafa.”
Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona, Illustrated by Anna Cunha
“A beautifully tender story touching on the range of emotions immigrants may feel when leaving their home countries – excitement and sorrow, fear and courage.
Anita watches the dragons high above her as she hops from one cement roof to another in her village in the Dominican Republic. But being the valiant princesa she is, she never lets them scare her. Will she be brave enough to enter the belly of the beast and take flight to new adventures?
A Barnes & Noble Bookseller Favorite. A BookTrust Book of the Month. A Love Reading For Schools Book of the Month.”
Growing an Artist: The Story of a Landscaper and His Son by John Parra
“From award-winning artist John Parra comes a touching and deceptively simple picture book based on his childhood experience that’s a “heartwarming family story that underscores the value of creativity, passion, and hard work” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and celebrates the bond between a father and son.
Today is a big day—the first time Juanito gets to help his papi on the job as a landscape architect! Throughout the day, Juanito sketches anything that catches his eye: a nest full of baby birds, a nursery with row upon row of plants and flowers, and more. Father and son travel from house to house, pruning, weeding, mowing, and turning overgrown and chaotic yards into beautiful spaces.
A few of the clients don’t appreciate Papi’s hard work, like Juanito’s classmate who pretends not to see him. But Papi always feels pride in owning his own business and in a job well done. And at the end of the day, Juanito may get the chance to turn his artistic eye toward landscape design—just like his papi.”
I hope this booklist gives you and your family lots of new stories to celebrate over the next month!
To learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month, be sure to check out hispanicheritagemonth.gov for more information.