New Book: Selena by Silvia López

“There’s a lot of text in the book, but it’s smartly framed within two-page spreads, and very little of it feels extraneous. …A worthy picture-book primer on the Queen of Tejano music.”-Kirkus Reviews

This is a moving and impassioned picture book about the iconic Queen of Tejano music, Selena Quintanilla, that will embolden young readers to find their passion and make the impossible, possible!

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.

‘They honor immigrants’: writers pick the greatest migration stories you should read

As a response to American Dirt, this article out of The Guardianis excellent.

Not all writers think of migrants as a “faceless brown mass”. Indeed, if there is one thing that readers should take away from the ill-fated release of the over-hyped American Dirt, it is that the stories of migrants and refugees have been and are continuing to be told by writers around the world, richly, with nuance, and without relying on trite stereotypes.

We asked the authors of some of our favorite novels about immigrants and migration to recommend an alternative reading list to American Dirt. Here are their selections.

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen is the author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees.
Viet Thanh Nguyen is the author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees. Photograph: AP

Luis Alberto Urrea’s The House of Broken Angels is the Latinx novel that Oprah should have picked for her book club. The novel has it all – humor, history, politics, emotions, all packaged into a highly readable account of a Mexican American family that straddles the border of the United States and Mexico. This is the Great American Novel, if by “American” we mean the greater America that is both north and south of the border. Urrea is an expert on the border and migration, having spent years and many books exploring these topics. He combines that intimate knowledge with a master novelist’s flair to pull us into a family whose struggles have historical roots but whose feelings are ones that we all know – love, loss and longing.


Elaine Castillo’s America is Not the Heart has a special place in my heart because it’s set in the 408 – the area code for the south bay of the Bay Area. The Bay is dominated by San Francisco, but the 408 is the less than glamorous land of bedroom communities including Castillo’s Milpitas and my San Jose. Castillo, of Filipina descent herself, focuses on the lives of documented and undocumented Filipina/os and traces their origins to the impact of American colonization in the Philippines and the US support for the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. While politics and revolution form the background of the novel, the foreground is all about the power, pleasure and peril of kinship and romance, set in a beautifully, intimately drawn portrait of the Filipino American community. Plus lots of hot queer sex.

Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea.
Luis Alberto Urrea. Photograph: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

The crisis of representation and appropriation ignited by American Dirt has made my mind turn to scores of worthy books in every genre about this issue. It would be nearly impossible for me to suggest *the book* on this subject. But one of the books that weighs on my mind is this moving work of witness by Tim Hernandez, All They Will Call You. He tells a forgotten story about the fate of a group of migrants, deported by the US government in 1948, who died in the worst airplane disaster in California history. The thing that haunts me is his care for the stories of the dead, his refusal to allow those human beings to be forgotten. It is a quintessential migrant story, which makes it a truly American story.

  • Urrea is the author of 17 books, including Nguyen’s top pick above, the short story collection The Water Museum, The Devil’s Highway, a Pulitzer finalist in non-fiction, and several volumes of poetry.

Angie Cruz

I highly recommend Bang by Daniel Peña, Butterfly Boy by Rigoberto González, Mean by Myriam Gurba and The Moths and Other Stories by Helena María Viramontes, all of which are by Chicano writers who have dedicated themselves to researching, exploring and writing about and around the border and immigration. I read Viramontes as an undergrad. Her work was being taught in a sociology class. In my creative writing and lit classes I was taught writers like Simpson, Gaitskill and Atwood. All of whom were writers in the same generation as Viramontes but stocked on different shelves in the bookstores. And this is obviously a problem because Viramontes’ stories are innovative, acute and beautifully written and if published today, one hopes her collection wouldn’t have had to include a long academic introduction to create context and validity for her work and instead would have been reviewed and celebrated in mainstream literary spaces for the explosive content, the nuanced characters and her singular literary style.

Another work I’m excited about by a storyteller who works for the stage is Andrea Thome’s Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes). If you are in NYC you don’t want to miss the show that tells the story of undocumented immigrants coming together for a fandango on the evening of an Ice raid in New York City, as they wait for a loved one to arrive from Honduras. Inspired by interviews with undocumented immigrants from Latin America living in New York, the piece will be a community celebration where stories are brought to life through live performance, music and dance.

  • Cruz is the author of three novels, including Dominicana, about a child forced to marry in order to secure her family’s future in America.

Mohsin Hamid

Author Mohsin Hamid on Anarkali Street in Lahore, Pakistan.
Author Mohsin Hamid on Anarkali Street in Lahore, Pakistan. Photograph: Ed Kashi/Ed Kashi/VII/Corbis

I would like to suggest two very different books.

Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North is a novel about a young man going from Sudan to Europe. He studies, immerses himself in a different culture, and comes back changed, both angry and anger-inducing, but also perplexed and deeply unsettled. It’s a seminal text, not of the migrant who assimilates and achieves the so-called dream, but of the migrant who goes and comes back. There’s a very strong awareness in this book about the sexualisation of the migrant and the self-exoticisation that occurs, but also about the impossibility of return. You can go back to where you come from but the person who goes back is no longer the person who left. That is a theme we see echoing again and again across migrant fiction. It’s important to remember that we need antidotes to the idea that migrant fiction is simply people going north or going west. Very often, it’s people who willingly or unwillingly have to return, altered, to where they began.

Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic is an incredible work on multiple levels. It tells the story of a generation of women, a shipload of Japanese wives who head to California, employing a first person plural, which is very unusual. We sometimes hear about the danger in fiction of a writer depicting a group as a ‘faceless mass’, or of presuming to speak for an entire group through underhanded means. Otsuka’s book is remarkable: it does speak for a group but uses form to subvert and interrogate that critique. The narrative voice that emerges is of a group of people with constantly individualized particulars. That’s a very difficult task to pull off but I think Otsuka succeeds magnificently. I would suggest this book as an antidote to the limited imaginings of what we think a narrative can be and as a reminder of the power of literary fiction to unlock some of those puzzles. It’s truly a unique and awe-inspiring book.

  • Hamid is the author of four novels, including The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Exit West.

Matt de la Peña

Author Matt de la Peña.
Author Matt de la Peña. Photograph: ©Heather Waraksa / Penguin


99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai is so well rooted in the Afghan narrator’s voice and experience, it goes beyond empathy, transporting the reader. It ignores the western gaze and tells the story the way its subjects need it to be told. The result is funny and sharp and devastating. One chapter, a private family story, is written in Pashto – because it isn’t meant for everyone.

Catherine Chung’s Forgotten Country is gorgeously written and full of heart. And that’s another way to honor the subject matter: write it well. Bother to learn the craft (as many have failed to do). Chung’s book is about sisters, family loyalty and war. It is illuminating and sensory and the characters come alive in the care of a precise and compassionate author who has made a lifelong study of her craft.

  • Nayeri is the author of two novels, Refuge and A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, as well as the memoir The Ungrateful Refugee.

Aida Salazar

Aida Salazar, the author of The Moon Within.
Aida Salazar, the author of The Moon Within. Photograph: Photo by Lluvia Higuera

These recently published or upcoming books for children and young adults are part of a larger dialogue about immigrant realities and migrant justice that was taking place before the American Dirt fiasco. It must be acknowledged that there is no one definitive migrant story but many and must include not only Mexican voices but the many voices of migrants to the United States.

Bank Street Announces Winner of Best Spanish Language Picture Book Award

By Kiera Parrott for School Library Journal

Mi papi tiene una moto/My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña, and translated by Andrea Montejo (Kokila, 2019), has won the first-ever gold medal for Best Spanish Language Picture Book from the Center for Children’s Literature at Bank Street College of Education. book cover of Mi Papi

The exuberant book, which was also named an SLJ Best Picture Book of 2019, centers on the story of a young girl and her papi as they zig and zag on his motorcycle, enjoying each other’s company and the vibrant sights and sounds of their California community.

Three titles were awarded silver medals: ¿De Dónde Eres?/ Where Are You From by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jaime Kim (HarperCollins, 2019); Sembrando historias: Pura Belpré: bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos/Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar and translated by Omayra Ortiz (HarperCollins, 2019); and Mario y el agujero en el cielo: Cómo un químico salvó nuestro planeta/Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet by Elizabeth Rusch, illustrated by Teresa Martínez and translated by Carlos E. Calvo (Charlesbridge, 2019).

Two additional titles received honorable mentions: Soñadores/Dreamers by Yuyi Morales (Holiday House, 2018) and Alma y como obtuvo su nombre/Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez Neal (Candlewick, 2018).

gold medalFor this first award, the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee’s considered titles published or translated in 2018 or 2019. The committee members evaluated the nominees across a wide array of criteria, including cultural authenticity and quality of language and illustration. Contenders for the award were selected from the Children’s Book Committee’s Best Spanish Language Picture Book of the year lists from 2018 and 2019.

“We are so proud to recognize these excellent works and through the prize to alert teachers, librarians, caregivers, and parents to the highest quality picture books in Spanish for children,” director of the Center for Children’s Literature, Cynthia Weill, says.

The jury was composed of Spanish-speaking members of Bank Street’s Children’s Book Committee, bilingual professors from Bank Street College and the City University of New York, Bank Street alumni, and librarians from the New York Public Library.

Author/illustrator Yuyi Morales will keynote an award ceremony in March.

New Mexico author organizes book drive for migrant families

Wonderful article by Angela Kocherga for the Albuquerque Journal

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

LAS CRUCES – A good book can take a reader on a journey, but for migrants on an actual journey a book can also uplift, entertain and inspire.

New Mexico author Denise Chavez created Libros para el Viaje, or books for the journey, with that idea in mind.

“Our commitment is to deliver books to our children, young people and adults where ever they are housed,” Chavez said.

New Resource: Fairy Tales in Spanish

For anyone out there wanting to brush up on their Spanish (or other languages), this is a nice resource utilizing children’s stories…

Fairy Tales in Spanish


Children’s stories translated into Spanish with optional English translation and slow audio from a native Spanish speaker. Great for kids… and adults too! Enjoy!




“Julia, they’re already warming up. Hurry!” Cheito says to his little sister as they rush to their bomba class. Cheito is a natural on the drums, but Julia isn’t as enthusiastic about dancing.

Julia tries to imitate the best dancer in the class, but her turns are still too slow, her steps too big. She just can’t do anything right! When the instructor announces the younger students will be participating in the bombazo and performing a solo, Julia is terrified. When it’s her turn, she takes a deep breath, closes her eyes and focuses on the beat of the drum. As she dances, Julia notices that the drums are actually talking to her. Feeling braver, she stops worrying and trying so hard. Instead, she loses herself in the rhythm of the bomba drums and enjoys herself!

Introducing children—and adults!—to the Afro-Latino tradition of bomba music and dancing, author and educator Raquel M. Ortiz shares another story for children ages 5-9 about her rich Puerto Rican heritage. With lively illustrations by Flor de Vita that aptly express Julia’s frustration, fear and joy, this book will help children understand that practicing—whether dance steps, dribbling a ball or playing a musical instrument—yields results!

Retired professor uses experience and expertise to bring more Latin representation to children’s literature

A thrilling write up by Lisa Deaderick for the San Diego Union Tribune

Maria de la Luz Reyes is a retired university professor living in San Marcos who’s taken on a ‘second career’ as a children’s book author, with her third book, ‘Countdown to the Last Tortilla/Cuenta atras hasta la ultima tortilla’

Maria de la Luz Reyes has spent her entire career in education: first as an elementary and high school teacher; later as a professor with a doctorate in educational psychology with specializations in language, culture and literacy; and currently as a children’s book author. What she has long noticed was a lack of Latino representation in children’s books, and she realized she could help change that.

“In my early professional career as an elementary teacher, I was always in search of books with themes that would relate to my students from Spanish-speaking backgrounds. At an instinctual level, I believed that if children could see themselves in books or read about familiar experiences, their comprehension would improve,” she says.

“As I learned later, literacy research does indicate that cultural relevance is an important factor that spurs children of color to heighten interest in reading. I have always believed it is important to expose white children to the experiences of children of color as a way of building better relationships and understanding, but there were few culturally diverse books to be found in bookstores or libraries.”

There are more culturally diverse books available now that she’s written them, including “How Will I Talk to Abuela?” (and the Spanish-language version, “¿Cómo voy a hablar con Abuela?”) and “Countdown to the Last Tortilla (Cuenta atrás hasta la última tortilla).” They center on the stories of Spanish-speakers and Latin culture, winning awards in the International Latino Book Award Competition.

De la Luz Reyes, 77, is professor emerita of education at the University of Colorado-Boulder and lives in San Marcos with her husband, John Halcon; they have two children and five grandchildren. She took some time to discuss her books and the importance of diversity and representation.

Q: What led you to begin writing children’s books?

A: I have always been interested in writing narratives. Throughout my life, I have enjoyed writing short stories about interesting children I’ve taught, members of my family or friends. … When I retired as a university professor, I returned to writing stories, but I simply filed them away. It was not until I began to interact with teachers in San Marcos, who also complained that there were few diverse children’s books for the large Latino student population, that I realized I could help fill the cultural and linguistic diversity gap in children’s literature and write my own books. Writing children’s books is a new genre for me, but a familiar one. It gives me great joy to hear children connect with familiar cultural themes and characters. When I read my stories to young students, Latino children’s hands fly up in the air, they have so many questions and comments. They are hungry to see themselves in books and often ask if they, too, could be authors. This is my reward.

Q: What’s your goal when writing them?

A: My goal in writing children’s books is to expose Latino students and their peers to Latino characters and authors that are rarely seen in children’s literature. … I write children’s books because I want Latino children to see themselves as part of the fabric of American society. I want them to know that their everyday experiences are worthy enough to be published in books that all their peers can read. I believe strongly that culturally diverse books are not just for children of color, they are important for all children because the world is made up of all of us, not just some of us. Children should be exposed to all types of children’s literature, written by male and female authors of all backgrounds. I am only one voice among those diverse authors, and I write about what I know best. My stories come from ordinary events with an interesting twist that I experienced as a child, or I have witnessed in children negotiating their place within their family or peer group. They are stories about children with dreams, fears and hopes.

Q: Your latest is “Countdown to the Last Tortilla/Cuenta atrás hasta la última tortilla.” Can you tell us what the story is about?

A: “Countdown to the Last Tortilla/Cuenta atrás hasta la última tortilla” is a bilingual, historical fiction picture book. It is set in 1950, toward the end of an era when large families with few means recycled and repurposed everything. Few could afford department store clothing, so they turned to flour sacks to make clothing for the entire family. In this story, Mamá promises to make her youngest daughter, Pepita (who has three older sisters and has only worn hand-me-downs), her first new dress of her very own from a flour sack. Pepita’s clever schemes to recruit her older siblings to help speed up the use of the flour, brush against Mamá’s need to feed her large family.

What I love about San Marcos …

My husband and I live in Lake San Marcos, where we have beautiful park-like views of the golf course and the ever-changing colors of the surrounding hills. It is a tranquil place to live, easily accessible to everything we need. … We enjoy taking an occasional boat ride in our small lake, eating by the water, walking our dog in the neighborhood. What I love most is that we have great neighbors and almost everything is within walking distance.

Q: What was the inspiration for this story?

A: The basic thread of “Countdown to the Last Tortilla” is based on my own story. I was number eight of nine children in a poor family, and the fourth girl. My wardrobe consisted of second-hand clothing and hand-me-downs. My mother made the first dress of my very own from a flour sack when I was 5 years old. While the story’s characters consist of three older sisters, twin brothers and an older brother named Guillermo, which I had, the plot is purely fictional. The book, however, includes a picture of me in my flour sack dress, as well as photos of two other little girls wearing flour sack clothing. As a bonus, the book also contains a brief history of flour sack clothing and classroom activities that teachers can use to engage students to learn more about the era.

Q: And what do you hope readers take away from this work?

A: In an age of instant gratification, when children spend a great deal of playtime in front of digital tablets, computers and phones, I want young readers to learn about an era when children had to wait patiently for a coveted toy, a new pair of shoes, or other desired items. I want them to learn that, while the characters are Mexican and tortillas are central to their meals, family relationships and dreams are universally similar. In “Countdown to the Last Tortilla,” Pepita enlists her older siblings to help use up the flour so she can get her new dress. When things don’t work out, she is disappointed, but never gives up. She comes up with one idea after another. When all else fails, she learns patience and resigns herself to focus on other things. These are important lessons for children.

Q: What were a couple of your favorite children’s books as a child?

A: Although I did not have access to many children’s books as a young child, my teachers exposed me to nursery rhymes and many stories and fairytales by Hans Christian Andersen and others. One of my favorites was “The Little Match Girl.” I related personally to this story of a girl who was poor and cold. Our winter nights in West Texas were cold; there were never enough blankets to go around. “The Tortoise and the Hare” was another favorite that helped me learn that “slow and steady wins the race.” This lesson is still relevant in every goal I set for myself.

At night, my mother used to entertain us with oral stories. These included the Mexican folktale of “La Llorona” (the crying woman), the story of a mother who drowns her children in the river. Although the topic seems inappropriate for children, the moral is: if you don’t behave well, bad things can happen to you. My mother used “La Llorona” as a spooky nighttime story that made us squeal and hide under the sheets, but always ended with laughter.

Q: You’ve also had an extensive career in academia, teaching at and working with various universities, and publishing your research in multiple scholarly journals and in books on language, literacy, bilingual/multicultural education, and equity issues. What led you to pursue a career in which you focused on this kind of work?

A: Becoming a good reader is key to learning and school success. Children who enter school speaking a language other than English have been historically considered “at risk” because they often come from low-income families with limited exposure to books. I was one of those “at risk” children. Many students who speak other languages face the same problems of low expectation from their teachers that I faced as a child. Hence, it was natural for me to delve into research that examines the problems and solutions to this issue and related ones. As for issues of equity in higher education, the problems slap you in the face when you are either the only one, or one of two faculty of color in a department or school. Institutions rely on us to speak for our entire communities, have the answers to the problems, and advise all minority students who gravitate to us. It’s a daunting task. It forces you to take on the issues, speak out, and seek solutions; otherwise, nothing changes.

Q: What are some misconceptions/misunderstandings people seem to generally have about bilingual education and learning?

A: The major misconception about bilingual education is that these programs teach only the children’s native language to the detriment of English and that their language and culture holds them back from excelling in school. The reality is quite the contrary. Most bilingual programs are transitional; that is, their focus is on teaching enough English with the goal of transitioning students out of the programs. Study after study shows that children who speak more than one language have an advantage over monolingual children in reading and understanding the world because they have access to two linguistic systems that can help break the reading code and two worlds to help with comprehension.

Q: In your years of personal experience, study and research, what have you learned about bilingual education and learning, particularly about best practices?

A: My own personal experience and research, as well as that of many scholars, shows that when children are allowed to use their first language to unlock the second one, that gives them an advantage. Children who have strong language skills in their native language have a good foundation for reading; what they need, then, is a new channel of communication. Knowledge is not linguistically bound. Two plus two is four, is the same concept whether you learn it in Spanish, French or English. The same is true of concepts in every subject matter. Learning to read in the native language is a huge help in learning to read English because the process of reading and making meaning of squiggly lines is similar. I learned to read Spanish on my own from hymnals and prayer books when I was 5 years old. Although I was not fluent in English, reading primers and early English basal readers came easy for me. The “Dick and Jane” readers had low information and much nonsensical repetition, unlike Spanish prayer books and hymnals with big concepts and polysyllabic words.

Q: And what have you discovered about diversity and inclusion in higher education, particularly in terms of how to implement these things successfully?

A: I’ve discovered that change is difficult and long-held education assumptions about learning and learners are difficult to change, even in the face of research that challenges those perceptions. Most American educators, at every level from kindergarten to Ivy League universities, are primarily white English speakers. This is historically understandable, and while this is not true of everyone, diversifying the system is often met with push-back. Power over positions and ideas are not easily relinquished. With changing demographics and the current animus against non-whites, making room for culturally diverse faculty with different cultural perspectives and the task of diversifying institutions is arduous. It is so because pushing for equitable faculty representation translates into an inevitable disruption of power. Forming coalitions with others who believe equitable representation is important, and who are committed to making necessary changes, helps. The push for diversifying institutions always falls on faculty of color. That is not an easy task when accepting and integrating ideas or solutions from educators of color, who come with different lived experiences, are often challenged or dismissed. Of course, there has been some progress, but until institutions reflect the populations they serve, the status quo will remain.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: Believe in yourself. Trust your instincts but do thorough research before you embark on a new project.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: What surprises people most is that, in my 70s, I have embarked on what they call a “second career” that requires a great deal of work and energy. The thing is, I don’t view this venture as a second career, but rather an exciting hobby that challenges my creativity and gives me an opportunity to help fill a gap that has long existed in children’s literature.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: When we go to San Diego, I love walking along the bay at Seaport Village, a drive through Balboa Park, and the scenery along Harbor Drive. A stop at Old Town is always a must and the best Mexican dinner at Casa Guadalajara. It’s difficult not to buy a souvenir I don’t need, but I feel I gotta have!

New Book: Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor


A #1 New York Times bestseller!

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and award-winning artist Rafael Lopez create a kind and caring book about the differences that make each of us unique.

Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.

In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.

Praise for Just Ask:

* “Addressing topics too often ignored, this picture book presents information in a direct and wonderfully child-friendly way.” —Booklist, *STARRED REVIEW*

“An affirmative, delightfully diverse overview of disabilities.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A hopeful and sunny exploration of the many things that make us unique [with] dynamic and vibrant illustrations [that] emphasize each character’s unique abilities. . . . A thoughtful and empathetic story of inclusion.” —SLJ

‘My Papi Has A Motorcycle’ Pays Loving Tribute To A California Childhood

This write up and interview for NPR by Leila Fadel and Samantha Balaban. Check out the site for audio!


My Papi Has a Motorcycle, by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña, pays tribute to the rapidly-changing city of Corona, Calif., where Quintero grew up.


In My Papi Has A Motorcyle, a little girl named Daisy Ramona waits for her dad to come home from work so they can ride around their city, Corona, Calif., on the back of his motorcycle. They pass a tortilla shop, a raspado shop, her grandparent’s house, and her dad’s construction site.

Zeke Peña, left, and Isabel Quintero

Zeke Peña/Charles Lenida


The book is illustrated by Zeke Peña and written by Isabel Quintero. It’s a love letter to the city, and her father.

“When I was a kid my dad would get home from work, and he put me on the back of his motorcycle and he would drive me around the neighborhood I grew up in in Corona,” Quintero remembers, “and you know, it was the ’80s, so there were no helmets — in the book, obviously, there’s helmets, but it was a different time. And you know, I really was holding onto that memory and it was so special to me, that relationship between myself and my dad.”

My Papi Has a Motorcycle, by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña


This summer we’ve been asking authors and illustrators how they work together to bring stories to life. They often don’t — but illustrator Zeke Peña says he and Quintero chatted back and forth constantly. “She even was cool enough to go drive in her car around the neighborhood that she grew up in so I could physically see the space and see the turns of the corners, see the trees, the way the homes are built — kind of those things. This shows through in the story, right? Like there’s really specific things that are from Isabel’s memory, you know? I sneak some things from my own memory in there a little bit as a kid, but there’s this specificity. That’s what for me makes the story so strong, is that Isabel has this personal experience, and we’re we’re trying to tap into that and illustrate that, and kind of create that spark for for other readers young and old.”

“When I was a kid in Corona there was a tortilleria — in the book it’s Tortilleria Estrella, in real life it was Tortilleria Don Leon — and that was torn down,” Quintero says. “I think those things are are pretty specific to where I was at. But I think other people can connect to living in a community where you walk to places like a tortilleria or to Joy’s Market. Zeke did such an amazing job with that market, that so many people have told me, like, I know that market. That market’s in my neighborhood, you know, with the piñatas outside, and the little gumball machines, and the carnicería inside the store. So it is very specific, but it’s also a story that especially Latinx kids in other parts of the country can enjoy or relate to.”

“For me in the book, it’s like that first page — Daisy Ramona’s working on the motorcycle, and she’s working with this toolbox, and that was my dad, like that’s kind of really what I got from my dad, was you know, learning how to work with my hands, learning how to work hard and stuff,” Peña says. “But I think that with Isabel and I, it’s nice because a lot of our backgrounds as people who identify as Latinx or Chicanx or Chicanos, there’s this really narrow definition of what that is. But the nice thing with my collaboration with Isabel is that we span like a spectrum of that, right? And it doesn’t necessarily look just one way. I hope that the youth reading our book walk away with a validation of their own story, and where their own family comes from and their heritage. And their right to it, their right to express that as they wish.”

Isabel Quintero says she teared up at this image of Daisy Ramona’s visit to her dad’s work site.



“Going off the toolbox,” Quintero adds, “my dad also works with his hands. And so that scene, that spread, where Daisy Ramona gets to the worksite with her dad is probably one of my favorite scenes in the book, because Zeke was able to capture so much emotion of what it’s like for a kid like myself, like when I was a kid, going to work with my dad, and that happiness and that joy of getting to see where my dad worked. You know, hearing the sound of the the music, the music in Spanish in the background, and the men yelling at each other and cracking jokes. So when I opened to that spread I cried, because you don’t see a lot of celebration of working class people in children’s books, especially not working class brown men. And I know there will be a lot of children who will be able to say, oh, that’s my dad.”

We couldn’t ignore that we’re talking about Isabel Quintero’s love letter to her city and her people; Zeke Peña is from El Paso — and earlier this month his city suffered an enormous loss, a mass shooting that targeted the Latinx community and took the lives of 20 people.

“It breaks my heart, it breaks my heart to see these people suffering. To see my people suffering. Our community,” he says. “You know, who am I to be commenting on it. I do have friends and family that were affected directly. My love goes out to those people. And also my action goes out to those people, right? That’s something that we’re all going to have to live with for the rest of our lives. And we’re going to hopefully do something to change it.”

This piece was produced for radio by Samantha Balaban and Barrie Hardymon, and adapted for the Web by Petra Mayer.

60 Empowering Books Starring Latina Mighty Girls

wonderful compilation by Katherine at


“The Latina in me is an ember that blazes forever.” — Sonia Sotomayor, first United States Supreme Court Justice of Hispanic heritage

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Every year, from September 15 to October 15, Americans celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. To recognize this special month, we’ve put together a selection of our favorite books for children and teens starring Latina Mighty Girls!

In the first section of this blog post, we share books about real-life Latina role models throughout history, while in the second part, we feature fictional stories about Latina girls and women. For more reading recommendations for this month, you can also discover many bilingual Spanish/English books for young readers in our blog post, 25 Bilingual Spanish/English Picture Books Starring Mighty Girls. We hope these empowering titles will help all kids learn more about the diverse contributions and rich cultural traditions of Hispanic Mighty Girls!

For more books about diverse Mighty Girl from around the world, visit our extensive Multicultural Fiction Collection.

Books About Real-Life Latina Role Models

Sonia Sotomayor: A  Judge Grows in the Bronx / La juez que creció en el Bronx

Written by: Jonah Winter
Illustrated by: Edel Rodriguez
Recommended Age: 4 – 8

From a young age, Sonia Sotomayor wanted to be a lawyer… but that was a big dream for a young girl in the Bronx. In this bilingual picture book, kids follow her as her mother’s love, a desire to learn, and the willpower and bravery to defy all the naysayers, led Sotomayor to overcome obstacles like poverty, juvenile diabetes, and the death of her father in order to achieve a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. Vibrant artwork makes Sotomayor’s childhood come alive, while a detailed author’s note provides plenty of additional information about her life and career.


Written by: Yuyi Morales
Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales
Recommended Age: 4 – 8

In this gorgeously illustrated picture book, based loosely on the author’s experience of moving from Xalapa, Mexico with her American husband and their infant son to San Francisco in 1994, a woman travels with her son to the United States. There, she discovers an oasis of hope: the public library. Book by book, she untangles the language of this strange new land, and learns to make a home within it, observing that at the library: “We learned to read,/ to speak,/ to write,/ and/ to make/ our voices heard.” Five-time Pura Belpré Award winner Yuyi Morales uses poetic language and elegant illustrations to capture both an immigration journey and the importance of libraries as a welcoming home for new members of a community.

I Am Sonia Sotomayor

Written by: Brad Meltzer
Illustrated by: Christopher Eliopoulos
Recommended Age: 4 – 8

Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, is the subject of the sixteenth picture book in the New York Times bestselling Ordinary People Change the World series. As a child, Sonia loved to read — especially Nancy Drew mysteries! When she saw Perry Mason on TV, she knew she wanted to be a lawyer. Many people thought Latina girls didn’t grow up to be lawyers, and she faced other obstacles, too, including a diabetes diagnosis at the age of 9. Fortunately, she had people who believed in her — people who taught her to believe in herself. And because of that, she reached the highest court in the nation. A lively, conversational tone and colorful illustrations draw kids into this book, and inspire them to see how they too can change the world.

The Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos

Recommended Age: 5 – 8

Cousins Hildamar and Santiago are having trouble adjusting to their new home in New York City: the winter of 1929 is cold and harsh, not at all like Puerto Rico. Worst of all, Three King’s Day is approaching, and Hildamar is worried about how they can have this special holiday in their new country. Fortunately, a storyteller and librarian named Pura Belpré comes to their classroom and teaches them — and their classmates — about the value of celebrating many different holidays in their diverse community. This lovely introduction to the life of groundbreaking librarian Pura Belpre captures the lasting influence of this advocate for New York’s Spanish-speaking communities.

Turning Pages: My Life Story

Written by: Sonia Sotomayor
Illustrated by: Lulu Delacre
Recommended Age: 5 – 9

As a child, Sonia Sotomayor devoured books. For her, they were everything: a connection with her family in Puerto Rico, a guide when she was diagnosed with diabetes, and a consolation and escape from grief when her father died. Most importantly, they were the source of a dream: a future in which she could do anything. In her own words, Sotomayor tells young readers her life story, while also conveying a powerful message about the value of literacy and the never-ending possibility when you turn pages in books and in life. Sotomayor has also written a picture book about accepting disabilities and differences based on her childhood, Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You.

The Astronaut With A Song For The Stars: The Story of Dr. Ellen Ochoa

Written by: Julia Finley Mosca
Illustrated by: Daniel Rieley
Recommended Age: 5 – 9

Ellen Ochoa dreamed of playing her flute professionally, but when she discovered engineering in college, she was immediately hooked. But people doubted whether she could succeed: a girl from an immigrant family wasn’t the right sort of person to become a scientist, they thought. She refused to believe them, and not only did she achieve her career in science, but she even became a NASA astronaut. And when she flew into outer space, her flute came with her, so she could play a song for the stars! This appealing biography from the Amazing Scientists series is a colorful tribute to this daring scientist and musician.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Illustrated by: Paola Escobar
Recommended Age: 5 – 9

When Pura Belpré came to America in 1921, she brought with her the cuentos folklóricos of Puerto Rico. When she took a job at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she transformed library services by sharing diverse stories, championing bilingual literature, and publishing her tales so that she could “be like Johnny Appleseed [and] plant my story seeds across the land.” This lush and colorful book celebrates Belpré’s life and legacy, and encourages young storytellers to keep sharing their tales with the world. For a Spanish-language edition of this book, check out Sembrando historias: Pura Belpré: bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos.

My Name Is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz / Me llamo Celia: La vida de Celia Cruz

Written by: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: Rafael Lopez
Recommended Age: 5 and up

Celia grew up in Havana, Cuba; she loved to sing and she loved to dance. She built a career, entering every competition she could — even though she was barred from many because of her racial heritage. When Fidel Castro’s regime drove her into exile, she moved to Miami and New York City, where she kept singing and dancing… and where she and other musicians like her created a new form of music called salsa. This lyrical bilingual picture book dances through Cruz’s story with the same enthusiasm and joy that she displayed on stage.

When I Grow Up: Sonia Sotomayor

Written by: Annmarie Anderson
Illustrated by: Gerald Kelley
Recommended Age: 6 – 8

Before she was the first Hispanic woman justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor was a girl — maybe one just like you! In this book from the When I Grow Up early reader series, kids will learn about Sotomayor’s childhood, including the challenges she faced after being diagnosed with diabetes and after her father died — and then follow her as she perseveres to become the lawyer and judge she always dreamed of being! Engaging first-person text and appealing illustrations make her inspiring story come to life.

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers

Written by: Sarah E. Warren
Illustrated by: Robert Casilla
Recommended Age: 6 – 9

Dolores Huerta was a dedicated teacher who found that too many of  her students were going without food or shoes. When she investigated, she discovered that their parents were migrant workers, picking grapes for unlivable wages — but when she confronted their bosses about their employees’ poverty, they ignored her. So Dolores encouraged the workers to strike, and rallied customers to boycott grapes, to force employers to treat their workers fairly. This inspiring picture book biography captures the determination and courage of this remarkable activist and role model. For another excellent picture book about Huerta, check out Side By Side / Lado a lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez / La historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez for ages 4 to 8.

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Written by: Margarita Engle
Illustrated by: Rafael López
Recommended Age: 6 – 9

Young Teresa Carreño loved music, and the piano provided her comfort when she needed it — even when a revolution in her home of Venezuela forced her family to flee to America. She continued to play, and soon the Piano Girl became famous far and wide, bringing music and joy to people in the midst of the Civil War. Eventually, stories about the 10-year-old prodigy reached the White House, and one day, the young refugee played beautiful tunes for Abraham Lincoln and his family. Poetic language and colorful illustrations tell Carreño’s story, celebrating the solace that music brings in difficult times.

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

Written by: Duncan Tonatiuh
Illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh
Recommended Age: 6 – 9

Almost 10 years before the historic civil rights decision Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. In the 1940s, Sylvia Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican background — who spoke and wrote perfect English — was denied enrollment in an all-white Orange County grade school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.

That’s Not Fair: Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice / No es justo!: La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia

Illustrated by: Terry Ybanez
Recommended Age: 6 – 9

Emma Tenayuca grew up in a comfortable life in 1920s San Antonio. But she saw first-hand that others were not so fortunate and the degree of poverty experienced by those working for slave wages at the local pecan-shelling factories. As she grew up, she remained deeply aware of the injustice others suffered, and as a teenager, she spoke movingly on their behalf. When she was 21, the pecan shellers wages were cut even further — from six cents an hour to only three cents an hour — and she decided she had to do more: Tenayuca ended up leading a successful strike by 12,000 pecan shellers. This compelling English and Spanish telling of Tenayuca’s story will encourage kids to speak up when they see injustice in their own community.

Sonia Sotomayor: I’ll Be The Judge of That!

Written by: Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by: Angela Dominguez
Recommended Age: 7 – 10

Sometimes, rules are meant for breaking! Sonia Sotomayor grew up in a world where girls were supposed to dream of being housewives and where poor Hispanic girls in particular should aspire to menial jobs. Instead, she dreamed of a legal career, and after graduating at the top of her class in both high school and university, she eventually became the first Latina justice and third woman justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. This book from the Women Who Broke The Rules series is perfect for newly independent readers to learn more about Sotomayor’s story.

I Got This: To Gold and Beyond

Written by: Laurie Hernandez
Recommended Age: 8 – 12

Laurie Hernandez always wanted to fly, so when she was six years old, she took her first gymnastics class. It quickly became obvious that she was a natural, and in 2016, America thrilled to see her performances in both the team and individual beam competitions at the Rio Olympics. But you don’t get to be a 16-year-old Olympic medalist without some bumps along the way! In this poignant and funny memoir, Hernandez talks about Olympic dreams, family sacrifices, intense training, and the fear that she would lose it all when her progress stalled due to multiple injuries. It all paid off, though, when she got to display her artistry — and energy! — for the world in Rio. This fascinating memoir includes never-before-seen photos and beautifully captures Hernandez’s enthusiasm and joy in her sport.

Who Is Sonia Sotomayor?

Written by: Megan Stine
Recommended Age: 8 – 12

As a child in the Bronx, living with her immigrant parents, Sonia Sotomayor settled on a seemingly improbable dream: she wanted to be a judge. It seemed ridiculous, especially after she was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 9, at a time when the disease was more difficult to manage than it is today. But the determined girl learned how to give herself insulin injections, studied hard, and achieved her dream when she was appointed as a federal district judge in 1991. But she continued to work and to climb, and in 2009, President Barack Obama made her a Justice for the U.S. Supreme Court — the first Hispanic judge in the court’s history. This book from the popular Who Was…? biography series captures Sotomayor’s determination and pride in her heritage.

Who Was Selena?

Recommended Age: 8 – 12

Even as a girl, Selena Quintanilla was a singer. In her family’s band Selena y Los Dinos, she performed at fairs, weddings, quinceañeras, and more throughout their native Texas. Because she learned to sing in Spanish, she was hugely popular in the Latino community, and became the best-selling Latin artist of the 1990s — and introduced Tejano music to many Americans. While her life was cut short after she was killed by a stalker, her influence on music and fashion still resonate today. In this volume of the popular Who Was…? biography series, readers will be eager to learn more about this groundbreaking entertainer.

Sylvia and Aki

Written by: Winifred Conkling
Recommended Age: 9 – 12

Sylvia Mendez just wanted to attend her local Orange County school, but she was refused enrollment and directed to a Mexican school instead. Aki Munemitsu just wanted to be back in her own home, instead of being shipped to a Japanese internment camp. These two girls both had a story to tell about what it meant to be different in 1940s America, and they had an unexpected connection: the Mendez family rented the vacant Munemitsu farm, and the girls met and became friends after the war. Author Winifred Conkling used interviews with both Sylvia and Aki to write this historical fiction novel about the landmark education desegregation case Mendez v. Westerminster School District.

Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist

Written by: Sylvia Acevedo
Recommended Age: 9 – 12

As a child in a Mexican-American community, everyone expected that Sylvia Acevedo would grow up to marry and stay at home with her children — but Sylvia yearned for adventure. Then she joined the Brownies and her life was transformed. Through the Girl Scouts, she found peers who shared her love of science and role models that fostered her confidence and independence. Acevedo would become a rocket scientist for NASA — and today, she’s the CEO of the Girl Scouts, helping other girls follow their dreams. This inspiring memoir is a celebration of resilience and a testament to the transformative impact of the Girl Scouts on many girls’ lives.

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition

Written by: Reyna Grande
Recommended Age: 10 – 14

Reyna’s parents have made the dangerous and illegal trip across the US-Mexican border in hopes of a better life for the whole family. Meanwhile, she and her siblings are forced to live with their strict grandmother — until plans have to change and Reyna has to make the journey, alone, with a long-absent father she barely knows on the other side. Then, she struggles with identity and a desperate desire to succeed, as well as dealing with poverty, domestic violence, and life as an undocumented immigrant. Based on Grande’s adult memoir of the same name, this story is gently funny and deeply touching, and captures a little-discussed element of immigration: the challenges facing children left behind.

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor

Written by: Sonia Sotomayor
Recommended Age: 10 and up

Before she was a lawyer, a judge, and the first Hispanic person appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor was a girl in a Bronx housing project, struggling with juvenile diabetes, poverty, and family troubles. But when she found a big dream to pursue, nothing would stand in her way! In this middle-grade adaptation of her bestselling adult memoir, My Beloved World, Sotomayor tells her story in a relatable, appealing way, encouraging young readers to “dream big dreams” — and fight for what they know is right.

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings

Written by: Margarita Engle
Illustrated by: Edel Rodriguez
Recommended Age: 13 and up

Margarita feels caught between two cultures and two countries: her mother’s homeland, Cuba, which she visits every summer, and the bustling, busy world of Los Angeles, where words and images provide better companionship than her classmates. Slowly, though, she comes to love her own country as much as her old one, if in a different way. As tensions rise in the late 1950s and early 1960s, being caught between these two homes is not easy, and when the Cuban Missile Crisis breaks out, Margarita is afraid for her Cuban family and confused by how two places she loves can hate one another so much. This evocative and heartfelt memoir in verse depicts how Engle’s sense of conflicting allegiances shaped her childhood — and her award-winning writing career.

In The Country We Love: My Family Divided

Written by: Diane Guerrero
Recommended Age: 15 and up

Today, Diane Guerrero is the star of hit shows like Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, but before she got there, she was a fourteen year old girl who came home from school to discover that her parents had been deported while she was in class. Since she had been born in the US, Guerrero could stay — but to continue her education, she had to depend on the kindness of friends to take her in and help her build a life for herself. In this gripping and ultimately triumphant memoir, Guerrero offers a personal take on the struggles of the millions of undocumented immigrants and their citizen children — and casts a much-needed light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of families like hers. Guerrero has also adapted her story for middle-grade readers in My Family Divided: One Girl’s Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope.

Fictional Stories About Hispanic Mighty Girls

Kitchen Dance

Written by: Maurie J. Manning
Recommended Age: 3 – 6

When this little girl wakes up at night, she hears enticing noises from downstairs. Soon, she and her brother are sneaking downstairs, only to spot their mother and father singing and dancing as they clean up the kitchen: “¡Como te quiero! Oh, how I love you!” When the parents spot their children, they quickly sweep both kids up into a joyous, loving dance… one that slowly changes into a lullaby that rocks both children to sleep. This exuberant celebration of a loving family is also a terrific bedtime book.


Written by: Arthur Dorros
Recommended Age: 3 – 7

Rosalba and her Abuela are always going to new places together, but one day, after feeding the birds at the park, Rosalba sits on the bus and dreams about what it would be like if she could fly. Soon, she’s soaring through the sky with Abuela floating beside her, observing the streets and buses, docks and buildings, and even her father’s office, all from high above. Each sight represents an important moment in Abuela’s life,  as she tells Rosalba the story of finding her home… the country where Rosalba is growing up. With its colorful illustrations and mix of Spanish and English, this book is a tribute to the love between a grandmother and granddaughter, a celebration of a diverse community, and a poignant immigrant tale of finding a new home.

A Chair For My Mother

Written by: Vera B. Williams
Illustrated by: Vera B. Williams
Recommended Age: 3 – 8

When a fire destroys all of their possessions, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother are able to scrape together most of what they need — but what they’re missing is a chair, a big comfortable chair for cuddles, reading stories, and to let her mother rest her feet after a long, hard day. Together, they start saving coins in a jar — Mama’s tips, Grandma’s grocery savings, even Rosa’s coins she earns doing odd jobs — so that they can buy the perfect chair of their dreams. This charming, sweet story, a Caldecott Honor winner, is full of warmth and love.

Margaret and Margarita / Margarita y Margaret

Written by: Lynn Reiser
Illustrated by: Lynn Reiser
Recommended Age: 3 – 8

Margaret speaks only English, and Margarita speaks only Spanish. When their mothers take them each to the park, both complain (in their respective languages) that there’s nobody to play with — until each spots the other. Their mothers assume that their lack of a common language will be a barrier, but as far as the girls are concerned, that just means they have to get a little more creative! By the time playtime is over, each girl knows a few words in the other’s language and their mothers are smiling at the realization that friendship can go beyond words. This clever bilingual picture book celebrates multilingual friendships.

Growing Up With Tamales / Los tamales de Ana

Written by: Gwendolyn Zepeda
Recommended Age: 3 – 8

Every year, Ana’s family makes tamales for Christmas… and every year, it seems like her older sister, Lidia, is so far ahead of her that she’ll never catch up. When Ana is six, she can mix the dough, but Lidia is old enough to spread it in the corn husks; and as the years go on, every time Ana is allowed to try a new step, Lidia is already learning the next one. Finally, though, when Ana is eighteen, she’s old enough to do it all — and old enough to be planning her own business, which will deliver her tamales to people around the world. And maybe she’ll even let Lidia work for her!

What Can You Do With A Rebozo?

Written by: Carmen Tafolla
Illustrated by: Amy Cordova
Recommended Age: 3 – 8

This little girl’s family has a rebozo, a traditional woven Mexican shawl. What can you do with a rebozo? Well, Mama can wrap it around herself to make her dress a little fancier, or fold it up and use it to carry her little brother. They keep you warm when you cuddle up with your grandmother, or keep your eyes covered when it’s time for a birthday piñata. They can be capes and tunnels and most importantly, the perfect accessory for a swirling dance! This celebration of culture and imagination is sure to delight young readers. There is also a bilingual version of this lively picture book.

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Written by: Juana Martinez-Neal
Illustrated by: Juana Martinez-Neal
Recommended Age: 4 – 8

Alma’s full name is far too long for someone so small: Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela “never fits”! So she asks her father: how did she get her name? It turns out that every part of her very long name is part of a story: Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and more. The only name she doesn’t hear is Alma — because, her father says, “You will make your own story.” This gentle, sweet story celebrates sharing family history and is sure to have kids asking about their own.

Mango, Abuela, and Me

Written by: Meg Medina
Illustrated by: Angela Dominguez
Recommended Age: 4 – 8

Mia’s abuela is moving in, leaving her sunny home surrounded by parrots and palm trees, and Mia is a mix of excited and uncertain… especially once she discovers that Abuela can’t speak or read much English. Even though grandmother and granddaughter work to teach Abuela English — and Mia Spanish — they still don’t have enough words in common to share stories, hopes, and dreams. Then Mia sees a beautiful parrot in the pet-shop window. Maybe a new friend can help her and Abuela communicate a little better. This charming story combines Spanish and English text beautifully, and kids will love the vibrant, colorful illustrations.

Carmela Full of Wishes

Written by: Matt de la Peña
Illustrated by: Christian Robinson
Recommended Age: 4 – 8

Today is Carmela’s birthday, and she’s finally old enough to join her big brother as he does errands — a treat for her, but a nuisance for her brother. On their way, Carmela finds a dandelion, but she has to decide on a perfect wish: should she wish for a candy machine? For her mother to sleep in one of the beautiful beds she makes at the hotel? For her father’s papers to be sorted out so he can finally come home? When the dandelion gets crushed before she picks a wish, Carmela is heartbroken… but her brother shows her a place where wishes do come true. This poignant picture book from the award-winning team behind Last Stop on Market Street explores loss, family, and the power of dreams.

Where Are You From?

Illustrated by: Jaime Kim
Recommended Age: 4 – 8

When this little girl gets asked — over and over — where she is really from, she feels insecure about what her answer should be. For help, she turns to her loving Argentinian abuelo. His answer captures images of a beautiful land she’s never seen, of a family’s pride in a vibrant culture, but most importantly, of the love between people: “You’re from here, from my love and the love of all those before us…. You are from all of us.” This lyrical picture book that celebrates identity and individuality also provides a beautiful conversation starter for either home or classroom.

The Quiet Place

Written by: Sarah Stewart
Illustrated by: David Small
Recommended Age: 4 – 8

Isabel misses many things about her old home in Mexico, including her Aunt Lupita and the comfort of hearing Spanish spoken all around her. At the same time, there are wonderful new experiences in her American home, including a teacher with a wide, friendly smile and her very first snow storm! To help her adjust to all the changes, Papa and her brother Chavo use a big box to make Isabel a “quiet place,” where she can keep her books and toys and write letters to her aunt. In fact, the place Isabel feels most at home might just be in her quiet place. Set in the 1950s, this contemplative book captures the slow process of adjusting to a new country and fitting in with new friends.

A Gift From Abuela

Written by: Cecilia Ruiz
Illustrated by: Cecilia Ruiz
Recommended Age: 4 – 8

Abuela adores Niña, and delights in spending time with her, especially when they make papel picado (paper-cutout banners) together or sit in the park eating pan dulce. She wants to give Niña an extra special treat, so she starts saving what money she can put together, a few pesos at a time. But as Niña gets older, it’s harder for them to spend time together, and when a newly issued currency makes Abuela’s savings worthless, she thinks her dream has been dashed. Fortunately, a surprise visit from Niña shows that, even when life gets in the way, the love between a grandmother and granddaughter is the sweetest gift of all.

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

Written by: Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by: David Roberts
Recommended Age: 4 – 9

Sofia loves walking to school with her Abuelo, but when Abuelo hurts his ankle at the local landfill, Sofia has to walk alone. She spends the walk thinking about what she could do about the dangerous trash heap, and she concludes that it’s time for the town to turn it into a park. When she arrives at City Hall, plans in hand, the clerk turns her away — a kid can’t build a park, after all. Sofia thinks otherwise, and before long, she discovers the power of community organizing… and perhaps a future career in politics! This empowering book by the creators of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist stars a determined girl who knows that the key to making dreams reality can be political action.

Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure

Written by: Jacqueline Jules
Illustrated by: Kim Smith
Recommended Age: 5 – 7

7-year-old Sofia Martinez is used to fighting for attention in her big family — but fortunately, she always knows they will be there when she really needs them. In this story, she worries about creating a look for class picture day that ensures no one can mistake her for her sisters; attempts to make a piñata for her grandmother’s birthday; and has to chase down a runaway class pet! Her outgoing personality and confidence often result in one part success, one part trouble — but no matter what, Sofia’s fiery passion for everything she does makes every day an adventure. This first book in a series includes common Spanish words and phrases. For more of Sofia’s escapades, check out the second book, The Marigold Mess.

Maya’s Blanket / La Manta de Maya

Written by: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: David Diaz
Recommended Age: 5 – 8

When Maya was very, very little, Grandma stitched her a blanket with her own two hands. But as Maya grows, the blanket gets frayed. Fortunately, Grandma is able to rework it each time: into a shirt, a shawl, a scarf, a hair ribbon, and finally, a bookmark. But what will Maya do when she loses her bookmark and the last precious scrap of her blanket is gone? Well… why not write a book about her special blanket — one that preserves its memory and shares it with lots of other little boys and girls — including Maya’s own daughter! Inspired by the traditional Yiddish folk song Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl (I Had a Little Coat), this sweet story recognizes the power of creativity and family love.

I Love Saturdays y domingos

Written by: Alma Flor Ada
Illustrated by: Elivia Savadier
Recommended Age: 5 – 8

Weekends are a very special time for this little girl! On Saturdays, she visits Grandma and Grandpa, her European-American family, and on Sundays — los domingos — she visits Abuelito y Abuelita, her Mexican-American grandparents. Each pair of grandparents has their special rituals and treats, and they are different in many ways, but they are the same in one very important respect: they adore their granddaughter and the rest of her loving family. Instead of presenting a family with dual cultures as competing, this family complements and celebrates one another, creating a unique and special atmosphere.

Mamá The Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre

Written by: Rene Colato Lainez
Illustrated by: Laura Lacamara
Recommended Age: 5 – 8

When Mamá’s purse spills one day, Sofia sees a card that describes her mother as a Resident Alien. An alien?! But Mamá looks like a human mother! Sofia is still trying to figure out this mystery when she stumbles upon her mother one night looking like an actual alien… but it turn out that Mamá is just doing a beauty treatment, getting ready for a special day: her citizenship ceremony. That’s when Sofia learns that, in English, alien can also mean someone born in a different country. How funny to think that her Mamá really is an alien! This lighthearted book celebrates the milestones of immigration and the importance of family — no matter where that family comes from.

Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About A Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart

Written by: Pat Mora
Illustrated by: Raul Colon
Recommended Age: 4 – 8

In a tiny village in the American Southwest, Doña Flor is a beloved neighbor: the giant woman lets children use her flowers as trumpets and her leftover tortillas as rafts! She also loves to read, and often gathers the children around for a story. When a terrible noise like a bellowing animal scares the villagers, Doña Flor is determined to protect her friends — so with the help of her animal companions, she sets off to solve the mystery of the terrifying sound. This original tall tale, full of beautiful watercolor illustrations, ends with a surprise that will get kids giggling!

I Pledge Allegiance

Illustrated by: Patrice Barton
Recommended Age: 4 – 8

Libby’s Great Aunt Lobo has lived in America for years, but now she’s taking a big step and becoming a citizen! She has passed her citizenship test; now all that remains is the ceremony, where she’ll say the Pledge of Allegiance. Libby’s class has also been practicing the Pledge — and the same day that Lobo swears her oath, Libby will be leading the Pledge at school. Together, Libby and Lobo practice, talking about the historical and personal meaning of each line, until each of them gets to say it with hand on heart. This sweet story will give kids new perspective on what it means to say the pledge, as well as celebrating this special relationship between a niece and aunt.

In My Family / En mi familia

Written by: Carmen Lomas Garza
Recommended Age: 5 – 8

Author Carmen Lomas Garza recounts her fondest childhood memories growing up in a Mexican-American family in Texas. She remembers special holidays and family dinners; music and dancing at a local restaurant; and even seemingly simple moments like a visit to her grandmother’s house. Each scene is illustrated in vivid color and accompanied by a text description of the event in both English and Spanish. Gentle and welcoming, this book captures the extraordinary and everyday moments that make up the stories of a cherished family.

The Ghosts of Luckless Gulch

Written by: Anne Isaacs
Illustrated by: Dan Santat
Recommended Age: 5 – 10

Estrella is faster than fast — she leaves trails of fire in the air when she runs! She shares her days in the wilds of California with her unusual (and not particularly tame) pets: Kickle Snifter, a lamb as strong as an elephant; Sidehill Wowser, a horse-like creature with downhill legs that are longer than his uphill ones; and Comet, a Rubberado puppy. But when the ghosts of greedy gold miners steal her pets, Estrella isn’t going to take it sitting down! This tall tale full of humor and slapstick will have kids guessing how the clever Estrella is going to deal with those troublesome ghosts.

My Name Is Maria Isabel

Written by: Alma Flor Ada
Illustrated by: K. Dyble Thompson
Recommended Age: 7 – 10

Maria’s name is long and important — Maria Isabel Salazar Lopez, from both her grandmothers, her grandfather, and her father. But when she arrives in her new class after moving from Puerto Rico, her teacher declares that there are too many Marias, so she’ll be called Mary. How can Maria explain to her teacher that her special name is a reminder of where she came from? Fortunately, when the class is assigned a paper titled “My Greatest Wish,” Maria finally finds the words to tell everyone how special her name is — and why she will always be Maria Isabel. Spanish-speaking Mighty Girl fans can read the Spanish-language version of the book, Me llamo Maria Isabel.

Stef Soto, Taco Queen

Written by: Jennifer Torres
Recommended Age: 8 – 11

All Stef wants is to fit in, and to have a little bit of independence from her overprotective parents — especially if it means she can ride a school bus instead of getting picked up by Tia Perla, her family’s taco truck. She’s tired of being called “Taco Queen” and she dreams of being able to attend the Vivian Vega concert like her (former) friend Julia. But when her family’s livelihood is threatened, Stef surprises herself by becoming Tia Perla’s biggest advocate. In the end, Stef discovers her own identity: one that takes pride in her newfound love of art, her ability to help her community, and, yes, even in her parents and Tia Perla itself. Heartfelt and funny, with a narrator you’ll root for, this is a charming story celebrating family, friends, and delicious food.

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble

Written by: Anna Meriano
Illustrated by: Mirelle Ortega
Recommended Age: 8 – 12

Leonora’s mother, aunt, and older sisters run the best bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, and Leonora wants to help prepare for Dia de los Muertos — but once again, they tell her she’s too young. One day, when Leo sneaks down to the bakery, she learns why: they are all brujas, witches of Mexican ancestry, and they bake a little delicious magic into every bite! Leo’s sure she’s old enough to learn magic too, so when her best friend has a problem, she decides to dig into the family recipe book. But Leo doesn’t read Spanish, so deciphering the recipes isn’t easy… and when things go awry, Leo learns that her family will support her but she has to fix her own mistakes! This charming story effortlessly weaves together Mexican, Texan, and American cultures and adds a dash of mystery and magic to delightful effect. Leonora and her family return in the sequel, A Sprinkle of Spirits.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

Written by: Kelly Jones
Illustrated by: Katie Kath
Recommended Age: 8 – 12

Sophie Brown feels totally out of place when her parents move her from big-city LA to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle, especially when it becomes obvious that the townsfolk assume she and her Latino family are migrant workers rather than landowners. But the farm gets a little more interesting when Sophie discovers that one of the chickens can move things with her mind! Soon, more of her great-uncle’s chickens — with even more unusual powers — are coming home to roost. And when a local farmer rival tries to steal the chickens, Sophie will have to find a way to keep her very special chickens safe. Told in a combinations of letters, quizzes, to-do lists, and sections of a correspondence course on chicken care, this fun and quirky story is sure to be a favorite.

Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring

Written by: Angela Cervantes
Recommended Age: 9 – 12

Paloma is visiting Mexico City for the first time; she’s hoping that her deceased father’s hometown will help her remember at least a few things about it. There, she meets siblings Lizzie and Gael, who invite her to join them on a search for the peacock ring, which once belonged to beloved artist Frida Kahlo. But can Paloma help them find the ring — and are the siblings really hoping to find it so that all of Mexico can enjoy it? This middle-grade mystery cleverly incorporates an intriguing introduction to Kahlo’s life, along with an atmospheric exploration of her Mexican home.

The First Rule of Punk

Written by: Celia C. Pérez
Illustrated by: Celia C. Pérez
Recommended Age: 9 – 12

Twelve-year-old Malú is struggling with the aftermath of her parents’ divorce: she misses her laid-back, artsy, white father, and feels pressured by her academic mother, who she calls “SuperMexican.” And on the first day at her new school, Chuck Taylor-wearing, punk-loving Malú violates the school dress code and angers the school’s queen bee, who calls her a “coconut”: brown on the outside, white on the inside. But when Malú gets a band started with some fellow misfits, she’ll do anything to keep it together — even if it means standing up to her mother, the school administration, and the world! This exploration of friendship, identity, and the joy of rocking out to your own beat is sure to inspire your Mighty Girl to stand up for what she believes in!

Tortilla Sun

Written by: Jennifer Cervantes
Recommended Age: 9 – 12

Twelve-year-old Izzy is helping unpack after yet another move when she discovers a baseball marked with the words: “Because… magic.” Her curiosity is piqued, but she knows her mother won’t satisfy it — her mother never answers any questions about her father, who died before she was born. But when her mother declares that she’s finishing her studies in Costa Rica that summer — and that Izzy will be saying with her Nana in New Mexico — perhaps Izzy has a chance to learn more. Nana and her community welcome Izzy with open arms, and soon she’s making tortillas, watching her grandmother’s work as a curandera providing folk remedies, and even uncovering a few of those family mysteries she’s always wanted to know. This gentle story full of appealing characters feels warm, cozy, and eminently satisfying.

The Other Half of Happy

Written by: Rebecca Balcárcel
Recommended Age: 9 – 12

Half Guatemalan, half American Quijana never really minded feeling more Anglo than Latinx until her Guatemalan cousins moved to town. Suddenly, her father is embarrassed that she doesn’t speak Spanish or know much about her Guatemalan heritage. Quijana, on the other hand, is busy worrying about her Grandma, who’s going through cancer treatment in Florida. When her parents announce the whole family will be traveling to Guatemala, Quijana plots to go to Florida instead — but maybe she needs this trip in order to figure out how all the pieces of her identity fit together. Lyrical and heartfelt, this poetic debut novel will speak to anyone who has felt like they live between the “categories” of our world.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Written by: Meg Medina
Recommended Age: 9 – 12

Merci is full of confidence and drive, but sixth grade will test even her. As a scholarship student at her Florida private school, she’s always felt different from her peers, and this year, her required community service makes Merci the target of the school queen bee’s jealousy. Meanwhile, her grandfather Lolo has been acting strangely, from forgetting things to getting angry over nothing, and no one will tell her what’s going on. Fortunately, her take-charge personality helps her overcome all the bumps in the road! This Newbery Medal-winning coming-of-age tale stays light, while still tackling tough issues facing many middle-grade kids.

Dancing Home

Recommended Age: 9 – 12

Although she was born there, Margie doesn’t consider herself Mexican, and she’s devoted years of work to ensuring her classmates don’t see her that way, either. Then her cousin Lupe moves from Mexico, hoping to see her father, who went north to find work — and to Margie’s horror, Lupe is assigned to her class. Now Lupe’s frilly clothes and struggles with English are challenging Margie’s carefully crafted identity, especially when she’s told to translate the teacher’s lessons despite not speaking much Spanish. Slowly, though, both Lupe and Margie fall into step with one another, and together they discover how to create new selves that acknowledge both their Mexican heritage and their American home. This beautiful novel, which was also published in a Spanish edition, Nacer bailando, tackles important issues about bullying, cultural identity, and family.


Written by: Raina Telgemeier
Illustrated by: Raina Telgemeier
Recommended Age: 9 – 13

Catrina’s family is moving to Bahia de la Luna, where the coastal air will help Maya’s cystic fibrosis symptoms. Cat misses her friends and resents being forced to move, but she loves her sister and is terrified of Maya getting sick. So when their neighbor tells them that Bahia de la Luna is home to ghosts — spirits of ancestors who watch over them — Cat wants nothing to do with them… and is horrified to discover that Maya seems fascinated by the ghosts. As the Day of the Dead approaches, and Cat meets the ghosts face to face, she’ll learn more about the Mexican side of her heritage — and learn to set her fears aside, for both Maya’s sake and her own. This original graphic novel by the author / illustrator of best-selling graphic novels SmileSisters, and Drama is sure to delight your Raina Telgemeier fan!

Becoming Naomi León

Written by: Pam Munoz Ryan
Recommended Age: 9 – 13

It’s hard going through school as Naomi Soledad León Outlaw — between her long name and the hand-made clothes, she’s never been one of the popular kids. But her grandmother is a loving guardian for her and her brother, whose physical deformities make him stand out, and tries her best to teach them both about their Mexican heritage. When Naomi’s mother finally shows back up after seven years, with a scary boyfriend in tow, it soon becomes obvious that her motivations are more about profit and convenience than about reconnecting with her children. Fortunately, Gram and their Mexican neighbors work together so that Naomi can finally have the security she desperately needs. Touching and inspiring, this book asks important questions about what it really means to be family.

Lucky Broken Girl

Written by: Ruth Behar
Recommended Age: 10 – 13

Ruthie is just beginning to regain some confidence after immigrating from Castro’s Cuba to New York City: she’s slowly learning English, and she’s earned her place as the neighborhood’s hopscotch queen. Then the unthinkable happens: a car accident leaves her in a body cast, restricted to bed for a year. Ruthie’s world has shrunk, but the time gives her the opportunity to consider many things, from her feelings about the boys whose car hit her to the kindness of those around her to her own budding joy in writing and art. Inspired by her real-life experience in the 1960s — both immigrating and suffering injuries that required a long recovery — this book is inspiring, vulnerable, and real.

Return to Sender

Written by: Julia Alvarez
Recommended Age: 10 and up

Tyler’s father was injured in a tractor accident, and they’re facing foreclosure on their Vermont family farm if they can’t get the harvest in. His parents hire a family of migrant workers, but Tyler finds himself wondering if hiring undocumented workers is the right decision. Meanwhile Mari, the family’s oldest daughter, challenges his preconceptions with her combination of pride in her Mexican heritage and connection to her American life. As Tyler and Mari become friends, she tells him more about her family’s struggles: the poverty they left behind, their fear being deported, and her desperate desire to know if her missing mother is safe. Told in alternating chapters of Tyler’s third-person perspective and Mari’s diary entries and unsent letters to Mami, this novel tackles the complexity of the issues around undocumented migrant workers in a way that’s easily understandable for tweens and teens.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano

Written by: Sonia Manzano
Recommended Age: 12 and up

Evelyn — who changed her name from Rosa to sound more “mainstream” — starts developing a new view on her heritage when her sassy Abuela, newly arrived from Puerto Rico, helps her see the many problems with their Spanish Harlem neighborhood. When Puerto Rican activist group the Young Lords start protesting, and Abuela steps in to take charge, Evelyn finds herself thrust into the action… and discovers that she feels like she belongs there. Sonia Manzano, who grew up to play Maria on Sesame Street, based this novel on real events from her childhood in El Barrio, and includes an appendix with reports from the New York Times about the real-life protests. A powerful story of identity and family drama, this novel is sure to generate discussion.

Under the Mesquite

Recommended Age: 12 and up

Lupita’s Mami has been diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly worries about high school, her role in a play, and her friends seem unimportant. While her father takes Mami to a clinic out of town, Lupita has to care for her younger siblings — and struggles to keep the family going. Her only refuge is the shadow of a mesquite tree, where she can retreat to write. In the midst of the chaos and fears about Mami’s health, though, Lupita might discover her voice. This evocative novel in verse captures the power of the written word — whatever the language — as well as the importance of family when people are in crisis.

The Tequila Worm

Written by: Viola Canales
Recommended Age: 12 and up

Sofia comes from a family of storytellers in a small Texas town. Each chapter in this book are Sofia’s stories of growing up in the barrio, full of the mystery and magic of family traditions. Until finally she reaches a turning point: a scholarship to an elite boarding school that will take her far from home. But as she faces this new experience, she realizes how much these traditions matter to her — and how to combine her childhood dreams of being a comadre with the skills she’s learned in her new world. This warm novel, full of details about Mexican-American traditions, is sure to delight young adult readers searching for their own place in the world.

Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass

Written by: Meg Medina
Recommended Age: 13 and up

One day, a girl Piddy Sanchez barely knows tell her that Yaqui Delgado, head of a gang of girls at school, hates her. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, but it turns out that Yaqui thinks that Piddy isn’t “Latin enough” — white skin, good grades, and no accent — which makes her “stuck-up attitude” even worse in Yaqui’s eyes. Piddy tries to focus on finding the father she’s never met, and balancing schoolwork and a weekend job, but as the harassment ramps up, Piddy starts to wonder if she can survive without running away or giving up who she is. The sense of claustrophobia and fear in this title, and the lack of easy solutions despite many caring adults, makes this a realistic and emotional look at bullying, class conflict, and ethnic identity.

The Poet X

Written by: Elizabeth Acevedo
Recommended Age: 14 and up

15-year-old Xiomara Batista feels voiceless in her largely Dominican community in Harlem: since she developed curves, she’s relied on her fierce exterior and a willingness to throw a punch to keep herself safe. But she pours all of her frustration and insecurity — as well as her conflicts with her strict, religious mother — onto the pages of a notebook. When Xiomara is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, however, she’s faced with a choice: leave her poems unspoken or raise her voice, no matter what people think. This powerful novel in verse, winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, offers a thoughtful look at identity, family, and the power of words through the eyes of a teen girl.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Written by: Erika L. Sánchez
Recommended Age: 14 and up

In Julia’s family, Olga was the dutiful daughter who planned to stay home with her Mexican parents rather than going away to college. That left Julia free to fulfill her own dreams… until Olga was killed in an accident. Now, Julia is the one who has to hold the family together, and her mother is too busy lamenting Julia’s failings to realize Julia’s grieving too. Then Julia discovers that Olga had her own secrets, and becomes determined to learn more about the sister she now wishes she had known better. This gritty story about a girl facing grief, poverty, and the weight of family expectations is both poignant and funny in turns.

With The Fire On High

Written by: Elizabeth Acevedo
Recommended Age: 14 and up

When Emoni got pregnant in her freshman year of high school, she stopped thinking about her future to focus on her daughter. Now a senior, she balances motherhood (and joint custody with her ex-boyfriend), school, work, and caring for her abuela. Nevertheless, she can’t help but imagine life as a chef: her “magical hands” let people who eat her food sample deep memories. But when a high school cooking elective opens up the opportunity for a week-long apprenticeship in Spain — and a possible relationship with Malachi, a new student — Emoni will realize that she is strong enough to pursue dreams that used to feel impossible. Elizabeth Alcevedo, author of the National Book Award winning The Poet X, celebrates perseverance, passion, and the power of sharing food together in this gripping novel.

The House On Mango Street

Written by: Sandra Cisneros
Recommended Age: 14 and up

Esperanza Cordero is a Latina girl coming of age in a world that’s full of joy and laughter, but also oppression and struggle. In a series of vignettes, many in free verse, she decides that the house on Mango Street is only temporary, a place she must stay until she can find a better life, away from the poor neighborhood where she grew up. At the same time, she is determined not to forget those who she leaves behind, but to come back and help lift them out of poverty as well. Full of clever, funny observations and insightful views of gender roles and culture, this modern classic is perfect for thoughtful teen readers.

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