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15 Children’s Books That Celebrate Hispanic Heritage
by TeachThought Staff
Helping students learn about their heritage is important.
Even more important would be to teach them about other heritages.
Why Should Children Study Hispanic Heritage and History?
The heritage and history of any thing–especially living things–matters. The history of a mountain range or ocean or automobile or building or system of government–all important and all interesting. Studying things like these can answer questions like:
What came before me? Who came before me? How do I relate to each?
What effect might it have if I never learn or understand my heritage–and other heritages, as well?
Who lived or what was created or restored or protected so that I and others can live and help future generations understand the same?
Learning about Hispanic heritage allows children to appreciate and understand the rich diversity and contributions of Hispanic cultures. It fosters respect for different customs, traditions, languages, and histories, promoting cultural sensitivity and empathy.
Hispanic heritage is, of course, not limited to one country or region. It encompasses a vast range of countries, including Spain and numerous Latin American nations. Studying Hispanic heritage helps children develop a broader global perspective and understand the interconnectedness of the world.
Spanish is the second most widely spoken language globally. Studying Hispanic heritage can include learning the Spanish language, which opens up opportunities for communication and cross-cultural exchange. Bilingualism also enhances cognitive abilities and provides practical skills for the future.
Historical and societal understanding
Hispanic heritage encompasses a rich history that spans centuries, including pre-Columbian civilizations, colonialism, independence movements, and contemporary issues. Studying this heritage helps children gain insights into the historical, social, and political factors that have shaped Hispanic communities.
Role models and inspiration
Exploring Hispanic heritage exposes children to prominent figures from various fields like art, literature, music, science, politics, and sports. Learning about influential Hispanic individuals can serve as inspiration for children, promoting diversity and inclusivity in their aspirations and career choices.
Building bridges and fostering inclusivity
In an increasingly interconnected world, understanding and appreciating different cultures is crucial for building bridges and fostering inclusivity. Studying Hispanic heritage encourages children to engage with diverse communities, promoting respect, collaboration, and unity. Studying Hispanic heritage enriches children’s education, promotes cultural awareness, and equips them with valuable skills and perspectives that can contribute to their personal growth and success in an interconnected world.
With that in mind, on to the list.
What Are The Best Books For Students That Celebrate Heritage?
1. Where Are You From?
This resonant and award-winning picture book tells the story of one girl who constantly gets asked a simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer. A great conversation starter in the home or classroom—a book to share, in the spirit of I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo.
2. Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation” by Duncan Tonatiuh: This engaging nonfiction book tells the true story of Sylvia Mendez, a young Mexican American girl who played a pivotal role in the fight against school segregation in California in the 1940s. It highlights the importance of equality and social justice.
3. North of Happy by Aldi Alsaid
‘North of Happy’ is a novel by Adi Alsaid. It tells the story of a young man named Carlos Portillo, who has his life planned out by his wealthy family. However, Carlos is passionate about cooking and dreams of becoming a chef instead of pursuing the path his family has set for him.
Tragedy strikes when Carlos’s older brother, Felix, dies in a car accident. Overwhelmed by grief and a sense of loss, Carlos flees to the United States and takes up residence in Seattle. There, he finds solace in the kitchen of a small restaurant, working alongside the talented chef, Emma. Through his cooking, Carlos discovers an outlet for his emotions and a way to honor his brother’s memory.
As Carlos navigates his new life in Seattle, he also grapples with his identity and the complex relationships within his family. The story unfolds through alternating chapters, interwoven with recipes that reflect Carlos’s emotional journey and his passion for food.
‘North of Happy’ explores themes of grief, self-discovery, and the pursuit of one’s passions. It is a coming-of-age story that delves into the transformative power of food and the importance of following one’s heart, even in the face of familial expectations.
4. The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Riviera
‘The Education of Margot Sanchez’ is a young adult novel written by Lilliam Rivera. The story revolves around Margot Sanchez, a Puerto Rican teenager living in the Bronx. Margot is dealing with the challenges of straddling two worlds—the expectations of her privileged prep school friends and the cultural identity of her tight-knit Latino community. After making a costly mistake, Margot is forced to work in her family’s supermarket to pay off her debts.
Through her summer job, she begins to question her own values, confront the pressures of conformity, and discover her own identity. The book explores themes of cultural identity, family dynamics, and the complexities of growing up while navigating the intersection of different social and cultural spheres.
5. Marti’s Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy
‘Marti’s Song for Freedom’ is a picture book written by Emma Otheguy and illustrated by Beatriz Vidal. The book tells the story of José Martí, a renowned Cuban poet and freedom fighter who fought for the independence of Cuba from Spanish colonial rule in the late 19th century.
Through poetic language and vibrant illustrations, the book portrays Martí’s life, his love for his homeland, and his unwavering commitment to freedom and justice. It highlights Martí’s dedication to inspiring others through his words and actions, emphasizing the power of literature and activism in the pursuit of freedom. ‘Marti’s Song for Freedom’ serves as an introduction to the life and legacy of José Martí and his significant contributions to the fight for Cuban independence.
6. Multicultural Literature for Bilingual and Latino Children: Their Words, Their Worlds
‘Multicultural Literature for Bilingual and Latino Children: Their Words, Their Worlds’ is a book that focuses on the importance of providing diverse and representative literature for bilingual and Latino children. It explores the power of literature in reflecting the experiences and identities of these children, fostering a sense of belonging and validation.
The book examines various themes, genres, and authors within multicultural literature, providing educators, parents, and caregivers with valuable insights and resources to engage children in meaningful reading experiences. It advocates for the inclusion of diverse voices and perspectives in children’s literature to promote cultural understanding, appreciation, and literacy development among bilingual and Latino children.
7. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
What is ‘The House on Mango Street’ about? The House on Mango Street is a coming-of-age novel written by Sandra Cisneros. The story revolves around a young Latina girl named Esperanza Cordero, who grows up in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Chicago.
Through a series of vignettes, Esperanza shares her experiences, dreams, and observations about her community, family, and her own identity. The book explores themes of cultural identity, gender, poverty, and the longing for a better life. It captures the challenges and aspirations of a young girl striving for independence and self-discovery while navigating the complexities of her neighborhood and the world around her.
8. Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems by Lori Marie Carlson and Oscar Hijuelos
Ten years after the publication of the acclaimed Cool Salsa, editor Lori Marie Carlson has brought together a stunning variety of Latino poets for a long-awaited follow-up. Established and familiar names are joined by many new young voices, and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Oscar Hijuelos has written the Introduction.
The poets collected here illuminate the difficulty of straddling cultures, languages, and identities. They celebrate food, family, love, and triumph. In English, Spanish, and poetic jumbles of both, they tell us who they are, where they are, and what their hopes are for the future.
9. The Rainbow Tulip by Pat Mora
Stella loves her family and her Mexican heritage, but she doesn’t always like being different from the other kids at school. Now her class is going to dance around the Maypole at the school’s May parade, and Stella wants her tulip costume to be special, even if she won’t look like the other girls at school. Sometimes being different can be exciting. This touching story that celebrates diversity is based on author Pat Mora’s mother’s childhood and is brought to life by Elizabeth Sayles’s evocative paintings.
10. Where the Flame Trees Bloom by Alma Flor Ada
‘Where the Flame Trees Bloom’ is a book that chronicles the life experiences of the author, Alma Flor Ada, growing up in a small village in Cuba. Through a series of interconnected stories, the book explores the themes of family, resilience, and the power of imagination. It depicts the challenges, joys, and triumphs of a young girl and her community, providing a vivid portrayal of Cuban culture, traditions, and the beauty of everyday life amidst adversity.
11. Tales Our Abuelitas Told: A Hispanic Folklore Collection by Alma Flor Ada
‘Tales Our Abuelitas Told: A Hispanic Folklore Collection’ is a book by Alma Flor Ada that brings together a diverse compilation of traditional Hispanic folktales. Drawing from various countries and cultures across Latin America and Spain, the book presents a rich tapestry of stories passed down through generations.
These tales are filled with magical elements, moral lessons, and cultural insights, providing readers with a glimpse into the vibrant oral traditions of Hispanic heritage. Through captivating narratives, readers are transported to enchanting worlds inhabited by mythical creatures, courageous heroes, and wise figures, immersing them in the folklore and cultural richness of the Hispanic community.
12. Esperanza Rising
‘Esperanza Rising’ is a novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan that tells the story of Esperanza Ortega, a privileged young girl living in Mexico during the 1930s. After a tragedy forces Esperanza and her mother to flee their comfortable life, they find themselves working in a labor camp in California during the Great Depression.
The book follows Esperanza’s journey of adaptation and resilience as she faces numerous challenges, including labor struggles, prejudice, and personal growth. Through the hardships she encounters, Esperanza learns important lessons about empathy, friendship, and the true meaning of family. It is a tale of hope, strength, and the pursuit of a better future in the face of adversity.
13. My Name Is Maria Isabel
For María Isabel Salazar López, the hardest thing about being the new girl in school is that the teacher doesn’t call her by her real name. “We already have two Marías in this class,” says her teacher. “Why don’t we call you Mary instead?”
But María Isabel has been named for her Papá’s mother and for Chabela, her beloved Puerto Rican grandmother. Can she find a way to make her teacher see that if she loses her name, she’s lost the most important part of herself?
14. The Go-Between by Veronica Chambers
In this coming-of-age novel, we meet Camilla, who is far more fortunate than most. Finding herself in new places and situations brings a perspective shift.
Fans of Jane the Virgin will find much to love about The Go-Between, a novel by best-selling author Veronica Chambers, who, with humor and humanity, explores issues of identity and belonging in a quickly-changing world.
She is the envy of every teenage girl in Mexico City. Her mother is a glamorous telenovela actress. Her father is the go-to voice-over talent for blockbuster films. Hers is a world of private planes, chauffeurs, paparazzi, and gossip columnists. Meet Camilla del Valle – Cammi to those who know her best.
When Cammi’s mom gets cast in an American television show, and the family moves to LA, things change and quickly. Her mom’s first role is playing a not-so-glamorous maid in a sitcom. Her dad tries to find work but dreams about returning to Mexico. And at the posh, private Polestar Academy, Cammi’s new friends assume she’s a scholarship kid, the daughter of a domestic.
At first, Cammi thinks playing along with the stereotypes will be her way of teaching her new friends a lesson. But the more she lies, the more she wonders: Is she only fooling herself?
15. I Like Saturdays y Domingos
Saturdays and Sundays are very special days for the child in this story. On Saturdays, she visits Grandma and Grandpa, who come from a European-American background, and on Sundays — los domingos — she visits Abuelito y Abuelita, who are Mexican-American. While the two sets of grandparents are different in many ways, they also have a great deal in common — in particular, their love for their granddaughter.
While we follow our narrator to the circus and the pier, share stories from her grandparents’ pasts, and celebrate her birthday, the depth and joy of both cultures are conveyed in Spanish and English. This affirmation of both heritages will speak to all children who want to know more about their own families and ethnic backgrounds.
16. If Dominican Was A Color
The palette of the Dominican Republic is exuberant and unlimited. Maiz comes up amarillo, the blue-black of dreams washes over sandy shores, and people’s skin can be the shade of cinnamon in cocoa or of mahogany. This exuberantly colorful, softly rhyming picture book is a gentle reminder that a nation’s hues are as wide as nature itself.
Platanos Go With Everything
Plátanos are Yesenia’s favorite food. They can be sweet and sugary or salty and savory. And they’re a part of almost every meal her Dominican family makes. Stop by her apartment and find out why plátanos go with everything—especially love!
Chicano Junior’s Mexican Adventure
From Raúl Jiménez, the writer of the Amazon Best Sellers “Mexislang” and “The Gringo Guide To Moving To Mexico”, here comes the brand new bilingual children’s book with a Mexican-American kid as the main character.
Chicano Jr. is a young boy with Mexican roots, who has lived his whole life in the US, and is traveling to Mexico for the very first time to meet his grandparents.
Experience Chicano’s adventures as well as his cultural shock in this book for children and children at heart, and marvel at the beautiful crayon-like cartoony art-style by Mexican Illustrator, Felipe Vasconcelos.
Children’s Books That Celebrate Hispanic Heritage