"In order to be citizens of the world, it is vital to understand that students need to learn about themselves as well as about others who are different from them." —Ms. Mendez, Senior High teacher, IL
Every student deserves to see their stories and histories reflected in the books they read. These must-read titles celebrate Hispanic and Latinx heritage and voices and are popular among DonorsChoose teachers and students alike! Add these to your classroom collection (and your personal library!), and you’ll have great reads all year round.
Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln, by Margarita Engle
Child prodigy, Teresa Carreño, achieved a once in a lifetime opportunity when her love for music was discovered by Abraham Lincoln. Based on a true story, Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln tells how young Teresa rose to fame after her family migrated from Venezuela.
This inspiring story follows Teresa as she helped her family define their American Dream and overcome new challenges, all while doing what she loved most: playing the piano.
Key themes: The connecting power of music, family, migration, biography
Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal
This Randolph Caldecott Selection explores the sentimental meanings behind our names. Alma, whose full name is Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela, is embarrassed by her long name and decides to ask her father about it. Yet, when her father explains the various people her name honors, Alma recognizes the beautiful significance of her long name.
Full of warmth, this book helps kids realize that their unique attributes make them special and should be celebrated.
Key themes: Identity, family heritage, diversity
Where Are You From, by Yamile Saied Méndez
In this picture book, a young girl with brown skin and dark, curly hair consistently faces variations of the same question—where are you from? Looking for answers, she turns to her loving abuelo for help. Abuelo’s response is not what she expects, but what he shares turns out to be even better.
This book is written in the spirit of I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo. The Spanish version is entitled ¿De Dónde Eres?
Key themes: Self-acceptance, identity, home
Too Many Tamales,by Gary Soto
On Christmas Eve, Maria is in the kitchen helping her family make tamales for dinner. When her mother leaves the kitchen for a moment, Maria tries on her mother’s beautiful diamond ring. Later on, Maria realizes that she cannot find the ring, so she enlists the help of her cousins to eat their way out of trouble.
This holiday story shows why it's better to tell the truth than to try to cover up a problem. This book is also available in Spanish as ¡Qué montón de tamales!
Key themes: Family, holidays, food, life lessons
My Papi Has a Motorcycle, by Isabel Quintero
With beautifully illustrated pictures, My Papi Has a Motorcycle celebrates the love between a daughter and her father. Growing up in a predominantly Mexican-immigrant working-class town in California, Daisy sees the people that have shaped her hometown, like the mailman and the corner store owners, as she zooms around on the back of her papi’s motorcycle. While things are changing in her neighborhood, Daisy realizes that some things can never change.
This moving story will encourage young readers to explore their own culture and ties with their hometown.
Key themes: Father-daughter relationship, culture symbols, love
Mango, Abuela, and Me, by Meg Medina
Young Mia is ecstatic when she learns her grandmother is moving from her sunny house to live with Mia and her parents in the city. As Mia prepares for her grandmother’s arrival, she thinks of all of the fun activities they will do together but forgets one important thing: her grandmother doesn’t understand English, and Mia doesn’t know Spanish!
This endearing story tells how a family’s love can surpass language barriers and connect new generations to their ancestral roots.
Key themes: Persistence, family, language barriers
Middle School Books
Esperanza Rising, by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Based on actual events, this historical fiction novel tells the stories of Esperanza and the struggles she and her family go through after the Mexican Revolution. Bandits threatening wealthy landowners, like Esperanza’s family, force her family to seek economic opportunities in the United States.
As field workers in California, Esperanza tells of their stories and struggles by the fruit and vegetable seasons that have passed. If you are looking for a book that will touch your heart and captivate your senses, Esperanza Rising is the one for you.
Key themes: Class struggles, grief, hope, overcoming obstacles, solidarity
Efrén Divided, by Ernesto Cisneros
A personal and heart-warming story, Efren Divided guides us through a twelve-year-old’s sudden transition into adulthood. When his family is separated by U.S. immigration policies and faces deportation, Efren’s world is turned upside down. The immediacy of his situation forces him to become an adult overnight and fight to get his family back.
While remaining deeply honest, this fictional book emphasizes the realities for many American families on issues surrounding immigration policies, family, and poverty.
Key themes: Family, migration, coming of age
High School Books
Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo
Sisters Camino and Yahaira Rios are brought together after their father tragically dies on a flight from New York City to the Dominican Republic. As they cope with their father’s loss and mourn his memory, they discover more about his past and the secrets left uncovered.
With occasional references in Spanish, the reader will be immersed in the Dominican culture and its love and grief.
Key themes: Loss of a parent, grief, forgiveness, hope
The Dreamer, by Pam Muñoz Ryan
The Dreamer follows the early experiences of Neftali Reyes, a boy who grows into the Nobel Prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda. Reyes is spellbound by the wonders of the natural world but is continuously ridiculed by his authoritarian father. Despite the critiques, Reyes is drawn to an unexplainable calling.
This novel will keep you on the edge of your seat as you get transported to a world full of magical realism and poetry.
Key themes: Following your dream, hope, imagination
In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez
In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez, is a work of historical fiction based on the true story of the four Mirabal sisters: Patria, Mariá Teresa, Minerva, and Dedé’s. These four women made history in the late 20th century by fighting for freedom under Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.
In this powerful narrative, Alvarez places us years back as we read the effects of Trujillo’s dictatorship and the women who bravely fought against it. Through their unwavering courage, we witness their strength in face of deep adversity.
Key themes: Historical dictatorship, family, and courage in the face of danger
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sanchez
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter tells the story of a contemporary Mexican American teenager in Chicago who is caught between the cultural expectations of her traditional family and her desire to forge her own path. The story opens with Julia Reyes attending the funeral of her seemingly perfect older sister, who was killed tragically in an accident. As Julia begins to process her grief, she learns that her sister may not have been as perfect as she seemed.
Netflix is developing a movie adaptation of this book and it will be directed by award-winning actor, director and producer America Ferrera.
Key themes: Mental health, first-generation immigrants, grief, growing up
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