It’s time for a fiesta! Head to your local library or over to your favorite bookstore to explore some children’s books celebrating Latino culture and heritage. Here are our book recommendations for ages infant through eight+ for Hispanic Heritage month.
Fiesta Babies by Carmen Tafolla and Illustrated by Amy C’ordova
In this fun and colorful book for babies and toddlers, children are out on the town—parading, dancing and singing with a mariachi band. This book is great for read-alouds, for introducing a culture and for learning a few Spanish words.
Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish (English and Spanish Edition) by Cynthia Weill
Wood sculptures from Oaxaca by Quirino and M’artin Santiago
Against brightly colored backdrops, pictures of animals carved out of wood in very bold hues depict pairs of opposing words both in English and in Spanish.
High. Alto Low. Bajo
Hello. Hola. Goodbye. Adios.
It’s a wonderful Spanish starter book for young kids. I had fun saying them aloud several times so much so that I almost forgot I was reading it to my kids!
What Can You Do with a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla and Illustrated by Magaly Morales
A book about paletas…popsicles…what’s not to love? This book is also a celebration of Latino barrios, neighborhoods where the accordion plays and the aroma of tacos fills up the air. And when the paleta wagon rolls in, all the barrio children are excited to pick out a flavor. We realized we truly love books by Carmen Tafolla—they are simple, engaging and always bursting with colors!
Pablo’s Tree by Pat Mora and Illustrated by Cecily Lang
This is a gentle story of the cherished bond a small boy shares with his grandfather, Lito. Lito had bought a tree around the time the family was preparing for Pablo’s adoption. He reminisces over the day Pablo came home and how he had welcomed him by planting the tree. Every year Lito decorates the tree in special ways for Pablo’s birthday and it’s a tradition now for Pablo to spend the night playing with Lito under the decked up tree. So how did Lito decorate the tree and surprise Pablo on this fifth birthday?
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto and Illustrated by Ed Martinez
We partake in the festivities of a Latino family through a little girl’s predicament. Maria is caught up feeling all grownup while helping her mother make tamales for Christmas. And she forgets completely about the diamond ring she was trying on, even as she was kneading the masa. Where could it have gone? Maria and her cousins gobble up an entire batch of tamales to find the ring! With a smear of humor and an ambience of warmth in a Latino household, this book beautifully celebrates their culture.
I Love Saturdays y domingos by Alma Flor Ada and illustrated by Elivia Savadier
With a befitting title to begin, this book brings out the everyday experiences of a mixed- race child as she spends her weekends with two sets of grandparents—Saturdays with Grandma and Grandpa, and her Sundays with Abuelita y Abuelito. The juxtaposition of the cultural differences, while highlighting the uniqueness of their heritage, also gives insight into how much they have in common.
Just a Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (Pura Belpre Medal Book Illustrator (Awards)) by Yuyi Morales
This book will make kids smile while also incorporating some basic counting in Spanish. Senor Calavera, who is a fun-looking skeleton (calavera means skull in Spanish), comes to Gandma Beetle’s house to take her with him, but she outsmarts him by stalling then stalling some more as he grows bored and impatient. The illustrations are bright and fun so even my easily frightened kids were not scared off by the skeleton and were emphatic we take this book home from the library. (Review by Stephanie Meade)
Abuela’s Weave by Omar.S.Castenada and illustrated by Enrique.E.Sanchez
This is a heartwarming intergenerational story that captures the values, particularly the familial closeness of the Mayan people. Esperanza and her grandmother spend long hours every day weaving a tapestry together in their quiet village as they prepare for market day in a big city in Guatemala. As we follow Esperanza to the market (just as her grandmother does), we get a good sense of the country and its culture, including traditional attire, urban and rural lifestyles and an appreciation for the local handicrafts.
Oye, Celia! by Katie Sciurba and Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez
When I hear you, I hear Cuba –
Your Cuba, my Cuba,
This book is a tribute to the Cuban-American salsa icon, Celia Cruz. This was a great introduction to both the revered singer and salsa dancing for my eight-year-old. The elaborate glossary was particularly educational. The text and the illustrations are also powerful and riveting. A great read to celebrate the arts during Hispanic Heritage month.
© 2013, Meera Sriram. All rights reserved.