September means new backpacks and football kickoff and pumpkin spice latte month (*insert eyeroll), but mid-month, September becomes Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15). So we put together some of our very favorite children’s and YA books honoring Hispanic heritage, because there’s often no better way to honor any wonderful, diverse, complex, inspiring culture than to dive into some books about it with our kids.
Whether your own heritage is Hispanic, or you want to know more about the lives of your friends, neighbors and colleagues, we think these books are a terrific start. Because we all want to raise more compassionate, understanding, worldly children.
– Kate, with Liz
– Updated for 2022 –
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Carmela Full of Wishes
by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson
I am a superfan of Matt de la Peña‘s writing, not only because his work is lyrically stunning, but because he respects young readers by tackling hard issues head on, albeit with whimsy and care. His picture book for young readers, Carmela Full of Wishes, is no exception and is a terrific children’s book for Hispanic Heritage Month. Here he’s paired up again with the brilliant illustrator Christian Robinson to create a moving and meaningful tribute to dreamers. Read this book. I say that emphatically!
by Yuyi Morales
I must admit that Dreamers, by award-winning author and illustrator Yuyi Morales, is a staggering read. It is based on the author’s own experience coming to the US from Mexico with her infant son, the type of story that’s been on the news so much lately. Even though Morales left behind everything she owned, she still brought so much with her — what an extraordinary lesson for kids. I love that this book honors the dream and the contribution that immigrants like Morales bring to America, and I, for one, am so glad she’s here. (A Spanish-language edition is also available.)
Turning Pages: My Life Story
by Justice Sonya Sotomayor and Lulu Delacre
Hispanic Heritage Month books for children wouldn’t be complete without some modern autobiographies, and we’re so grateful that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has brought her story to life in the autobiographical children’s book, Turning Pages: My Life Story (also available in a Spanish-language edition) with lovely illustrations by Lulu Delacre
Born in Puerto Rico, she became the first Hispanic SCOTUS justice, and only the third woman ever, after Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her story is an inspiring one as you may have guessed, and this book is a must-add to your home collection. Kids will love discovering the things that inspired her as a young girl with a more complex childhood than you might have known.I also love the description on Lulu and Bean Read about how it inspired the Justice to think more about the life-changing power of books, especially for children.
La Princess and the Pea
by Susan Middleton Elya and Juana Martinez-Neal
This charming retelling of the classic fairytale, La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya and Juana Martinez-Neal, reimagines the story as set in Peru. The illustrations are mesmerizing, with a folksy charm that won Martinez-Neal the 2018 Pura Belpré Medal for outstanding illustration in a children’s book celebrating the Latino cultural experience. For an introduction to Latino culture (which largely comprises Hispanic culture) plus some basic Spanish vocabulary for Hispanic Heritage Month, this is a great picture book for early readers.
All Around Us
Xelena Gonzales and Adriana M. Garcia
Another terrific children’s book for Hispanic Heritage Month is All Around Us by Xelena Gonzales and Adriana M. Garcia. This book is more about nature and our relationship to it, although with a decidedly Hispanic perspective. The art is energetic and alive, inspiring kids to develop an appreciation for both Native and Hispanic values honoring life and nature.
Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos
by Monica Brown and John Parra
As one of the most notable Hispanic women that our kids learn about, it’s not surprising that there’s an abundance of children’s books about Frida Kahlo. In fact, I have multiple biographies an anthologies that include her on my own shelves. But the award-winning 2017 book Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos, by Monica Brown and John Parra begs to be included. This story sheds light on Frida’s beloved — and unusual — pets, including a monkey, parrot, fawn and even an eagle. For animal-loving kids, this is a terrific read.
The Chupacabra Ate the Candleabra
by Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ana Aranda
Typically, the chupacabra legend is a fairly terrifying one; just Google images of the chupacabra (without your kids nearby) and you’ll see what I mean. But don’t fear the title The Chupacabra Ate the Candleabra by Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ana Aranda! It serves up a silly, zany twist on the classic Mexican legend to introduce kids to another aspect of Hispanic lore during Hispanic Heritage Month, and kids will just love it.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
by Erika L. Sánchez
Heartbreaking, inspiring, and also hilarious, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, is a spectacular YA book for Hispanic Heritage Month. It tells the story of Julia, who is anything but perfect. When her sister Olga dies in a tragic accident, her mother doesn’t hesitate to point out Julia’s every failure. But, with the help of her first love, she begins to uncover some of Olga’s secrets and must decide whether she should reveal them and shatter the impressions of her Mexican mother.
It was a National Book Award Finalist, which is huge. Plus it’s been lauded by so many incredible writers we love — Juan Felipe Herrera, a recent US Poet Laureate, called it “a perfect book about imperfection,” and isn’t that a theme that every one of our tweens and teens can relate to? Absolutely.
My Family Divided
by Diane Guerrero with Erica Moroz
The poignant, heartbreaking, and unfortunately timely memoir, My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero with Erica Moroz, recounts Guerrero’s experience as a young girl living in Boston with her happy, loving family. One day, without warning, her undocumented parents were taken from their home and deported. Guerrero went on to become star as Martiza Ramos in the show Orange is the New Black — you may know her as the beautiful, compelling young waitress turned inmate — and this book depicts her difficult but relatable childhood that’s portrayed as both challenging and full of hope.
Woven in Moonlight: Seize the Night
by Isabel Ibañez
Isabel Ibañez’s 2020d debut novel, Woven in Moonlight, was named one of Time Magazine’s best fantasy books of all time and…wow. Drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics, culture and history, Ibañez — a daughter of Bolivian immigrants herself — has created a fantastical world featuring the heroine Ximena, a decoy stand-in for the Condesa. Her quest for revenge against her people’s conqueror takes a turn when her job demands she must marry him. Add in enchanted relics, ghosts, masked vigilantes, and you can see why kids simply can’t put this book down.
This is a perfect time to pick this one up because Ibañez has just released her follow-up book in the two-part series, Written in Starlight. One reader called it a “South American Tomb Raider,” which sounds just terrific by us!
Lucky Broken Girl
by Ruth Behar
The 2018 Pura Belpre Award-winner Lucky Broken Girl is based on the true story of author Ruth Behar’s childhood, growing up as a young Jewish-Cuban immigrant in 1960’s NYC. Just as she starts to get comfortable in her new life, navigating English and getting to know her new friends and neighbors, she experiences an unimaginable accident that leaves her homebound. But she discovers that even in the very worst moments of our lives, there can be a lot of beauty. With blurbs from other authors we love like Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming) and Marjorie Agosín (I Lived on Butterfly Hill), it’s definitely a worthwhile read even beyond Hispanic Heritage Month.
The First Rule of Punk
by Celia C. Pérez
Hispanic Heritage Month books aren’t just for younger kids, and they’re not just for this month either; we’ve shared The First Rule of Punk by Celia Pérez several times here, because of its quirky, true-to-herself heroine who is such an empowering example for our own girls. This is a book about so many relatable issues for our tweens and young teens — surviving at a new school, living through a parents’ separation, not quite fitting in, and yes, being Hispanic. We think any middle-school kid will love it.
by Veronica Chambers
If you binged Jane the Virgin or you’re looking for a made-for-teens alternative to Crazy Rich Asians, try The Go-Between by Afro-Latina author Veronica Chambers. This best-selling author sure knows how to spin a tale! In this book, Cammi’s mom is a famous telenovela star and her dad is the go-to voice over talent for all the big movies. She seems to live a charmed life — but the stereotypes she embraced when her family moves from Mexico City to LA make her start questioning everything.
It’s a great lesson that money doesn’t always equal privilege, and even kids who seem to “have it all” have their issues too.
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
by Pablo Cartaya
Set among Miami’s vibrant Hispanic culture, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya is a true family story that’s so wonderful for Hispanic Heritage Month. Arturo works at his grandmother’s restaurant, plays basketball, and falls for Carmen, a poetry lover. But their family business is threatened by gentrification, and Arturo has to learn to fight for what he believes in most. It should offer plenty of opportunities for great family discussions when your kid has finished it. Plus, it’s a Pure Belpré Award winner like some of the others here, which is always a sure sign of a winning book.
Do you have other favorite children’s books or YA books that are great reads for HIspanic Heritage Month and beyond? We’d love to hear them! Just leave them in comments.