Even though Hispanics make up roughly 19% of the U.S. population, there is still a shortage of cultural representation in many titles. That’s why I’m always happy when I can witness moments where hispanic histories, people, and traditions are celebrated in literature and multimedia sources – especially through children’s books! Here, I have rounded up a selection of five picture books that every young reader can enjoy.
Federico and the Wolf by Rebecca J. Gomez
A retelling of Charles Perrault’s tale of Little Red Riding Hood, Gomez presents a Mexican-American twist of vibrant illustrations and Spanish language throughout her story. In his little red hoodie, Federico cycles his way to Abuelo’s house with a basket full of ingredients to make pico de gallo when he encounters a very hungry lobo. Unfortunately for el lobo, our clever Federico has a spicy trick up his sleeve! Gomez’s layer of rhyme and cultural vision makes this story all the more entertaining for young readers all around.
Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina
Next, this heartwarming story acts as both a cultural and generational bridge between a grandmother and her granddaughter. Mia’s abuela moves out of her home, leaving behind her beloved parrot, and settles in with Mia and her parents. However, the problem is that neither Mia nor her abuela knows a lick of the other’s language! Inspired by a parrot she spots through a pet-store window, Mia’s abuela discovers a way to communicate better with her granddaughter. Ultimately, Medina’s infusion of intergenerational themes sends a message to young audiences that even intercultural barriers are no match for everlasting ties to family.
Islandborn by Junot Díaz
In class, Lola’s teacher plans a fun activity for her students where they draw pictures of all the places their families immigrated from before arriving in the U.S. Sadly, Lola has absolutely no recollection of her origins since her family departed when she was only a baby. Overall, the story follows Lola’s journey to understanding her roots vicariously through her family’s memories of the island they once called home. Eventually, island-born Lola learns that memories aren’t the only things that connect a person to their roots – it’s what runs in their blood!
La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya
In this section, we have another wonderfully crafted Latin adaptation of the classic, The Princess and the Pea, where, instead, this story involves a Peruvian príncipe and la princesa who catches his eye. Just like the original tale, the mother (and queen) of the young prince disapproves of his choice and decides to test the girl to prove whether or not she really is a princesa. With the incorporation of a bilingual narrative, vivid illustrations, and charming characters, this story is definitely one that I would recommend adding to any kid’s bookshelf!
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
There’s a story behind every name. In Alma’s case, there are six: Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela. This lighthearted tale introduces a young girl who explores the origins of her name out of concern for its length that “never fits”. As Alma learns about the stories of her ancestors she’s been named after, she realizes how each namesake has a way of fitting into her life after all. This adorable book is a must-read, especially for the little ones who are curious about their own origin stories.
Thanks for reading! For more bookish content with Hispanic representation, click here.