A Mighty Girl's top picks of girl-empowering books for celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month!
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Every year, from September 15 to October 15, Americans celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. To recognize this special month, we've put together a selection of our favorite books for children and teens starring Latina Mighty Girls!
In the first section of this blog post, we share books about real-life Latina role models throughout history, while in the second part, we feature fictional stories about Latina girls and women. For more reading recommendations for this month, you can also discover many bilingual Spanish/English books for young readers in our blog post, 25 Bilingual Spanish/English Picture Books Starring Mighty Girls. We hope these empowering titles will help all kids learn more about the diverse contributions and rich cultural traditions of Hispanic Mighty Girls!
For more books about diverse Mighty Girl from around the world, visit our extensive Multicultural Fiction Collection.
Books About Real-Life Latina role models
From a young age, Sonia Sotomayor wanted to be a lawyer... but that was a big dream for a young girl in the Bronx. In this bilingual picture book, kids follow her as her mother's love, a desire to learn, and the willpower and bravery to defy all the naysayers, led Sotomayor to overcome obstacles like poverty, juvenile diabetes, and the death of her father in order to achieve a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. Vibrant artwork makes Sotomayor's childhood come alive, while a detailed author's note provides plenty of additional information about her life and career.
In this gorgeously illustrated picture book, based loosely on the author's experience of moving from Xalapa, Mexico with her American husband and their infant son to San Francisco in 1994, a woman travels with her son to the United States. There, she discovers an oasis of hope: the public library. Book by book, she untangles the language of this strange new land, and learns to make a home within it, observing that at the library: “We learned to read,/ to speak,/ to write,/ and/ to make/ our voices heard.” Five-time Pura Belpré Award winner Yuyi Morales uses poetic language and elegant illustrations to capture both an immigration journey and the importance of libraries as a welcoming home for new members of a community.
Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, is the subject of the sixteenth picture book in the New York Times bestselling Ordinary People Change the World series. As a child, Sonia loved to read — especially Nancy Drew mysteries! When she saw Perry Mason on TV, she knew she wanted to be a lawyer. Many people thought Latina girls didn't grow up to be lawyers, and she faced other obstacles, too, including a diabetes diagnosis at the age of 9. Fortunately, she had people who believed in her — people who taught her to believe in herself. And because of that, she reached the highest court in the nation. A lively, conversational tone and colorful illustrations draw kids into this book, and inspire them to see how they too can change the world.
Cousins Hildamar and Santiago are having trouble adjusting to their new home in New York City: the winter of 1929 is cold and harsh, not at all like Puerto Rico. Worst of all, Three King's Day is approaching, and Hildamar is worried about how they can have this special holiday in their new country. Fortunately, a storyteller and librarian named Pura Belpré comes to their classroom and teaches them — and their classmates — about the value of celebrating many different holidays in their diverse community. This lovely introduction to the life of groundbreaking librarian Pura Belpre captures the lasting influence of this advocate for New York's Spanish-speaking communities.
As a child, Sonia Sotomayor devoured books. For her, they were everything: a connection with her family in Puerto Rico, a guide when she was diagnosed with diabetes, and a consolation and escape from grief when her father died. Most importantly, they were the source of a dream: a future in which she could do anything. In her own words, Sotomayor tells young readers her life story, while also conveying a powerful message about the value of literacy and the never-ending possibility when you turn pages in books and in life. Sotomayor has also written a picture book about accepting disabilities and differences based on her childhood, Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You.
Ellen Ochoa dreamed of playing her flute professionally, but when she discovered engineering in college, she was immediately hooked. But people doubted whether she could succeed: a girl from an immigrant family wasn't the right sort of person to become a scientist, they thought. She refused to believe them, and not only did she achieve her career in science, but she even became a NASA astronaut. And when she flew into outer space, her flute came with her, so she could play a song for the stars! This appealing biography from the Amazing Scientists series is a colorful tribute to this daring scientist and musician.
When Pura Belpré came to America in 1921, she brought with her the cuentos folklóricos of Puerto Rico. When she took a job at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she transformed library services by sharing diverse stories, championing bilingual literature, and publishing her tales so that she could "be like Johnny Appleseed [and] plant my story seeds across the land." This lush and colorful book celebrates Belpré's life and legacy, and encourages young storytellers to keep sharing their tales with the world. For a Spanish-language edition of this book, check out Sembrando historias: Pura Belpré: bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos.
Celia grew up in Havana, Cuba; she loved to sing and she loved to dance. She built a career, entering every competition she could — even though she was barred from many because of her racial heritage. When Fidel Castro's regime drove her into exile, she moved to Miami and New York City, where she kept singing and dancing... and where she and other musicians like her created a new form of music called salsa. This lyrical bilingual picture book dances through Cruz's story with the same enthusiasm and joy that she displayed on stage.
Before she was the first Hispanic woman justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor was a girl — maybe one just like you! In this book from the When I Grow Up early reader series, kids will learn about Sotomayor's childhood, including the challenges she faced after being diagnosed with diabetes and after her father died — and then follow her as she perseveres to become the lawyer and judge she always dreamed of being! Engaging first-person text and appealing illustrations make her inspiring story come to life.
Dolores Huerta was a dedicated teacher who found that too many of her students were going without food or shoes. When she investigated, she discovered that their parents were migrant workers, picking grapes for unlivable wages — but when she confronted their bosses about their employees' poverty, they ignored her. So Dolores encouraged the workers to strike, and rallied customers to boycott grapes, to force employers to treat their workers fairly. This inspiring picture book biography captures the determination and courage of this remarkable activist and role model. For another excellent picture book about Huerta, check out Side By Side / Lado a lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez / La historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez for ages 4 to 8.
Young Teresa Carreño loved music, and the piano provided her comfort when she needed it — even when a revolution in her home of Venezuela forced her family to flee to America. She continued to play, and soon the Piano Girl became famous far and wide, bringing music and joy to people in the midst of the Civil War. Eventually, stories about the 10-year-old prodigy reached the White House, and one day, the young refugee played beautiful tunes for Abraham Lincoln and his family. Poetic language and colorful illustrations tell Carreño's story, celebrating the solace that music brings in difficult times.
Almost 10 years before the historic civil rights decision Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. In the 1940s, Sylvia Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican background — who spoke and wrote perfect English — was denied enrollment in an all-white Orange County grade school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.
That's Not Fair: Emma Tenayuca's Struggle for Justice / No es justo!: La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia
That's Not Fair: Emma Tenayuca's Struggle for Justice / No es justo!: La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia
Emma Tenayuca grew up in a comfortable life in 1920s San Antonio. But she saw first-hand that others were not so fortunate and the degree of poverty experienced by those working for slave wages at the local pecan-shelling factories. As she grew up, she remained deeply aware of the injustice others suffered, and as a teenager, she spoke movingly on their behalf. When she was 21, the pecan shellers wages were cut even further — from six cents an hour to only three cents an hour — and she decided she had to do more: Tenayuca ended up leading a successful strike by 12,000 pecan shellers. This compelling English and Spanish telling of Tenayuca's story will encourage kids to speak up when they see injustice in their own community.
Sometimes, rules are meant for breaking! Sonia Sotomayor grew up in a world where girls were supposed to dream of being housewives and where poor Hispanic girls in particular should aspire to menial jobs. Instead, she dreamed of a legal career, and after graduating at the top of her class in both high school and university, she eventually became the first Latina justice and third woman justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. This book from the Women Who Broke The Rules series is perfect for newly independent readers to learn more about Sotomayor's story.
Laurie Hernandez always wanted to fly, so when she was six years old, she took her first gymnastics class. It quickly became obvious that she was a natural, and in 2016, America thrilled to see her performances in both the team and individual beam competitions at the Rio Olympics. But you don't get to be a 16-year-old Olympic medalist without some bumps along the way! In this poignant and funny memoir, Hernandez talks about Olympic dreams, family sacrifices, intense training, and the fear that she would lose it all when her progress stalled due to multiple injuries. It all paid off, though, when she got to display her artistry — and energy! — for the world in Rio. This fascinating memoir includes never-before-seen photos and beautifully captures Hernandez's enthusiasm and joy in her sport.
As a child in the Bronx, living with her immigrant parents, Sonia Sotomayor settled on a seemingly improbable dream: she wanted to be a judge. It seemed ridiculous, especially after she was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 9, at a time when the disease was more difficult to manage than it is today. But the determined girl learned how to give herself insulin injections, studied hard, and achieved her dream when she was appointed as a federal district judge in 1991. But she continued to work and to climb, and in 2009, President Barack Obama made her a Justice for the U.S. Supreme Court — the first Hispanic judge in the court's history. This book from the popular Who Was...? biography series captures Sotomayor's determination and pride in her heritage.
Even as a girl, Selena Quintanilla was a singer. In her family's band Selena y Los Dinos, she performed at fairs, weddings, quinceañeras, and more throughout their native Texas. Because she learned to sing in Spanish, she was hugely popular in the Latino community, and became the best-selling Latin artist of the 1990s — and introduced Tejano music to many Americans. While her life was cut short after she was killed by a stalker, her influence on music and fashion still resonate today. In this volume of the popular Who Was...? biography series, readers will be eager to learn more about this groundbreaking entertainer.
Sylvia Mendez just wanted to attend her local Orange County school, but she was refused enrollment and directed to a Mexican school instead. Aki Munemitsu just wanted to be back in her own home, instead of being shipped to a Japanese internment camp. These two girls both had a story to tell about what it meant to be different in 1940s America, and they had an unexpected connection: the Mendez family rented the vacant Munemitsu farm, and the girls met and became friends after the war. Author Winifred Conkling used interviews with both Sylvia and Aki to write this historical fiction novel about the landmark education desegregation case Mendez v. Westerminster School District.
As a child in a Mexican-American community, everyone expected that Sylvia Acevedo would grow up to marry and stay at home with her children — but Sylvia yearned for adventure. Then she joined the Brownies and her life was transformed. Through the Girl Scouts, she found peers who shared her love of science and role models that fostered her confidence and independence. Acevedo would become a rocket scientist for NASA — and today, she's the CEO of the Girl Scouts, helping other girls follow their dreams. This inspiring memoir is a celebration of resilience and a testament to the transformative impact of the Girl Scouts on many girls' lives.
Reyna's parents have made the dangerous and illegal trip across the US-Mexican border in hopes of a better life for the whole family. Meanwhile, she and her siblings are forced to live with their strict grandmother — until plans have to change and Reyna has to make the journey, alone, with a long-absent father she barely knows on the other side. Then, she struggles with identity and a desperate desire to succeed, as well as dealing with poverty, domestic violence, and life as an undocumented immigrant. Based on Grande's adult memoir of the same name, this story is gently funny and deeply touching, and captures a little-discussed element of immigration: the challenges facing children left behind.
Before she was a lawyer, a judge, and the first Hispanic person appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor was a girl in a Bronx housing project, struggling with juvenile diabetes, poverty, and family troubles. But when she found a big dream to pursue, nothing would stand in her way! In this middle-grade adaptation of her bestselling adult memoir, My Beloved World, Sotomayor tells her story in a relatable, appealing way, encouraging young readers to "dream big dreams" — and fight for what they know is right.
Margarita feels caught between two cultures and two countries: her mother's homeland, Cuba, which she visits every summer, and the bustling, busy world of Los Angeles, where words and images provide better companionship than her classmates. Slowly, though, she comes to love her own country as much as her old one, if in a different way. As tensions rise in the late 1950s and early 1960s, being caught between these two homes is not easy, and when the Cuban Missile Crisis breaks out, Margarita is afraid for her Cuban family and confused by how two places she loves can hate one another so much. This evocative and heartfelt memoir in verse depicts how Engle's sense of conflicting allegiances shaped her childhood — and her award-winning writing career.
Today, Diane Guerrero is the star of hit shows like Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, but before she got there, she was a fourteen year old girl who came home from school to discover that her parents had been deported while she was in class. Since she had been born in the US, Guerrero could stay — but to continue her education, she had to depend on the kindness of friends to take her in and help her build a life for herself. In this gripping and ultimately triumphant memoir, Guerrero offers a personal take on the struggles of the millions of undocumented immigrants and their citizen children — and casts a much-needed light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of families like hers. Guerrero has also adapted her story for middle-grade readers in My Family Divided: One Girl's Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope.
Fictional Stories About Hispanic Mighty Girls
When this little girl wakes up at night, she hears enticing noises from downstairs. Soon, she and her brother are sneaking downstairs, only to spot their mother and father singing and dancing as they clean up the kitchen: "¡Como te quiero! Oh, how I love you!" When the parents spot their children, they quickly sweep both kids up into a joyous, loving dance... one that slowly changes into a lullaby that rocks both children to sleep. This exuberant celebration of a loving family is also a terrific bedtime book.
Rosalba and her Abuela are always going to new places together, but one day, after feeding the birds at the park, Rosalba sits on the bus and dreams about what it would be like if she could fly. Soon, she’s soaring through the sky with Abuela floating beside her, observing the streets and buses, docks and buildings, and even her father’s office, all from high above. Each sight represents an important moment in Abuela's life, as she tells Rosalba the story of finding her home... the country where Rosalba is growing up. With its colorful illustrations and mix of Spanish and English, this book is a tribute to the love between a grandmother and granddaughter, a celebration of a diverse community, and a poignant immigrant tale of finding a new home.
When a fire destroys all of their possessions, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother are able to scrape together most of what they need — but what they're missing is a chair, a big comfortable chair for cuddles, reading stories, and to let her mother rest her feet after a long, hard day. Together, they start saving coins in a jar — Mama's tips, Grandma's grocery savings, even Rosa's coins she earns doing odd jobs — so that they can buy the perfect chair of their dreams. This charming, sweet story, a Caldecott Honor winner, is full of warmth and love.
Margaret speaks only English, and Margarita speaks only Spanish. When their mothers take them each to the park, both complain (in their respective languages) that there’s nobody to play with — until each spots the other. Their mothers assume that their lack of a common language will be a barrier, but as far as the girls are concerned, that just means they have to get a little more creative! By the time playtime is over, each girl knows a few words in the other’s language and their mothers are smiling at the realization that friendship can go beyond words. This clever bilingual picture book celebrates multilingual friendships.
Every year, Ana's family makes tamales for Christmas... and every year, it seems like her older sister, Lidia, is so far ahead of her that she'll never catch up. When Ana is six, she can mix the dough, but Lidia is old enough to spread it in the corn husks; and as the years go on, every time Ana is allowed to try a new step, Lidia is already learning the next one. Finally, though, when Ana is eighteen, she's old enough to do it all — and old enough to be planning her own business, which will deliver her tamales to people around the world. And maybe she'll even let Lidia work for her!
This little girl's family has a rebozo, a traditional woven Mexican shawl. What can you do with a rebozo? Well, Mama can wrap it around herself to make her dress a little fancier, or fold it up and use it to carry her little brother. They keep you warm when you cuddle up with your grandmother, or keep your eyes covered when it's time for a birthday piñata. They can be capes and tunnels and most importantly, the perfect accessory for a swirling dance! This celebration of culture and imagination is sure to delight young readers. There is also a bilingual version of this lively picture book.
When the boys at the school playground tell her that "girls can't be superheroes," Lucía suddenly doesn't feel so mighty in her long red cape. Then her grandmother lets her in on a family secret: Lucía comes from a long line of luchadoras, bold and valiant women from the Mexican lucha libre wrestling tradition! Lucía returns to the playground with a bold new identity that has the whole class buzzing. But when she witnesses an injustice in action, Lucía faces a moral quandary: does she break the sacred rule not to reveal the identity behind her mask, or does she do whatever it takes to support someone in need? Full of energy, this fun book gently tackles sexism, bullying, and the importance of standing up for people around you.
Alma's full name is far too long for someone so small: Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela "never fits"! So she asks her father: how did she get her name? It turns out that every part of her very long name is part of a story: Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and more. The only name she doesn't hear is Alma — because, her father says, "You will make your own story." This gentle, sweet story celebrates sharing family history and is sure to have kids asking about their own.
Mia's abuela is moving in, leaving her sunny home surrounded by parrots and palm trees, and Mia is a mix of excited and uncertain... especially once she discovers that Abuela can't speak or read much English. Even though grandmother and granddaughter work to teach Abuela English — and Mia Spanish — they still don't have enough words in common to share stories, hopes, and dreams. Then Mia sees a beautiful parrot in the pet-shop window. Maybe a new friend can help her and Abuela communicate a little better. This charming story combines Spanish and English text beautifully, and kids will love the vibrant, colorful illustrations.
Today is Carmela's birthday, and she's finally old enough to join her big brother as he does errands — a treat for her, but a nuisance for her brother. On their way, Carmela finds a dandelion, but she has to decide on a perfect wish: should she wish for a candy machine? For her mother to sleep in one of the beautiful beds she makes at the hotel? For her father's papers to be sorted out so he can finally come home? When the dandelion gets crushed before she picks a wish, Carmela is heartbroken... but her brother shows her a place where wishes do come true. This poignant picture book from the award-winning team behind Last Stop on Market Street explores loss, family, and the power of dreams.
When this little girl gets asked — over and over — where she is really from, she feels insecure about what her answer should be. For help, she turns to her loving Argentinian abuelo. His answer captures images of a beautiful land she's never seen, of a family's pride in a vibrant culture, but most importantly, of the love between people: "You’re from here, from my love and the love of all those before us.... You are from all of us." This lyrical picture book that celebrates identity and individuality also provides a beautiful conversation starter for either home or classroom.
Isabel misses many things about her old home in Mexico, including her Aunt Lupita and the comfort of hearing Spanish spoken all around her. At the same time, there are wonderful new experiences in her American home, including a teacher with a wide, friendly smile and her very first snow storm! To help her adjust to all the changes, Papa and her brother Chavo use a big box to make Isabel a "quiet place," where she can keep her books and toys and write letters to her aunt. In fact, the place Isabel feels most at home might just be in her quiet place. Set in the 1950s, this contemplative book captures the slow process of adjusting to a new country and fitting in with new friends.
Abuela adores Niña, and delights in spending time with her, especially when they make papel picado (paper-cutout banners) together or sit in the park eating pan dulce. She wants to give Niña an extra special treat, so she starts saving what money she can put together, a few pesos at a time. But as Niña gets older, it's harder for them to spend time together, and when a newly issued currency makes Abuela's savings worthless, she thinks her dream has been dashed. Fortunately, a surprise visit from Niña shows that, even when life gets in the way, the love between a grandmother and granddaughter is the sweetest gift of all.
Sofia loves walking to school with her Abuelo, but when Abuelo hurts his ankle at the local landfill, Sofia has to walk alone. She spends the walk thinking about what she could do about the dangerous trash heap, and she concludes that it's time for the town to turn it into a park. When she arrives at City Hall, plans in hand, the clerk turns her away — a kid can't build a park, after all. Sofia thinks otherwise, and before long, she discovers the power of community organizing... and perhaps a future career in politics! This empowering book by the creators of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist stars a determined girl who knows that the key to making dreams reality can be political action.
7-year-old Sofia Martinez is used to fighting for attention in her big family — but fortunately, she always knows they will be there when she really needs them. In this story, she worries about creating a look for class picture day that ensures no one can mistake her for her sisters; attempts to make a piñata for her grandmother's birthday; and has to chase down a runaway class pet! Her outgoing personality and confidence often result in one part success, one part trouble — but no matter what, Sofia's fiery passion for everything she does makes every day an adventure. This first book in a series includes common Spanish words and phrases. For more of Sofia's escapades, check out the second book, The Marigold Mess.
When Maya was very, very little, Grandma stitched her a blanket with her own two hands. But as Maya grows, the blanket gets frayed. Fortunately, Grandma is able to rework it each time: into a shirt, a shawl, a scarf, a hair ribbon, and finally, a bookmark. But what will Maya do when she loses her bookmark and the last precious scrap of her blanket is gone? Well... why not write a book about her special blanket — one that preserves its memory and shares it with lots of other little boys and girls — including Maya's own daughter! Inspired by the traditional Yiddish folk song Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl (I Had a Little Coat), this sweet story recognizes the power of creativity and family love.
Weekends are a very special time for this little girl! On Saturdays, she visits Grandma and Grandpa, her European-American family, and on Sundays — los domingos — she visits Abuelito y Abuelita, her Mexican-American grandparents. Each pair of grandparents has their special rituals and treats, and they are different in many ways, but they are the same in one very important respect: they adore their granddaughter and the rest of her loving family. Instead of presenting a family with dual cultures as competing, this family complements and celebrates one another, creating a unique and special atmosphere.
When Mamá's purse spills one day, Sofia sees a card that describes her mother as a Resident Alien. An alien?! But Mamá looks like a human mother! Sofia is still trying to figure out this mystery when she stumbles upon her mother one night looking like an actual alien... but it turn out that Mamá is just doing a beauty treatment, getting ready for a special day: her citizenship ceremony. That's when Sofia learns that, in English, alien can also mean someone born in a different country. How funny to think that her Mamá really is an alien! This lighthearted book celebrates the milestones of immigration and the importance of family — no matter where that family comes from.
In a tiny village in the American Southwest, Doña Flor is a beloved neighbor: the giant woman lets children use her flowers as trumpets and her leftover tortillas as rafts! She also loves to read, and often gathers the children around for a story. When a terrible noise like a bellowing animal scares the villagers, Doña Flor is determined to protect her friends — so with the help of her animal companions, she sets off to solve the mystery of the terrifying sound. This original tall tale, full of beautiful watercolor illustrations, ends with a surprise that will get kids giggling!
Libby's Great Aunt Lobo has lived in America for years, but now she's taking a big step and becoming a citizen! She has passed her citizenship test; now all that remains is the ceremony, where she'll say the Pledge of Allegiance. Libby's class has also been practicing the Pledge — and the same day that Lobo swears her oath, Libby will be leading the Pledge at school. Together, Libby and Lobo practice, talking about the historical and personal meaning of each line, until each of them gets to say it with hand on heart. This sweet story will give kids new perspective on what it means to say the pledge, as well as celebrating this special relationship between a niece and aunt.
Author Carmen Lomas Garza recounts her fondest childhood memories growing up in a Mexican-American family in Texas. She remembers special holidays and family dinners; music and dancing at a local restaurant; and even seemingly simple moments like a visit to her grandmother's house. Each scene is illustrated in vivid color and accompanied by a text description of the event in both English and Spanish. Gentle and welcoming, this book captures the extraordinary and everyday moments that make up the stories of a cherished family.
Estrella is faster than fast — she leaves trails of fire in the air when she runs! She shares her days in the wilds of California with her unusual (and not particularly tame) pets: Kickle Snifter, a lamb as strong as an elephant; Sidehill Wowser, a horse-like creature with downhill legs that are longer than his uphill ones; and Comet, a Rubberado puppy. But when the ghosts of greedy gold miners steal her pets, Estrella isn't going to take it sitting down! This tall tale full of humor and slapstick will have kids guessing how the clever Estrella is going to deal with those troublesome ghosts.
Sarai Gonzalez knows she can take on every challenge... so when she learns that the landlord is selling the house where her grandparents live, she's sure she can figure out a solution. Having just started a cupcake business, the solution seems obvious: earn enough money to buy the house! But making money with her sisters making a mess in the kitchen seems impossible, and Sarai quickly learns that houses cost more than she expected. Fortunately, with a little optimism and some help from her large, loving family, Sarai might just find a solution anyway. This early chapter book series, which is inspired by the life of viral video sensation and social activist Sarai Gonzalez, will inspire big plans and a hopeful attitude in young readers!
Maria's name is long and important — Maria Isabel Salazar Lopez, from both her grandmothers, her grandfather, and her father. But when she arrives in her new class after moving from Puerto Rico, her teacher declares that there are too many Marias, so she’ll be called Mary. How can Maria explain to her teacher that her special name is a reminder of where she came from? Fortunately, when the class is assigned a paper titled “My Greatest Wish,” Maria finally finds the words to tell everyone how special her name is — and why she will always be Maria Isabel. Spanish-speaking Mighty Girl fans can read the Spanish-language version of the book, Me llamo Maria Isabel.
All Stef wants is to fit in, and to have a little bit of independence from her overprotective parents — especially if it means she can ride a school bus instead of getting picked up by Tia Perla, her family's taco truck. She's tired of being called "Taco Queen" and she dreams of being able to attend the Vivian Vega concert like her (former) friend Julia. But when her family's livelihood is threatened, Stef surprises herself by becoming Tia Perla's biggest advocate. In the end, Stef discovers her own identity: one that takes pride in her newfound love of art, her ability to help her community, and, yes, even in her parents and Tia Perla itself. Heartfelt and funny, with a narrator you'll root for, this is a charming story celebrating family, friends, and delicious food.
Leonora's mother, aunt, and older sisters run the best bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, and Leonora wants to help prepare for Dia de los Muertos — but once again, they tell her she's too young. One day, when Leo sneaks down to the bakery, she learns why: they are all brujas, witches of Mexican ancestry, and they bake a little delicious magic into every bite! Leo's sure she's old enough to learn magic too, so when her best friend has a problem, she decides to dig into the family recipe book. But Leo doesn't read Spanish, so deciphering the recipes isn't easy... and when things go awry, Leo learns that her family will support her but she has to fix her own mistakes! This charming story effortlessly weaves together Mexican, Texan, and American cultures and adds a dash of mystery and magic to delightful effect. Leonora and her family return in the sequel, A Sprinkle of Spirits.
Sophie Brown feels totally out of place when her parents move her from big-city LA to the farm they've inherited from a great-uncle, especially when it becomes obvious that the townsfolk assume she and her Latino family are migrant workers rather than landowners. But the farm gets a little more interesting when Sophie discovers that one of the chickens can move things with her mind! Soon, more of her great-uncle's chickens — with even more unusual powers — are coming home to roost. And when a local farmer rival tries to steal the chickens, Sophie will have to find a way to keep her very special chickens safe. Told in a combinations of letters, quizzes, to-do lists, and sections of a correspondence course on chicken care, this fun and quirky story is sure to be a favorite.
Paloma is visiting Mexico City for the first time; she's hoping that her deceased father's hometown will help her remember at least a few things about it. There, she meets siblings Lizzie and Gael, who invite her to join them on a search for the peacock ring, which once belonged to beloved artist Frida Kahlo. But can Paloma help them find the ring — and are the siblings really hoping to find it so that all of Mexico can enjoy it? This middle-grade mystery cleverly incorporates an intriguing introduction to Kahlo's life, along with an atmospheric exploration of her Mexican home.
Twelve-year-old Malú is struggling with the aftermath of her parents' divorce: she misses her laid-back, artsy, white father, and feels pressured by her academic mother, who she calls "SuperMexican." And on the first day at her new school, Chuck Taylor-wearing, punk-loving Malú violates the school dress code and angers the school's queen bee, who calls her a "coconut": brown on the outside, white on the inside. But when Malú gets a band started with some fellow misfits, she'll do anything to keep it together — even if it means standing up to her mother, the school administration, and the world! This exploration of friendship, identity, and the joy of rocking out to your own beat is sure to inspire your Mighty Girl to stand up for what she believes in!
Twelve-year-old Izzy is helping unpack after yet another move when she discovers a baseball marked with the words: "Because... magic." Her curiosity is piqued, but she knows her mother won't satisfy it — her mother never answers any questions about her father, who died before she was born. But when her mother declares that she's finishing her studies in Costa Rica that summer — and that Izzy will be saying with her Nana in New Mexico — perhaps Izzy has a chance to learn more. Nana and her community welcome Izzy with open arms, and soon she's making tortillas, watching her grandmother's work as a curandera providing folk remedies, and even uncovering a few of those family mysteries she's always wanted to know. This gentle story full of appealing characters feels warm, cozy, and eminently satisfying.
Half Guatemalan, half American Quijana never really minded feeling more Anglo than Latinx until her Guatemalan cousins moved to town. Suddenly, her father is embarrassed that she doesn't speak Spanish or know much about her Guatemalan heritage. Quijana, on the other hand, is busy worrying about her Grandma, who's going through cancer treatment in Florida. When her parents announce the whole family will be traveling to Guatemala, Quijana plots to go to Florida instead — but maybe she needs this trip in order to figure out how all the pieces of her identity fit together. Lyrical and heartfelt, this poetic debut novel will speak to anyone who has felt like they live between the "categories" of our world.
Merci is full of confidence and drive, but sixth grade will test even her. As a scholarship student at her Florida private school, she's always felt different from her peers, and this year, her required community service makes Merci the target of the school queen bee's jealousy. Meanwhile, her grandfather Lolo has been acting strangely, from forgetting things to getting angry over nothing, and no one will tell her what's going on. Fortunately, her take-charge personality helps her overcome all the bumps in the road! This Newbery Medal-winning coming-of-age tale stays light, while still tackling tough issues facing many middle-grade kids.
Although she was born there, Margie doesn't consider herself Mexican, and she's devoted years of work to ensuring her classmates don't see her that way, either. Then her cousin Lupe moves from Mexico, hoping to see her father, who went north to find work — and to Margie's horror, Lupe is assigned to her class. Now Lupe's frilly clothes and struggles with English are challenging Margie's carefully crafted identity, especially when she's told to translate the teacher's lessons despite not speaking much Spanish. Slowly, though, both Lupe and Margie fall into step with one another, and together they discover how to create new selves that acknowledge both their Mexican heritage and their American home. This beautiful novel, which was also published in a Spanish edition, Nacer bailando, tackles important issues about bullying, cultural identity, and family.
Catrina's family is moving to Bahia de la Luna, where the coastal air will help Maya's cystic fibrosis symptoms. Cat misses her friends and resents being forced to move, but she loves her sister and is terrified of Maya getting sick. So when their neighbor tells them that Bahia de la Luna is home to ghosts — spirits of ancestors who watch over them — Cat wants nothing to do with them... and is horrified to discover that Maya seems fascinated by the ghosts. As the Day of the Dead approaches, and Cat meets the ghosts face to face, she'll learn more about the Mexican side of her heritage — and learn to set her fears aside, for both Maya's sake and her own. This original graphic novel by the author / illustrator of best-selling graphic novels Smile, Sisters, and Drama is sure to delight your Raina Telgemeier fan!
It's hard going through school as Naomi Soledad León Outlaw — between her long name and the hand-made clothes, she's never been one of the popular kids. But her grandmother is a loving guardian for her and her brother, whose physical deformities make him stand out, and tries her best to teach them both about their Mexican heritage. When Naomi's mother finally shows back up after seven years, with a scary boyfriend in tow, it soon becomes obvious that her motivations are more about profit and convenience than about reconnecting with her children. Fortunately, Gram and their Mexican neighbors work together so that Naomi can finally have the security she desperately needs. Touching and inspiring, this book asks important questions about what it really means to be family.
Ruthie is just beginning to regain some confidence after immigrating from Castro's Cuba to New York City: she's slowly learning English, and she's earned her place as the neighborhood's hopscotch queen. Then the unthinkable happens: a car accident leaves her in a body cast, restricted to bed for a year. Ruthie's world has shrunk, but the time gives her the opportunity to consider many things, from her feelings about the boys whose car hit her to the kindness of those around her to her own budding joy in writing and art. Inspired by her real-life experience in the 1960s — both immigrating and suffering injuries that required a long recovery — this book is inspiring, vulnerable, and real.
Tyler's father was injured in a tractor accident, and they're facing foreclosure on their Vermont family farm if they can't get the harvest in. His parents hire a family of migrant workers, but Tyler finds himself wondering if hiring undocumented workers is the right decision. Meanwhile Mari, the family's oldest daughter, challenges his preconceptions with her combination of pride in her Mexican heritage and connection to her American life. As Tyler and Mari become friends, she tells him more about her family's struggles: the poverty they left behind, their fear being deported, and her desperate desire to know if her missing mother is safe. Told in alternating chapters of Tyler's third-person perspective and Mari's diary entries and unsent letters to Mami, this novel tackles the complexity of the issues around undocumented migrant workers in a way that's easily understandable for tweens and teens.
Esperanza grew up in privilege in Mexico, but when her father is killed by bandits shortly before her thirteenth birthday, she and her mother flee to America. In Depression-era California, no one cares about the elegant life Esperanza remembers: she’s just a farm worker, good for nothing but hard labor. But as Esperanza struggles with poverty, racism, and grief, a multiethnic spirit of labor organization is blossoming around her. Hope is coming both for Esperanza and for the workers around her struggling to get by. This Pura Belpre Award-winning novel will provoke interesting discussions about the current debate on immigration and inspire kids to wonder about work conditions for today's farm workers.
Evelyn — who changed her name from Rosa to sound more "mainstream" — starts developing a new view on her heritage when her sassy Abuela, newly arrived from Puerto Rico, helps her see the many problems with their Spanish Harlem neighborhood. When Puerto Rican activist group the Young Lords start protesting, and Abuela steps in to take charge, Evelyn finds herself thrust into the action... and discovers that she feels like she belongs there. Sonia Manzano, who grew up to play Maria on Sesame Street, based this novel on real events from her childhood in El Barrio, and includes an appendix with reports from the New York Times about the real-life protests. A powerful story of identity and family drama, this novel is sure to generate discussion.
Lupita's Mami has been diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly worries about high school, her role in a play, and her friends seem unimportant. While her father takes Mami to a clinic out of town, Lupita has to care for her younger siblings — and struggles to keep the family going. Her only refuge is the shadow of a mesquite tree, where she can retreat to write. In the midst of the chaos and fears about Mami's health, though, Lupita might discover her voice. This evocative novel in verse captures the power of the written word — whatever the language — as well as the importance of family when people are in crisis.
Sofia comes from a family of storytellers in a small Texas town. Each chapter in this book are Sofia's stories of growing up in the barrio, full of the mystery and magic of family traditions. Until finally she reaches a turning point: a scholarship to an elite boarding school that will take her far from home. But as she faces this new experience, she realizes how much these traditions matter to her — and how to combine her childhood dreams of being a comadre with the skills she's learned in her new world. This warm novel, full of details about Mexican-American traditions, is sure to delight young adult readers searching for their own place in the world.
One day, a girl Piddy Sanchez barely knows tell her that Yaqui Delgado, head of a gang of girls at school, hates her. Piddy doesn't even know who Yaqui is, but it turns out that Yaqui thinks that Piddy isn't "Latin enough" — white skin, good grades, and no accent — which makes her "stuck-up attitude" even worse in Yaqui's eyes. Piddy tries to focus on finding the father she's never met, and balancing schoolwork and a weekend job, but as the harassment ramps up, Piddy starts to wonder if she can survive without running away or giving up who she is. The sense of claustrophobia and fear in this title, and the lack of easy solutions despite many caring adults, makes this a realistic and emotional look at bullying, class conflict, and ethnic identity.
15-year-old Xiomara Batista feels voiceless in her largely Dominican community in Harlem: since she developed curves, she's relied on her fierce exterior and a willingness to throw a punch to keep herself safe. But she pours all of her frustration and insecurity — as well as her conflicts with her strict, religious mother — onto the pages of a notebook. When Xiomara is invited to join her school's slam poetry club, however, she's faced with a choice: leave her poems unspoken or raise her voice, no matter what people think. This powerful novel in verse, winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, offers a thoughtful look at identity, family, and the power of words through the eyes of a teen girl.
In Julia's family, Olga was the dutiful daughter who planned to stay home with her Mexican parents rather than going away to college. That left Julia free to fulfill her own dreams... until Olga was killed in an accident. Now, Julia is the one who has to hold the family together, and her mother is too busy lamenting Julia's failings to realize Julia's grieving too. Then Julia discovers that Olga had her own secrets, and becomes determined to learn more about the sister she now wishes she had known better. This gritty story about a girl facing grief, poverty, and the weight of family expectations is both poignant and funny in turns.
When Emoni got pregnant in her freshman year of high school, she stopped thinking about her future to focus on her daughter. Now a senior, she balances motherhood (and joint custody with her ex-boyfriend), school, work, and caring for her abuela. Nevertheless, she can't help but imagine life as a chef: her "magical hands" let people who eat her food sample deep memories. But when a high school cooking elective opens up the opportunity for a week-long apprenticeship in Spain — and a possible relationship with Malachi, a new student — Emoni will realize that she is strong enough to pursue dreams that used to feel impossible. Elizabeth Alcevedo, author of the National Book Award winning The Poet X, celebrates perseverance, passion, and the power of sharing food together in this gripping novel.
Esperanza Cordero is a Latina girl coming of age in a world that’s full of joy and laughter, but also oppression and struggle. In a series of vignettes, many in free verse, she decides that the house on Mango Street is only temporary, a place she must stay until she can find a better life, away from the poor neighborhood where she grew up. At the same time, she is determined not to forget those who she leaves behind, but to come back and help lift them out of poverty as well. Full of clever, funny observations and insightful views of gender roles and culture, this modern classic is perfect for thoughtful teen readers.