17 Children's Books by Latinx Authors Worth Adding to Your Kid's Bookshelf
As a mom, one of the most important things I've done since my children were born has been to read to them daily. Specifically, as a Latina mom, a big part of that has been going out of my way to make sure my children are seeing and reading stories that feature characters who look like them and share some of their cultural experiences. When I was growing up as an Afro-Puerto Rican in the United States, reading was one of my favorite things to do, but till this day, I can't think of a single book I read that featured a main character, let alone any character, that shared a background like mine.
Most of the books I read were about middle-class or even rich white kids who lived in the suburbs. I still enjoyed them, but it was all very disconnected from my own experience. For my kids, I want better, and thankfully, for their generation, representation for people of color has become a priority, and there are now so many more options. When I take them to the library or the bookstore, I always point them in the direction of books by Latinx authors and books with images on the covers that remind me of our multicultural family.
We already either own or have read most of the classics, which are, of course, predominantly written by white authors, so it's not like I'm avoiding those, it's just that making sure my children read books by nonwhite authors about nonwhite people has to be intentional and takes a bit more effort. I've been building my kids' at-home libraries for years, though, so at this point, I've come across tons of beautiful children's books by Latinx authors that I'm happy to share here. Check them out!
Coquí in the City by Nomar Perez
We just discovered the beautiful Coquí in the City ($18) by Nomar Perez and used it as part of our homeschool studies during the 2021 school year. The book, which is about a young boy who moves from Puerto Rico to New York City with his parents and slowly begins to find the similarities between the two places, is written in both English and Spanish, so it's perfect for brushing up on your language skills.
Your Mama by NoNieqa Ramos
The minute I saw this gorgeous picture book at our local library, I had to pick it up. The cover art for Your Mama ($18) by NoNieqa Ramos looks like a picture of me and my 5-year-old daughter. The story is a true tribute to modern Latinx moms and the unconditional love we have for our children, which of course is fueled by our culture and family-centered upbringing. This is definitely a book to read on repeat to your little one.
Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña
Carmela Full of Wishes ($19) by Matt de la Peña is quickly becoming a classic kids' book. It comes from the creators of the acclaimed children's book Last Stop on Market Street and is about a little girl who wakes up on her birthday excited to join her older brother running errands for the family for the first time. When it's time to make her birthday wish, though, she finds it hard to decide on just one.
Roquí's Pandero Beat by Delia Ruiz
Just released in 2021, Roquí's Pandero Beat ($18) by Delia Ruiz is a wonderful book that celebrates Afro-Puerto Rican culture, specifically the musical genres of bomba and plena, which are native to the island and deeply connected to the country's African roots. It's about a tiny coquí frog who longs to play the pandero drum despite his diminutive size. The book is written in Spanglish and even includes a glossary of Spanish terms to familiarize your kids with.
Areli Is a Dreamer by Areli Morales
One way to help our kids feel seen is by giving them the opportunity to know other people like them, and books are a perfect way to do that. Areli Is a Dreamer ($18) by Areli Morales is a retelling of the author's own story about being a DACA recipient and what it was like leaving her home country of Mexico to grow up undocumented in New York City and go on to be able to pursue her dreams. This one is available in English and Spanish.
Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay-Mejia
If your kids are a little older, you have to pick up the new Paola Santiago series from Mexican-American author Tehlor Kay-Mejia. The first book in the series, Paola Santiago and the River of Tears ($8), is based on the legend of La Llorona, and it honors Latinx folklore in a really fun and fast-paced read. The story's protagonist is a never-quit Latinx kid with a ton of sass who is sure to win over your kiddo and probably you as well.
Fearless by Mandy Gonzalez
Inspired by kids who've reached out to her on social media, Broadway star Mandy Gonzalez, who pioneered the role of Nina Rosario in the original In the Heights stage production on Broadway, set about writing her first book. Fearless ($18) is a middle-grade read about a young girl who travels from Northern California to New York City with her abuela to live out her dream of performing on Broadway. But right from the start, things go awry and she and her talented crew of friends are tasked with solving a spooky mystery.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle
Drum Dream Girl ($18) by Cubana author Margarita Engle is a really interesting children's book inspired by the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban woman who, in order to pursue her passion, fought against the unwritten rule in her country that girls could not be drummers. It's the empowering tale of a young girl who practices her noisy instrument in secret until at last she's discovered and her talent proves that girls can pound the congas just like boys.
Across the Bay by Carlos Aponte
Set in scenic Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, Across the Bay ($18) by Carlos Aponte is the tale of a little boy who leaves the happy home he lives in with his mother, his grandmother, and their cat and travels across the bay to the island's capital city in search of his father, encountering the beauty of the historic city and celebrating Puerto Rican culture all along the way. Little Carlitos also learns some important lessons about what it means to be a family in this touching story.
Listening With My Heart by Gabi Garcia
The cover art of Gabi Garcia's Listening With My Heart ($13) alone is enough to make us want to hit that add-to-cart button, but once we realized it's all about how important it is to be kind to ourselves, we were totally sold. In this sweet book, a little girl finds a very special heart-shaped rock that always reminds her to be kind to others, but one day, she finds she needs to remind herself that she's worthy of kindness and compassion as well. The book even features self-compassion exercises that kids can utilize in real life. We couldn't love the idea any more!
Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez
How many times have we all heard the words, "Where are you from?" We can't even count, and my kids get the question now, too. The book Where Are You From? ($18) by Yamile Saied Méndez tackles the question with grace in a story about a girl growing up and constantly being asked to explain her ethnic origins. Frustrated that no one seems satisfied with her answer, she turns to her abuelo for help.
The Secret Footprints by Julia Alvarez
Written by legendary Dominican author Julia Alvarez, who penned How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, her children's book The Secret Footprints ($8) is an ode to Dominican folklore. It's about a girl who is known as a ciguapa, a mythical Dominican creature who lives in underwater caves and has feet that turn back so humans can't follow them. Only this young ciguapa spots a boy on shore one day and becomes infatuated with spying on him whenever she leaves the water to hunt for food. Eventually, she is discovered by his family and learns that humans aren't as scary as she thought
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Published in 2019, Dreamers ($19) by Yuyi Morales has been the recipient of multiple awards, including the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award. As the title implies, this book is also a story about the experience of an undocumented immigrant from Mexico living in the United States, only this time, it's from the author's perspective. In the 1990s, Yuyi moved from Mexico to the US with her son, who was an infant at the time. Dreamers tells the story of how she and her baby discovered the public library where they slowly learned English by reading the multitudes of books at their fingertips.
The Music From Our Country by Dabrali Diaz
Learning to dance our traditional dances is a rite of passage in Latinx households, and The Music From Our Country ($20) by Dabrali Diaz chronicles the experience in the most adorable way. It's about a young Dominican girl living in Washington Heights, New York, who is learning how to dance bachata from her family members on a Saturday morning in their apartment. The book is so full of joy and describes this small moment of so many of our lived experiences beautifully.
If Dominican Were a Color by Sili Recio
If Dominican Were a Color ($18) by Sili Recio is an absolutely gorgeous picture book that celebrates all the things that make up the Dominican Republic, including the many complexions of its inhabitants. The author uses gorgeous prose to describe the complex intricacies that have shaped the country, including its beautiful people, culture, and traditions. Available in both English and Spanish, it will absolutely fill you and your kids with pride in your heritage.
What Can You Do With a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla
Yup, this book is an homage to the beloved paleta man and the sweet treats he delivers around the neighborhood. Bright, beautiful illustrations highlight the book What Can You Do With a Paleta? ($17) by Carmen Tafolla as the main character walks through town describing all of the wonders of a cold, fruity ice pop on a hot day. The book definitely captures the excitement and joy so many of us felt as children when we heard the palatero, piraguero, or ice cream man coming through.
Abuela by Arthur Dorros
Abuela ($18) by Arthur Dorros is a book that honors the Latinx storytelling tradition with a magical tale of a young girl and her grandmother floating above the streets of New York City. Rosalba's abuela uses her Spanglish to describe the sights and sounds of the city to her adorable granddaughter, bringing the city alive and cementing a beautiful bond between them. Just try not to tear up reading this one!