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Books by or about Latinos PDF Print E-mail
Written by Flannery Fitch   

In May we celebrate Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the day that Mexican forces defeated the French: May 5, 1862. In honor of this year’s holiday, I wanted to highlight some amazing books by or about Latinos. Many of these books are bilingual or are available in both Spanish and English editions.

 

De Colores and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children

by José-Luis Orozco

My second and third grade teacher used to sing us song from this book, so it retains a very special place in my heart. Filled with folk songs perfect for singing with children, this book has both the Spanish and English translations of the songs, and even has the sheet music! I love this book, and it’s perfect for anyone who loves to sing (even if they’re as bad at it as I am).

 

Gathering the Sun

by Alma Flor Ada

This bilingual alphabet book is filled with rich, warm illustrations. It takes you from the fields and orchards into the lives of the people who work them. Each letter from the Spanish alphabet has a short poem written around the word, and between the lovely poems and illustrations, it celebrates the people who work the land. I love it.

 

Viva Frida

by Yuyi Morales

Yuyi Morales is the wonderful artist who painted the vibrant illustrations in Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, by Kathleen Krull—a great book that also garnered Morales a Pura Belpré Award. I wanted to highlight Viva Frida because Kahlo was such an amazing painter, and this book honors her so well. The illustrations are unique—incorporating various types of mixed media from dolls to paintings to felted animals—and the bilingual story is simple and perfect for early readers.

 

Separate Is Never Equal

by Duncan Tonatiuh

We all know about Jim Crow segregation in the South, but in California segregation existed as well, separating Mexicans and other Latinos from whites. Sylvia Mendez was a young girl who didn’t understand why she couldn’t attend the white school. Her family couldn’t get a satisfactory answer as to why they were being separated, so they sued, and won, ending segregation in California seven years before Brown v. Board of Education would desegregate the South. Duncan Tonatiuh’s book, written after he interviewed Sylvia, tells their story and includes Tonatiuh’s unique illustrations.

 

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes

by Juan Felipe Herrera

If you want to teach your children about Hispanic heroes beyond Cesar Chavez, this is the book for your family. Highlighting women and men who have helped shape our nation—from Sonia Sotomayor to Roberto Clemente—and filled with quotes and facts, this great book shows a wide range of people in a wide variety of fields who have helped make change happen.

 

Baseball in April

by Gary Soto

This book is a classic. A collection of short stories by the poet Gary Soto, it shows how small daily events in our lives can have a much larger meaning. Based on his own experiences as a child in the Central Valley, this is a quiet, insightful book that tells the stories of eleven Latino children growing up in Fresno. It’s a lovely book that any child can relate to.

 

Spare Parts

by Joshua Davis

This is the amazing true story of four undocumented teens in West Phoenix who, in 2004, beat all the odds and won the NASA-sponsored Marine Advanced Technology Education Robotics Competition. Using spare car parts, they created a functional underwater robot, and beat out MIT students to win first prize. This is an uplifting story about four very impressive teens that will inspire any high school kid struggling to believe they can do whatever they want.

 

Flannery Fitch is a bookseller at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Her life has been about books since before she could read.

 
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