20 Nonfiction and Poetry Titles That Celebrate Latinx Heritage

Titles by such esteemed creators as Yuyi Morales, Raúl Colón, and others.

Join us in kicking off National Hispanic Heritage month on September 15 with the following excerpted 2018 SLJ reviews of nonfiction and poetry titles, written by or about Latinx people, for little ones, tweens, and teens. Stay tuned for a forthcoming list on middle grade and YA fiction. Also, don't forget to check out last year's roundup of middle grade, YA, and professional reading titles.

Nonfiction Elementary

ALVA, Alfredo & Deborah Mills. La Frontera: El viaje con papá/My Journey with Papa. tr. from by María A. Pérez. illus. by Claudia Navarro. 48p. appendix. maps. photos. Barefoot. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781782853886; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781782853923. BL
Gr 2-5–Alva, along with coauthor Mills, narrates his experiences as a young child crossing the Mexican and U.S. border with his father. Navarro’s expressive acrylic, graphite, and digital collage illustrations provide a poignant and moving backdrop for this compelling first-person narrative. Back matter includes information on immigration, a history of the U.S. and Mexican border, and photos of Alva’s family and hometown.
VERDICT An authentic and humanizing perspective on immigration; a must-have for classrooms, libraries, and bilingual collections.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

ARNOLD, Marsha Diane. Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña. illus. by Angela Dominguez. bibliog. 40p. Lee & Low. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780892394135. BL
PreS-Gr 3–In 2007, Arnold visited the Galápagos Islands where she met biologist and naturalist guide Valentina Cruz. This book was inspired by the childhood stories Cruz shared with the author about growing up and getting to know the animals on Floreana, one of the many Galápagos Islands. The back matter includes an author’s note, more facts about the Galápagos Islands, information on each of the animals mentioned in the story, and a bibliography. The Spanish text of this bilingual book is a very adept translation.
VERDICT Readers are presented here with an unsung and worthy heroine. Recommended for picture book and biography collections.–Lucia Acosta, Children’s Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ

HERNANDEZ, Jaime. The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America. ISBN 9781943145287; ISBN 9781943145294.
––––. La matadragones: Cuentos de Latinoamérica. ISBN 9781943145300; ISBN 9781943145317.
ea vol: illus. by Jaime Hernandez. 48p. bibliog. Toon Bks. Apr. 2018. Tr $16.95. pap. $9.99.
Gr 4-6–This is the first children’s book by groundbreaking comic artist Jaime Hernandez, one of the three Hernandez brothers responsible for the comic “Love and Rockets.” Hernandez’s colorful, expressive drawings are full of movement, helping the stories extend beyond the concise, direct text. As so often happens in folktales, humans and animals exist on the same plane, adding to the whimsy. A brief discussion of the three selections closes out each volume.
VERDICT These delightfully rendered stories should easily find a home in the folktale/fairy-tale section of any library.–Lucia Acosta, Children’s Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ

JAVAHERBIN, Mina.Neymar: A Soccer Dream Come True. illus. by Paul Hoppe. 32p. glossary. Farrar. May 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374310660.
Gr 1-3–This story functions less as a primer about Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior’s life than as a dreamlike evocation of a boy’s devotion to playing his favorite game. Readers follow the young player as he plays a pretend soccer match with family in his bedroom in his grandparents’ home; comes to the table for his mother’s delicious feijoada; and longs to spend more time with his father who plays for local clubs. Hoppe’s gauzy illustrations, cast in subdued colors and a comic book–like shading, serve to bring out the exuberance of the players and the constant motion of the game. Drawing most often from a low angle with a wide horizon, Hoppe privileges a child’s-eye view. In an author’s note at the end, Javaherbin traces her soccer fandom to a visit with her father to see the Iranian national team play in Tehran.
VERDICT Recommended as a read-aloud and for helping to make a ubiquitous superstar athlete relatable to young readers.–Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

LAÍNEZ, René Colato. Telegramas al cielo/Telegrams to Heaven: La infancia de monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero/The Childhood of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero. illus. by Pixote Hunt. 32p. Luna’s Pr. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780964120327. BL
Gr 2-4–As a child, Óscar Arnulfo Romero dreamed of becoming a priest.This bilingual book is a story of hope and determination, one that is punctuated by Romero’s service to the poorest and most vulnerable. Contemporary, bright illustrations and a personal note from the author provide readers with a deeper connection to the narrative and will inspire them to fulfill their own dreams.
VERDICT A touching introduction to the life and legacy of one of South America’s most beloved religious figures and a strong addition to any juvenile nonfiction collection.–Natalie Romano, Denver Public Library

MORALES, Yuyi. Dreamers. illus. by Yuyi Morales. 40p. further reading. Holiday House. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823440559 POP
PreS-Gr 3–The acclaimed creator of Niño Wrestles the World and Viva Frida has crafted another masterpiece in this autobiographical picture book. From her son’s birth to their move to the United States from Mexico in the mid-1990s to their often fraught- and barrier-filled life, the tale highlights the many obstacles immigrants face while trying to survive in a new country that doesn’t readily welcome non–English-speaking people of color. The pair encounters respite at the library where, with the help of librarians, they find a home in the children’s section. The dreamlike, lyrical text captures the wonder of childhood, learning, and discovery through books. The magical art marries the succinct and powerful narrative in a resplendent celebration of literacy, language, and the transformative power of the picture book form.
VERDICT This excellent memoir encapsulates the fears, hopes, and dreams that come along with immigrating to a new place and building a new life in an unfamiliar and often hostile landscape. A timely and much-needed selection.–Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

RODRIGUEZ, Patty & Ariana Stein. Around the World with Cantinflas/Alrededor del mundo con Cantinflas: A Lil’ Libros Bilingual Geography Book. ISBN 9780986109980.
––––. The Life of/La vida de Selena: A Lil’ Libros Bilingual Biography. ISBN 9780986109997.
ea vol: illus. by Citlali Reyes. 22p. Lil’ Libros. Mar. 2018. Board. $9.99. BL
PreS–In these two new installments in the series, creators Rodriguez and Stein bring to the hands of babies and toddlers the images of two iconic Latinx and Latin American stars: Mexican American singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez and Mexican actor Mario Moreno “Cantinflas.” The unique format; vibrant colors; and use of space, text, and illustrations make these successful introductions to concepts, images, and language. Both titles enhance the limited options of authentic Latinx and bilingual board books, and provide exposure and visibility to historic entertainers and artists from Latinx communities.
VERDICT Must-have selections for board book shelves.–Sujei Lugo, Boston Public Library

SOTOMAYOR, Sonia.Turning Pages: My Life Story. illus. by Lulu Delacre. 40p. chron. photos. Philomel. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525514084.
Gr 3-6–Readers will get to know U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor in this stunning picture book autobiography. The first line of the book sets the scene: “My story is a story about books...” From this page onward, Sotomayor takes readers along on a journey, continually reflecting on how a particular title or genre struck her at that time in her life. Readers will enjoy the illustrations done in mixed media of oil washes with collage elements that distinctly accompany the text.
VERDICT A sincere and insightful autobiography that also demonstrates the power of the written word. A winning addition to libraries that serve young readers.–Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TX

Nonfiction Middle to High School

ACEVEDO, Sylvia. Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist. 320p. photos. Clarion. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781328809568.
Gr 5 Up–A gem of an autobiography. As a girl growing up in New Mexico in the 1950’s, Acevedo recognized and confronted bias in many forms. She fought against the notions that girls should only become wives and mothers, and she strived to be a success in all aspects in her life: a focused student, a successful Girl Scout, a talented musician, and, above all, a young woman who never believed that her future was already written by someone else.
VERDICT A great addition to memoir/biography collections.–Patricia Feriano, Montgomery County Public Schools, MD

BOWLES, David, retel. Feathered Serpent/Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico. 368p. bibliog. glossary. notes. Cinco Puntos. May 2018. Tr $24.30. ISBN 9781941026717; pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781941026724.
Gr 7 Up–A collection of Mesoamerican mythology chronologically recounts the origins of the world up to the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in Mexico. Each chapter of Bowles’s electrifying text begins with a convocation, in which the author explains the sources for his reworked tales, including the Popol Vuh, Florentine Codex, and the Codex Chimalpopoca, among others, coalesced to celebrate the connections in Mesoamerican history and storytelling traditions. The tales, filled with beautiful imagery and stark depictions of violence, feature a wealth of themes, including dualities in nature (all mankind arose from the “dual god”), rebirth, and the roles of women, making this title ripe for analysis and group discussions or self-exploration, as the reteller implores in his introduction.
VERDICT Vibrant and vital, this collection is an essential addition to library collections.–Jessica Agudelo, New York Public Library

COY, Cissie. Dennis Chávez: The First Hispanic US Senator/El primer senador hispano de los Estados Unidos. tr. from Spanish by Gabriela Baeza Ventura. 64p. Piñata. Oct. 2017. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781558858527. BL
Gr 4-6–The first Hispanic senator born in the United States was Dennis Chávez, who represented the state of New Mexico and served in the U.S. Senate from 1935–62. His granddaughter, Coy, writes this bilingual middle grade biography in a flip-book format. The story of his life, battles, and accomplishments need to be told, especially in the context of the fight for equality and desegregation in the early and mid-1900s.
VERDICT A good purchase for biography collections.–Cynthia Molinar, Medio Creek Elementary SWISD, San Antonio

GUERRERO, Diane with Erica Moroz. My Family Divided: One Girl’s Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope. 256p. photos. Holt. Jul. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250134868.
Gr 6-8–An adapted version of Guerrero’s Alex Award–winning In the Country We Love: My Family Divided for middle schoolers. Guerrero recounts with candor her early life as a child of undocumented immigrants living in a supportive community in Boston: the joys of rollerblading with friends coupled with the fearful reality of being stopped by the police or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). When Guerrero was just 14 years old, her parents were suddenly deported and she was left to rely on the care of family friends as no one from Child Protective Services or ICE ever checked on her. Throughout the book, the tone is conversational and peppered with humor; however, Guerrero does not mince words when discussing racism, politics, and family tensions as well as the fear, shame, and emotional turmoil she experienced.
VERDICT A moving coming-of-age memoir for middle schoolers. Pair with Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us.–Laura Dooley-Taylor, Lake Zurich Middle School North, Hawthorn Woods, IL

QUINTERO, Isabel. Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide. illus. by Zeke Peña. 96p. further reading. photos. reprods. Getty. Mar. 2018. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781947440005.
Gr 7 Up–Mixing original illustrations, first-person prose, and lyrical interludes with gorgeous reproductions of photographer Graciela Iturbide’s work, Quintero and Peña patiently reveal their subject’s many angles, producing a “kaleidoscopic unraveling” of the artist.Teens will come away with an evolved sense of how to look at a creator’s life and work and how to think critically about art as a process. The importance of being seen, specifically in regard to indigenous communities in Mexico and Mexican Americans in the United States, as a narrative thread will resonate strongly with readers.
VERDICT Quintero and Peña have set a new standard in artist biographies. A must for teen collections.–Della Farrell, School Library Journal

SOTOMAYOR, Sonia. The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor. 352p. glossary. Delacorte. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524771140.
Gr 4-7–Adapted from Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World, this edition brings the childhood and early adulthood of the Supreme Court justice to younger readers. Her reflections on her childhood are perceptive and poignant. She hides nothing from readers, confiding in them about her insecurities, sadnesses, and challenges in her journey from adolescence in New York City to college at Princeton University and beyond. Ultimately, this is a work that is infused with warmth and encouragement.
VERDICT A good choice for any juvenile biography collection, especially those where autobiographies and memoirs are popular.–Chelsea Woods, New Brunswick Free Public Library, NJ

WEAVER, Lila Quintero. Cuarto oscuro: Recuerdos en blanco y negro. tr. from English by Karina E. Vázquez. illus. by Lila Quintero Weaver. 264p. University of Alabama Pr. Jan. 2018. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9780817359072.
Gr 4-8–The author’s Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White is now available in a remarkable Spanish translation. This graphic novel describes her life as an immigrant from Argentina living in Marion, AL, during the civil rights movement. Weaver does not tell her story chronologically; instead the narrative flits back and forth between indelible images from the present and the past. Vázquez’s translation is thoughtful and diligent. This is a stunning, original piece of work distinguished for its design but, more important, for its unique perspective on a very timely subject.
VERDICT A strong choice for graphic novel and Spanish-language collections.–Tim Wadham, Children’s Literature Consultant, Puyallup, WA


ALARCÓN, Francisco X. Family Poems for Every Day of the Week/Poemas familiares para cada dia de la semana. illus. by Maya Christina Gonzalez. 40p. Children’s Book Pr. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780892392759. BL
Gr 1-4–This bilingual collection of poems captures the everyday rhythms of family life, which will resonate with many young readers. The poems vary in complexity and style and could serve as reliable examples for classroom poetry exercises.
VERDICT Recommended for wide purchase as a warm introduction to poetry and either a mirror of or a window into Latino family life.–Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

HERRERA, Juan Felipe. Jabberwalking. 144p. illus. Candlewick. Mar. 2018. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781536201406.
Gr 7 Up–Poets are Jabber Walkers “with eyes of flame” in Herrera’s latest for young adults. Applying this extended metaphor from Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” Herrera, former Poet Laureate of the United States, empowers teens to move with their feet and their voices, using written words to break down walls erected by themselves and others. Divided into 15 instructional chapters, Herrera details the life of a Jabber Walker, offering practical guidance to speak one’s truth through poetry. Herrera provides space for budding poets to learn how to write and encourages them to practice using the first secret of this collection: “You do not have to know where you are going! Or what you are saying!”
VERDICT Deeply personal and profoundly unique, this is a highly recommended purchase for every young adult yearning to be heard.–Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

MORA, Pat. Bookjoy, Wordjoy. illus. by Raúl Colón. 32p. Lee & Low. Jul. 2018. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781620142868.
K-Gr 3–Young bibliophiles, logophiles, and poetry lovers will cherish this collected volume of Mora’s verse, beautifully illustrated by Colón. Mora reminds readers throughout that writing inspiration is always within them: “Think of the faces, the colors,/the places you’ve been, the pictures/you carry inside.” Librarians and educators could easily use this title in lessons on creative writing, from poetry to memoir. Best of all, after reading, children may share Tomás’s sentiment in “Library Magic”: “¡Vámos! Let’s all go to the library/Join the fun, a treasure house that’s free.”
VERDICT Perfectly suited to libraries, a top addition to poetry collections.–Della Farrell, School Library Journal

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Della Farrell

Della Farrell is an Assistant Editor at School Library Journal and Editor of Series Made Simple

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