13 Spanish-Language Picture Books About Silly Pirates, Imaginary Tigers, Latinx Traditions & More

This roundup includes picture books for older readers, works that celebrate family and friendship, and inspirational tales for children that you'll want to add to your Spanish-language collections.

This roundup includes picture books for older readers, works that celebrate family and friendship, and inspirational tales for children that you'll want to add to your Spanish-language collections.

Andrés, José Carlos. El pirata de la pata de pato. illus. by Myriam Cameros Sierra. 44p. NubeOcho. Jul. 2022. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9788494597114. SP
PreS-Gr 2 –Desalmau is known to be the most fearsome pirate in all the seas, and he strikes fear within his crew every time he takes a walk out on the deck. When the smallest member of the crew finally grows tired of being afraid, she sneaks into ­Desalmau’s quarters and replaces his ­wooden leg with...a rubber duck! Desalmau takes a walk out on the deck, and slips and falls. He roars, demanding to know who replaced his leg. Other members of the crew decide to replace Desalmau’s leg with creative items, until finally the little pirate who started it all replaces the leg with a pencil. Now, when the fearsome Desalmau takes walks on the deck, something magical happens that leaves the crew excited for ­Desalmau’s walk. This fun title screams ­story time—with its wild and luminous illustrations and its expressive Spanish text. Bold and large font makes for great opportunities to add emotion and emphasis for full effect during read alouds. A humorous, unique story with an unexpected ending that will invite repeated readings. VERDICT A hilarious addition to Spanish-language picture book collections for children, and an excellent choice for reading aloud.–Selenia Paz

Camargo, Sebastián Santana. My Uncle Is Coming Tomorrow/Mañana viene mi tío. tr. by Elisa Amado. illus. by Sebastián Santana Camargo. 40p. Greystone. Aug. 2022. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781771649247. BL
Gr 3 Up –A young child is excited to learn that their uncle is coming for a visit. The protagonist sits on a chair staring at the door for an uncle who never comes. The years pass, and readers will note the passage of time based on what the child, then adult, is carrying on their lap, anxious to share it with their beloved relative. A soccer ball and their school grades at first, then a picture of a girl they like and then a son and a granddaughter, until the stool is left empty. The illustrations are bare. Only a line drawing with very few features represents the child sitting on a stool while facing the door. All of this is set against a completely white space. The character’s expression never changes, as their excitement to see their beloved relative never wavers. Some discerning readers may understand as time passes, that the uncle has been possibly detained by something awful. A note at the end reveals that the uncle has been “disappeared” by an unknown sinister force. A subsequent editor’s note gives historical context for the many horrible state-instituted ­disappearances of thousands of victims for political reasons, including countries and dictatorships backed by the United States. This story was inspired by the disappearances in South America between the 1960s and mid-1990s. Santana Camargo’s spare writing and no-frills drawings evoke a level of starkness that is gut-punching and heartbreaking. VERDICT This picture book for older readers will need a good deal of scaffolding and context before tackling as part of a social studies curriculum. Still, a powerful work that is totally worth it.–Shelley M. Diaz

Charlton-Trujillo, e.E. Lupe Lopez: ¡Reglas de una estrella de rock! illus. by Pat Zietlow ­Miller & Joe Cepeda. 32p. ­Candlewick. Jun. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536220063. SP
K-Gr 2 –Lupe Lopez is starting her first day of kindergarten and she has everything a rock star like she is needs: sunglasses, her mom’s old lunch box, and her pencil drumsticks—which she uses to drum some beats on tables and chairs. Lupe’s kindergarten teacher informs her that there are rules all students must follow: listen to their teachers, use an inside voice, and be a friend. But Lupe is a rock star—and rock stars play by their own rules. All Lupe needs is to make some noise and find some fans. She invites everyone to the library, but when no one shows up, she begins to wonder whether she really is a rock star. When two fellow classmates approach Lupe during lunch, she’s surprised to find they want to be her friends—and part of her band! The colorful illustrations are as vibrant and unique as Lupe herself, and with the lively and humorous Spanish text, bring the characters to life. Kids are sure to love reading out loud the different sounds Lupe makes with her pencil drumsticks. VERDICT A fun addition to Spanish picture book collections that will encourage readers to be rock stars in and out of the classroom.–Selenia Paz

DePaola, Tomie. Libro de las arenas ­movedizas. illus. by Tomie dePaola. 32p. ­Holiday House. Jul. 2022. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823447220. SP
Gr 1-3 –A young girl is swinging through the jungle when the vine snaps and she falls into quicksand. Her friend appears and is there to help—but first he wants to explain what he knows about quicksand to make sure she, and readers as well, know how to identify quicksand and how to get out. He explains how to use a stick to make sure you don’t step into quicksand, why quicksand shifts, the difference between it and regular sand and water, and how different animals are able to get out (or not) from quicksand. As he talks, children will notice that the young girl is sinking slowly, and the jungle animals have gathered to learn about the quicksand as well. When the young boy finally helps her, he ends up falling in himself, and she makes sure to help him—after she finishes her tea. This silly narrative is full of facts and information about quicksand, with humorous illustrations with plenty to point out. The Spanish text is concise as well as funny, and an interesting experiment to create quicksand is included. VERDICT Funny and informative, this resource can be used for a variety of extension activities. A great addition to Spanish collections for children.– Selenia Paz

Garza, Jorge. Sábado/Saturday. illus. by Jorge Garza. 24p. Lil’ Libros. May 2022. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781948066105. BL
PrS-Gr 2 –A family prepares for their daughter’s graduation in this practically wordless picture book. On Sunday, they go to the seamstress. On Monday, they order the cake. On Tuesday, they order the flowers. Each day counts down to a very special celebration on Saturday. The story is told mostly through images of the errands taking place on the assigned day that will eventually lead to the party scheduled at the end of the week. In the case of the seamstress, a sewing machine and the woman holding a measuring tape is featured. For Friday, the day before the graduation, the father is holding a folding chair and there are balloons scattered across the page. Garza was inspired by Aztec (Mexican) art, specifically the codices. The limited palette is marked by reds, blues, and yellows. The textured backdrop looks like white primer on paper. The trim size is smaller than most picture books, making it ideal for gift-giving, especially during the graduation season. While most of the days get only one spread, Saturday takes up five spreads, highlighting the importance of the accomplishment and the family’s pride and joy. Small details, like the little girl’s bow changing colors each day, make it that much more special. The family has brown skin, and an author’s note implies that the characters are also Indigenous. VERDICT A lovely work inspired by Aztec art and perfect for gift giving or back-to-school read-alouds.–Shelley M. Diaz

Martí, Ana Meritxell. Sunakay. illus. by Xavier Salomó. 104p. Editorial ­Flamboyant. Sept. 2021. Tr $39.19. ISBN 9788418304460. SP
Gr 3-6
–Marti and Salomó capture the realities of a world plagued by pollution in this remarkable collaboration. The narrative follows two sisters who live on an island full of plastic called Sunakay, a combination of their names—Sunan and Kay. Their lives are surrounded by garbage, and they have become accustomed to existing with this reality. Suddenly, an accident changes the future of their island and their lives. The ­majority of the scenes in this highly illustrated picture book for older readers are ones of ­Sunan and Kay trying to find their ways to each other in a dystopian future filled with tsunamis of trash. The lyrical and spare prose will draw readers in, and the jewel-tone illustrations are mesmerizing. The blues of the terrifying but majestic seas and the yellows of the life-giving but terrible sun are captivating. The narrative sometimes veers toward the fantastical, making this sometimes feel allegorical, adding to the tale’s timely message. The sisters are still separated at the end, hinting at a possible sequel, leaving readers with hope for the future. VERDICT A story about the power of sisterhood with a just as powerful warning for our environmental future. ­Purchase for all Spanish-language collections.–Aurora Dominguez

Guzman, D. Milo + Niko. illus. by D Guzman. 32p. Lil’ Libros. Jun. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781948066211. BL
K-Gr 2 –A sweet tale of friendship and imagination. Milo’s grandmother encourages Milo to go in search of adventure while the grandmother finishes up at her plant shop. The girl roams through the rows of plants and finds her way through a jungle where growling tiger awaits. Nonplussed, the girl names it Niko. What follows is a playful afternoon of exploration, sailing, and pretend. When Milo’s grandmother interrupts their fun, readers get a glimpse at Niko’s true identity. Sometimes the narrative feels stilted, but the illustrations liven up the work. The English text appears above the Spanish text. Guzman’s collagelike digital art is ­arresting, filled with earthy colors and bright oranges when Milo is playing with Niko. Once she enters the jungle, there is very little white space, giving readers the feeling that the bespectacled heroine has immersed herself in a very real place. Small details, like Milo leaving her grandmother notes at the counter and the shop’s hose doubling as the snake the two friends have to confront, add an extra layer of excitement. The characters’ facial expressions will elicit laughs, and the changing typeface offers great opportunities for read-alouds. Milo and her grandmother are brown and of Latinx descent. VERDICT An entertaining romp for most bilingual picture book collections.–Shelley M. Diaz

Oud, Pauline. La casa de Lily y Milo. illus. by Pauline Oud. 24p. (Lily and Milo). Clavis. Jul. 2022. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781605377575. SP
PreS-Gr 1 –Lily (a bunny) and Milo (a mouse) are moving into a new house in this cute Spanish title featuring the adorable duo. Lily and Milo have packed up all of their belongings and are placing them in the rooms in their new house—the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, and more. Young readers are invited to take a look at all of the items and help Lily and Milo figure out where they belong. As items make it to their correct locations, Milo sometimes takes part in silly antics that will have readers laughing. Colorful, eye-catching illustrations will keep children focused intently on the pages, and the descriptive Spanish text and the requests for help from readers are posed in a fun, engaging way that will have children excited to participate. VERDICT An interactive title that is sure to become a favorite, perfect for Spanish picture book collections for children.– Selenia Paz

Palomas, Alejandro. Un cerezo. illus. by Albert Arrayás. 48p. Editorial ­Flamboyant. Feb. 2022. Tr $31.98. ISBN 9788418304279. SP
K-Gr 3
–Yuki loves to look up at the stars through his telescope; he also loves to count the freckles on neighbor and friend Gea’s face. They both love the snowy cherry trees in the garden their houses share. When Gea accidentally eats a cherry pit from her birthday cake, her freckles begin to disappear, but just as suddenly, Gea begins to become larger and larger. She befriends a small bird who often visits her, and as time goes on and Gea grows bigger, the doctor finds that a cherry tree is growing inside of her. Surprisingly, the little bird who visits her is there too. Wanting to save the bird’s life, Gea allows herself to be released to float away, where she is now a new planet covered with white flowers and a large cherry tree that holds many birds. Yuki sees the planet through his telescope, and he can see her freckles in the night sky. Magical, luminous illustrations bring to life this breathtaking story of friendship. The lyrical Spanish text conveys the simplicity of their friendship while also presenting a deep look at how children process things that are greater than ourselves. This tale can be read as a child’s first experience with death, a friend moving away, or a ­fantastical story. VERDICT Unique and mesmerizing, this layered ­Spanish-language picture book is sure to inspire endless thoughts and discussions, and would be an excellent addition to picture book collections for children.–Selenia Paz

Reyes, Citlali. Sana, sana, colita de rana. illus. by Citlali Reyes. 32p. Lil’ Libros. Aug. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781948066204. BL
PreS-Gr 2 –A little girl is empowered by a traditional chant to follow her dreams despite some setbacks. Tina, her brother Paco, and her stuffed toy frog like to dress up as lucha libre wrestlers. When she hurts herself and starts crying, her brother teases her, saying that girls shouldn’t be wrestlers. Even though her mother soothes her physical pain away with the title song, “Sana, sana, colita de rana,” or “Heal, heal, frog’s little tale,” Tina is still smarting from Paco’s hurtful words. The little girl starts doubting whether she’s got what it takes to be a wrestler. With a heartfelt apology, the healing chant, and the help of their mother’s masterly sewing skills, Paco is able to make amends to Tina. In Reyes’s debut, she honors culturally specific customs, while thoughtfully presenting universal themes such as sibling teasing, dashed dreams, and small scrapes lovingly tended to by a caring adult. The bilingual narrative is straightforward, and the digital art is bright and inviting. Festive oranges, reds, and teals add warmth and joy to the work. Tina’s stuffed toy has a personality of his own, and kids will delight in him and in the family’s resolution. Reyes makes great use of each page; every spot is used to further the narrative. The family members are brown and most likely of Mexican descent. VERDICT A great choice for bilingual collections, where lucha libre is a staple. Shelve alongside Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morale and the “Lucía Luchadora” books by Cynthia Leonor Garza.–Shelley M. Diaz

Romero, Melanie. Amor de colores. illus. by Citlali Reyes. 24p. Lil’ Libros. Mar. 2022. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781948066068. BL
Toddler-PreS –This love-inspired primer introduces colors to youngsters with mixed results. It begins, “Love is full colors,” and then describes a characteristic related to the featured color and an expression of love, often connecting to the creators’ Latinx heritage. However, some comparisons are more child-friendly than others. “Red like pan dulce” evokes an appropriate sweetness that kids will understand. However, orange like orange the fruit—“sweet, but a little sour at times”—is a metaphor that will fly over kids’ heads. Green is a thorny heart; black are the dots on a grandfather’s dominoes, but no explanation is given as to why. Reyes’s art is as cheery as ever, with bright colors and a diverse cast. But, the concluding spread asks readers to choose what color is their love today, which might be confusing to some, especially in light of the several missteps in the previous pages. VERDICT A bilingual primer with an amiable sentiment that misses the mark.– Shelley M. Diaz

Un paseo por la ciudad. illus. by Mariana Tolosa Sisteré. 52p. Editorial Flamboyant. Mar. 2022. Tr $24.93. ISBN 9788418304378. SP
PreS-Gr 2
–A father, his children, and their dog have a fun day out in the city, taking in all the sights and sounds. They go to the dog park, enjoy ice cream, study the buildings, walk by construction sites, have refreshments, and pass by strangers and friends. They head back home to a nice meal with their neighbors after a good day in the city. The illustrations are full of color and excellently depict a busy city that might often be loud and crowded, but is also ­interesting with things to see at ­every turn. Young ­readers will enjoy hours of fun looking through each page and pointing out the myriad activities, such as dogs playing together, people buying bread and newspapers, and children drawing with chalk on the sidewalks. The Spanish text includes conversations among the family and ­citizens as well as noises and phrases one might hear when out and about. ­Activities and suggestions for families heading out to the city are included. VERDICT A lively picture book focusing on the many wonders that can be seen in a busy city, this title is a fun and interactive addition to Spanish ­picture book collections.– Selenia Paz

van den Berg, Esther. Hop aprende a nadar. illus. by Esther van den Berg. 32p. Clavis. Jun. 2022. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781605377544. SP
PreS-Gr 2
–Now that all the little frogs in the pond are a bit bigger, their mamá wants them to learn how to swim properly, so they are all taking swimming lessons. Little Hop is the only frog who is still smaller, and he tends to get distracted during the lessons. The frogs learn how to float, lay on their backs on the water, swim completely under the water, swim on their bellies, and swim with clothes on. As a final challenge, all frogs must leap into the water from a tall perch, and what Hop thinks is the lowest perch turns out to be the highest of them all. Young readers will want to pore over the illustrations as they try to spot Hop’s distractions during each of the swimming lessons. The lovely renderings include breathtaking spreads of pond life and silly close-ups of Hop and his antics and the life of his fellow frogs. The bright palette of blues, yellows, and reds complement the cheerful text. The variation of spreads, visual vignettes, and panels give the art a dynamic feel. The Spanish text clearly distinguishes between speech, narration, and Hop’s thoughts through the fonts and font sizes. So much to enjoy here! VERDICT A wonderful choice for Spanish-language picture book that would make a great summer read. Kids will want to dip right in.–Selenia Paz

Shelley M. Diaz is the reviews editor at School Library Journal.

Aurora Dominguez is an educator and journalist in Hollywood, FL.

Selenia Paz was previously at Harris County Public Library, TX .

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