Children’s Books With Latinx Characters That Your Kids Will Love

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A young boy becomes a world champion lucha libre wrestler. A giant bubblegum bubble carries a girl on a fantastical journey. Another child loses her mother's ring in a giant batch of tamales and has a feast to find it. These children’s books with Latinx characters not only tell stories that help Latinx children feel seen, but could easily become any kid's favorite bedtime story.

We Need Diverse Books, a nonprofit that advocates for changes in the children’s publishing industry, shared statistics with Romper from a 2019 survey by the Cooperative Children's Book Center. The survey found that the percentage of kids’ books with white protagonists was 41.8%, while Latinx protagonists only starred in 5.3% of books. “For many children, a book can be the first time they see their identity or experiences affirmed, especially if representation in other media is lacking,” Nicole Johnson, executive director of We Need Diverse Books, told Romper. “Too often, diverse characters are missing from books and other media, leading kids to wonder why they don't see themselves. Over time, a child can begin to feel invisible and that their experiences do not belong.”

Johnson also suggests that when choosing children’s books, parents should keep in mind the broad range of experiences and backgrounds that exists within the Latinx community.

“A diverse bookshelf should feature books with a wide variety of Latinx protagonists, including biracial and multi-racial protagonists and Latinx protagonists who reflect the intersection of identities, such as Muslim Latinx and LGBTQ+ Latinx protagonists," Johnson says. "Books that have a diverse, full cast of Latinx characters will show young people that characters from Latinx backgrounds should not be tokenized. Instead, they can exist as part of a larger community.”

The following 27 children's books were recommended by The Latina Book Club, We Need Diverse Books, In Culture Parent and Coloursofus.com, Social Justice Books, and Latinxs In Kid Lit to do just that.

1. 'Alma and How She Got Her Name' by Juana Martinez-Neal

If you ask Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela, she'll say she has way too many names. When she asks her father why, she learns the story of her grandmother Sofia, great-grandmother Esperanza, and all the other amazing namesakes she carries. Before long, she's proud of her name and wonders what her own legacy will be.

Recommended by The Latina Book Club and We Need Diverse Books

2. 'Niño Wrestles the World' by Yuyi Morales

Yuyi Morales has written many children's books starring Latinx characters and won many well-deserved awards, so anything by her is guaranteed to become a family favorite. In this story, Niño imagines himself as a champion lucha libre competitor. He squares off with imaginary monsters like La Llorona, and even takes on his own sisters.

Recommended by Colours Of Us and is a Pura Belpré Award winner

3. 'How Far Do You Love Me?' by Lulu Delacre

Author and illustrator Lulu Delacre was inspired to write this book thanks to a bedtime game she used to play with her own daughters. It transports a mother and child to beautiful locations around the world as both explain just how much — and how far — they love each other.

Recommended by Colours Of Us

4. 'Fiesta!' by Ginger Foglesong Guy

This book features English and Spanish verbiage for kids who speak, or are learning to speak, both languages. Read on as the children in the story buy toys and candies, play with them together, and create their very own fiesta.

Recommended by Colours Of Us

5. 'Chavela and the Magic Bubble' by Monica Brown

Little Chavela loves chewing gum and blowing huge bubbles. One day, she comes across a mysterious new kind of gum, and this time, the humongous bubble carries her up into the air and on a fantastical journey. This sweet bright book is also a tribute to the rainforest and sustainability.

Recommended by Colours Of Us and Latinxs In Kid Lit

6. 'Gilberto and the Wind' by Marie Hall Ets

Originally published in 1978, this book has become a beloved classic. A young boy makes friends with the wind. Soon, he learns his new playmate has as many moods as a person, from sailing boats and flying kites to blowing dirt and turning umbrellas inside out.

Recommended by Colours Of Us

7. 'Lola' by Junot Díaz

Lola is the first children's book by award-winning Dominican-American author Junot Díaz. Lola lives with her family in the Bronx after immigrating from the Dominican Republic at age 6. She doesn't remember much about her first home, so she sets out to try and learn as much as she can about her origins.

Recommended by Social Justice Books

8. 'My Papi Has A Motorcycle' by Isabel Quintero

Daisy Ramona loves zipping around town on the back of her papi's motorcycle. Even as her neighborhood begins to change, she realizes she and her father will always share a special bond. This story is an ode to hardworking dads and the memories young readers can make with their parents.

Recommended by The Latina Book Club and We Need Diverse Books, and Pura Belpré Award winner

9. 'Jay & Ben' by Lulu Delacre & Katharine Swanson

Jay and Ben tells the story of a little boy who can mostly take care of himself, but has a hard time making friends. His wish for a pal comes true when a magical horse appears. This board book was written and designed for children with developmental and learning differences, and is perfect for helping them learn about language, reading, story comprehension, and more.

Recommended by Colours Of Us

10. 'Green Is A Chile Pepper: A Book Of Colors' by Roseanne Greenfield Thong

This bright and cheerful picture book helps teach colors through items that are special in Latinx cultures. The two main characters learn that red is the color of dancing skirts and spices, and that nothing is as beautifully green as a chile pepper.

Recommended by Colours Of Us and winner of Pura Belpré Honors for Illustration

11. 'Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family's Fight For Desegregation' by Duncan Tonatiuh

When Sylvia Mendez and her family move to Westminster, California, they're told they have to attend the Mexican school. That's what brings the Mendez family to the courtroom, fighting and ultimately ending segregation in California schools in 1947. This story will inspire young children to listen to their gut about right and wrong, and to fight for what they believe in.

Recommended by The Latina Book Club and We Need Diverse Books, and winner of Pura Belpré Honors for Illustration

12. 'Gracias Thanks' by Pat Mora

Renowned Latinx author and children's literacy advocate Pat Mora really shines in this children's book all about gratitude. In it, this biracial young boy expresses his thanks for all the things and people that brighten his day. Whether it's the sun waking him up, his dad's homemade chocolate syrup, or crickets chirping him to sleep, it's a sweet reminder to enjoy the little things.

Recommended by Colours Of Us and winner of Pura Belpré Honors for Illustration

13. 'Mango, Abuela, & Me' by Meg Medina

Mia's abuela comes to live with her family in the city, leaving behind her sunny home surrounded in palm trees and parrots. Mia teaches her grandmother English and learns Spanish from her in return, but they can't communicate as well as they'd like to. Then, Mia spots a parrot inside a pet shop, and the bird becomes an unlikely helper in their conversations.

Recommended by The Latina Book Club and We Need Diverse Books, and winner of Pura Belpré Honors for Narration

14. 'Dreams' by Ezra Jack Keats

The author of this book is known for writing the first picture book to show a multicultural, urban setting, and his stories continue to have a diverse cast. In Dreams, Roberto leaves a paper mouse on his window sill before bed. Before long, his school craft comes to life and they save the day together.

Recommended by Colours Of Us

15. '100% Me / 100% Yo' by Duane Carlos Crawford

The main character in this adorably illustrated story wonders about his identity. As an Afro-Latino person, where does he fit in? Is he one or the other, or a little bit of both? By the end, he learns to love himself exactly as he is.

Recommended by The Latina Book Club

16. 'Mamá The Alien / Mamá La Extraterrestre' by René Colato Laínez

This bilingual book tells the story of a little girl who finds her mother's Resident Alien card, and realizes her mom must be from another planet. This humorous take on becoming a citizen helps explain the immigration process to young readers, while keeping love and family at the forefront.

Recommended by Latinxs In Kid Lit

17. 'Listening With My Heart: A Story Of Kindess & Self-Compassion' by Gabi Garcia

Esperanza finds a heart-shaped rock, which reminds her to spread love and kindness to everyone around her. But after her performance in the school play doesn't go how she hoped, she has to try and give the same love to herself. This book teaches little ones how to practice mindfulness and build themselves up when they feel down.

Recommended by The Latina Book Club

18. 'I Love Saturdays Y Domingos' by Alma Flor Ada

This little girl loves both Saturdays and Sundays. On Saturdays, she visits Grandma and Grandpa, then sees Abuelito y Abuelita on Sundays. While the protagonist enjoys time with all her grandparents, readers hear stories about their cultures, pasts, and heritages. This book will speak to any child, but especially those with a diverse family.

Recommended by In Culture Parent

19. 'Dreamers' by Yuyi Morales

This story probably couldn't win any more awards if it tried. Author Yuyi Morales tells the story of her own journey from Mexico to the U.S. with her 2-month-old son. Her tale will make young readers who have immigrated, or whose parents immigrated, remember that they belong.

Recommended by We Need Diverse Books and a Pura Belpré Award winner

20. 'Last Stop On Market Street' by Matt de la Peña

This book has won multiple awards (the Newbery Medal, Caldecott Honor, and many more) for its special story and illustrations. It's about CJ, who takes the bus with his grandma every Sunday after church. On this day, he asks his grandmother why they don't have their own car, or an iPod like the other bus riders. Her answers help him see the beauty in their lives just as it is.

Recommended by The Latina Book Club

21. 'Already A Butterfly: A Meditation Story' by Julia Alvarez

Mari is a very busy butterfly. She's always flying from flower to flower, but she wonders if being so productive is good for her happiness. She finds her way through mindfulness, deep breathing, and meditation, and helps young readers learn the value of self-soothing. This book has award-winning illustrations to boot.

Recommended by We Need Diverse Books

22. 'What Can You Do with a Paleta? / ¿Qué Puedes Hacer Con Una Paleta?' by Carmen Tafolla

Who knew a paleta, or popsicle, could inspire so much fun? This bilingual story is all about the traditional Mexican treat, the special cart it's sold from, and all the yummy, fruity options inside. You can find the hardcover Spanish edition from indie bookstores online.

Recommended by Colours Of Us and In Culture Parent

23. 'Hooray, A Piñata!' by Elisa Kleven

This vibrantly illustrated book tells the story of Clara, who gets an adorable dog piñata for her birthday party. She gives him a name and takes him all over with her leading up to the big day. So, when her party rolls around, she doesn't exactly want to let anyone break her new friend open. Thankfully, another friend has a great solution.

Recommended by Colours Of Us

24. 'Too Many Tamales' by Gary Soto

Maria and her cousins love making tamales with their family on Christmas Eve. But when she loses her mother's diamond ring inside one of them, these kids have to feast themselves out of trouble in order to find it. Author Gary Soto has won multiple Pura Belpré Awards for his other titles, so this one should be a hit in your household, too.

Recommended by In Culture Parent

25. 'My Grandma / Mi Abuelita' by Ginger Foglesong Guy

A little boy takes his first plane ride all the way over the ocean to visit his grandmother. This story is known for its sense of adventure and family love. It includes both Spanish and English, too, with special vocabulary lessons on every page.

Recommended by Colours Of Us

26. 'Just A Minute: A Trickster Tale & Counting Book' by Yuyi Morales

A trickster tale that celebrates Mexican culture and teaches counting along the way, this story begin when Señor Calavera knocks on Grandma Beetle's door. When he asks her to leave with him immediately, she says first she has has one house to sweep, two pots of tea to boil, three pounds of corn to make into tortillas, and much, much more.

Recommended by In Culture Parent and a Pura Belpré Award winner

27. 'Pablo's Tree' by Pat Mora

Pablo can't wait to visit his grandfather. When Pablo was adopted, his grandfather planted a special tree to remember the day. Every year, he fills it with surprises for his beloved grandson to find. A few other of Pat Mora's books have earned the Pura Belpré Award, so don't miss out on this special story.

Recommended by In Culture Parent.

WNDB also has a free app, called OurStory, to help librarians, educators, and parents discover diverse books. You can find more resources on Latinx stories via Latinxs in KidLit, Latinx in Publishing, Lee & Low Books, and Social Justice Books, and by researching books that have earned The Pura Belpré Award.

Source:

Nicole Johnson, executive director of We Need Diverse Books