This list of children's books with Hispanic and Latino characters contains several categories of books—board books, preschool books, elementary and middle grade. These books are for families and educators who want to ensure their children both 1) see their lives reflected in books; and 2) learn about their neighbors. In short: these books are for everyone!
There is an increasing number of books featuring Hispanic and Latino protagonists and sadly, I had to leave so many wonderful books off the list in order to make it manageable! However, since Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 - Oct. 15, I hope you will use these books as a jumping off point for further reading, especially if you haven't intentionally included books with Hispanic and Latino characters in your reading diet yet. (And I'm not talking about Skippy Jon Jones. 🙂 )
For the most part, I've purposely chosen books about the Hispanic and Latino American experience, and even though there are so many excellent picture book biographies, this is a list of fiction books. And bonus! Many of them are bilingual books in English/Spanish, or English with some Spanish words.
At the bottom of the post, I've linked to more book lists with Hispanic and Latino children's books. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Latino and Hispanic Books for Babies and Toddlers
Fiesta Babies by Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Amy Cordova. The lively, rhyming text and illustrations feature aspects of Latino and Hispanic culture like music, fiestas, food and of course, besos and abrazos. I really appreciated that illustrator Amy Cordova recognized that not all Latino Americans have the same skin color! Includes a short glossary.
Besos for Baby: A Little Book of Kisses by Jen Arena, illustrated by Blanca Gomez. A sweet little board with repetitive and rhyming text. In English with a few Spanish words.
Arrorró, Mi Niño: Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games by Lulu Delacre. This is a wonderful bilingual resource, even for parents with no Spanish language experience. Short songs and interactive games (think: Pat-a-cake, and "To Market, to Market") will encourage caregivers to spend special one on one time with their children.
Maria Had a Little Llama / María Tenía Una Llamita by Angela Dominguez. This classic nursery rhyme has a Peruvian twist. The illustrations are delightful. Bilingual.
Un Elefante: Numbers/Numeros by Patty Rodriguez, illustrated by Ariana Stein. The Lil' Libros board book series teaches beginning concepts through Latin American culture, history, and traditions. Bilingual.
Hispanic and Latino Books for Preschoolers
Green is a Chile Pepper and Round is a Tortilla by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra. These two concept books with Spanish words sprinkled throughout are perfect for preschoolers. Colorful, folksy illustrations and rhyming text make these great for storytime.
Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra. In this joyful book, a biracial boy narrates all the things he is thankful for, from the mundane to the surprising. The illustrations include a range of multicultural children, so kids of all colors will see themselves represented. Bilingual.
Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales. Niño imagines himself as a “Lucha Libre” wrestler. He wrestles with stellar moves, like the “tickle tackle” and the “puzzle muzzle” to best alarming intergalactic opponents, but when it comes to his biggest challenge, “Las Hermanitas”, Niño pulls out his very special moves. An endnote describes this type of theatrical wrestling popular in Spanish-speaking countries.
What Can You Do With A Paleta?/ ¿Qué Puedes Hacer con una Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Magaly Morales. Bilingual. A paleta is a traditional Mexican popsicle treat. This joyful book about kids running to get a summer treat will spark your preschoolers imagination and maybe he or she will even offer to share a paleta with you!
Gilberto and the Wind by Marie Hall Ets. Very few classics, like this one from 1963, have Latino protagonists (look up Jack Ezra Keats' books for a few more!). Gilberto is a boy, like any other boy who enjoys a day playing with the wind. He experiences its effect on objects like bubbles, balloons and his hat, but my favorite part is how the illustrations capture the effect of the wind on Gilberto's emotions. Also available in Spanish.
Hispanic and Latino Books for Kindergarten and Up
Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match / Marisol McDonald no combina by Monica Brown, illustrated by Sara Palacios. I loved Marisol from the moment I met her, and as a result, she’s made an appearance on several of my lists, including books with diverse characters and books for Hispanic Heritage Month. Red-headed half-Scottish half-Peruvian Marisol bounces off the page with great enthusiasm and loves her mismatched life. When her friend, Ollie, challenges her to “match”, Marisol finds she is unhappy with life as a conformist. This is a great story that emphasizes the importance of embracing and accepting one’s uniqueness. Bilingual.
Mango, Abuela and Me by Meg Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez. I love picture books with intergenerational stories! Mia's Spanish-speaking abuela has come to live with the family. Mia and her grandmother now share a room, but they don't know how to communicate. Abuela can't read Mia's English books and Mia doesn't have enough Spanish words to share her experiences. One day Mia brings home a parrot which reminds Mia of her grandmother's previous home and eventually, through practice, the family learns how to communicate fluently with each other. Also available in Spanish.
Abuela by Arthur Dorros. A girl and her Abuela hop on a bus to the park where she imagines flying high above New York City. On their imaginary flight they take in all the diverse and exciting scenes of city life. The text is peppered with Spanish words and phrases. Those of you looking for good books featuring positive grandparent-grandchild relationships, you will like this one. I also adore the vibrant, colorful illustrations, full of details to pour over. Also available in Spanish.
Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales. I adore trickster tales and this one about a grandmother who outsmarts a skeleton is quite a treat. A skeleton comes to fetch Grandma Beetle on her birthday, but the clever woman thwarts him as she claims to have too many chores to do first. The tale seamlessly weaves Spanish language numbers into the humorous narrative as grandma counts up the tasks she must do in order to keep the skeleton at bay.
Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh. Two cousins—Charlie, who is American, and Carlitos, who is Mexican—write letters to each other describing their lives in their home countries, thus inviting readers to compare and contrast the different experiences. Tonatiuh's illustrations are heavily influenced by Mixtec tradition (Mixtec was a major civilization of Mesoamerica). In English, with some Spanish words, plus a glossary.
Latino and Hispanic Books for ages 8-12
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle. This is a novel written in verse. Margarita was born in the USA but her mother came from Cuba. The author grew up in mid-20th century Los Angeles and feels her loyalty being tested by the two countries. She spends holidays in Cuba but that all begins to change as the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. deteriorates. Stories of immigrants are so important right now (well, anytime, really) and this is a gorgeous one about a girl who also learns to love reading and poetry along the way.
Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez. 11 year old Tyler's Vermont family farm in trouble and in order to make ends meet they hire a family of undocumented workers. One of the girls is Tyler's age and the two become friends, learning from each other. The is a wonderful book that addresses what it means to have compassion for others, the meaning of family and what it means to be honest. The narration alternates between Tyler's perspective and letters written by Mari.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan. In the 1930s, Esperanza and her family live on a ranch in Mexico. When tragedy strikes, she and her mother make a risky escape to Southern California, where they become farm workers. Although Muñoz Ryan explores historical topics like the Depression, farm worker's rights, labor organization, and minority status this is ultimately a story about how a girl from a privileged background grows in maturity and understanding.
Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third. You might not think that a space adventure would easily combine with Mexican car culture. Well, you'd be wrong! Lowriders is great fun and has a good message about working together and friendship. Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria are a great team when it comes to fixing cars. Together they enter a contest to turn a hunk of junk into the best car in the solar system. A glossary in the back helps kids with the Spanish words sprinkled throughout the text.
Hispanic and Latino Poetry for Children
Poetry, songs and free verse are wonderful additions to story time!
The Magical Cycle of the Seasons. This is a four book series of poems by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez.
Yes! We Are Latinos: Poems and Prose About the Latino Experience by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by David Diaz. A collection free verse narratives about the wide diversity of Latino experiences. Ages 8 and up
De Colores and Other Latin American Folksongs for Children ed. by Jose-Luis Orozco, illustrated by Elisa Kleven. Okay, so these are songs, not poems, but still! These fun tunes will charm you and your kids.