—By Lívia Paula
As a Latina woman, I've always been proud of my culture and excited to celebrate when possible. Even though I do not have children (yet), I have spent half of my life here in the U.S. I'm surrounded by little ones whose parents (one or both) are first-or-second-generation Americans from Latin America. As a tia to some of these kids, I always enjoy learning about different ways I can gift them with purpose. As a young Brazilian woman, I wish I was exposed to more representation of the Latin American cultures, and I want to make sure future generations of my family learn and embrace our cultures.
While we celebrate Latinx Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15) and highlight the histories, cultures, and contributions of Latinx, Hispanic, and Latino-Identified communities in the U.S. and beyond, I rounded up a few of my favorite children's books to celebrate Latinx cultures and authors while educating your little ones in the process.
Where are you from? (Ages 4-8)
By Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jaime Kim
Ah, a question Latinxs and other non-white people hear a lot. This picture book by Yamile Saied Méndez and illustrated by Jaime Kim talks about a young Latina brown girl who is constantly asked about her identity by her colleagues and other adults. She feels left out and asks her Abuelo (grandfather) about her origin. His answer takes readers through beautiful scenarios and encourages self-awareness and empathy.
"An enchanted, hand-in-hand odyssey [and] opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the many, many backgrounds, roots, histories, of those who live in these United States." —Shelf Awareness
Alma and How She Got Her Name (Ages 3-8)
By Juana Martinez-Neal
In Latin America, it is common for people to have multiple last names. Alma and How She Got Her Name tells the story of little Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela and her curiosity behind her six names. She learns about the story of each name, and her large name doesn’t bother her as much once she discovers the importance of them all.
“Martinez-Neal brings her gentle story to life through beautiful graphite and colored pencil artwork, set against cream-colored backgrounds. Soft blue and red details pop against the charcoal scenes, which perfectly reflect the snapshots of Alma’s family. While Alma feels enriched by learning her family’s history, she is also empowered by the knowledge that she will give her name, Alma, its own story.” —Booklist
Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx (Ages 4-9)
By Jonah Winter, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez
Sonia Sotomayor was the first Latino person to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. In this inspiring children’s book, we learn about a little girl in the South Bronx and how the bloomed with her mother’s love, determination, and optimism.
“Growing up with her loving, single-parent mom in a family that surrounded Sonia “like a warm blanket,” Sotomayor was a big reader as a child and wanted to be Nancy Drew. After being diagnosed with diabetes, she had to learn to accept her physical limits, but she graduated at the top of her high-school class and then at the top of her Princeton class. She felt different from her privileged classmates, and kids of all backgrounds will recognize the universal emotions and experiences of trying to fit in.”— Hazel Rochman
Counting With-Contando Con Frida (Ages 0-3)
By Patty Rodriguez, and Ariana Stein
This is a cute little book that helps babies learn how to count in English and Spanish, while also getting to know one of Mexico’s most iconic artists and feminist symbol, Frida Kahlo! The numbers and objects reflect something related to Frida’s life, such as “a blue house/una casa azul,” accompanied by vibrant colors and her iconic style. It’s simple and exciting enough for little readers out there!