Matching Books and Museums: 3 Family Heritage Experiences

Did you ever walk through a museum and wish you knew the story behind the exhibits?

The solution? Read a related book or two before you go. You’ll gain context and be better able to appreciate what you see. Share your ideas, too, with your family as you view the exhibits.

Here are 3 family-friendly museums, matched with some great books for you and the kids, too.

1. The Museum of Latin American Art

The museum: Located in Long Beach, CA, the museum “expands knowledge and appreciation of modern and contemporary Latin American art through its Collection, ground-breaking Exhibitions, stimulating Educational Programs, and engaging Cultural Events.” Or to put it more simply, this is THE museum for artwork of all types from both noted and to-be-discovered Latino artists. In fact the museum’s website has a call for a ceramicist to get in touch!

The museum has a lot going on to support love of the arts: the quarterly calendar is loaded with exhibition information, the museum has a summer camp art program, the museum’s Viva Café is a great place to taste authentic dishes, and the director is leading a September tour of Mexico City’s art hotspots. You can also shop the online store. Check out the museum website for more.

The books: The whole family will be ready for the museum’s wealth of art with these reads.

Frida by Hayden Herrera: The definitive biography of tortured artist Frida Kahlo, used as the basis of the movie of the same name.

Mexico & Central America: A Fiesta of Cultures, Crafts, and Activities for Ages 8-12 by Mary C. Turuk: This multicultural activity book contains more than 40 activities and 3 play scripts celebrating the cultures of Mexico and Central America and their Aztec and Maya roots.

2. The National Museum of Mexican Art

The museum: Located in Chicago, IL, the museum is a rich offering of all the art and culture Mexico has to offer. The museum’s credo is that “Mexican culture exists sin fronteras, without borders, and we display artistic expressions from both sides of the border . . . the Museum is committed to creating a wide range of exhibitions that present a vibrant and diverse picture of Mexico and its history, as well as of Mexican communities in the United States.”

This means that the museum has a wide variety of collections, stemming from antique textiles to contemporary photography. Special exhibitions change regularly. The museum also has a number of programs for adults, teens and children, special programs such as a film and literature program, and a spectacular gift shop, the Tienda Tzintzuntzán. Check out the museum website for more.

The books: Dive into Mexico and Mexican heritage with an author the museum has featured in its literature program and a unique alphabet.

The Eagle’s Throne by Carlos Fuentes: In a series of letters, Mexico’s power players act out political intrigues that perfectly capture the schemes and corruption of a government run by insiders. Winner of the Cervantes Prize.

ABeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill et al: A wonderful children’s book which illustrates the alphabet with Mexican artwork.

3. The Hispanic Society of America

The museum: Located in New York City (Audubon Terrace, Broadway between 155 and 156 Streets) this is a “free museum and reference library for the study of the arts and cultures of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America.” The collections are extensive, including more than 800 paintings, 6000 watercolors and drawings, 1000 sculptures, 175,000 photographs, and 6000 decorative objects such as jewelry, textiles and ironwork.

Beyond these resources, the Society’s library is the place to go for ancestry or academic research. It has more than 250,000 books and periodicals including 15,000 volumes printed before 1701, as well as manuscripts dating from the 12th century. Check out the society’s website for more. (A bit clunky but worth checking before you go.)

The books: A visit to the Society calls out for classic reads for the whole family!

El Cid: In the anonymous medieval Spanish poem, the general Rodrigo Díaz is banished from the court of Kind Alfonso without his beloved wife Jimena or his daughters. He becomes a mercenary, El Cid Campeador, and sets out from Castile to restore his name. Read the dual language version for a truly immersive experience.

The Adventures of Don Quixote (Argentina Palacios edition): A children’s version of the most well-known piece of Spanish language literature captures the story of the traveling knight Don Quixote and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza.


Carmen Amato is the author of THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY and CLIFF DIVER, the first book in her Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco which was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “consistently exciting.” The next book in that series, HAT DANCE, will be released later this summer.

In HAT DANCE, Acapulco detective Emilia Cruz will risk a dance with the devil in a desperate attempt to stop an arsonist and find a missing girl. But when the music stops, the consequences will be deadly.

Check out all Carmen’s books at and connect with her on Twitter @CarmenConnects or Facebook. Her Pinterest boards illustrate her books and can be found at

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