by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy
illustrated by David Diaz
There are many great Latino children’s literature books on the market today, but because we are a diverse community, only a handful of them are what I consider must-have books that every Latino family’s home library should absolutely include. And it probably comes as no surprise that the writing team of Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy have more than one title in this short list.
In August, I received a review copy of Yes! We Are Latinos. It took me less than five minutes to realize that it was going to be included in our HHM: Festival of Books Children’s Reading List.
There are not many books that truly reflect the diversity of our community. Our identity is inextricably bound with our culture…or cultures. In fact, many Hispanics here in the U.S. come by their heritage through more than one country. I myself am the daughter of a Spaniard and a Mexican-American, and was born in Texas. As such, I have strong, passionate feelings about all three cultures. My body involuntarily moves to the sound of Spanish flamenco, while my mouth waters at the thought of fresh tamales, and my mind enjoys listening to good ol’ cowboy poetry.
So I was eager to read Yes! We Are Latinos to my children…and they were engaged from the beginning. The book is a collection of 12 narrative poems, each one describing a snippet of time from the lives of 13 Latino children who come by their heritage in different ways. Here’s a glimpse of the 13 characters featured in these poems and how they come by their Latino heritage:
- Juanita is a Mexican living in New York.
- Mónica is from El Salvador and lives in Houston.
- José Miguel is Cuban and Nicaraguan. He lives in Tampa.
- Puertorriqueña Gladys is growing up in Philadelphia.
- In Detroit, we’ll read about Santiago. He’s Dominican.
- Sultana (or Susana) is a Sephardic Jew being raised in San Francisco.
- Julio is a Zapotec growing up in Stockton.
- Felipe is a black Panamanian and Venezuelan boy living in Chicago.
- Rocio is a Spaniard in Boston.
- Lili lives in Los Angeles. She is Guatemalan and Chinese.
- Michiko also lives in L.A., and is of Peruvian and Japanese decent.
- Andrés resides in Miami. He’s both Colombian and Ecuadorian.
- And finally, there is Román from New Mexico, who is Hispanic and Native American.
Ah. Perhaps you see now why this is such an amazing book.
But there’s more. Because after each child’s story, there is a short nonfiction section to accompany their story and explain historical points such as the Ladino language and cultural identity of the Sephardic Jews, the Chinese and Japanese presence in Latin America, the Spanish Civil War, African roots, and even Latino immigration to the U.S. to name a few.
This book is rich in information and a teacher’s dream. But parents, too, will love reading aloud the short poems to their children and then discussing their stories. For a children’s book, Yes! We Are Latinos packs quite a punch as it is filled with many talking points and learning opportunities. It is a high-quality book for Latino families.
Though it is not a picture book, Diaz’s interspersed silhouette illustrations add a nice touch and help create the mental image that inevitably accompanies the text.
Ada and Campoy’s book is sure to engage young readers of all backgrounds, though it is sure to be of special interest to children of Latino heritage.
Bravo, once again, to two Latina authors who perfectly capture the Latino American experience.