Latino Children’s Titles…for GIRLS

20 Books for Latina Girls

Do you know a smart, creative, kind, thoughtful, inventive, and/or driven young girl? Then here is a list you shouldn’t miss! Enjoy our 20 books for Latina girls.

(All the links below are affiliate links. When you click on one and make a purchase, we receive a small commission, which helps with the running of this website.)

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina
by Monica Brown
Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. And don t even think of asking her to choose one or the other activity at recess—she ll just be a soccer playing pirate princess, thank you very much. To Marisol McDonald, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together.

Good Night, Captain Mama
By Graciela Tiscareno-Sato
A little boy named Marco is walking to his bedroom in pajamas carrying his stuffed puppy dog when he notices his mommy in an olive-green military flight suit. His curiosity about the colorful patches on her uniform evolves into a sweet, reassuring bedtime conversation between a military mother and her child about why she serves and what she does in the unusual KC-135R aerial refueling airplane. He drifts off to sleep with thoughts of his mommy in the airplane and the special surprise she gave him stuck to his fleece pajamas.

My Very Own Room/Mi propio cuartito 
By Amada Irma Perez
The young Mexican American girl at the center of this charming book loves her family — five younger brothers, her two parents, and several visiting relatives — but in such a crowded house, she can never seem to find a moment alone. Told in both English and Spanish, this boldly illustrated title delivers the inspiring story of a California family that pulled together to give a young girl her own corner of the world. Imparting lessons about collective problem solving, the unshakable bonds of familial love, and the possibilities that arise when you dream big, this book is one for every child’s shelf.

Milagros: Girl from Away
By Meg Medina
Milagros de le Torre hasn’t had an easy life: ever since her father sailed away with pirates she’s been teased at school, and her family struggles to make ends meet. Still, Milagros loves her small island in the Caribbean, and she finds comfort in those who recognize her special gifts. But everything changes when marauders destroy Milagros’s island and with it, most of the inhabitants. Milagros manages to escape in a rowboat where she drifts out to sea with no direction, save for the mysterious manta rays that guide her to land. In stunning prose, Pura Belpré award-winning author Meg Medina creates a fantastical world in which a young girl uncovers the true meaning of family, the significance of identity, and, most important, the power of a mother’s love.

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba
By Margarita Engle
The freedom to roam is something that women and girls in Cuba do not have. Yet when Fredrika Bremer visits from Sweden in 1851 to learn about the people of this magical island, she is accompanied by Cecilia, a young slave who longs for her lost home in Africa. Soon Elena, the wealthy daughter of the house, sneaks out to join them. As the three women explore the lush countryside, they form a bond that breaks the barriers of language and culture.

Dona Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart
By Pat Mora
Doña Flor is a giant lady who lives in a tiny village in the American Southwest. Popular with her neighbors, she lets the children use her flowers as trumpets and her leftover tortillas as rafts. Flor loves to read, too, and she can often be found reading aloud to the children. One day, all the villagers hear a terrifying noise: it sounds like a huge animal bellowing just outside their village. Everyone is afraid, but not Flor. She wants to protect her beloved neighbors, so with the help of her animal friends, she sets off for the highest mesa to find the creature.

Becoming Naomi Leon
By Pam Munoz Ryan
Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw has had a lot to contend with in her young life, her name for one. Then there are her clothes (sewn in polyester by Gram), her difficulty speaking up, and her status at school as “nobody special.”

But according to Gram, most problems can be overcome with positive thinking. And with Gram and her little brother, Owen, Naomi’s life at Avocado Acres Trailer Rancho in California is happy and peaceful…until their mother reappears after seven years of being gone, stirring up all sorts of questions and challenging Naomi to discover and proclaim who she really is.

My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/la vida de Celia Cruz
By Monica Brown
This bilingual book allows young readers to enter Celia Cruz’s life as she becomes a well-known singer in her homeland of Cuba, then moves to New York City and Miami where she and others create a new type of music called salsa.

Esperanza Rising
By Pam Munoz Ryan
Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.

Adelita
By Tomie dePaola
Hace mucho tiempo- a long time ago – there lived a beautiful young woman named Adelita. So begins the age-old tale of a kind-hearted young woman, her jealous stepmother, two hateful stepsisters, and a young man in search of a wife. The young man, Javier, falls madly in love with beautiful Adelita, but she disappears from his fiesta at midnight, leaving him with only one clue to her hidden identity?a beautiful rebozo? shawl. With the rebozo in place of a glass slipper, this favorite fairy tale takes a delightful twist.

My Name Is Maria Isabel
By Alma Flor Ada
For María Isabel Salazar López, the hardest thing about being the new girl in school is that the teacher doesn’t call her by her real name. “We already have two Marías in this class,” says her teacher. “Why don’t we call you Mary instead?”

But María Isabel has been named for her Papá’s mother and for Chabela, her beloved Puerto Rican grandmother. Can she find a way to make her teacher see that if she loses her name, she’s lost the most important part of herself?

Under the Lemon Moon
by Edith Hope Fine
One evening, young Rosalinda discovers that someone is stealing the lemons from her lemon tree. Outraged, she becomes determined to find out the culprit. But when she does, she is faced with a moral dilemma. What should she do?

Elena’s Serenade
By Campbell Geeslin
In Mexico, where the sun is called el sol and the moon is calledla luna, a little girl called Elena wants to blow into a long pipe…and make bottles appear, like magic.

But girls can’t be glassblowers. Or can they?

Frida
By Jonah Winter
Over and over again, Frida Kahlo turned the challenges of her life into art. Now Jonah Winter and Ana Juan have drawn on both the art and the life to create a playful, insightful tribute to one of the twentieth century’s most influential artists. ¡Viva Frida!

Fiesta Feminina: Celebrating Women in Mexican Folktale
By Mary-Joan Gerson
Drawing from Mexico’s rich cultural heritage, this book celebrates the courage and resilience of the feminine spirit through the stories of seven extraordinary Mexican women.

Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro
By Juan Felipe Herrera
What happens when a small girl suddenly starts turning green, as green as a cilantro leaf, and grows to be fifty feet tall? She becomes Super Cilantro Girl, and can overcome all obstacles, that’s what! Esmeralda Sinfronteras is the winning super-hero in this effervescent tale about a child who flies huge distances and scales tall walls in order to rescue her mom.

Magda’s Pinata Magic / Magda y la Pinata Magica
By Becky Chavarria-Chairez
With the help of her abuela’s resourceful little cat, Tita, Magda works some midnight magic and engineers an ingenious solution to save the party and the piñata.

La mujer que brillaba aún más que el sol / The Woman Who Outshone the Sun
By Alejandro Cruz Martinez
A lively tale that retells the Zapotec legend of Lucia Zenteno, a beautiful woman with magical powers who is exiled from a mountain village and takes its water away in punishment.

My Name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral/la vida de Gabriela Mistral
By Monica Brown
Gabriela Mistral loved words and sounds and stories. Born in Chile, she would grow to become the first Nobel Prize-winning Latina woman in the world.

A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Ines
By Pat Mora
Though she died in 1695, Sor Juana Inés is still considered one of the most brilliant writers in Mexico’s history: her poetry is recited by schoolchildren throughout Mexico and is studied at schools and universities around the world. Here is the story of her life, an incredible one full of knowledge, achievement, and inspiration, lovingly told by the renowned children’s book author Pat Mora and gorgeously illustrated by Beatriz Vidal.

On NPR: Latino Children’s Lit to Top Lists

By: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

Every year my co-founder Monica Olivera awaits The New York Times Notable Children’s Literature List with a mixture of hopefulness and trepidation. While excited to learn about exemplary new titles in children’s lit by mainstream authors, she also hopes to see titles in a genre to which she and her children can relate: Latino children’s literature. Wearing two hats as homeschooling educator and Mami, she culls this list for book recommendations. But this year, once again, she was disappointed as it did not include a single book by a Latino children’s author, illustrator, or featuring an Hispanic character. Her disappointment soon turned to action. Deeming this unacceptable, Monica first compiled her own list of Remarkable Latino Children’s Literature of 2013, and then publicly pointed out that in the last 10 years, only one book by a Hispanic has made the cut in the NYT list, as she writes in her NBC Latino Op-ed.

Why are these writers overlooked? They have been publishing for decades, supported by small, independent publishers since at least the 1980s. These authors and illustrators have received numerous recognitions such as the Pura Belpré Award supported by the American Library Association or the Texas State University’s Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book award. As I note in L4LL Read for the Holidays: Two Writers on Why Latino Authors Should Top New York Times Lists which includes a Google Hangout on Air with writers Duncan Tonatiuh and Graciela Tiscareno-Sato, Hispanic authors’ work received the stamp of approval from the Library of Congress in the form of an invitation to present at the 2013 National Book Festival.

This exclusion is due to out of touch mainstream editors, book reviewers, and publishers who rarely venture outside their comfort zone to the world outside their front door into a more diverse and mixed America which includes 52 million Latinos.

The continued blinders on these gatekeepers have serious trickle-down repercussions: first, publishers have little incentives to take chances on “Unusual Suspects” and market to new audiences. Second, most bookstores, libraries, and schools don’t stock bookshelves and curricula with these new voices because they can’t find them in these go-to resources lists.

Third, this list’s exclusion of 17% of our population is not just a disservice to the fastest growing segment of our population, but to the teachers who are trying to make learning accessible to these students. Fourth, it hurts children from all backgrounds, including those who go to school with Hispanic kids. Seeing experiences and stories different from theirs opens up vistas and creates empathy and compassion for the world–not exclusively as they live it, but as it exists around them.

We raise our voices to school the New York Times Book Reviews and others on the richness and quality of an existing body of literature. But we also insist that readers of Latino children’s literature turn their demographic numbers into the economic might necessary to demand more representative “lists”– support our authors and their small, independent presses with purchases, leaving reviews, and placing orders at the library. Even a fraction of Hispanics “voting” with their pocketbooks and tweets numbers millions.

Numbers talk. And the mainstream media and publishers are sure to listen, resulting in a more representative view of our country and literature.

We discuss this topic on NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin with guest host Celeste Headlee leading the discussion on December 9, 2013. Click below to listen:

Latino Children’s Literature Celebrating the Holidays

This post uses affiliate links which help support the work of this site.

As your family launches itself into the holiday festivities, don’t forget to take time to read to your child. Just 15 minutes a day can have a huge impact on their literacy skills. You don’t have to read it all at once, either. You can break it up into 5 minute periods during the day.

And to help you incorporate holiday-themed books, here are a few of our favorite Latino children’s titles that are either written by or about Latinos.

The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola

Sister Angie has organized the celebration of Las Posadas for many years, in which the people of Santa Fe re-enact Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter on the night Jesus was born. This year’s performance promises to be very special. Sister Angie’s niece Lupe and Lupe’s husband, Roberto, are to play the parts of Mary and Joseph. But on the night of the celebration, a snowstorm hits and Lupe and Roberto’s car breaks down on their way into town. And to make matters worse, Sister Angie is home sick with the flu. It seems that only a miracle will be able to save Las Posadas.

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl’s unselfish gift to the Christ Child. Beloved Newbery honor-winning author and Caldecott honor-winning illustrator Tomie dePaola has embraced the legend using his own special feeling for Christmas. His glorious paintings capture not only the brilliant colors of Mexico and its art, but also the excitement of the children preparing for Christmas and the hope of Lucida, who comes to see what makes a gift truly beautiful.

Merry Navidad!: Christmas Carols in Spanish and English/Villancicos en espanol e ingles by Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy

In this warm and vibrant collection of traditional Spanish Christmas carols, or villancicos, noted authors Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy bring to life the holiday traditions of Latin America and Spain. The creative English adaptations by Rosalma Zubizarreta both capture the spirit of the originals and add a new dimension to the songs. And Spanish illustrator Viví Escrivá’s spirited illustrations are perfect backdrops for the lyrics, adding rich holiday flavor.

A Pinata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas by Pat Mora

An award-winning author and a rising star artist have put a festive Latino twist on “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” populating it with piñatas in place of partridges, plus burritos bailando (dancing donkeys), lunitas cantando(singing moons), and much more, all displayed in the most vivid colors imaginable. In this version a little girl receives gifts from a secret amiga,whose identity is a sweet surprise at the book’s conclusion. There are things to find and count in Spanish on every page, with pronunciations provided right in the pictures and a glossary and music following the story. This joyous fiesta will warm even the coldest of hearts.

The Christmas Gift / El regalo de Navidad by Francisco Jimenez

With honesty and rare grace, award-winning author Francisco Jiménez shares his most poignant Christmas memory in this remarkable book. Illustrated with paintings full of strength and warmth, written in spare bilingual text, this simple story celebrates the true spirit of Christmas, and illuminates how children do indeed draw strength from the bonds of their families.

Arturo and the Navidad Birds by Anne Broyles

It’s time for Arturo and his Central American grandmother, Abue Rosa, to decorate their Christmas tree. Abue Rosa shares with him the family history of each ornament as it is hung. But what happens when Arturo plays with-and breaks-a glass bird? Young readers will find out in this touching, bilingual picture book.

Feliz Navidad: Two Stories Celebrating Christmas by Jose Feliciano

Set to the lyrics of Jose Feliciano’s song “Feliz Navidad” and illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner David Diaz, this unique flip book features two different, yet traditional, Christmas celebrations!

When Christmas Feels Like Home by Gretchen Griffith

After moving from a small village in Mexico to a town in the United States, Eduardo is sure it will never feel quite like home. The other children don’t speak his language and they do not play fútbol. His family promises him that he will feel right at home by the time Christmas comes along, when “your words float like clouds from your mouth” and “trees will ride on cars.” With whimsical imagery and a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary, Gretchen Griffith takes readers on a multicultural journey with Eduardo who discovers the United States is not so different from Latin America and home is wherever family is.

Book Review: Yes! We Are Latinos

Yes! We Are Latinos

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.

Announcing the Group Challenge!

Calling all summer camps, library programs, youth groups, language camps, and cultural centers!

Do you have programs this summer? Why not incorporate the Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program and register your group for our special Group Challenge? Once you register, you’ll be automatically entered to win a Google Hangout with an award-winning Latina – either poet Margarita Engle or author/illustrator Lulu Delacre!

If your child is involved in a summer program, just print up the flyer and share it with their teacher.

To find ideas on how to incorporate the Summer Reading Program in your class or camp, or to register your group for the Group Challenge (groups register separately) click here.

Support Latino children’s literacy this summer!

The Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program

Today our hearts are bursting with joy because we are announcing the launch of Latinas for Latino Literature’s Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program!

We know that one of the greatest stumbling blocks that our children face academically is literacy. Too many are not reading well by the end of third grade. This has a tremendous impact on the rest of their academic life because after third grade, instead of learning to read, they must read to learn.

Summer is an especially crucial time for all students because during these two to three months, they can forget and lose important literacy skills they learned during the school year. It’s also a good time to help foster their love of reading.
That’s why we’re so excited to have found a partner in Google to support us as we create the first summer reading program designed specifically for Latino students and families. Between today June 1st, and August 12th, we challenge your kids, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews to read a minimum of 8 books. We are using technology such as YouTube videos and Google Hangouts to reinforce the reading basics, keeping students engaged and having fun. To reward them for their hard work, we’re giving out prizes, including free school supplies to the first 100 participating families with school aged children, free picture books for families with younger kids, and tablets for middle and high school students!

To help your family achieve this reading goal, we’ve created printable downloads for you to find books and keep track of your child’s progress. You can find all the summer reading printables here, available to you in English and Spanish for free.

Because we know that you are looking for books that reflect our culture, our bilingual book lists feature Latino children’s literature for all ages – newborn through high school.

Additionally, we have a resource page for parents with tips, articles, websites, apps, and more to help you nurture your child’s literacy for use not just throughout the summer but all year long. We are lining up some special events and guests for our Latino family readers and can’t wait to share them with you!

Vision, passion, and conviction can spark change. But resources sustain it. L4LL is grateful to our sponsors who when we shared our idea, all said, “I’m in! How can I help?” We’d like to thank Google for the support and technology to help our program reach and be as accessible to as many families as have web access. Thanks to latinamom.me for their sponsorship and edits of our Spanish printables. And muchísimas gracias to Plaza Familia and Latinos in Technology & Social Media (LATISM) for their backing, including a joint Twitter party later this summer. PBS KIDS has graciously donated some of the school supplies.

Lastly, we thank the readers of MommyMaestra and The Wise Latina Club for supporting us through our “forced vacation” while Viviana and I burn the morning, afternoon, evening, and midnight oil to bring this program all together.

Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing many great components to this project. If you or your company would like to support the L4LL Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program, please contact us.

Together we can raise readers. ¡A leer!

Un abrazo,

~Monica, Viviana & Carla

En español…

¡Hoy nuestros corazones laten más fuerte porque anunciamos el comienzo delprograma de lectura de verano para jóvenes latinos del grupo sin fines de lucro Latinas for Latino Literature (L4LL)!

Sabemos que uno de los obstáculos académicos más formidables para nuestro niños son las habilidades de lectoescritura. Al terminar tercero de primaria, muchos no leen bien. Las consecuencias son graves para el resto de sus estudios porque después de tercera de primaria, no aprenden a leer sino que leen para aprender.

El verano es crítico para todos los estudiantes porque durante las vacaciones se perjudican las habilidades de lectoescritura que aprendieron durantes el año escolar. También es una gran oportunidad para nutrir el amor de la lectura.

Por lo tanto, estamos entusiasmadas por el apoyo de Google mientras creamos el primer programa de lectura de verano para jóvenes latinos enfocando estudiantes y familias latinas. Entre hoy el primero de junio y el 12 de agosto, retamos sus hijos, nietos, sobrinas y sobrinas a leer mínimo 8 libros. Utilizamos la tecnología, como videos de YouTube y Google Hangouts para apoyar las habilidades de lectoescritura mientras los niños mantienen el interés y se divierten. Para premiar su esfuerzo, regalamos útiles escolares como cuadernos, lápices y borradores antes del comienzo del año escolar a las primeras 100 familias que participan con niños en la escuela. Para familias con niños pequeños damos libros ilustrados y para los estudiantes de secundaria, ¡regalamos tabletas!

Para ayudarlos a conseguir esta meta, hemos designado hojas que pueden bajar de nuestra página de web donde encontrarán libros y un registro para seguir el progreso de su hijo/a. Puede encontrar todas las hojas del programa de lectura de verano aquí en nuestra página de web, en inglés y español–gratis.

Sabemos que buscan libros con lazos culturales. Por lo tanto, nuestra lista bilingüe de lectura está repleta con libros de literatura juvenil para niños de todas las edades con toques latinos en inglés, español y ambos idiomas.

También hemos incluído una página de recursos para padres con consejos, artículos, páginas de web y apps para asesorarlos con sus metas de lectorescritura durante el verano y el año escolar. Planeamos eventos con invitados especiales para nuestras familias de lectores latinos que pronto compartiremos.

La visión, pasión y convicción pueden desencadenar el cambio. Pero se necesitan recurso para sostenerlo. L4LL agradece nuestros patrocinadores quienes cuando compartimos nuestra idea, respondieron inmediatamente: “¡Me comprometo! ¿Cómo puedo ayudar?” Damos gracia a Google por el apoyo y la tecnología para extender nuestro programa a cualquier familia con acceso al internet. Le damos gracias a latinamom.me por patrocinarnos y editar nuestras hojas en español. Y muchísimas gracias a Plaza Familia y Latinos in Technology & Social Media (LATISM) por su apoyo, especialmente la fiesta conjunta en Twitter en unas semanas. PBS KIDS contribuyó algunos útiles escolares.

Por último, agradecemos los lectores de MommyMaestra y The Wise Latina Club por el apoyo continuo durante nuestras “vacaciones inesperadas” mientras Viviana y yo trabajamos día y noche para completar el programa.

Durantes las siguientes semanas, vamos a compartir nuevos elementos del programa. Si Usted o su empresa quisiera apoyar el L4LL programa de lectura de verano para jóvenes latinos, favor de contactarnos aquí.

Juntos, podemos criar niños amantes de la lectura y del aprendizaje. ¡A leer!

Un abrazo,

~Monica, Viviana y Carla

Focusing on Latino Literacy with Sesame Street

Things have been quiet on the site the last few weeks as I juggled family obligations and work. But this week, I had a special treat when I attended the PBS Annual Meeting in Miami.

I have to say that I really had no intention of sharing my interview of Sesame Street’s newest Latino cast member here on Latinas4LatinoLit, BUT there were three things said or shared that made it absolutely essential.

Ismael Cruz Córdova will be making his debut on Sesame Street during the show’s 44th season this fall. I was able to sit down with the Puerto Rican actor, on Monday to discuss his new role, as well as his background.

It was a bonus to have the bilingual muppet, Rosita, join us. I enjoyed how she talked openly about the show, but especially loved when she shared with me the special moment when Ismael’s character – Mando – helped her turn a frustrating moment into something productive…

Rosita: Can I give an example of how Mando helped me? Because you were so wonderful [to Mando]. I’m learning to read right now and I was looking for a book. It was called Hola, Lola and it was about this Mexican girl. But this book – I was kind of a little disappointed because Lola had a sombrero, and a burro, and I was disappointed because I’m a Mexican girl and it didn’t reflect anything about who I am. But he [Mando] inspired me to write my own story.

L4LL: Wonderful! That’s really exciting!

Ismael: It’s not just for Latinos. Self-expression, to do it yourself, to tell your story is valuable for children. And Rosita’s story will inspire others (all children) to write their own stories.

L4LL: Rosita, what’s the name of your book?

Rosita: Well, actually, it is not a book but a song. And I called it Mi amiguita, Rosita! But the song inspired me, too, so I think I’m going to write a book, too.

Later we talked about literacy. I think it is such a great idea that Mando’s character is a writer, who writes everything from poetry and short plays to scripts and songs. What a great role model for our children!

Ismael: My mom placed a lot of emphasis on education. She told us it was up to us to make sure we studied and did well, and said that if we don’t read, we won’t succeed. She worked hard and wasn’t able to help us with our homework, but made sure we did it. And she understood that kids learn in different ways. I was very visual and I had to train myself as an adult to read more. Mostly because I was a visual learner, and also because we didn’t have a reading culture in my house. My parents didn’t read, were not taught to read. I didn’t read my first entire book (cover-to-cover) until I was in 7th grade.

So of course, we were especially pleased to be able to share some Latino children’s literature with Ismael/Mando & Rosita in the hopes that they would provide some inspiration for some episodes. And maybe – just maybe! – Sesame Street might consider having Mando read from one of them during a show some time.

MommyMaestra (L4LL co-founder, Monica Olivera) took three books; two selected by her children, and one she chose specifically for Mando.

MM’s daughter selected Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina (by Monica Brown & illustrated by Sara Palacios) because Marisol is a beautiful blend of cultures (just like Mando) and she’s proud of all of them.

MM’s son chose A Movie In My Pillow/Una película en mi almohada (poems by Jorge Argueta &
illustrated by Elizabeth Gómez) because it is about a boy who leaves his home country to go and live in another one.

And Monica chose Shake It, Morena! and Other Folklore from Puerto Rico (compiled by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand & illustrated by Lulu Delacre) because it is full of lively songs, games, and riddles from Ismael’s home.

What books would you have given Rosita y Mando?

Pat Mora On Día’s First Blog Hop


It is with greatest respect and much delight that we welcome award-winning author and poet, Pat Mora, as our blog hop’s first contributor. As Día’s founder, it seems only fitting that she launch this event. For a look at the complete blog hop schedule, click here.

Día’s First Blog Hop

by Pat Mora

What a special honor: beginning Día’s first blog hop! I sometimes think of Día as my fourth child, definitely the most challenging, and definitely hop-hop-hopping around our diverse country spreading bookjoy. Día’s history goes back to 1996 when at the University of Arizona, a radio interviewer from Mexico introduced me to the custom of celebrating El día del niño on April 30th. I loved the idea of a children’s day and felt confident that kids would too. Who doesn’t like a party—and treats?

My first children’s book, A Birthday Basket for Tía, had been published in 1992, and I’d quickly become aware that, as not all children are equally valued, all books aren’t either. I also discovered that, essential as it is for children to see their lives and families like theirs reflected in books, many book buyers were wary of difference, of books that reflect our national reality. I also knew what literacy challenges our country faces.

What if, I wondered? What if those of us who care deeply about children and literacy created a national, community-based initiative to celebrate children, nuestros niñas y niños queridos, and to celebrate books? My committed friends at REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking, became my first partner. REFORMA remains committed to Día and its members serve as judges for the Mora Award. Día, as in día por día, day by day, has grown to include linking all children to books, languages and cultures. It’s now housed at the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association. ALSC produces materials to help promote Día and has an annual Día registry that reflects some of the many culminating April Día celebrations.

Research indicates how important it is for children to be active readers by third grade. Think of the technological world that they’ll inherit, and literacy is essential in a democracy. Those of us lucky enough to be readers can serve as coaches to those who may not have had our opportunities. On my blog during our Díapalooza, I’ll be posting some literacy tips and a small downloadable poster : “Growing a Nation of Readers: Creating a Bookjoy Family.”

My dream for Día? That April book fiestas become as rich a tradition as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day; that families, libraries, schools, youth organizations and communities honor kids, their cultures and languages & creatively share bookjoy with them. I’m so grateful to the wonderful authors and illustrators who are doing this.

Día strengthens communities, and hundreds of Día celebrations are planned for this year. Do explore if such events are planned at your local schools, libraries and community organizations. If they aren’t, with some friends, become active Día advocates. You’ll find many ideas and links on my site. In your unique way, foster the tradition in your family and champion it in your networks and organizations. Spread the Día word. Día needs your innovative ideas too.

Let’s all clap for Monica Olivera and Latinas for Latino Literature for creating this clever blog hop and their important blog. They’re a shining example of designing a clever way to expand Día’s reach and visibility. Gracias, gracias, Monica and Latinas for Latino Literature!

Pat Mora, born in El Paso, Texas, is an award-winning poet and author of books for adults, teens, and children. Her awards include a Poetry Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Golden Kite Award, American Library Association Notable Book Awards, and honorary doctorates. A former teacher and university administrator, she is the founder of the family literacy initiative El día de los niños, El día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day (Día). The year-long commitment to linking all children to books, languages and cultures, and of sharing what Pat calls “bookjoy,” culminates in celebrations across the country in April. Pat lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Giveaway

L4LL has put together a wonderful collection of Latino children’s literature to be given to a school or public library. Many of the books were donated by the authors and illustrators participating in this blog hop. You can read a complete list of titles here on the L4LL website.
To enter your school library or local library in the giveaway, simply leave a comment below.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Monday, April 29th. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and announced on the L4LL website on April 30th, Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros. The winner will be contacted via email – so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment! (If we have no way to contact you, we’ll have to choose someone else!)

By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

¡Buena suerte!

The First Día Blog Hop and Giveaway… EVER!

Welcome to the first ever Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros Blog Hop! It is with great emotion that I sit down to write this post. What started as just a tiny seed of an idea three years ago while I was writing book reviews and sharing Día resources on the Latin Baby Book Club, finally found the right conditions to germinate with the formation of Latinas for Latino Literature. And for the next 20 days it will bloom profusely through the moving and beautifully written articles and illustrations of 20 Latino authors and illustrators. We are forever grateful to them for enthusiastically agreeing to participate, as well as to the 20 Latina bloggers whose blogs encompass a wide range of topics from parenting and food to politics and autism. They have eagerly offered to publish these articles in support of Latino children’s literacy.

At the bottom of this post you’ll find the complete schedule of authors and illustrators and the blogs with which they have been paired. I hope that each day you will follow along. And I hope that the amazing articles will inspire you to actively search out Latino children’s literature and purposefully buy these books for your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to give them a voice, grow some dreams, and find encouragement.

We are thrilled to have Día’s founder, Pat Mora, kick off this blog hop. The next article posted on this site today is written by her. You can find it here.

THE GIVEAWAY

In addition to the blog hop, we’ve put together a wonderful collection of Latino children’s literature to be awarded to a school library or public library. Many of the books were donated by the authors and illustrators participating in this blog hop, but we’ve also received private donations and some directly from the publisher. Thank you to Arte Público, Candlewick Press, and Lee & Low Books for donating some great titles.

ANYONE can enter their school library or local library to win this fabulous collection. Just leave a comment on any or all (one comment per person per blog, please) of the Día Blog Hop posts. The winner will be chosen at random and announced here on our site on April 30th, Día de los Niños.

The list is still growing, but we currently have the following titles in the giveaway (subject to change as more titles are donated):

Book Fiesta! by Pat Mora
Round is a Tortilla, A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra
When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by John Parra
Arrorro, Mi Nino: Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games by Lulu Delacre
How Far Do You Love Me? by Lulu Delacre
Rosita y Conchita by Eric Gonzalez and Erich Haeger
The Poet Upstairs by Judith Ortiz Cofer, illustrated by Oscar Ortiz
Clara and the Curandera by Monica Brown, illustrated by Thelma Muraida
Delicious Hullaballoo by Pat Mora and Francisco X. Mora
Rene Has Two Last Names by René Colato Laínez, illustrated by Fabiola Graullera Ramirez
The Case of the Pen Gone Missing by René Saldaña
A Mummy in Her Backpack by James Luna
Dancing Home by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta
Nacer Bailando by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta
Love, Amalia by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta
Con cariño, Amalia by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta
Pancho Rabbit by Duncan Tonatiuh
Jungle Tales by Jeff Zorilla
Runaway Piggy by James Luna, illustrated by Laura Lacamara
The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
Sundays on Fourth Street by Amy Costales, illustrate by Elaine Jerome
Tia Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina, illustrated by Claudio Munoz
Starfields by Carolyn Marsden
My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood by Rosemary Wells & Secundino Fernandez, illustrated by Peter Ferguson
Grandma’s Chocolate/El chocolate de Abuelita by Mara Price, illustrated by Lisa Fields
The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez by René Colato-Laínez, illustrated by Tom Lintern
Marisol Mcdonald Doesn’t Match/ Marisol Mcdonald No Combina by Monica Brown, illustrated by Sara Palacios
Laughing Tomatoes And Other Spring Poems / Jitomates Risueños Y Otros Poemas De Primavera by Francisco X. Alarcon, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
I Know The River Loves Me/ Yo Sé Que El Río Me Ama by Maya Christina Gonzalez
My First Book Of Proverbs/ Mi Primer Libro De Dichos by by Ralfka Gonzalez, Ana Ruiz and an introduction by Sandra Cisneros
Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Dancing With the Devil and Other Tales from Beyond/Bailando Con El Diablo Y Otros Cuentos Del Mas Alla by René Saldaña
The Whole Sky Full of Stars by René Saldaña
Chipi Chipis Small Shells of the Sea / Chipi Chipis Caracolitos del Mar by Irania Patterson, illustrated by Catherine Courtlandt-McElvane
Wings and Dreams: The Legend of Angel Falls / Alas y Sueños: La Leyenda del Salto del Angel by Irania Patterson, illustrated by Catherine Courtlandt-McElvane

The #L4LL Día Blog Hop Schedule

April 10th – Pat Mora on Latinas4LatinoLit.org
11th – Alma Flor Ada on AllofMeNow.com
12th – Margarita Engle on TheWiseLatinaClub.com
13th – F. Isabel Campoy on AutismWonderland.com
14th – Joe Cepeda on MommyMaestra.com
15th – Lulu Delacre on ModernMami.com
16th – Jorge Argueta on SweetLifeBake.com
17th – René Colato-Laínez on Latinaish.com
18th – Amy Costales on MamisTimeOut.com
19th – Monica Brown on NewLatina.net
20th – Christina Rodriguez on GrowingUpBlackxican.com
21st – James Luna on DeSuMama.com
22nd – Brian Amador on MomsLA.com
23rd – Mara Price on MamaLatinaTips.com
24th – Jeff Zorilla on MulticulturalFamilia.com
25th – John Parra on MamiTalks.com
26th – Duncan Tonatiuh on SpanglishBaby.com
27th – René Saldaña on LivingMiVidaLoca.com
28th – Eric Gonzalez on UnknownMami.com
29th – Irania Patterson on TheDomesticBuzz.com

Wishing you all a very happy Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros.

Un abrazo,

~ Monica

NBC Latino: Opinion: Where is the Latino children’s literature?

The following excerpt is from an article on NBC Latino that includes a very brief history of Latino children’s literature in recent years.

This week an article in the New York Times caused a stir among the Latino community over the lack of Latino children’s literature available to Latino students. Bloggers, journalists, publishers, and parents all have something to say about it, and there is a growing discontent among Latino parents who cannot easily find books that reflect their children’s faces and experience.

This lack of representation deeply impacts our children’s academic success, because if they don’t have books and stories that they can relate to during their first years in school, then learning to read becomes more difficult. My kids have never enjoyed the Dick & Jane series because they think Dick & Jane are boring. I’m not knocking the series – it has helped teach thousands of children to read. But one key doesn’t fit every lock, just like one book doesn’t fit every child.

And it is crucial that children learn to read by the end of third grade – and learn to read well. Because starting in fourth grade, they must then use their literacy skills in a different way and start reading to learn. A child who is cannot read well by fourth grade will struggle in every other subject as a result….READ MORE.