15 Picture Books That Celebrate Hispanic & Latinx Heritage
by Wesley Salazar
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated between September 15 and October 15 of each year. What better way to honor Hispanic culture and history with kids than with picture books? We’ve rounded up informative and inspiring books to recognize the wide range of voices and stories within Hispanic and Latino culture — from biographies to folktales, there’s something great for every young reader amongst these fiction and nonfiction reads.
Areli Is a Dreamer
Based on the author’s real-life experiences, this picture book shares Areli’s story as a young immigrant from Mexico. Although moving to a new country presented many difficulties, Areli now calls America home. It’s a touching story that any child will love — especially if they’ve also experienced the growing pains of adjusting to a new place.
Sing With Me: The Story of Selena Quintanilla
Music lovers will enjoy reading this inspiring biography of Selena Quintanilla. Everyone has to start somewhere, and Selena began her singing career at quinceañeras and other small venues. As her popularity grew, so did the platforms — until she could fill entire stadiums with adoring fans.
Across the Bay
Spend a day in the life of a young boy in Puerto Rico as he ventures into San Juan to look for his Papi. There, he explores the historic city and takes in the sights. The gorgeous illustrations and heartfelt story celebrate the vibrant culture of San Juan. You’ll want to read this book again and again.
My Papi Has a Motorcycle
Daisy Ramona loves her daily motorcycle rides with her papi around their Southern California town. There are so many familiar faces and sights in their community, from their librarian shopping for groceries to the lively murals around town that celebrate their Mexican-American history. Daisy also can't help but notice the changes in her community - but she knows what (and who) she can hold on to through times of change.
Carmela Full of Wishes
Author-illustrator team Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson are back with their first collaboration since the Newbery Medal- and Caldecott Honor-winning Last Stop on Market Street. When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, she's excited to finally be old enough to run the family errands with her big brother. And when she finds a dandelion right outside the laundromat, her brother reminds her she'll have to make a wish before blowing it out. But how will she decide what to wish for? This poignant picture book takes a look at life in a young girl's Hispanic community.
If your family doesn't know the life story of Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and Latina Supreme Court Justice, this picture book autobiography is a must-read. Although her childhood involved grief and difficulty, which included her father's death and her diagnosis of diabetes, Sotomayor found inspiration and comfort in books. Here, she passes on that love for reading while giving us a glimpse of life in public service. For middle grade readers eager to learn more, pick up a copy of The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor.
Mango, Abuela, and Me
Mia is thrilled when her grandmother, who has always lived far away, comes to stay with Mia and her family. Mia soon finds out her Abuela (grandmother) doesn’t speak English, but over time they teach one another their native languages and form a close bond. Families will love reading the English and Spanish words that make up this sweet cross-generational story about a young girl getting to know her grandmother.
La Princesa and the Pea
A Peruvian reimagining of The Princess and the Pea, this one is sure to become a read-aloud favorite. La Princesa must prove that she's of royal makings if she wants to impress her potential mother-in-law, a stern-looking queen who walks around the palace with a mean cat in her hat. The mixed-media artwork and vibrant backdrop combine with rhyming text in Spanish and English to give the classic fairy tale a Latinx twist.
In this encouraging picture book, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor uses her own experience as a child diagnosed with diabetes to write a story about kids who have all different challenges. As the children work together to build a community garden, they get to know each other — and how they are different — by asking questions. Sotomayor encourages readers to do the same, and to embrace the things that make us wonderfully unique.
The Day of the Dead / El Dia de Los Muertos
For little ones who fell in love with the wondrous world of Coco (and really, who didn't?), keep the fun going year-round with this bilingual celebration of el Día de los Muertos - the Day of the Dead! With marigold petals and song and dance, one family welcomes their beloved ancestors home on this festive holiday.
Waiting for the Biblioburro
In this picture book, readers meet a young Colombian girl named Ana who loves reading but doesn’t have access to new books. Luckily, librarian Luis Soriano arrives in her village with plenty of books in tow — on the backs of two (appropriately named) donkeys, Alfa and Beto. A simple story, based on a real-life traveling librarian, that incorporates Spanish words throughout the text and reminds us of the universal value of reading.
I am Frida Kahlo
Young readers will learn about Frida’s childhood, struggles, and artistic journey in this easy-to-digest nonfiction book. By incorporating herself, Mexican culture, and history into her paintings, she set herself apart and became a beloved icon in the art world.
Alma and How She Got Her Name
Young Alma is learning to write her name, and what a name it is! Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela - try fitting that on a single line. When Alma asks her father why she has so many names, he responds by bringing to life the stories of Alma's ancestors, like her grandmother Sofia, who loved books, and her grandfather José, who made beautiful art. Alma learns her cultural roots through her namesakes, and comes to love every part of her name.
In Islandborn, a young girl goes on an imaginative quest to rediscover the island she immigrated from but can no longer remember. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Lola's family celebrates their culture every day through food, music, and stories. But Lola doesn't understand why they had to leave, or what it means that she can't remember her birthplace. Her family and friends share their memories and histories, both beautiful and complex, helping Lola see that she's part of both worlds.
Brick by Brick
While Papi lays bricks all day, Luis goes to school. Together, they work toward a brighter future. This stunning picture book celebrates hard work, big dreams, and traditions passed down through families. It’s a fantastic book to read for Father’s Day or any day.
*Special thanks to Laura Arnhold, librarian at the Upper Merion Township Library in King of Prussia, for her help in creating this list.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2021.