In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we've teamed up with our friend Eliana at @kidlitismagic for a guest blog post. Which book are you excited to read this month?
Every year from September 15 to October 15, the United States observes National Hispanic Heritage Month - a celebration of the history, culture, influence and many contributions of the Hispanic community in the United States. As an American-born daughter of Latino immigrants, this month has an incredibly special meaning to me. It's an opportunity for me to take my culture and family values and not just honor them but share them with those around me.
One of the many ways I celebrate my Hispanic heritage this month every year is by shining a spotlight on all of the amazing books featuring Hispanic culture and characters that are available for children today. As a young girl growing up in a Spanish-speaking household in New York City, I never saw myself or my culture represented in the books I read. When diverse children see themselves in the pages of the books they read and connect with those characters, it sends the message that they belong - that they matter. And for those who these representations serve as a window into another culture, they get the benefit of learning about a wide range of human experiences.
Whether the books shared below are mirrors or windows for the children in your lives, all of them are a wonderful celebration of Hispanic culture. They highlight the history, pride, pain and joy that is part of the Hispanic experience in the United States. But they also touch on themes of family, belonging, community and tradition that will resonate with anyone who reads them. I can't think of a better way to celebrate.
In Islandborn, we meet a young girl named Lola, who for a school assignment has to draw a picture of where her family immigrated from, the Dominican Republic. However, Lola left the island when she was so young, she couldn't remember it. But with the help of her family, friends and neighbors, their memories became hers. Lola's imagination takes readers on an incredible journey back to the Dominican Republic. And along the way she learns that just because she didn't remember the island doesn't mean it's not in her.
I love this book because it brought forth both the beauty and struggle of island life in a vibrant story about identity and belonging that will resonate with anyone who reads it.
Federico and the Wolf is an incredibly clever Mexican-American twist on the classic Little Red Riding Hood Story. Wearing his red hoodie and with his bicycle basket full of food, Federico takes off to visit his Abuelo. When he finally arrives, he finds that his "abuelo" has a striking resemblance to a wolf he met on the way there. But some quick and clever thinking helps Federico outfox the wolf. And Federico and his Abuelo celebrate with a special salsa (recipe included).
I love this book because it gives Hispanic children a chance to see themselves in fairytales, a genre of books where there isn't much diversity.
Miss Quinces is a graphic novel that does an incredible job of portraying the angst felt by so many Hispanic children being raised in the United States. In it we meet a girl named Sue, who would much rather go to sleep away camp with her friends than visit her family in Honduras. Something else she doesn't want - a quinceanera party.
I love this book because the story explores both intergenerational and bicultural conflicts as well as tradition and growth in a delightful way. So many children will feel seen and understood when they read this book.
Bilingual families will really love Mi Casa is My Home, where Lucia welcomes readers into her home and introduces them to her family. We meet a family that is very similar to many others in the United States - one where everyone seamlessly moves back and forth between Spanish and English.
I love this book because so many bilingual children will see themselves in this family that Lucia is so proud to show off. But at the core, the story is a joyous celebration of home and family that all readers can identify with no matter where they are from or what language they speak.
Stella is getting ready for a big gala in Stella's Stellar Hair but isn't thrilled about how her hair is acting. So she takes a trip to space to get help from her aunties, who are located on every planet. Together, they explore different hairstyles from the Latin and African diasporas until Stella finds the style that is perfectly her.
I love this book because it's a vibrant story of self love and acceptance that celebrates the intersection of Latin and African culture.
With Lots of Love is a beautiful intergenerational story that will tug at the heartstrings of anyone who reads it. It's about a young girl named Rocio making a new life in a new home. She grew up in Central America but now lives in the United States. She tries her best to adjust but misses so much of her old life, especially her Abuela. Abuela figures out a way to send her an extra special gift just in time for Rocio's birthday. And Rocio blows a kiss through the window that travels through the night sky and lands on Abuela's cheek with lots of love.
I love this book because Rocio's story is the same as so many immigrants all over the world, especially those of us in the Hispanic diaspora - stories of loved ones separated by borders.
In Paletero Man/Que Paletero Tan Cool, a young boy is going through his busy neighborhood following the call of the Paletero Man, who sells delicious paletas (popsicles). When he finally decides on pineapple paleta, he reaches into his pocket to pay only to realize he lost his money. But thanks to the generosity of his entire community, they save the day and come up with a way to get him his tasty treat
I love this book because the story's rhyming text and vibrant illustrations make it an incredibly joyful read aloud. But what I love most is how at the end the entire community came together to help the boy get his treat, which is a true testament to the power of kindness that comes along with the strength of community.
Kid Lit Is Magic was started by Eliana, who found books to be how her son and her connected after a long day apart. Whether it's what makes them tick, laugh, cry or sad or simply realize they are learning (or relearning) something new, they learn so much about one another every time they read together. Books help them connect in the most special way. And her hope is that when you pick up a book she recommends, that they help you connect with the children in your lives in the same way. Follow Eliana at @kidlitismagic.