I’ve read a lot of fiction picture books for Hispanic Heritage Month. Some much better than others. Recently especially a flurry of books from both Spanish-speaking Latino authors and English-speaking authors alike have come out that you may not be aware of. Here I’m talking about the best fiction picture books for Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15. These books can also be great for other occasions throughout the year for a variety of topics such as community, immigration and refugees. There are also many great nonfiction or biography picture books for Hispanic Heritage Month that I’ve also written about.
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Check out the books:
This book is inspired by a true story. Mira sees a problem in her neighborhood and turns the lack of color in her neighborhood into a community of brilliant murals. The story is perfect for younger students, and the illustrations are absolutely stunning in how they show the transformation in the community. The book shows the powerful message that even a small person can make a big difference.
This book is also available in Spanish titled Quizás algo hermoso
A little boy goes to Mexico to visit his grandmother, but he does not know how to speak much Spanish. Together they connect through the Spanish form of bingo called “loteria.” They boy teaches his grandmother English and she teaches him Spanish. This is a really touching story that I’m sure a number of our Latino students can connect to if they did not grow up speaking Spanish with their families.
This book is bilingual and is written in both English and Spanish.
Based on an Aztec folktale of two volcanoes outside of Mexico City. A princess Izta falls in love with warrior Popoca. The emperor, Izta’s father, tells Popoca he must first defeat the kingdom’s enemy. Popoca defeats the enemy, but a traitor tells Izta that Popoca was killed. She faints and sleeps. Popoca returns and Izta does not wake up even when Popoca tries to wake her. Popoca waits with Izta until they become volcanoes, one that is always dormant and the other at times erupts to try to wake up its companion. A brilliant tale.
Another story set in Mexico is the Mexican wrestling story of lucha libre. Carlitos is attending his first lucha libre match in Mexico City. The story teaches the reader and Carlitos about the parts of the show. During the show, the greatest wrestler of all time the Man in the Silver Mask saves the other wrestlers from the “rudos.” Carlitos thinks that the man’s eyes look familiar, though. A fun story to teach about a piece of Latin culture that many students and adults may not know about.
Lola goes to a school in New York where everyone is from somewhere else. When the teacher asks her to write about where her family is from, though, she doesn’t know what to do. Her family moved from the island (Dominican Republic) when she was really little. She doesn’t remember the island. She interviews her neighbors who do remember it, and they all help her learn about the island so that she eventually believes her grandmother’s words “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”
I was skeptical of this book and wasn’t sure if my kids would like it or not, but this book was one of the books in my first grade class that my kids referred to frequently throughout the year. Pepita is frustrated because everyone is asking her to translate for them because she is bilingual. She is tired of talking twice, so she decides to stop speaking Spanish. Her parents are not happy with her, and everyone tells her how sad they are that she has decided to not speak both languages because being bilingual is such a good thing. What finally makes her decide to speak both languages is when her dog runs into the road and doesn’t respond to her yells because he only speaks one language.
A great story about why being bilingual is so important, and the book is indeed bilingual.
I include this book on my best fiction picture books for Hispanic Heritage Month even though it’s an autobiography because of the way that it is written. The free verse that it is written in is beautiful and tells the story of a mother who comes to the United States from Mexico crossing the border with only her infant son and culture. Together they make mistakes and learn how to live in their new home. They eventually find a magical place, a library, that really helps them feel more at home in this new land.
This book is also in Spanish titled Soñadores
This story is an allegory for the immigrant experience of trying to cross the border. Pancho Rabbit is worried that his Papa has not come back to work in the fields up north. Pancho packs his Papa’s favorite food and sets off in search of his Papa. He meets a coyote who offers to help him in exchange for the food. The food runs out, though, and the coyote wants more food…PANCHO!
A story that young students will enjoy but upper elementary students can really sink their teeth into!
I’ve read a lot of picture books, and I love SO MANY of them. This book, though, made me say “WHOA!” The book seemed fairly simple in the beginning until the end when it turned into a coming of age tale. Carmela realizes that she starts to wish for more mature things like time for her mother or father. This is a book that you need to read a few times, and it gets deeper each time you read it. Christian Robinson’s illustrations incorporate papel picado making it the perfect cultural mix. I LOVE this book
Even better, it’s also in Spanish as Los deseos de Carmela
Señor Calavera a Day of the Dead skeleton is looking for the perfect birthday present for Grandma Beetle. Instead of getting just one gift, he decides to get a gift for each letter of the alphabet “just in case.” This was the winner of the 2009 Pura Belpre Award and both the fun bilingual alphabet book style and Yuyi Morales’ illustrations make this one a favorite for Spanish speakers and non-Spanish speakers alike. A companion to this book is Just a Minute that also features Señor Calavera and Grandma Beetle that is a trickster tale counting book.
Mia’s abuela comes to live with Mia and her family. Abuela and Mia struggle to communicate, though, due to a language barrier. This story reminds me a lot of Playing Loteria, a book mentioned above, where the love of family brings two generations of family to find a way to communicate. A really touching story with Spanish words dropped in such that English and Spanish speakers alike can understand their meaning.
Even better, this book is also available in Spanish titled Mango, abuela y yo.
Oftentimes as part of the Hispanic tradition, people have more than one name. Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has more names than she likes. It doesn’t fit neatly on one line when writing it, so her father tells her the story of why she has so many names. She learns about the people in her family with those names and the great things that they did and Alma begins to see herself in her ancestors. Alma, though, is her name and she will create her own story. I think of it as a more culturally-relevant Chrysanthemum.
This Peruvian author of course also wrote this story in Spanish titled Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre
This was award-winning author Duncan Tonatiuh’s first picture book detailing two cousins on either side of the border writing letters to each other. Charlie and Carlitos explain what their daily lives are like and the reader sees how similar yet different their lives are despite the minimal distance between them. This book is not in Spanish, but it does indeed feature of number of Spanish words. That, mixed with the illustrations inspired by traditional Mexican art make this one of my favorite picture books for Hispanic Heritage Month!
This is one of the older books on the list, but it is one of those books that really hits you. Rigo is the youngest in his family and because of that he often gets hand-me-downs from his older siblings. He finally gets a new pair of penny loafers. He loves them until someone makes fun of them, so he puts the shoes away. Later, he needs to wear those shoes, but they no longer fit. He does realize, though, that his uncle could use the shoes. He just got a job as a waiter and the shoe fits him perfectly. A great story that many students can likely connect to in some way or have their eyes opened by the story.
Unfortunately this book is only available in English, but it’s a beautiful story full of compassion. A book that leaves an impact to be sure.
Other Picture Books for Hispanic Heritage Month
These fiction picture books for Hispanic Heritage Month are but a sample of the huge number of books that are out there. These were some of my favorites, and I tried to include a good mix of books that both primary and upper elementary students would enjoy. I also have a post about the best biography picture books for Hispanic Heritage Month HERE. No matter what, share the love of reading with your students by using these amazing stories or others.
If you know of any others that are not on this list, please let me know in the comments! I always love finding awesome books!
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