Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes and celebrates the contributions of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society. These Americans include those who can trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, South American, and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean.
As I was looking through my own bookshelves and the Audrey Press/Jump Into a Book website archives, I realized that though we have many great recommendations to learn about the actual countries of Latin America we didn’t have any recommendations about the people from those places and the lives and stories they live whether in Hispanic and South American countries or as immigrants, both documented and undocumented, here in the US.
Read more about this national observance HERE.
Sooooo, in celebration of Hispanic American Month, I’ve created a list of Latino Middle-Grade Chapter Books that I hope inspires reading and discovery. Enjoy!
Hispanic Heritage Month Kidlit
My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood by Rosemary Wells with Secundino Fernandez, Illustrated by Peter Ferguson
A young Cuban immigrant eases his homesickness by re-creating the city of Havana in a poignant tale that will resonate with readers today.
Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes
Gr 5-8–When Gaby Ramirez Howard’s mother is deported back to Honduras, the sixth grader’s life is anything but stable. Her father often forgets to purchase food and neglects his daughter emotionally. She is an outcast at St. Ann’s where classmates tease her about her family life. With everything falling apart, the protagonist finds strength and self-confidence in the class service project at their local animal shelter. She showcases her writing skills, creating individual profiles for each animal. Although her life parallels many of the abandoned pets, Gaby takes on the role of protector and defender. Her profiles and hard work help many animals find a new home and a true family, something that Gaby is lacking. The plot and tone are spiced with Spanish words along with tidbits of Honduran culture. The author humanizes the controversial issue of illegal immigration and paints an emotionally compelling story. ( School Library Journal)
Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
In this inventive, fast-paced novel, New York Times bestselling and Printz Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi takes on hard-hitting themes–from food safety to racism and immigration–and creates a zany, grand-slam adventure that will get kids thinking about where their food comes from.
The zombie apocalypse begins on the day Rabi, Miguel, and Joe are practicing baseball near their town’s local meatpacking plant and nearly get knocked out by a really big stink. Little do they know the plant’s toxic cattle feed is turning cows into flesh-craving monsters! The boys decide to launch a stealth investigation into the plant’s dangerous practices, unknowingly discovering a greedy corporation’s plot to look the other way as tainted meat is sold to thousands all over the country. With no grownups left, they can trust, Rabi and his friends will have to grab their bats to protect themselves (and a few of their enemies) if they want to stay alive…and maybe even save the world.
Under the Mambo Moon by Julia Durango
On summer nights Marisol helps out in Papi’s music store. As customers come and go, they share memories of the Latin music and dance of their various homelands, expressed in a dazzling array of poetry. The diversity of Latin American music is brought to life in poems that swivel, sway, and sizzle with the rhythms of merengue, vallenatos, salsa, and samba.
Back matter includes a map, author’s note, and further information about the musical heritage of Latin America.
Pickle: The Formerly Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Middle School by Kim Baker and Tim Probert
Ben: who began it all by sneaking in one night and filling homeroom with ball-pit balls.
Frank: who figured out that an official club, say a pickle-making club, could receive funding from the PTA.
Oliver: Who once convinced half of the class that his real parents had found him and he was going to live in a submarine.
Bean: Who wasn’t exactly invited, but her parents own a costume shop, which comes in handy if you want to dress up like a giant squirrel and try to scare people at the zoo.
TOGETHER, they are an unstoppable prank-pulling force, and Fountain Point Middle School will never be the same.
Whisker Tales and Wings: Animal Folktales from Mexico by Judy Goldman
Judy Goldman retells animal folktales from five indigenous groups in Mexico–the Tarahumara, Seri, Huichol, Triqui, and Tseltal. Each story is followed by information about the featured culture, enriching readers’ understanding of the diverse people who make up Mexico. Fabricio VandenBroeck’s lush art portrays the richness of the many people, animals, and places that make up Mexico. Includes a map of Mexico, showing the location of each indigenous group. Back matter includes a glossary and sources, as well as an index and a bibliography.
Yes We are Latinos by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, Illustrated by David Diaz
Juanita lives in New York and is Mexican. Felipe lives in Chicago and is Panamanian, Venezuelan, and black. Michiko lives in Los Angeles and is Peruvian and Japanese. Each of them is also Latino.
Thirteen young Latinos and Latinas living in America are introduced in this book celebrating the rich diversity of the Latino and Latina experience in the United States. Free-verse fictional narratives from the perspective of each youth provide specific stories and circumstances for the reader to better understand the Latino people’s quest for identity. Each profile is followed by nonfiction prose that further clarifies the character’s background and history, touching upon important events in the history of the Latino American people, such as the Spanish Civil War, immigration to the US, and the internment of Latinos with Japanese ancestry during World War II.
The Ugly One by Leann Statland Ellis
Twelve-year-old Micay walks around her fifteenth-century Incan village shielding the scarred side of her face that inspired the cruel name Millay, or “Ugly One.” She escapes to her huaca rock, avoiding the villagers who shun her. Her world shifts dramatically when a stranger gives her a sorry-looking baby macaw. The bird becomes her dear companion on a journey that ultimately leads her to a new role as a shaman in Machu Picchu’s Sacred Sun City. Told in an engaging storyteller’s voice, this is a stirring tale of a girl who finds her own strength.
Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez
It’s summer before eighth grade, and Erica “Chia” Montenegro is feeling so many things that she needs a mood ring to keep track of her emotions. She’s happy when she hangs out with her best friends, the Robins. She’s jealous that her genius little sister skipped two grades. And she’s passionate about the crushes on her Boyfriend Wish list. And when Erica’s mom is diagnosed with breast cancer, she feels worried and doesn’t know what she can do to help.
When her family visits a cuarto de milagros, a miracle room in a famous church, Erica decides to make a promesa to God in exchange for her mom’s health. As her mom gets sicker, Erica quickly learns that juggling family, friends, school, and fulfilling a promesa is stressful, but with a little bit of hope and a lot of love, she just might be able to figure it out.
Secret Saturdays by Torrey Maldondo
Justin and Sean, both 12, live in the Red Hook projects, are half Puerto Rican and half African-American, and have absentee fathers. They became friends when Sean stuck up for Justin, but now Sean is straying further from their friendship, avoiding their scheduled sleepovers, lying, and not doing as well in school. He’s been getting into more and more fights when he used to advocate dissing instead of fists. Where is Sean going on Saturdays? Why isn’t he telling his friends Justin, Kyle, and Vanessa? Justin heads up the squad to find out why, but with more drama than action, and readers may not care. Justin worries, on more than one occasion, that because he’s so concerned about Sean people are going to think he’s gay. There’s also the possibility that Sean’s dad is gay—Justin’s reasoning is that he sends Sean shiny trinkets from Puerto Rico. He also inaccurately portrays his cousin as gay because he dresses up in women’s clothes and wants to be called Vicky. While these fallacies go unaddressed, Maldonado does explore what it means to be a friend, the nature of privacy, and how difficult it is for boys to talk with one another. With so few books out for urban middle school boys of color besides the “Bluford” series (Townsend), this book, with all its flaws, may still be a draw for some readers. The cover, type size, and format, with cool font and a photo at the head of each chapter, will attract reluctant readers, but the content may not sustain them. ( School Library Journal)
How Tia Lola Ended Up Starting Over by Julia Alvarez
Welcome to Tía Lola’s bed and breakfast! With the help of her niece and nephew and the three Sword Sisters, Tía Lola is opening the doors of Colonel Charlebois’ grand old Vermont house to visitors from all over. But Tía Lola and the children soon realize that running a B & B isn’t as easy they had initially thought—especially when it appears that someone is out to sabotage them! Will Tía Lola and the kids discover who’s behind the plot to make their B & B fail? And will Tía Lola’s family and friends be able to plan her a surprise birthday party in her own B & B without her finding out?
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
The Wild Book By Margarita Engle
Fefa struggles with words. She has word blindness or dyslexia, and the doctor says she will never read or write. Every time she tries, the letters jumble and spill off the page, leaping away like bullfrogs. How will she ever understand them?
But her mother has an idea. She gives Fefa a blank book filled with clean white pages. “Think of it as a garden,” she says. Soon Fefa starts to sprinkle words across the pages of her wild book. She lets her words sprout like seedlings, shaky at first, then growing stronger and surer with each new day. And when her family is threatened, it is what Fefa has learned from her wild book that saves them.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muoz 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 farmworkers. 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.
Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes
When twelve-year-old Izzy spends the summer in her Nana’s remote New Mexico village, she discovers long-buried secrets that come alive in an enchanted landscape of majestic mountains, whispering winds, and tortilla suns. Infused with the flavor of the southwest and sprinkled with just a pinch of magic, readers are sure to find this heartfelt story as rich and satisfying as Nana’s homemade enchiladas.
El Lector by William Durbin
This heart-warming story is about Bella, a 13-year-old girl in Tampa, Florida, in the 1930s. Her grandfather is a lector at a cigar factory, which means he reads fiction, newspapers, and union news to the workers as they roll cigars. Being a lector is an important role in their Cuban American immigrant community. But the hard times of the Depression mean that Bella must go to work in the factory. Her hope of getting the education a lector needs seems impossible.
Call Me Maria: A Novel in Letters, Poems,and Prose by Judith Ortiz Cofer
A new novel from the award-winning author of AN ISLAND LIKE YOU, winner of the Pura Belpre Award.Maria is a girl caught between two worlds: Puerto Rico, where she was born, and New York, where she now lives in a basement apartment in the barrio. While her mother remains on the island, Maria lives with her father, the super of their building. As she struggles to lose her island accent, Maria does her best to find her place within the unfamiliar culture of the barrio. Finally, with the Spanglish of the barrio people ringing in her ears, she finds the poet within herself.In lush prose and spare, evocative poetry, Cofer weaves a powerful novel, bursting with life and hope.
The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
By far one of our favorite books. Please look to see our extension activities here.
Winner of the 2011 Pure Belpre Award for fiction.
From the time he is a young boy, Neftali hears the call of a mysterious voice. He knows he must follow it–even when the neighborhood children taunted him, and when his harsh, authoritarian father ridicules him, and when he doubts himself. It leads him under the canopy of the lush rain forest, into the fearsome sea, and through the persistent Chilean rain, until finally, he discovers its source.
Combining elements of magical realism with biography, poetry, literary fiction, and sensorial, transporting illustrations, Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sís take readers on a rare journey of the heart and imagination.
Tequilla Worm by Viola Canales
Sofia comes from a family of storytellers. Here are her tales of growing up in the barrio, full of the magic and mystery of family traditions: making Easter cascarones, celebrating el Dia de los Muertos, preparing for quincea–era, rejoicing in the Christmas nacimiento, and curing homesickness by eating the tequila worm. When Sofia is singled out to receive a scholarship to an elite boarding school, she longs to explore life beyond the barrio, even though it means leaving her family to navigate a strange world of rich, privileged kids. It’s a different mundo, but one where Sofia’s traditions take on new meaning and illuminate her path.
Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
After Tyler’s father is injured in a tractor accident, his family is forced to hire migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Tyler isn’t sure what to make of these workers. Are they undocumented? And what about the three daughters, particularly Mari, the oldest, who is proud of her Mexican heritage but also increasingly connected her American life. Her family lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico.
Maximillian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller by Xavier Garza
Margarito acts like any other eleven-year-old aficionado of lucha libre. He worships all the players. But in the summer just before sixth grade, he tumbles over the railing at a match in San Antonio and makes a connection to the world of Mexican wrestling that will ultimately connect him—maybe by blood!—to the greatest hero of all time: the Guardian Angel.
The Color of My Words by Lynn Joseph
Twelve-year-old Ana Rosa is a blossoming writer growing up in the Dominican Republic, a country where words are feared. Yet there is so much inspiration all around her — watching her brother search for a future, learning to dance and to love, and finding out what it means to be part of a community — that Ana Rosa must write it all down. As she struggles to find her own voice and a way to make it heard, Ana Rosa realizes the power of her words to transform the world around her — and to transcend the most unthinkable of tragedies.
The Smell of Old Lady Perfume by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
Claudia Guadalupe Martínez’s debut novel for tweens garnered lots of praise. Recommended by the Chicago Public Library as the Best of the Best in 2008, it’s a bittersweet story about death, family, and the resilient emotional strength of the human heart. When Chela Gonzalez’s father has a stroke, her grandmother comes to help. The house fills up with the smell of her old lady perfume, a smell that carries with it sorrow and loss.
Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle
Daniel has escaped Nazi Germany with nothing but a desperate dream that he might one day find his parents again. But that golden land called New York has turned away his ship full of refugees, and Daniel finds himself in Cuba.
As the tropical island begins to work its magic on him, the young refugee befriends a local girl with some painful secrets of her own. Yet even in Cuba, the Nazi darkness is never far away . . .
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.
In this quietly powerful new book, award-winning poet Margarita Engle paints a portrait of early women’s rights pioneer Fredrika Bremer and the journey to Cuba that transformed her life.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
This is a classic! Esperanza Cordero, a girl coming of age in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago, uses poems and stories to express thoughts and emotions about her oppressive environment.
I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin
Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile—until one day when warships are spotted in the harbor and schoolmates start disappearing from class without a word. Celeste doesn’t quite know what is happening, but one thing is clear: no one is safe, not anymore.
The country has been taken over by a government that declares artists, protestors, and anyone who helps the needy to be considered “subversive” and dangerous to Chile’s future. So Celeste’s parents—her educated, generous, kind parents—must go into hiding before they, too, “disappear.” Before they do, however, they send Celeste to America to protect her.
As Celeste adapts to her new life in Maine, she never stops dreaming of Chile. But even after democracy is restored to her home country, questions remain: Will her parents reemerge from hiding? Will she ever be truly safe again?
Accented with interior artwork, steeped in the history of Pinochet’s catastrophic takeover of Chile, and based on many true events, this multicultural ode to the power of revolution, words, and love is both indelibly brave and heart-wrenchingly graceful.
Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark
This Newbery Award Winner is a lovely story.The novel is the story of Cusi. He is an Inca boy who has been raised in a remote valley of the Andes mountain range by an old man, Chuto. Cusi is of royal Inca blood, but this is four hundred years after the Spanish conquest. Cusi has been raised in the traditional Inca manner. The plot of the novel concerns Cusi’s search for himself. He has been raised without a “family” (at least in the traditional sense), and he is sent from the valley, with the companionship of his pet llama, to find his path in the world, a task that he sees as finding himself a family. The world Cusi goes into is one which is very different from the one he has been raised in because the Spanish culture has become predominant. Then, Cusi is forced to come to terms with his own way of life and with what his concept of “family” should be.
Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle
One hundred years ago, the world celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, which connected the world’s two largest oceans and signaled America’s emergence as a global superpower. It was a miracle, this path of water where a mountain had stood—and creating a miracle is no easy thing. Thousands lost their lives, and those who survived worked under the harshest conditions for only a few silver coins a day.
From the young “silver people” whose back-breaking labor built the Canal to the denizens of the endangered rainforest itself, this is the story of one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, as only Newbery Honor-winning author Margarita Engle could tell it.
Island Treasure by Alma Flor Alda
These true autobiographical tales from renowned Hispanic author and educator Alma Flor Ada are filled with family love and traditions, secrets and deep friendships, and a gorgeous, moving picture of the island of Cuba, where Alma Flor grew up. Told through the eyes of a child, a whole world comes to life in these pages: the blind great-grandmother who never went to school but whose wisdom and generosity overflowed to those around her; the hired hand Samoné, whose love for music overcame all difficulties; the beloved dance teacher who helped sustain young Alma Flor through a miserable year in school; her dear and daring Uncle Medardo, who bravely flew airplanes; and more.
Until I Find Julian by Patricia Reilly Giff
Newbery Honor-winning author Patricia Reilly Giff tells a vivid, contemporary story about a remarkable boy who risks everything for his family and a bold girl who helps him. At home in Mexico, Mateo knows where he belongs: with Mami, Abuelita, little brother Lucas, and big brother Julian. When Julian leaves to work in el Norte, the United States, Mateo misses him. And when the family stops hearing from Julian, Mateo knows he has to find his beloved brother.
With only his old notebook and a backpack, Mateo heads for the border, where dangers await: robbers, and the border police, who will send him back home or perhaps even put him in prison. On his journey, Mateo meets Angel, a smart, mysterious girl who can guide his crossing. Angel is tough; so is Mateo, and his memories of his loving family sustain him. Because no matter what happens, he can’t go home until he finds Julian.
A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord
This powerful middle-grade novel from the Newbery Honor author of RULES explores a friendship between a small-town girl and the daughter of migrant workers.
When Lily’s blind dog, Lucky, slips his collar and runs away across the wide-open blueberry barrens of eastern Maine, it’s Salma Santiago who manages to catch him. Salma, the daughter of migrant workers, is in the small town with her family for the blueberry-picking season.
After their initial chance meeting, Salma and Lily bond over painting bee boxes for Lily’s grandfather, and Salma’s friendship transforms Lily’s summer. But when Salma decides to run in the upcoming Blueberry Queen pageant, they’ll have to face some tough truths about friendship and belonging. Should an outsider like Salma really participate in the pageant-and possibly win?
Set amongst the blueberry barrens and by the sea, this is a gorgeous new novel by Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord that tackles themes of prejudice and friendship, loss, and love.
Who’s Ju by Dania Ramos
Justina (Ju) loves mystery movies and books and is the head of a special club called the Seventh Grade Sleuths, involved in solving small mysteries at school. When Justina and her crew are hired to find out who has been vandalizing the sets of the school play, Ju never expects that she would wind up steeped in a deeper and more important mystery concerning her own identity. At school, the seventh graders have been assigned a genetics project to research their family history. This project causes grief for her parents who do not want her to complete it. Determined not to get a bad grade, Justina continues her research only to discover that her parents have been hiding something about her past. Ramos has created an excellent, fully developed heroine. The tween does not look like any of her family members and is faced with questions about her own identity and where she fits in. She completes an interesting arc by the end of the story. This work answers the call for more diverse books for young readers. Fans of Nancy Drew or “39 Clues” (Scholastic) who are looking for something new will enjoy this multi-layered tale. (School Library Journal)
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