Have you heard about National Hispanic Heritage Month? It is from September 15 to October 15 and is for “celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” You can learn more about the month here.
Last year we made a book list for National Hispanic Heritage Month, and we decided to do so again. Here’s a selection of some of our–and our followers’–favorite YA books by Hispanic/Latin@ authors and/or starring Hispanic/Latin@ characters. Tell us all about your favorites in the comments!
(Pssst, if you don’t already know about Latin@s in Kid Lit, now would be a great time to check them out!)
Caminar by Skila Brown || Review
Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck:Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.
Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez || Review
Frenchie Garcia can’t come to grips with the death of Andy Cooper. Frenchie’s obsession with death and Emily Dickinson won’t help her understand the role she played during Andy’s “one night of adventure.” But when she meets Colin, she may have found the perfect opportunity to recreate that night. While exploring the emotional depth of loss and transition to adulthood, Sanchez’s sharp humor and clever observations bring forth a richly developed voice.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz 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.
Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott || Review
Sam has the rules of slackerhood down: Don’t be late to class. Don’t ever look the teacher in the eye. Develop your blank stare. Since his mom left, he has become an expert in the art of slacking, especially since no one at his new school gets his intense passion for the music of the Pacific Northwest—Nirvana, Hole, Sleater-Kinney. Then his English teacher begins a slam poetry unit and Sam gets paired up with the daunting, scarred, clearly-a-gang-member Luis, who happens to sit next to him in every one of his classes. Slacking is no longer an option—Luis will destroy him. Told in Sam’s raw voice and interspersed with vivid poems, Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott is a stunning debut novel about differences, friendship, loss, and the power of words.
The Living by Matt de la Peña || Review
Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all.
But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.
The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living.
Pig Park by Claudia Guadalupe Martínez || Review
It’s crazy! Fifteen-year-old Masi Burciaga hauls bricks to help build a giant pyramid in her neighborhood park. Her neighborhood is becoming more of a ghost town each day since the lard company moved away. Even her school closed down. Her family’s bakery and the other surviving businesses may soon follow.
As a last resort, the neighborhood grown-ups enlist all the remaining able-bodied boys and girls into this scheme in hopes of luring visitors. Maybe their neighbors will come back too. But something’s not right about the entrepreneur behind it all. And then there’s the new boy who came to help. The one with the softest of lips. Pig Park is a contemporary Faustian tale that forces us to look at the desperate lengths people will go to in the name of community–and maybe love.
The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu
Acting like a potential valedictorian who tutors other students while still finding time to ride shotgun in her best friend’s car as they flirt with boys is fairly easy for Monserrat Thalia–it is exactly who she is. And combined with her blondish hair and pale skin, M.T. is as apple-pie American as a high school senior can get. Almost.
The one simple, very complicating exception: M.T. was born in Argentina and brought to America as a baby without any official papers. She is undocumented and illegal in the eyes of the law. And as questions of college, work, and the future arise, M.T. will have to decide what exactly she wants for herself, knowing someone she loves will unavoidably pay the price for it.
Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience of formerly being an undocumented immigrant to explore an issue that is relevant to thousands of teenagers and countless families, schools, and communities.
Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall || Review
When Odilia and her four sisters find a dead body in the swimming hole, they embark on a hero’s journey to return the dead man to his family in Mexico. But returning home to Texas turns into an odyssey that would rival Homer’s original tale.
With the supernatural aid of ghostly La Llorona via a magical earring, Odilia and her little sisters travel a road of tribulation to their long-lost grandmother’s house. Along the way, they must outsmart a witch and her Evil Trinity: a wily warlock, a coven of vicious half-human barn owls, and a bloodthirsty livestock-hunting chupacabras. Can these fantastic trials prepare Odilia and her sisters for what happens when they face their final test, returning home to the real world, where goddesses and ghosts can no longer help them?
Summer of the Mariposas is not just a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, it is a celebration of sisterhood and maternal love.
What Can(t) Wait by Ashley Hope Perez
Marissa has smarts and plenty of promise, but she’s marooned in a broken-down Houston neighborhood–and in a Mexican immigrant family where making ends meet matters much more than making it to college. When her home life becomes unbearable, Marissa seeks comfort elsewhere–and suddenly neither her best friend or boyfriend can get through to her. What Can’t Wait tells the story of one girl’s survival in a world in which family trumps individual success and independence, and self-reliance the only key that can unlock the door to the future.
The Witches of Ruidoso by Jon Sandoval
Young Elijah was sitting on the porch of the Ruidoso Store when fourteen-year-old Beth Delilah and her father climbed down from the stage coach. Blond with lovely pale skin, big blue eyes and “dressed from boot to bonnet in black” in mourning for her mother, she was the prettiest, most exotic thing he had ever seen. And when she bent over to pick up a horned toad, which she then held right up to her face in complete fascination, Elijah learned that it’s possible to feel jealous of an amphibian.
In the last years of the nineteenth century, in the western territory that would become New Mexico, the two young people become constant companions. They roam the ancient country of mysterious terrain, where the mountain looms and reminds them of their insignificance, and observe the eccentric characters in the village: Mr. Blackwater, known as “No Leg Dancer” by the Apaches because of the leg he lost in the War Between the States and his penchant for blowing reveille on his bugle each morning; their friend, Two Feather, the Mescalero Apache boy who takes Beth Delilah to meet his wise old grandfather who sees mysterious things; and Señora Roja, who everyone believes is a bruja, or witch, and who they know to be vile and evil.
Elijah has horrible nightmares involving Señora Roja, death and torture. And when the witch enslaves a girl named Rosa, the pair must try to rescue her from her grim fate. Together, Elijah and Beth Delilah come of age in a land of mountains and ravens, where good and evil vie for the souls of white men and Indians alike.