Top 10 Spanish Books for Kids

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In celebration of National Hispanic Month, here are the top 10 books about Latino experience for kids.
By Clare Curley

Did you know there were slaves in Cuba? Have you ever celebrated Three Kings Day? This National Hispanic Month, you can enter a world of adventure through books about Hispanic culture, starting with Pura Belpré Award books for children, named after the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library.

Here are 10 must-reads in English and Spanish if you want to learn more about Latino cultures:

1. The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom
By Margarita Engle
2009 Pura Belpré Award for Narrative, Winner
Enter the world of Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain in the 1800s. Through the character of Rosa, a healer who helps runaway slaves, you can explore the jungles of Cuba and learn how its people gained their freedom.

2. Just In Case
Written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales
2009 Pura Belpré Award for Narrative, Honor Book
As Señor Calavera prepares for Grandma Beetle’s birthday, he finds an assortment of unusual presents. With the help of Zelmiro the Ghost, he finds the best gift of all.

3. Reaching Out
By Francisco Jiménez
2009 Pura Belpré Award for Narrative, Honor Book
As a child, Jimenez was a Mexican immigrant from a family of migrant farm workers. He tells the story of growing up in the United States and how he became the first in his family to go to college.

4. The Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos
By Lucía González
2009 Pura Belpré Award for Narrative, Honor Book
During the Great Depression, New York City's first Puerto Rican librarian, Pura Belpré, introduces the library to immigrants living in the neighborhood and hosts their first Three Kings Day fiesta.

Also, check out these books recommended by Yvette Leigh, a children’s librarian at Chicago Public Library and Jean Stewart, a children’s librarian at the San Diego Public Library:

5. Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! : Brotes De Las Américas
By Pat Mora
This collection of haiku poems in English and Spanish, and the bright pictures that accompany them, will take you to faraway lands. And the everyday subjects, like a poem about a man eating a spicy chili pepper, are sure to get a giggle.

6. Clara Y Asha
By Eric Rohmann
2006 ALA Notable Children’s Book
Clara’s friend Asha is an enormous fish, which means that hide-and-seek, snow days and afternoons in the park are always an adventure.

7. Martina, Una Cucarachita Muy Linda: Un Cuento Cubano
By Carmen Agra Deedy
This Cuban folktale tells the story of a beautiful green cockroach named Martina. When it’s time for her to find a husband, Martina’s grandmother says she should test suitors’ tempers by playing tricks on them.

8. Cosechando Esperanza
By Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales
2006 Pura Belpré Award for Narrative, Honor Book
Cesar Chavez became famous for his civil rights protests in the 1960s and 1970s. This story starts with Chavez as a 10-year-old boy living on his family’s Arizona ranch. Then, at age 38, he leads a peaceful protest in California for better working conditions for migrant workers.

9. Dona Flor: Un Cuento de una Mujer Gigante con un Gran Corazón
By Pat Mora
2006 Pura Belpre Honor for Narrative
Dona Flor is a giant living in a town with lots of families. She loves her neighbors, so when a huge puma is terrifying the village, she decides to do something about it.

10. Esperanza Renace
By Pam Muñoz Ryan
2002 Pura Belpré Award for Narrative, Winner
Esperanza came from a rich family in Mexico. But after tragedy strikes, she must start a new life in the United States, where she no longer has servants and must do her own chores. This story is based on the author’s real life.

For more recommended titles, see this list put together in celebration of Children’s Day/Book Day (El Dia de los Niños/El Día de Los Libros):

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