Tales of Courage: Hispanic Heritage

Illustration of young Cuban man looking out at the sea from the shore

Courage takes many forms. It might be found in a librarian who travels through dangerous territory to bring books to children in the mountains, or in a child who refuses to abandon her dream, even when others have said it wasn't possible. These stories celebrate courageous children and adults who haven't let fear get in their way of doing the right thing.

90 Miles to Havana

Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

"Drawing on his own experience as a child refugee from Cuba, Flores-Galbis offers a gripping historical novel about children who were evacuated from Cuba to the U.S. during Operation Pedro Pan in 1961. Julian, a young Cuban boy, experiences the violent revolution and watches mobs throw out his family's furniture and move into their home. For his safety, his parents send him to a refugee camp in Miami, but life there is no sweet haven…(T)his is a seldom-told refugee story that will move readers." — Booklist

Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
Illustrated by: Sally Wern Comport
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

This non-fiction book tells the story of Ada Ríos, who grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option...until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada — and her town — forever changed.

Alicia Alonso Dances On

Alicia Alonso dancing
Illustrated by: Gloria Félix
Age Level: 6-9

As a young girl in Cuba, Alicia Alonso practiced ballet in tennis shoes. Within a few years, she was in New York City, with a promising ballet career. But her eyesight began to fail. When Alicia needed surgeries to save her vision, dancing was impossible, but she wouldn't give up her dream. She found the strength and determination to return to the stage and become a prima ballerina. This is the true story of a woman who overcame her challenges, mastered her art, and inspired others to dance and dream.

Areli Is a Dreamer: A True Story

Areli Is a Dreamer: A True Story
Illustrated by: Luisa Uribe
Age Level: 6-9

When Areli was just a baby, her mama and papa moved from Mexico to New York with her brother, Alex, to make a better life for the family — and when she was in kindergarten, they sent for her, too. Everything in New York was different. Gone were the Saturdays at Abuela’s house, filled with cousins and sunshine. Instead, things were busy and fast and noisy. Areli’s limited English came out wrong, and schoolmates accused her of being illegal. But with time, America became her home.

Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia

A librarian rides on a donkey
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Luis loves to read, but soon his house in Colombia is so full of books there's barely room for the family. What to do? Then he comes up with the perfect solution — a traveling library! He buys two donkeys — Alfa and Beto — and travels with them throughout the land, bringing books and reading to the children in faraway villages.

Bright Star

Fawn in the desert
Age Level: 6-9

With the combination of powerful, spare language and sumptuous, complex imagery characteristic of her work, Yuyi Morales weaves the tale of a fawn making her way through a landscape that is dangerous, beautiful — and full of potential.  A gentle voice urges her onward, to face her fears and challenge the obstacles that seek to hold her back. In a world full of uncertainty, Bright Star seeks to offer reassurance and courage.

Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua

Child of the Flower-Song People
Illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh
Age Level: 6-9

As a young Nahua girl in Mexico during the early 1900s, Luz learned how to grind corn in a metate, to twist yarn with her toes, and to weave on a loom. By the fire at night, she listened to stories of her community’s joys, suffering, and survival, and wove them into her heart. But when the Mexican Revolution came to her village, Luz and her family were forced to flee and start a new life. In Mexico City, Luz became a model for painters, sculptors, and photographers such as Diego Rivera, Jean Charlot, and Tina Modotti.

Coquí in the City

Coquí in the City
Age Level: 6-9

Miguel's pet frog, Coquí, is always with him: as he greets his neighbors in San Juan, buys quesitos from the panadería, and listens to his abuelo's story about meeting baseball legend Roberto Clemente. Then Miguel learns that he and his parents are moving to the U.S. mainland, which means leaving his beloved grandparents, home in Puerto Rico, and even Coquí behind. Life in New York City is overwhelming, with unfamiliar buildings, foods, and people.

Cuba in My Pocket

Boy on coast
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

When the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 solidifies Castro’s power in Cuba, twelve-year-old Cumba’s family makes the difficult decision to send him to Florida alone. Faced with the prospect of living in another country by himself, Cumba tries to remember the sound of his father’s clarinet, the smell of his mother’s lavender perfume. Life in the United States presents a whole new set of challenges. Lost in a sea of English speakers, Cumba has to navigate a new city, a new school, and new freedom all on his own.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music
Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule — until the drum dream girl. In her city of drumbeats, she dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós. She had to keep quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her dream-bright music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream.

Elena's Serenade

Elena's Serenade
Illustrated by: Ana Juan
Age Level: 6-9

Elena wants to be a glassblower like her father, but there is a problem: "Who ever heard of a girl glassblower?" Elena decides she must go to Monterrey where the great glassblowers are, and sets off on her journey with a pipe in hand — dressed as a boy. Elena soon discovers her own hidden talents and the power of believing in yourself. Ana Juan's lovely illustrations convey the magic of Elena's journey. Also available in Spanish and Chinese.

Erandi's Braids

Illustration of young girl's braids
Illustrated by: Tomie dePaola
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: The yellow dress Erandi wants for her birthday will look beautiful with her long, thick braids. But Mama's fishing net is full of holes, and there isn't enough money to buy both a new net and a birthday dress. The only solution lies with the hair buyers from the city. But Mama's hair isn't nearly as beautiful as Erandi's. Will Erandi have to choose between her birthday present and her braids? This touching tale of love and sacrifice is sprinkled throughout with Spanish words and expressions.

Good Night Captain Mama

Illustrated by: Linda Lens
Age Level: 6-9

A little boy is walking to his bedroom when he notices his mother in an olive-green military flight suit. His curiosity about the colorful patches on her uniform evolves into a bedtime conversation between a military mother and her child about why she serves and what she does in the unusual KC-135R aerial refueling airplane. He drifts off to sleep with thoughts of his mommy in the airplane and the special surprise she gives him. This unique book was written by a Latina military officer and former aviator. Bilingual text.

I Lived on Butterfly Hill

Illustrated by: Lee White
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Product Description: Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile — until the time comes when even Celeste, with her head in the clouds, can't deny the political unrest that is sweeping through the country and is eventually sent by her parents to Maine. 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 heartwrenchingly graceful.

In the Shade of the Nispero Tree

Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

"Set in Puerto Rico in 1961, this story features Teresa Giraux and her best friend, Ana, who are looking forward to their fourth-grade teacher's wedding and the Ponce junior queen competition — until Teresa's pride and temper fracture their friendship. A socially ambitious seamstress, Teresa's mother has never invited Ana on family outings because Ana is not only poorer, she's also darker. Aided by one of her wealthy clients, Teresa's mother enrolls Teresa in an exclusive academy. Then it is she and Teresa who feel the sting of discrimination." — Booklist

Lucía the Luchadora

Lucía the Luchadora
Illustrated by: Alyssa Bermudez
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish vocabulary featured

Lucía zips through the playground in her cape just like the boys, but when they tell her "girls can't be superheroes," suddenly she doesn't feel so mighty. That's when her beloved abuela reveals a dazzling secret: Lucía comes from a family of luchadoras, the bold and valiant women of the Mexican lucha libre tradition. Cloaked in a flashy new disguise, Lucía returns as a recess sensation!

My Shoes and I

Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Mario is leaving El Salvador with a new pair of shoes — and a good thing, too, because he has a long and difficult journey ahead of him to reach a new country. His shoes carry him through rain and across mountains, all the way to the river where his mother is waiting on the other side. Young readers may need some information explaining the context of the story, which is based on the author's journey from El Salvador in 1985. Painted illustrations on grainy wood backgrounds match the gritty but hopeful tone of the story.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico

Collage art of parrots flying
Age Level: 6-9

Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore use collage illustrations and a unique format to recount the efforts of the scientists of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the parrots and ensure their future.

Queen of Tejano Music: Selena

Painting of Selena with roses coming from her hair
Illustrated by: Paola Escobar
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

Selena Quintanilla's music career began at the age of nine when she started singing in her family's band. She went from using a hairbrush as a microphone to traveling from town to town to play gigs. But Selena faced a challenge: People said that she would never make it in Tejano music, which was dominated by male performers. Selena was determined to prove them wrong. Born and raised in Texas, Selena didn't know how to speak Spanish, but with the help of her dad, she learned to sing it.

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx

Illustration of young Sonia Sotomayor sitting on steps
Illustrated by: Christina Rodriguez
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

This bilingual picture book tells the story of Sotomayor's childhood in the Bronx, her time at Princeton, and her confirmation on the Supreme Court, with a special focus on her mother's unwavering support throughout her life. Lovely illustrations capture the warmth and joy of Sotomayor's family and story. Note: The biography includes a discussion of the racial undertones of her nomination and confirmation hearing.

Sylvia & Aki

Sylvia & Aki
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Product Description: Sylvia Mendez never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle; all she wanted was to enroll in school. Aki Munemitsu never expected to be relocated to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert; all she wanted was to stay on her family farm and finish the school year. The two girls certainly never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected in Southern California during a time when their country changed forever. Based on a true story.

That Girl on TV Could Be Me!: The Journey of a Latina News Anchor

Female news anchor
Illustrated by: Juan Calle
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Growing up near Sacramento, CA, little Leticia dreams of being a TV newscaster. But no one on TV looks like her. This shy, small-town girl overcomes barriers, like her fear of public speaking, to become the first in her hardworking Mexican family to attend college. Then, starting as an intern, she climbs the ladder, travels to different cities, and reports on a rainbow of stories. Eventually can she land her dream job... to work at her hometown Channel 3?

The Color of My Words

Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Product Description: 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 Composition

Illustrated by: Alfonso Ruano
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Product Description: Pedro and Daniel are two typical nine-year-old boys. Up until Daniel's father gets arrested, their biggest worry had been how to improve their soccer skills. Now, they are thrust into a situation where they must grapple with the incomprehensible: dictatorship and its inherent abuses. Winner of the Americas Award for Children's Literature and the Jane Addams Children's Book Award.

The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough

Illustrated by: Sylvie Daigneault
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Eleven-year-old María Luz and her family live on a small farm in Honduras. When María's father must leave home to find work, she is left in charge of their garden. When a new teacher introduces her to sustainable farming practices, the farms — and the hopes — of María and her neighbors begin to grow. The story is based on real farming movements taking place in Honduras and around the world.

The Road to Santiago

Illustrated by: Pablo Torecilla
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

It's Christmas Eve as Alfredito and his parents head for the train station to visit their relatives in Santiago. But this year, the trains are not running because the government is fighting a war against the rebels, and Alfredito worries that they'll miss the family's traditional Christmas celebration. When Alfredito's father enlists the help of a farmer, the family embarks on a great adventure that the young boy will never forget. Brighly-colored illustrations depict scenes and styles from 1950s-era Cuba.

The Upside Down Boy

Illustrated by: Elizabeth Gomez
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Product Description: The Upside Down Boy is the sequel to Calling the Doves and award-winning poet Juan Felipe Herrera's engaging memoir of the year his migrant family settled down so that he could go to school for the first time. Juanito is bewildered by the new school, and he misses the warmth of country life. Everything he does feels upside down…But a sensitive teacher and loving family help him to find his voice and make a place for himself in this new world through poetry, art, and music.

Tía Isa Wants a Car

Tía Isa Wants a Car
Illustrated by: Claudio Muñoz
Age Level: 3-6

The narrator and her aunt work to save money to buy a shiny green car to take them to the sea. Though it takes time, Tía Isa and her niece reach their goal and buy the car that brings them to the beach. Cheerful illustrations and an upbeat narration with a sprinkling of Spanish words create recognizable characters in a realistic setting based on the author's childhood memories. Also available in Spanish.

Un tren llamado Esperanza/A Train Called Hope

Boy with a train in front of mountains
Illustrated by: Robert Casilla
Age Level: 6-9

In this poignant bilingual picture book, a boy remembers his first present, a toy train. Years later, after his parents have gone far away in search of work and a better future, the boy rides a real train to join his family. This one is loaded with hundreds of children traveling alone, just like him.

¡Mambo Mucho Mambo! The Dance That Crossed Color Lines

¡Mambo Mucho Mambo! The Dance That Crossed Color Lines
Illustrated by: Eric Velasquez
Age Level: 6-9

Millie danced to jazz in her Italian neighborhood. Pedro danced to Latin songs in his Puerto Rican neighborhood. It was the 1940s in New York City, and they were forbidden to dance together . . . until first a band and then a ballroom broke the rules. Illustrated with verve and told through real-life characters who feature in an afterword, ¡Mambo Mucho Mambo! portrays the power of music and dance to transcend racial, religious, and ethnic boundaries.