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Mexican Americans (chicanos): Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about Mexican Americans (Chicanos)?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to Mexican Americans (Chicanos). To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about Mexican Americans (Chicanos).

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about Mexican Americans (Chicanos), there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Too Many Tamales to popular sellers like Esperanza Rising to some of our favorite hidden gems like Cinderella.

We hope this list of kids books about Mexican Americans (Chicanos) can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

Cinderella
Written by Chloe Perkins & illustrated by Sandra Equihua
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

The classic story of Cinderella gets a fresh twist in this vibrant Mexican spin on the beloved fairy tale! Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in a little cottage with her stepmother and two stepsisters… The classic tale of Cinderella gets a fresh twist in this debut title of a brand-new board book series, Once Upon a World. With Mexico as the backdrop, and vibrant artwork from Mexican illustrator Sandra Equihua, Cinderella is still the same girl with a fairy godmother and a glass slipper—but she’s totally reimagined. Once Upon a World offers a multicultural take on the fairy tales we all know and love. Because these tales are for everyone, everywhere.

Día de los Muertos
Written by Hannah Eliot & illustrated by Jorge R. Gutierrez
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

At the end of October each year, it’s time to celebrate an ancient tradition: Dia de los Muertos! With vibrant illustrations by Golden Globe–winning Mexican illustrator Jorge Gutierrez, this festive board book teaches that Dia de los Muertos honors ancestors and loved ones who have passed. From sugar skulls to papel picado, this is a holiday that truly commemorates the cycle of life.

Día de los Muertos (Celebrate the World)
Written by Hannah Eliot & illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Learn all about the traditions of Día de los Muertos with this second book in the brand-new board book series Celebrate the World, which highlights special occasions and holidays across the globe. At the end of October each year, it’s time to celebrate an ancient tradition: Día de los Muertos! With vibrant illustrations by Golden Globe–winning Mexican illustrator Jorge Gutierrez, this festive board book teaches that Día de los Muertos honors ancestors and loved ones who have passed. From sugar skulls to papel picado, this is a holiday that truly commemorates the cycle of life.

Pedro's Monster
Written by Fran Manushkin & illustrated by Tammy Lyon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

Despite his father’s reassurances, Pedro is frightened by the monsters in his dreams—until he finds a way to use his love of monster trucks to defeat his dream monsters.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman
Written by Michelle Edwards & illustrated by G Brian Karas
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

“[A] celebration of winter mitzvahs, or kind deeds. Karas’s adorable, radiant art adds to the heartwarming mood.” -The New York Times

Here’s a heartwarming winter picture book that’s sure to appeal to families who love knitting.

Mrs. Goldman always knits hats for everyone in the neighborhood, and Sophia, who thinks knitting is too hard, helps by making the pom-poms. But now winter is here, and Mrs. Goldman herself doesn’t have a hat—she’s too busy making hats for everyone else! It’s up to Sophia to buckle down and knit a hat for Mrs. Goldman. But try as Sophia might, the hat turns out lumpy, the stitches aren’t even, and there are holes where there shouldn’t be holes. Sophia is devastated until she gets an idea that will make Mrs. Goldman’s hat the most wonderful of all. Readers both young and old will relate to Sophia’s frustrations, as well as her delight in making something special for someone she loves.

A knitting pattern is included in the back of the book.

  • Selena: Queen of Tejano Music - This is a moving and impassioned picture book about the iconic Queen of Tejano music, Selena Quintanilla, that will embolden young readers to find their passion and make the impossible, possible! 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. With songs written and composed by her older brother and the fun dance steps Selena created, her band, Selena Y Los Dinos, rose to stardom! A true trailblazer, her success in Tejano music and her crossover into mainstream American music opened the door for other Latinx entertainers, and she became an inspiration for Latina girls everywhere.

  • Too Many Tamales - Maria tries on her mother’s wedding ring while helping make tamales for a Christmas family get-together. Panic ensues when hours later, she realizes the ring is missing.

  • Dreamers - Winner of the 2019 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award! A New York Times / New York Public Library Best Illustrated Book of 2018 In 1994, Yuyi Morales left her home in Xalapa, Mexico and came to the US with her infant son. She left behind nearly everything she owned, but she didn’t come empty-handed. She brought her strength, her work, her passion, her hopes and dreams. . . and her stories. Caldecott Honor artist and six-time Pura Belpré winner Yuyi Morales’s gorgeous picture book Dreamers is about making a home in a new place. Yuyi and her son Kelly’s passage was not easy, and Yuyi spoke no English whatsoever at the time. But together, they found an unexpected, unbelievable place: the public library. There, book by book, they untangled the language of this strange new land, and learned to make their home within it. Dreamers is a celebration of what migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It’s a story about family. And it’s a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own gifts wherever we roam. Beautiful and powerful at any time but given particular urgency as the status of our own Dreamers becomes uncertain, this is a story that is both topical and timeless. The lyrical text is complemented by sumptuously detailed illustrations, rich in symbolism. Also included are a brief autobiographical essay about Yuyi’s own experience, a list of books that inspired her (and still do), and a description of the beautiful images, textures, and mementos she used to create this book. A parallel Spanish-language edition, Soñadores, is also available.

  • The Big Stink - Something smells terrible in Miss Winkle’s classroom, and no one knows what it is! When the class bully picks on the new boy, saying he’s the smelly one, Pedro steps in and stands up for his new friend. But the class still needs to know where that stench is coming from! Like all Pedro books, the story is supported with a glossary and reader response questions, making this a fun and functional choice for libraries.

Stella Diaz Never Gives Up
Written & illustrated by Angela Dominguez
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

From award-winning author Angela Dominguez, comes the novel Stella Diaz Never Gives Up, a novel about a shy Mexican-American girl who becomes an environmental activist and makes a difference in her community. Stella gets a big surprise when her mom plans a trip to visit their family in Mexico! Stella loves marine animals, and she can’t wait to see the ocean for the first time . . . until she arrives and learns that the sea and its life forms are in danger due to pollution. Stella wants to save the ocean, but she knows she can’t do it alone. It’s going to take a lot of work and help from old and new friends to make a difference, but Stella Díaz never gives up! This is the second middle-grade novel from award-winning picture book author and illustrator Angela Dominguez. Based on the author’s experiences growing up Mexican-American, this infectiously charming character comes to life through relatable story-telling including simple Spanish vocabulary and adorable black-and-white art throughout.

The Day of the Dead/ El Dia De Los Muertos
Written & illustrated by Bob Barner
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

Now even the youngest children can enjoy the ghosts, skeletons and treats of this spirited holiday. With sugar skulls, sweet-smelling marigold petals, and joyful songs, a family welcomes back their beloved ancestors. This lively and colorful (and not too scary) tribute to a unique holiday is in English and Spanish.

Tomás and the Library Lady
Written by Pat Mora & illustrated by Raúl Colón and Pat Mora
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

While helping his family in their work as migrant laborers far from their home, Tomas finds an entire world to explore in the books at the local public library.

A Day's Work
Written by Eve Bunting & illustrated by Ronald Himler
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When Francisco, a young Mexican American boy, tries to help his grandfather find work, he discovers that even though the old man cannot speak English, he has something even more valuable to teach Francisco.

Curious George and the Firefighters
Written by Anna Grossnickle Hines & illustrated by H. A. Rey
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

While on a field trip to a fire station with Mrs. Gray’s class, Curious George goes off on his own and is soon at the scene of a fire, where he finds a way to be helpful.

  • Jose! Born to Dance - José was a boy with a song in his heart and a dance in his step. Born in Mexico in 1908, he came into the world kicking like a steer, and grew up to love to draw, play the piano, and dream. José’s dreaming took him to faraway places. He dreamed of bullfighters and the sounds of the cancan dancers that he saw with his father. Dance lit a fire in José’s soul. With his heart to guide him, José left his family and went to New York to dance. He learned to flow and float and fly through space with steps like a Mexican breeze. When José danced, his spirit soared. From New York to lands afar, José Limón became known as the man who gave the world his own kind of dance. ¡OLÉ! ¡OLÉ! ¡OLÉ! Susanna Reich’s lyrical text and Raúl Colón’s shimmering artwork tell the story of a boy who was determined to make a difference in the world, and did. José! Born to Dance will inspire picture book readers to follow their hearts and live their dreams.

  • Skippyjon Jones-- Lost in Spice - The New York Times bestselling kitty boy blasts off into another hilarious adventure. Buckle up, amigos— everyone’s favorite kitty boy is about to lift off. You’ll want to be there when the brave Skippito gets lost in spice! That’s right, spice. Skippy knows— from his big ears to his toes—that the planet Mars is red because it’s covered in spicy red pepper. To prove it, he’s off on a space jaunt replete with craters, crazies, and creatures from Mars. His new adventure is packed with witty wordplay, Spanish phrases, and Judy Schachner’s trademark hilarity. This rollicking romp is simply out of this world.

  • Lou Lou and Pea and the Bicentennial Bonanza - BFFs Lou Lou Bombay and Peacock Pearl are busy preparing for the Bicentennial Bonanza, their city’s two-hundredth birthday bash! And this year, the party will take place in their beloved neighborhood of El Corazón. With a baking contest, talent show, and a new gazebo planned, the community can’t wait to celebrate the founders (and historical BFFs), Diego Soto and Giles Wonderwood. But when Vice-Mayor Andy Argyle claims the festivities belong to Verde Valley, using a mysterious diary as evidence, Lou Lou and Pea smell trouble. Will the friends be able to uncover the secrets of their city’s founding, and bring the Bonanza back to El Corazón?

  • Soldier for Equality - Award-winning author Duncan Tonatiuh brings to life the story of a Mexican-American war hero Jos. de la Luz S.enz (1888-1953)—or Luz—believed in fighting for what was right. Although he was born in the United States, he and his family experienced prejudice because of their Mexican heritage. When World War I broke out, Luz volunteered to join the fight. Because of his ability to quickly learn languages, he became part of the Intelligence Office in Europe. However, despite his hard work and intellect, Luz often didn’t receive credit for his contributions. Upon his return to the US, he joined other Mexican-Americans whom he had met in the army to fight for equality. His contribution, along with others, ultimately led to the creation of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which is the oldest Latino civil rights organization. Soldier for Equality is based in part on Luz’s diary during the war. It includes a biography of Luz’s later years, an author’s note, a timeline, a bibliography, and an index.

Green Is a Chile Pepper
Written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong & illustrated by John Parra
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Green is a chile pepper, spicy and hot. Green is cilantro inside our pot.

In this lively picture book, children discover a world of colors all around them: red is spices and swirling skirts, yellow is masa, tortillas, and sweet corn cake. Many of the featured objects are Latino in origin, and all are universal in appeal. With rich, boisterous illustrations, a fun-to-read rhyming text, and an informative glossary, this playful concept book will reinforce the colors found in every child’s day!

The Life of - La Vida De Ritchie
Written by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein & illustrated by Citlali Reyes
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Born May 13, 1941, Ritchie Valens was a Mexican-American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. His musical journey at age 5 when his father encouraged him to take up guitar. In high school, he made his performing debut with the band The Silhouettes. At 17, Ritchie recorded his final record, which included classics like “Donna” and “La Bamba”. That record went on to sell over one million copies. To this day, Ritchie Valens’ music lives on in the hearts of many!

Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery
Written by Jill Diamond & illustrated by Lesley Vamos
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Two best friends with a flair for adventure use their gardening and art skills to catch a criminal during Día de los Muertos, in the first book of the Lou Lou and Pea series! Lou Lou Bombay and Peacock Pearl have been best friends since first grade. Every Friday afternoon, they get together in Lou Lou’s backyard garden for their PSPP (Post-School Pre-Parents) tea party. They chat about school, discuss Pea’s latest fashions, and plot the weekend’s activities. But all plans go out the window when a series of small crimes crop up around El Corazón, their quaint and quirky neighborhood, right before the Día de Los Muertos procession. First, Pea’s cousin’s quinceañera dress is tragically ruined. Then Lou Lou’s beloved camellia bush, Pinky, suffers a serious blow. And that’s just the beginning! When clues start to appear in El Corazón’s outdoor murals, the best friends join forces, using Lou Lou’s floral expertise and Pea’s artistic genius to solve the mysteries. Accented by Lesley Vamos’s spirited black-and-white illustrations, Jill Diamond’s debut is a delightful introduction to two very creative best friends and their unforgettable adventures! Backmatter includes a recipe, crafting activity, and glossary of Spanish terms. “Lou Lou and Pea are likable heroines and the cast of multicultural characters and Latino-themed festivities broaden the accessibility. . . . This is a pleasant, breezy friendship tale for middle grade readers who also enjoy a light mystery.” —School Library Journal

The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes
Written & illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Award-winning author Duncan Tonatiuh reimagines one of Mexico’s cherished legends. Princess Izta had many wealthy suitors but dismissed them all. When a mere warrior, Popoca, promised to be true to her and stay always by her side, Izta fell in love. The emperor promised Popoca if he could defeat their enemy Jaguar Claw, then Popoca and Izta could wed. When Popoca was near to defeating Jaguar Claw, his opponent sent a messenger to Izta saying Popoca was dead. Izta fell into a deep sleep and, upon his return, even Popoca could not wake her. As promised Popoca stayed by her side. So two volcanoes were formed: Iztaccíhuatl, who continues to sleep, and Popocatépetl, who spews ash and smoke, trying to wake his love.

  • Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos - Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by John Parra, is based on the life of one of the world’s most influential painters, Frida Kahlo, and the animals that inspired her art and life. The fascinating Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is remembered for her self-portraits, her dramatic works featuring bold and vibrant colors. Her work brought attention to Mexican and indigenous culture and she is also renowned for her works celebrating the female form. Brown’s story recounts Frida’s beloved pets—two monkeys, a parrot, three dogs, two turkeys, an eagle, a black cat, and a fawn—and playfully considers how Frida embodied many wonderful characteristics of each animal.

  • The Life of/ La Vida De Selena - A Lil’ Libros Bilingual Biography Selena’s career started at a young age when she became lead singer in her family’s band, Selena Y Los Dinos. She went on to become an award-winning artist with albums like Amor Prohibido and Selena Live, and earned the title “Queen of Tejano Music.” Your little one will learn that Selena’s favorite food was pizza and that the most important people in the world to her were her familiaand fans.

  • Esperanza Rising - Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.

  • Carlos Santana - Discover the childhood story of Carlos Santana in Gary Golio’s “”Sound of the Heart, Song of the World””, featuring illustrations by Rudy Gutierrez, the internationally celebrated artist who created the iconic Santana “”Shaman”” CD cover. Carlos Santana grew up surrounded by music. His father, a beloved mariachi performer, teaches his son how to play the violin when he is only six years old. But when Carlos discovers American blues, he is captivated by the raw honesty of the music. Unable to think of anything else, he loses all interest in the violin. When Carlos finally receives his first guitar, his whole life begins to change. From his early exposure to mariachi to his successful fusing of rock, blues, jazz, and Latin influences, here is the childhood story of a legendary musician.

Gracias / Thanks
Written by Pat Mora & illustrated by John Parra
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

In a series of poetic sentences, a young boy (biracial Mexican/Caucasian) tells about some of the everyday things for which he is thankful. Come share the joy, and think about all the things for which you can say, ¡Gracias! Thanks!

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say
Written by Angela Dominguez
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

A sweet middle-grade novel by award-winning illustrator Angela Dominguez about a shy Mexican-American girl who makes a new friend.

Domítíla: A Cinderella Tale from the Mexican Tradition
Written by Jewell Reinhart Coburn & illustrated by Connie McLennan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-10

By following her mother’s admonition to perform every task with care and love, a poor young Mexican girl wins the devotion of the governor’s son.

Long Shot
Written & illustrated by Mike Lupica
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Pedro, an avid basketball player, decides to run for class president, challenging a teammate who is also one of the most popular boys in school.

Ambassador
Written & illustrated by William Alexander
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Gabe Fuentes is in for the ride of his life when he becomes Earth’s ambassador to the galaxy in this otherworldly adventure from the National Book Award–winning author of Goblin Secrets.

Gabe Fuentes is reading under the covers one summer night when he is interrupted by a creature who looks like a purple sock puppet. The sock puppet introduces himself as the Envoy and asks if Gabe wants to be Earth’s ambassador to the galaxy. What sane eleven-year-old could refuse?

Some ingenious tinkering with the washing machine sends Gabe’s “entangled” self out to the center of the galaxy. There he finds that Earth is in the path of a destructive alien force—and Gabe himself is the target of an assassination.

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