Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month With These HMH Books

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated every year from September 15 to October 15, and it’s the perfect time to make sure that Latinx voices are included in your classroom library. Whether it’s through seeing themselves reflected in the story or simply learning about the heritage of their neighbors and classmates, all children will enjoy these books by HMH authors and illustrators with roots in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean that reflect the full spectrum of Hispanic life in America.

Pre-K–Grade 3

Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López

Engle, a Cuban American, was inspired by the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke the Cuban taboo against female drummers. She practiced in secret, on tall congas and small bongos, and when she finally performed in the open, everyone sang and danced. 

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raúl the Third

Raúl the Third grew up in the border towns of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, and in this marvelous book he tells the story of a vibrant town where English and Spanish people exist side by side. All the characters are animals, and Little Lobo and his dog Bernabé make deliveries throughout the market, visiting their favorite shops and people. The pages are chock full of action, and children will love to look at what’s happening everywhere on the page. There’s also a glossary with many of the Spanish words and phrases used.

Neighborhood Odes by Gary Soto, illustrated by David Diaz

Soto’s poems highlight daily life in a Mexican-American neighborhood such as the one he grew up in, from parties with piñatas to Fourth of July fireworks to a gato with a rusty meow. Diaz, who won the Caldecott Award for his illustrations in Eve Bunting’s Smoky Night (available from HMH in Spanish), contributes greatly to the general sense of everyday joy in this collection.

A Piñata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora, illustrated by Magaly Morales

This is a retelling of the Twelve Days of Christmas, with piñata in place of a partridge, as well as burritos bailando (dancing donkeys), lunitas cantando (singing moons), and more, all illustrated in vivid colors. On each page, there are things to find and count in Spanish, with pronunciations provided right in the pictures. A glossary and music are included at the end.

Grades 5–7

Baseball in April and Other Stories by Gary Soto

Soto sets these 11 short stories in California’s Central Valley, where he grew up. It’s a world of Mexican and Mexican-American farmworkers and their children, but each story reflects the universal details of childhood, such as Little League, Barbie dolls, and crooked teeth. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout, and a glossary is included at the end. The book was named a Pura Belpré honor for narrative in the first year the prize was established, 1996.

Path to the Stars: My Journey From Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo 

In this memoir, also available in Spanish as Camino a las Estrellos, Sylvia Acevedo describes how her life was transformed when she joined the Girl Scouts, and how she learned to navigate shifting cultural expectations at school and at home, forging her own trail to become one of the first Latinx to graduate with a master's in engineering from Stanford University and become a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Grades 7–12

The Circuit: Stories From the Life of a Migrant Child (also available in Spanish as Cajas de Cartón)

Breaking Through (also available in Spanish as Senderos Fronterizos)

Reaching Out (also available in Spanish as Más Allá de Mí)

Taking Hold: From Migrant Childhood to Columbia University

All by Francisco Jiménez

In this quartet, Jiménez, now the chairman of the Modern Languages and Literature Department at Santa Clara University, tells his life story about crossing the border as a child with his migrant farmworker family. They settle in California, work and go to school, and struggle with poverty and the changing familial dynamics immigrants often experience as children become fluent in English and experience the wider world. Jimenez writes of the harshness of poverty and farm work as well as the bittersweet feelings of moving away from your roots. He celebrates being both Mexican and American. Both Breaking Through and Reaching Out were named Belpré honor books.

Accidental Love by Gary Soto

This is a story of first love between two unlikely people who meet in an elevator when Marisa punches her best friend’s cheating boyfriend and accidently goes home with the cellphone of Rene, a skinny, geeky boy wearing white socks and too-short pants. Their efforts to accommodate each other are touching and funny, and the contrast between two high schools of differing toughness is relatable. The romance does not advance beyond kissing and cuddling, so it is appropriate for tweens and younger teens!

Jesse by Gary Soto

This novel takes place in the 1960s where 17-year-old Jesse, a Chicano, is trying to have a normal adolescence, dealing with school, pursing a girl, and wondering about the future, all set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and Cesar Chavez’s movement for civil rights and a farmworkers’ union. It’s a story about race, class, and gender that will resonate with today.

The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle 

Engle returns to Cuba for inspiration from an activist woman. Engle’s poetry here gives voice to Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula, a 19th-century poet who opposed slavery, resisted an arranged marriage at the age of 14, and fought for women’s rights. There are historical notes, excerpts, and source notes in the back.

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I hope you will incorporate these books into your curriculum for Hispanic Heritage Month and encourage students to read them on their own to celebrate Hispanic culture and how it has evolved over time. Happy Hispanic Heritage Month, or ¡Feliz Mes de la Herencia Hispana!

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