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Cinco de Mayo 2017

It’s Cinco de Mayo! Celebrate with this updated list of books starring the holiday itself, Mexican and Mexican American protagonists, and the Spanish language. All were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.

For more recommended Spanish-language and bilingual books, click here.

Preschool

Muu MooAda, Alma Flor  ¡Muu, Moo!: Rimas de animales / Animal Nursery Rhymes
48 pp.     HarperCollins/Rayo     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-134613-2
Library binding ISBN 978-0-06-134614-9

Illustrated by Viví Escrivá. Also selected by F. Isabel Campoy. English versions by Rosalma Zubizarreta. This picture book collects sixteen traditional nursery rhymes. Spanish is the preeminent language, with each rhyme presented first in Spanish and then in a free retelling in English that captures the flavor of the original. This will be an invaluable resource for librarians and teachers, and with its soft, warm watercolor illustrations it makes an attractive gift book.

Arena, Jen  Marta! Big & Small
32 pp.     Roaring Brook     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-62672-243-9

Illustrated by Angela Dominguez. This concept book teaches both opposites and simple vocabulary words — in English and Spanish. Marta is “grande” to a bug but “pequeña” to an elephant, etc. All’s well until she’s up against a snake who finds her “sabrosa” (tasty). The story, with energetic and no-frills art, concludes with a glossary, likely to be followed by requests to hear the book de nuevo.

Cumpiano, Ina  Quinito, Day and Night / Quinito, día y noche
24 pp.     Children’s     2008
Trade ISBN 978-0-89239-226-1

Illustrated by José Ramírez. Quinito (Quinito’s Neighborhood) describes, in English and Spanish, his family, friends, and activities in terms of opposites: “My Mami is short. My Papi is tall…I’m just the right size.” Naive-style paintings in warm colors over black are both comforting and energy-packed. The volume succeeds as a book of opposites, an exposition of bilingual vocabulary, and an engaging portrayal of family and neighborhood. Glos.

delacre_arrorro mi ninoDelacre, Lulu  Arrorró, mi niño: Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games
32 pp.     Lee     2004
Trade ISBN 1-58430-159-7

This veritable Latina Mother Goose includes the best known Latino lullabies and finger plays. The fifteen selections are presented bilingually; the English versions are literal (unrhymed) translations of the original Spanish. Oil-wash illustrations capture lovely scenes of mothers and grandmothers with children and offer glimpses of Latino life. Finger-play instructions and music are included.

Dominguez, Angela How Do You Say? / ¿Cómo se dice?
32 pp.     Holt     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-62779-496-1

With one word or phrase per page — English (left), Spanish (right) — two giraffes come together over a  leafy meal (“Delicious! / ¡Sabrosa!“) that flows elegantly into friendship (“Friends? / ¿Amigos?“). Pencil and tissue-paper illustrations colored digitally use white space, color contrasts, and unexpected layouts to create a visual rhythm that matches the snappy text. This book’s design works particularly well for group sharing.

Nino Wrestles the WorldMorales, Yuyi  Niño Wrestles the World
40 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-604-6

Pint-sized Niño, fearless luchador and reluctantly attentive big brother, dons his red mask, ready to take on all comers. He battles a series of imagined foes from Mexican history and popular culture before facing the trickiest of opponents, las hermanitas! Working in digital collage, Morales packs every polychromatic double-page spread with action, trying — not quite successfully, fortunately — to contain Niño’s energy within their frames.

Morales, Yuyi  Rudas: Niño’s Horrendous Hermanitas
40 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-62672-240-8

This follow-up to Niño Wrestles the World is brimming with action, humor, and heart. It’s técnicos (“Good guys”) vs. rudos (“Tough guys”) as Niño recounts a spirited wrestling rumpus with his misbehaving little sisters. Morales’s vibrant collages, filled with textures and zigzags, reflect the children’s boisterous fun. Varied typefaces add to the chaos, while speech bubbles feature expressions in both English and Spanish.

Reiser, Lynn  My Way / A mi manera: A Margaret and Margarita Story / Un cuento de Margarita y Margaret
32 pp.     Greenwillow     2007
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-084101-0

Reiser uses the bilingual structure in an ingenious way, with the English (Margaret’s voice) and Spanish (Margarita’s) mirroring each other on facing pages, but with each girl presenting a distinct self. Reiser’s cheerful primary-bright palette signals readers that friends liking different things is just fine. A satisfying, upbeat reminder that kids can be true to themselves and be a good friend, too.

 

Primary

ada_let me helpAda, Alma Flor  Let Me Help! / ¡Quiero ayudar!
32 pp.     Children’s      2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-89239-232-2

Illustrated by Angela Domínguez. Pet parrot Perico knows how to say “Let me help!” He repeats this statement as his (human) family members prepare for the San Antonio Cinco de Mayo festival. They shoo him away, but to everyone’s surprise he eventually finds a way to help. Warm-hearted illustrations — from a bird’s-eye view — support the family-centered text, printed in both English and Spanish.

argueta_salsaArgueta, Jorge  Salsa: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem
32 pp.     Groundwood     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-55498-442-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-55498-443-5

Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. Translated by Elisa Amado. This bilingual cooking poem plays on the multiple meanings of salsa for a musical recipe (although the lack of measurements may leave some readers perplexed). As a boy and his family prepare salsa roja, his imagination runs wild, ingredients becoming instruments. Onomatopoeia and detailed ingredient descriptions play on various senses; Mesoamerican-inspired drawings in earthy tones suit the poem’s combination of traditional and modern.

brown_maya's blanketBrown, Monica  Maya’s Blanket / La manta de Maya
32 pp.     Lee/Children’s     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-89239-292-6

Illustrated by David Diaz. Translated by Adriana Domínguez. When Maya Morales is little, her grandmother makes her a blanket, a “special manta” that morphs into different (progressively smaller) things as Maya grows up. Based on the Yiddish folk song “I Had a Little Coat” (and inspired by her Jewish and Latina heritage), Brown creates a contemporary story, in English and Spanish, with a timeless-folktale feel. Diaz’s mixed-media illustrations are warm and joyful. Glos.

Brown, Monica  Marisol McDonald and the Monster / Marisol McDonald y el monstruo
40 pp.     Lee/Children’s     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-89239-326-8

Illustrated by Sara Palacios. Translated by Adriana Dominguez. In her second book, Marisol McDonald explores words beginning with M. One M word, however, scares Marisol: “Monster! / ¡Monstruo!” A “BUMP” in the night fills Marisol’s mind with worrisome questions. She comes up with a characteristically imaginative answer, then learns the real, not-so-scary cause of the sound. Mixed-media art sparkles with color and personality, matching Marisol’s exuberance. The Spanish translation preserves the text’s tone nicely. Glos.

kent_el perro con sombreroKent, Derek Taylor  El perro en sombrero: A Bilingual Doggy Tale
32 pp.     Holt     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-8050-9989-8

Illustrated by Jed Henry. Translated by Gabriela Revilla Lugo. Pepe is a lonely dog until he finds a hat and becomes el perro en sombrero, a famous movie star. Disaster strikes when a jealous cat steals his sombrero, but it helps Pepe realize there is something better than fame. Henry’s illustrations are lively, funny, and filled with action, and the alternation between the English and Spanish translations feels natural.

Mateo, José Manuel Migrant
22 pp.     Abrams     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-0957-9

Illustrated by Javier Martínez Pedro. Translated by Emmy Smith Ready. A straightforward first-person narration recounts a child’s memories of his migration from Mexico to Los Angeles. The dramatic journey includes jumping a train, scaling a wall, and being chased by dogs. Intricately detailed black-and-white artwork is presented as one long vertical picture book with an accordion fold, in the style of ancient Mayan codices. The reverse side of the book presents the Spanish translation.

medina_mango, abuela, and meMedina, Meg  Mango, Abuela, and Me
32 pp.     Candlewick      2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-6900-3

Illustrated by Angela Dominguez. Mia worries when her “far-away grandmother” arrives. Abuela doesn’t speak English, and Mia’s “español is not good enough to tell her the things an abuela should know.” A pet-store parrot named Mango allows Mia and her abuela to truly connect. This heartwarming story about finding common ground and adapting to change is accompanied by illustrations that capture the characters’ emotions and moods.

medina_tia isa wants a carMedina, Meg  Tía Isa Wants a Car
32 pp.     Candlewick     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-4156-6

Illustrated by Claudio Muñoz. The young narrator, who lives in America with her aunt and uncle, describes how Tía Isa wants a car, one that’s “the same shiny green as the ocean.” However, they don’t have enough money — yet. The narrator incorporates Spanish words naturally, giving the dialogue an authenticity that is neither laborious nor stilted. Soft watercolor illustrations mirror the text.

mora_i pledge allegianceMora, Pat and Martinez, Libby  I Pledge Allegiance
40 pp.     Knopf      2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-307-93181-8
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-97109-9
Ebook ISBN 978-0-307-97556-0

Illustrated by Patrice Barton. A Mexican American girl and her great-aunt Lobo learn the Pledge of Allegiance: young Libby practices so she can lead her class at school; Lobo will recite the Pledge at her upcoming citizenship ceremony. Their love for each other is affectionately shown in the soft, digitally rendered illustrations, full of red, white, and blue. An author’s note introduces the real Lobo.

Viva Frida

Morales, Yuyi  Viva Frida
40 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter      2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-603-9

Photographs by Tim O’Meara. Morales initially shows Kahlo as a puppet: made from steel, polymer clay, and wool, three-dimensional figures are photographed and digitally manipulated inside double-page-spread collages. As we enter Kahlo’s mind, the medium changes to lush acrylics. The illustrations are accompanied by just a few words of text in both Spanish and English that leave readers with a dreamlike impression. An ingenious tour de force.

paschkis_flutter and humPaschkis, Julie  Flutter & Hum / Aleteo y zumbido: Animal Poems / Poemas de animales
32 pp.     Holt     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-62779-103-8

Written first in Spanish then translated into English by the (non-native Spanish speaker) author, each of these animal poems is intricately connected to its corresponding gouache painting, with additional, thematic words found throughout the pictures. For example, in “Fish / El pez,” a boy sleeps on a boat that floats above fish swimming in a sea of lulling words: linger, flow; luna, burbuja.

 

shahan_fiestaMora, Pat  Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day / Book Day / Celebremos el día de los niños / El día de los libros
40 pp.     HarperCollins/Rayo     2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-128877-7

Illustrated by Rafael López. This volume extends the Mexican celebration of El día de los niños (The Day of the Child) by adding books to the mix (El día de los libros). Mora’s rhymed text extols reading anywhere, anytime, and together with anyone. López’s rich-hued images of children reading in unexpected places (e.g., an elephant’s back) and exotic locales rejoice in imagination and universality.

 

saenz_perfect season for dreamingSáenz, Benjamin Alire  A Perfect Season for Dreaming / Un tiempo perfecto para soñar
40 pp.     Cinco     2008
Trade ISBN 978-1-933693-01-9

Illustrated by Esau Andrade Valencia. On the first day of summer, Octavio Rivera begins to dream. He shares these visions with his granddaughter Regina, who also experiences dreams as if they are “good friends who…console you when you’re lonely.” Sáenz’s long, languorous sentences in English and Spanish beautifully evoke a dream state. Valencia’s richly hued and textured surrealist tableaux are both accessible and inspired.

soto_big bushy mustacheSoto, Gary and Cepeda, Joe  Big Bushy Mustache
32 pp.    Knopf    1998
Trade ISBN 0-679-88030-5
Library binding ISBN 0-679-98030-X

The only costume Ricky wants to wear for his class’s ‘Cinco de Mayo’ play is a big, bushy mustache, because it looks just like Papi’s. When he wears it home from school to show his parents, he loses it along the way. Papi’s solution — he generously offers his own freshly shaved mustache — is a little unlikely, but the warm family relationship, emphasized in Cepeda’s bold paintings, comes across nevertheless.

thong_green is a chile pepperThong, Roseanne Greenfield  Green Is a Chile Pepper
32 pp.     Chronicle     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4521-0203-0

Illustrated by John Parra. In this festive concept book, all the colors found in a Latino neighborhood are described in rhyming text with frequent Spanish words, explained in detail in a glossary. The objects described, such as ristras, piñatas, and faroles, are staples of Mexican culture, but Parra’s folk art–style paintings, stuffed with entertaining details, make them universally understandable and appealing.

tonatiuh_dear primoTonatiuh, Duncan  Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin
32 pp.     Abrams     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-8109-3872-4

Two cousins, one in Mexico and the other in America, write letters to each other about their everyday lives. Facing pages demonstrate how their cultural differences are far less important than their commonalities. Take the boys’ favorite foods, for example: it’s quesadillas for Carlitos and pizza for Charlie. Side-by-side illustrations show similar images: both boys seated, with food in hand. A clever, well-executed conceit.

Tonatiuh, Duncan  Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras
40 pp.     Abrams     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-1647-8

José Guadalupe Posada (1852–1913) didn’t invent those iconic Day of the Dead skeletons, but they attained their greatest popularity during the years he drew them. Tonatiuh, in his signature flat illustrative style, digitally layers various colors and textures onto simple, black-outlined drawings; Posada’s own artwork also plays a prominent role. The straightforward narrative incorporates biographical highlights and personal anecdotes; extended sidebars illustrate printing processes. Bib., glos., ind.

Separate Is Never EqualTonatiuh, Duncan  Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
40 pp.     Abrams     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-1054-4

In 1947 the Mendez family fought for — and won — the desegregation of schools in California. Tonatiuh uses a child’s viewpoint to succinctly capture the segregated reality of Mexican Americans. The straightforward narrative is well matched with illustrations in Tonatiuh’s signature style, their two-dimensional perspective reminiscent of the Mixtec codex but collaged with paper, wood, etc. to provide textural variation. An author’s note with photos is appended. Bib., glos., ind.

Tonatiuh, Duncan  The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes
40 pp.     Abrams     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-2130-4

Returning from battle to find his love, Princess Izta, in a deep sleep, warrior Popoca takes Izta to a mountain top. Soon, “where once there was a princess with her true love by her side, two volcanoes emerged.” Tonatiuh’s mixed-media art, an homage to the Mixtec codices, is instantly recognizable; with its assured storytelling, this adapted pourquoi story may be his best yet. Bib., glos.

Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound ArtistWood, Susan  Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound Artist
32 pp.     Charlesbridge      2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-58089-673-3
Ebook ISBN 978-1-60734-825-2

Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. Growing up in Mexico, Juan Garcia Esquivel got an earful of mariachi but wanted to create his own sound. His strange instrumentals and innovations in stereo sound came to define mid-twentieth-century lounge music. The story of Esquivel’s rise is told with pep and a keen awareness of young readers. Tonatiuh’s art (again in the tradition of the Mixtec codex) is fittingly offbeat. Reading list, websites.

Intermediate

ada_dancing homeAda, Alma Flor and Zubizarreta, Gabriel M.  Dancing Home
150 pp.     Atheneum     2011
Trade ISBN 978-1-4169-0088-7

Mexican American fifth-grader Margie tries hard to project an all-American image. This works until her cousin Lupe arrives from Mexico to live with Margie’s family. Alternating narration, injected with Spanish-language phrases, brings out the difficulties of language-learning and peer acceptance from each girl’s perspective. Ada and Zubizarreta provide a sympathetic view of an immigrant child’s experience.

ada_love amaliaAda, Alma Flor  Love, Amalia
127 pp.     Atheneum     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-2402-9

Illustrated by Gabriel M. Zubizarreta. Amalia is devastated when she learns her best friend is moving to California; fortunately, her abuelita comforts her with stories about loved ones far away. When Abuelita suddenly dies, Amalia must draw on what her grandmother has taught her to accept her grief and anger. This portrait of a multigenerational immigrant family features sensitively drawn characters and a low-key story. Concurrently published in Spanish.

Camper, Cathy  Lowriders in Space
112 pp.     Chronicle     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4521-2155-0

Illustrated by Raúl the Third. To win a competition, animal friends Lupe Impala, Elirio Malaria, and Flapjack Octopus build a rocket-powered lowrider out of space materials collected as they drive through the galaxy. The unique ballpoint-pen illustrations explode with energy as the hip, witty text drops occasional Spanish slang. An afterword explaining the history of lowrider cars puts the graphic novel into cultural context. Glos.

Camper, Cathy  Lowriders to the Center of the Earth
128 pp.     Chronicle     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4521-2343-1
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4521-3836-7

Illustrated by Raúl the Third. In the second graphic novel, Lupe, Elirio, and El Chavo Flapjack set out in their magical lowrider to find their cat and meet mythological characters such as La Llorona, the Chupacabra, and an angry Aztec god. Energetic pen drawings keep the story hopping even when the plot feels somewhat disjointed. The frequent Spanish expressions are translated on each page. Glos.

hayes_coyote under the tableHayes, Joe The Coyote Under the Table / El coyote debajo de la mesa: Folktales Told in Spanish and English
133 pp. Cinco 2011. ISBN 978-1-935955-21-4 PE ISBN 978-1-935955-06-1

(2) 4-6 Illustrated by Antonio Castro L.. Hayes’s latest collection of bilingual folktales drawn from the Hispanic New Mexico oral tradition provides refreshing depth and humor. Brief source notes expand on the history of each of the ten tales and add social/historical context. Clean, unencumbered prose draws attention to the structure and rhythm of the stories, which are best read aloud. Amusing illustrations face the start of each entry.

Jiménez, Francisco  The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child
116 pp.     Houghton    1999
Trade ISBN 0-395-97902-1

Originally published only in paperback by the University of New Mexico, this is the first hardcover edition of the moving and transcendent book that won the 1998 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for fiction; the appended author’s note is from Jiménez’s acceptance speech for that award. Look for sequels Breaking Through, Reaching Out, and Taking Hold.

ryan_esperanza risingRyan, Pam Munoz  Esperanza Rising
262 pp.     Scholastic     2000
Trade ISBN 0-439-12041-1

In this poignant look at the realities of immigration, thirteen-year-old Esperanza, daughter of an affluent Mexican rancher, is forced to trade fancy dolls and dresses for hard work and ill-fitting hand-me-downs after her beloved father dies. Laboring in the United States, picking grapes on someone else’s land for pennies an hour, Esperanza is transformed into someone who can take care of herself and others.

 

Older

banks_joyrideBanks, Anna  Joyride
276 pp.     Feiwel    2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-03961-3

Love triumphs in this Romeo and Juliet–esque tale of Carly Vega, an impoverished Mexican American girl working night shifts to help her deported parents get back to America, and Arden Moss, the wealthy son of a racist sheriff. Carly’s conflicted response to familial responsibility and the significance of her complex problems with United States immigration policy are convincingly wrought.

bernier-grand_diego bigger than lifeBernier-Grand, Carmen T.  Diego: Bigger than Life
64 pp.     Cavendish     2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-7614-5383-3

Illustrated by David Diaz. In free verse, Bernier-Grand (Frida: ¡Viva la Vida! / Long Live Life!, César) chronicles the childhood of Mexican painter Diego Rivera, before highlighting the passions (art, women, politics) of his adult life. These vignettes are appropriately accompanied by Diaz’s vibrantly colored mixed-media silhouettes and occasionally — and to great effect — Rivera’s own paintings. An author’s note and quotes by Rivera are appended. Timeline. Bib., glos.

de la pena_mexican white boyde la Peña, Matt  Mexican White Boy
250 pp.     Delacorte     2008
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-73310-6
Library binding ISBN 978-0-385-90329-5

The one place Danny feels accepted is the baseball field. He imagines becoming a star, making his father proud enough to return from Mexico. This fast-paced baseball story is unique in its gritty realism, framed in the context of broken homes and bicultural pressures. De la Peña poignantly conveys the message that, despite obstacles, you must shape your own future.

Jiménez, Joe  Bloodline
132 pp.     Piñata     2016
Paperback ISBN 978-1-55885-828-2

Seventeen-year-old Abram lives with his grandmother in Texas after his father’s death and his mother’s disappearance. As Abram’s relationship with classmate Ophelia grows romantic, his uncle, Claudio, seizes upon Abram’s fighting prowess and enrolls Abram in a shady, dangerous fight that has tragic consequences. With allusions and parallels to Hamlet, Jiménez’s imagery-heavy YA debut conveys simultaneously a vivid sense of immediacy and reflective distance.

mcneal_dark waterMcNeal, Laura  Dark Water
289 pp.     Knopf     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-375-84973-2
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-94973-9

Fifteen-year-old Pearl starts an illicit relationship with Amiel, an undocumented migrant laborer. When fire consumes southern California, Pearl abandons her family to warn Amiel of the approaching flames. Pearl ominously hints at impending disaster throughout the narrative; this foreshadowing heightens the climax’s suspense. Inspired by southern California’s 2007 fires, McNeal captures the desperation of both love and survival with wrenching authenticity.

pérez_out of darknessPérez, Ashley Hope  Out of Darkness
402 pp.     Carolrhoda Lab     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-4677-4202-3
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4677-6179-6

Two teens, Mexican American Naomi and African American Wash, fall in love and struggle to keep their relationship secret in racist 1936 east Texas. This novel weaves in the forces that led up to the 1937 New London school explosion, a tragedy rooted in the era’s violent abuse against minorities. A poignant, potent, and provocative historical drama steeped in well-researched factual details.

quintero_gabi a girl in pieces Quintero, Isabel  Gabi, A Girl in Pieces
288 pp.     Cinco     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-935955-94-8
Paperback ISBN 978-1-935955-95-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-935955-96-2

Gabi, a light-skinned Hispanic girl who is maybe a little bit too curvy, is no stranger to trouble. Her father is a meth addict, her brother’s a budding graffiti artist, her best friend’s pregnant, and another friend is homeless after coming out to his father. Blisteringly honest diary entries mix with poetry to create a beautifully distinct and powerful voice.

Aristotle and Dante Answer the Secrets of the UniverseSáenz, Benjamin Alire  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
359 pp.     Simon     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-0892-0

Two boys, Ari and Dante, strike up a friendship that will change their lives in ways both subtle and profound. When Ari saves Dante’s life but breaks his own legs in the process, it cements the bond between the two Mexican American families. Ari’s first-person narrative — poetic, philosophical, honest — skillfully develops the relationship between the two boys from friendship to romance.

Sáenz, Benjamin Alire  The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
455 pp.    Clarion    2017
Trade 978-0-544-58650-5

Mexican American seventeen-year-old Salvador gets into two fistfights at the start of senior year. Things get more complicated after Sal’s grandmother’s cancer returns, best friend Samantha loses her mother, and his gay, adoptive dad begins dating again. Sáenz’s distinctive prose is lyrical and philosophical; as self-effacing Sal narrates, readers feel the profound importance of family and friends and the transcendent power of love.

saldana_finding our waySaldaña, Rene, Jr.  Finding Our Way: Stories
119 pp.     Random/Lamb     2003
Trade ISBN 0-385-73051-9
Library bindingISBN 0-385-90077-5

As we find our way through these eleven disparate coming-of-age cuentos about Chicano culture, Saldaña forces us to experience the linguistic world of many of his protagonists — the decision to offer no glossary for the Spanish phrases that infuse his text serves as a curative disadvantage for the English-speaking reader. Never maudlin or overdrawn, these taut but lyrical tales bring light into the corners of kids’ lives.

Stork, Francisco X.  Behind the Eyes
246 pp.     Dutton      2006
Trade ISBN 0-525-47735-7

Sixteen-year-old Hector, a Mexican American whose academic success offers an escape from his home in the El Paso projects, is sent to reform school after assaulting the gang member responsible for his older brother’s death. Flashbacks from Hector’s family life coupled with a stark view of his time in juvenile detention create a commanding portrait of a boy struggling to determine his future.

Stork, Francisco X.  The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
348 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-15133-7

Stork (Marcelo in the Real World) offers another story with complex characters, rich and powerful themes, and a vivid setting. Tough-guy Pancho Sanchez, a ward of the state of New Mexico, is placed in an orphanage where he meets and befriends D.Q., a strange boy with terminal cancer. This novel of lonely quests and unlikely friendship will resonate with readers long after book’s end.

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