Juvenile Literature for
Latin American Cultural Studies


I selected these books from ýNotable Social Studies Trade Books for Young Peopleţ that appeared in Social Education in the spring issues from 1991 to 2001. To help teachers identify a book that could be integrated into (or serve as the foundation of) a lesson, I have categorized them into four groups: Nonfiction; Folktales, Legends, and Myths; Contemporary Fiction; and Poetry. I have noted when a book has English and Spanish text (sometimes these appear side by side on the page).

ˇ Ron W. Wilhelm, professor in the Department of Teacher Education in the College of Education at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.


A Day with a Maya. (ýA Day Withţ series) Frederico Navarrete Linares. Illustrated by Andr╚s SĚnchez de Tagle. (Lerner) 48 pp. Library ISBN 0-8225-1922-4, $22.60. This book includes a historical text accompanied by maps, diagrams, and photographs, and a fictionalized account of a Mayan artisanÝs day accompanied by rich illustrations. These components blend to present a clear picture of the life and civilization of these early Mesoamericans. Introduction. Afterword. Glossary. Pronunciation Guide. Further Reading. Index. 

A is for the Americas (A es para decir Américas). Cynthia Chin-Lee and Terri de la Peña. Illustrated by Enrique O. Sánchez. (Orchard) 32 pp. ISBN trade: 0-531-30194-X, $15.95; ISBN library: 0-531-33194-6, $16.99; ISBN paperback: 0-531-07134-0, $6.95. This unusual alphabet book takes readers on a lively tour of the Americas by linking the letters of the alphabet to a variety of intriguing topics, from “empanada” to “voodoo.” Available in paperback in Spanish. A Note on the Americas and Their Languages. 

Amazing Potato, The. Milton Meltzer. Illustrated with photographs, paintings, and etchings. (HarperCollins) 128 pp. ISBN trade: 0-06-020806-6. $15.00. ISBN library: 0-06-020807-4. $14.89. This book offers unusual perspectives on the history and influence of one of the world’s most important crops. Follow the trail of this New World plant as it travels to other continents, offers salvation (but sudden famine) to Ireland, and is developed into a multimillion dollar industry. Bibliography. Index. 

Aztecs, The. Tim Wood. (Viking) 48 pp. ISBN 0-670-84492-6. $15.00. Readers will become immersed in Aztec culture through this superbly written history. The customs, daily life, and constructions of the Aztecs are revealed in rich images and a wonderful series of transparent overlay illustrations. The book also contains a list of key dates in Aztec history. Glossary. Index.

Caribbean Alphabet. Frane Lessac.(Tambourine) 32 pp. ISBN trade: 0-688-12952-8. $15.00. ISBN library: 0-688-12953-6. $14.93. Vivid primary colors and child-like illustrations describe items and scenes of the Caribbean using an alphabet motif. Urban and rural area beaches, fishing villages, universities, and airports are depicted. Glossary. 

Caribbean Carnival: Songs of the West Indies. Irving Burgie. Illustrated by Frane Lessac. (Tambourine) 32 pp. ISBN trade: 0-688-10779-6. $15.00. ISBN library: 0688-10780-X. $14.93. The music and words in this collection of calypso songs come alive with the full-page, vibrant illustrations. 

Cuban Kids. George Ancona. Illustrated with photographs by the author. (Cavendish) 40 pp. Trade ISBN 0-7614-5077-7, $15.95. Cuban kids of various ages and ethnic backgrounds introduce readers to their country and its contemporary society through the events of their daily lives. Author’s note. Glossary. Map. 

Day of the Dead. Kathryn Lasky. Photos. Christopher G. Knight (Hyperion) 48 pp. ISBN trade: 0-7868-0022-4. $15.95. ISBN library: 0-7868-2018-7. $15.89. Through photographs and a poetic and detailed narrative, readers learn about a Mexican family preparing for and celebrating the Days of the Dead honoring their ancestors. Glossary.

Diez Deditos and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America. Selected and translated by Jos╚-Lu╠s Orozco. Illustrated by Elisa Kleven. (Dutton) 48 pp. ISBN 0-525-4536-4, $16.99. ChildrenÝs traditions from Latin America, colorful illustrations, background notes, movement pictographs, and music round out this bilingual collection of joyous finger rhymes and action songs. Index. AuthorÝs note. 

Easter Island: Giant Stone Statues Tell of a Rich and Tragic Past. Caroline Arnold. Illustrated with photographs by the author. (Clarion) 48 pp. Trade ISBN 0-395-87609-5. $15.00. This book explores the complex historical and cultural legacies of Easter Island, known for the great stone statues carved by its original inhabitants. Settled by Polynesians in 400 B. C., Easter Island has been home to various peoples through the centuries. Glossary. Index. For Further Information. 

Exploration into Latin America. Ana María Machado. Illustrated with photographs. (New Discovery) 48 pp., ISBN library 0-02-718084-0. $15.95. ISBN paperback: 0-382-24970-4. $7.95. Maps, photographs, and drawings combine to tell the story of a region rich in history, culture, and natural resources. From past to present, the diversity of lands and peoples is explored. Glossary. Index.

Feiacute;z Nochebuena, Feiacute;z Navidad: Christmas Feasts from the Hispanic Caribbean. Maricel E. Presilla. Illustrated. Ismael Espinosa Ferrer. (Holt) 32 pp. ISBN: 0-8050-2512-X. $15.95. An appropriate subtitle to this colorfully illustrated book would be ýA Caribbean Christmas.ţ Rich in cultural heritage, this book blends Christmas traditions from the islands with recipes, stories, songs, and language, with accompanying pronunciation. Bibliography. Glossary.

Fiesta! Mexico’s Great Celebrations. Elizabeth Silverthorne. Illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis. (Millbrook) 64 pp. ISBN 1-56294-055-4. $13.90. This book provides comprehensive coverage of all types of religious and patriotic fiestas in Mexico and includes directions for making objects and recipes for making foods associated with the various celebrations. This excellent source book, suitable for student use, contains a calendar of Mexican fiestas and a further reading list. Glossary. Index. 

Life Around the Lake: Embroideries by the Women of Lake Pátzcuaro. Maricel E. Presilla and Gloria Soto. Illustrated with various embroideries. (Holt) 32 pp., ISBN 0-8050-3800-0, $15.95. The village of Tarascan surrounding Lake Pátzcuaro in central Mexico is endangered by growth and pollution. The women of the town, master embroiderers, celebrate their culture in needlepoint. This book details their struggle in vivid needlework images and text. Pronunciation guide.

Lost Temple of the Aztecs, The. (“I Was There” series). Shelley Tanaka. Illustrated by Greg Ruhl and Jack McMaster. (Hyperion) 48 pp. ISBN trade: 0-7868-04441-6, $16.95. Beginning with the recent discovery of the Great Temple, readers are transported back four centuries to learn of the Aztecs and the Spanish conquest. Bright paintings, photographs, diagrams, and sidebar information describe Aztec life in fascinating detail. Glossary. Further reading List.


Made in Mexico. Peter Laufer. Illustrated by Susan L. Roth. (National Geographic) 32 pp., Trade ISBN 0-7922-7118-1, $16.95. The author describes a cottage industry (guitar making) in a remote Mexican village that touches music around the world. Collage artwork using paper products from Mexico and the United States enhance this informative and charming book. Spanish words are

Mayeros: A Yucatec Maya Family. George Ancona. Illustrated with photographs by the author. (Lothrop) 40 pp. ISBN trade: 0-688-13465-3, $16.00. ISBN library: 0-688-13466-1, $15.93. This photo documentary presents the life and customs of the descendants of the Maya now living in the Yucatan Peninsula area of Mexico. Author’s note. Glossary. Pronunciation Guide.

Out of the Dump: Writings and Photographs by Children from Guatemala. Edited by Kristine L. Franklin and Nancy McGirr. Translated by Kristine L. Franklin. Illustrated with photographs. (Lothrop) 56 pp., ISBN trade: 0-688-13923-X, $19.00. ISBN library: 0-688-13924-8, $18.93. A group of children living in a garbage dump in Guatemala City document with words and photographs their struggle to exist. A truly inspirational account of how a few children used photography and writing as a tool for self-expression and a way “out of the dump.” Editor’s Note. 

Sad Night, The: The Story of an Aztec Victory and a Spanish Loss. Sally Schofer Mathews. (Clarion) 40 pp. ISBN: 0-395-63035-5. $16.95. Told from the Aztec perspective, this story makes a connection between a battle in the past, and a modern-day discovery. The text is surrounded by Aztec codices

Tainos, The: The People Who Welcomed Columbus. Francine Jacobs. Illustrated by Patrick Collins. (Putnam) ISBN 0-399-22116-6. $15.95. The Tainos were the first Americans to greet the “winged monsters” of Columbus. This fascinating treatment of Taino history and culture presents archaeologists’ views of how Tainos disappeared from the region. A note on museums and exhibits is included at the end of the book. Bibliography. Index.

Piñata Maker, The (El Piñatero). George Ancona. (Harcourt) 40 pp. ISBN trade: 0-15-261875-9. $16.95. ISBN paperback: 0-15-200060-7. $8.95. This book is a Spanish-English photo essay of how Don Ricardo from southern Mexico makes piñatas for fiestas. The full-color, detailed photographs are useful for anyone interested in making piñatas. Author’s note. 

Traditions from the Caribbean. (Cultural Journey series). Paul Dash. Illustrated with photographs and prints. (Raintree Steck-Vaughn) 48 pp. ISBN library: 0-8172-5384-X, $25.69. Beginning with the history of Caribbean settlement, this book offers an informative presentation of diverse foods, customs, religious practices and festivals, and sports and games enjoyed by Caribbean people. Vivid color photographs enhance the instructive and engaging text. Maps. Glossary. Further Information. Index.

Under the Royal Palms: A Childhood in Cuba. Alma Flor Ada. (Atheneum) 80 pp. ISBN: 0-689-80631-0. $15.00. This is a wonderful description of the author’s life in the small town of Camaguey, Cuba, during the 1950s. The author attributes her success to the support of her extended family and the effect it had on her upbringing. Author’s note. Epilogue.


Folktales, Legends, and Myths

Cuckoo: A Mexican Folktale (Cucú: Un cuento folkoacute;rico). Lois Ehlert. Illustrated by the author. (Harcourt Brace) 40 pp. ISBN 0-15-200274-X, $16.00. This side-by-side English/Spanish narrative provides an excellent opportunity to teach either language to young students. Colorful designs and pictures help students to explore the legend of Cuckoo. Author’s note.

Doctor Bird: Three Lookin’ Up Tales from Jamaica. Gerald Hausman. Illustrated by Ashley Wolff. (Philomel) 40 pp. ISBN trade: 0-399-22744-X, $15.99. Lushly illustrated, this book of three West Indian folktales features Jamaica’s national bird. Dr. Bird is very clever and, Jamaicans believe, has magical powers. Author’s note. 

Emerald Lizard, The: Fifteen Latin American Tales to Tell in English and Spanish. Pleasant DeSpain. Translated by Mario Lamo-Jim╚nez. Illustrated by Don Bell. (August House) 192 pp. ISBN trade: 0-87483-551-8, $21.95.; ISBN paperback: 0-87483-552-6, $11.95. DeSpain presents his own retellings of traditional Latin American folktales, myths, and legends collected from more than a dozen cultures over a thirty-year period. Introduction. Notes

Journey of the Nightly Jaguar. Burton Albert. Illustrated by Robert Roth. (Atheneum) 32 pp. ISBN 0-689-31905-3, $16.00. Mayan mythology transforms the setting sun into a jaguar traveling through the shadowy jungle toward rebirth at dawn. Dramatic watercolors enhance this polished adaptation. Author’s note. 

Lizard and the Sun, The. (La largartija y el sol). Alma Flor Ada. Illustrated by Felipe DÝvalos. (BDD BFYR) 40 pp. ISBN 0-385-32121-X, $16.95, Paperback ed. (BBD) 1999. In this Mexican folktale, a faithful and tenacious lizard finds the sun and brings light and warmth back to the world. Bilingual text and eye-pleasing paintings enrich the story. AuthorÝs note.  

Mariana and the Merchild: A Folk Tale from Chile. Caroline Pitcher. Illustrated by Jackie Morris. (Eerdmans 32 pp. Trade ISBN 0-8028-5204-1 $17.00. Lush watercolor illustrations complement a poetic retelling of a Chilean folktale. Lonely on her windswept beach, Mariana finds a merchild washed ashore by a powerful storm. In giving the child love and shelter, she finds love and acceptance herself.

Moon Was Tired of Walking on Air. Natalia M. Belting. Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand.(Houghton) 48 pp. ISBN 0-395-53806-8. $15.95. Stories of fourteen South American Indian tribes are skillfully retold and magically illustrated in this striking collection of creation myths.


Contemporary Fiction

A Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of the Dead. (Un regalo para Abuelita: En celebraci█n del d╠a de los muertos). Nancy Luenn. Illustrated by Robert Chapman. (Rising Moon) 32 pp. ISBN trade: 0-87358-688-3, $15.95. This beautifully illustrated book tells, in English and Spanish, of an important celebration in many Mexican communities. It describes the powerful love between a grandmother and granddaughter, and teaches students how to deal with the death of loved ones. AuthorÝs note. Glossary. 

A Handful of Seeds. Monica Hughes. Illustrated by Luis Garay. (Orchard) 32 pp. ISBN 0-531-09498-7, $14.95. When her grandmother dies, young Concepción must live alone in the barrio. She plants the bran, corn, and chile seeds that her grandmother left her and finds that they are the answer to her survival. Delicate illustrations grab the reader emotionally. 

An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio. Judith Ortiz Cofer. (Orchard) 176 pp. ISBN trade: 0-531-06897-8. $15.95. ISBN library: 0-531-08747-6. $16.99. The Puerto Rican-American author tells twelve funny and poignant stories about teenagers in a New Jersey barrio living between two cultures. 

Isla. Arthur Dorros. Illustrated by Elisa Kleven. (Dutton) 40 pp., ISBN: 0-525-45149-8, $15.99. Rosalba and her grandmother mentally savor the flavors of la isla in this delightful sequel to Abuela. Sun-bright collages celebrate the joyous journey of two loving imaginations. Glossary and pronunciation guide of Spanish terms are included.

Mama and Papa Have a Store. Amelia Lau Carling. (Dial) 32 pp. ISBN trade: 0-8037-2044-0. $15.00; ISBN library: 0-8037-2045-9. $15.89. This nicely illustrated book reveals a day in the life of a girl who lives above her Chinese parents’ general store in Guatemala City.

Salsa Stories. Lulu Delacre. Illustrated by the author. (Scholastic Press) 144 pp. Trade ISBN 0-590-63118-7, $15.95. The gift of a blank notebook becomes a gir#146;s opportunity to create a lively composite of the Americas. Her notebook comes to life through stories and recipes shared by loved ones from Cuba, Perú, Guatemala, and elsewhere. Author’s note. Recipes. Glossary.

Save My Rainforest. Monica Zak. Translated by Nancy Schimmel. Illustrated by Bengt-Arne Runnerstrom. (Volcano) 32 pp. ISBN 0-912078-94-4. $14.95. In this boldly illustrated, simply told story, readers are introduced to eight-year-old Omar, who attempts through demonstrations and an audience with the president of Mexico to save a rainforest. Glossary. 

Spirit of the Maya: A Boy Explores his People’s Mysterious Past. Guy Garc╠a. Photographs by Ted Wood. (Walker) 48 pp. ISBN trade: 0-8027-8379-1. $16.95. ISBN library: 0-689-80297-8. $17.85. A twelve-year-old Lacand█n Indian boy explores the ancient Mayan temples and pyramids built by his ancestors more than a thousand years ago in Palenque, Mexico, and realizes the richness of his heritage. Further Reading List.  

The Color of My Words. Lynn Joseph. (HarperCollins) 144 pp. Trade ISBN 0-06-028232-0. $14.95. Library ISBN 0-06-028233-9, $14.89 (Harper Trophy). A young girl is determined to write at a time when policies of the Dominican Republic deny freedom of expression. Rebellion and tragedy become more than words on paper in this lyrical story of community, loss, and love. Author’s note.



My Mexico (México Mío). Tony Johnston. Illustrated by F. John Sierra. (Putnam) 36 pp. ISBN 0-399-22275-8, $18.95. Simple poems about everyday life in Mexico and full-page, detailed drawings will appeal to young children. This bilingual book will also be helpful to Spanish-speaking students and those wishing to learn Spanish. Glossary. Pronunciation Guide. 

Sol a Sol: Bilingual Poems. Written and selected by Lori Marie Carlson. Illustrated by Emily Lisker. (Holt) 32 pp. ISBN trade: 0-8050-4373-X. $15.95. These poems were chosen because they can be read aloud in Spanish as well as in English. They offer warm glimpses of family activities from sunup to sundown. Sunny, action-filled illustrations complement each selection. AuthorÝs note. 

Tree is Older Than You Are, The. Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye. Illustrated by various artists. (Simon and Schuster) 112 pp. ISBN: 0-689-80297-8. $19.95. This book features poems and stories from Mexico enhanced by full-page paintings by Mexican artists. The message of this collection of bilingual stories is inspirational and timely, and captures the essence of the Mexican people. An index of writers, artists, titles in English and Spanish, and illustrations is included. Editor’s Notes.