Must-Read Middle-Grade Books for Hispanic Heritage Month
Did you know that September 15th to October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month? During this time, we like to recognize and celebrate the Hispanic and Latinx culture and the contributions made by the Hispanic and Latinx people.
Hispanic and Latinx have profoundly and positively influenced our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service. We love sharing fun stories that celebrate or educate our Hispanic heritage every year.
If you didn’t know, I’m half Ecuadorian and half Italian. Therefore, I strive to teach my children about their cultures and others. I believe teaching children about various cultures teach them to be open-minded, respectful, and inclusive of those around them.
Before we jump into this list of must-read middle-grade books for Hispanic heritage month, please take a moment to pin this post to your homeschool board.
Must-Read Children’s Books For Hispanic Heritage Month
‘Esperanza Rising,’ by Pam Munoz Ryan, is about a young girl named Esperanza, the daughter of the wealthy owner of La Rancho de la Rosas in Mexico. We meet her at six years old and quickly jump to her turning 13 when her life begins to change drastically. Tragedy takes hold of her life, and she doesn’t want to release it. Esperanza has to learn how to roll with the punches. We go on a journey with her as she transforms from a wealthy and entitled young lady in Mexico to a socially conscious fighter (not literally) in America. She learns a lot through this story, and her character evolves.
‘Esperanza Rising‘ is a beautifully written story. It takes you on the emotional roller coaster of Esperanza’s youth. It had me in tears at a point. It teaches the reader much about the culture, family, and social issues such as immigration and migrant farming. It will leave you on the edge of your seat. You will want to know what will happen next and when and if everything will get better for our protagonist. I can not say enough about this book. It is simply a must-read!
Merci Suarez Changes Gears
Merci Suárez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, as strong and thoughtful as Merci is, she has never been completely like the other kids at her private school in Florida because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they must do extra community service to compensate for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. And Merci is left to her own worries because no one in her family will tell her what’s happening. Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal, this coming-of-age tale by New York Times best-selling author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.
90 Miles to Havana
When Julian’s parents make the heartbreaking decision to send him and his two brothers away from Cuba to Miami via the Pedro Pan operation, the boys are thrust into a new world where bullies run rampant, and it’s not always clear how best to protect themselves.
The First Rule of Punk
There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school—you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malú (María Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.
The real Malú loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malú finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!
The Other Half of Happy
One-half Guatemalan, one-half American: When Quijana’s Guatemalan cousins move to town, her dad seems ashamed that she doesn’t know more about her family’s heritage.
One-half crush, one-half buddy: When Quijana meets Zuri and Jayden, she knows she’s found true friends. But she can’t help the growing feelings she has for Jayden.
One-half kid, one-half grown-up: Quijana spends her nights Skyping with her ailing grandmother and trying to figure out what’s going on with her increasingly hard-to-reach brother.
Quijana must figure out which parts of herself are most important, and which pieces come together to make her whole.
This is a heartfelt poetic portrayal of a girl growing up, fitting in, and learning what it means to belong.
Stef Soto, Taco Queen
Estefania “Stef” Soto is itching to shake off the onion-and-cilantro embrace of Tia Perla, her family’s taco truck. She wants nothing more than for Papi to get a regular job and for Tia Perla to be a distant memory. Then maybe everyone at school will stop seeing her as the Taco Queen.
But when her family’s livelihood is threatened, and it looks like her wish will finally come true, Stef surprises everyone (including herself) by becoming the truck’s unlikely champion. In this fun and heartfelt novel, Stef will discover what matters most and embrace an identity that includes old Tia Perla.
The Moon Within
Celi Rivera’s life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend’s exploration of what it means to be genderfluid.
But most of all, her mother’s insistence she has a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It’s an ancestral Mexican ritual that Mima and her community have reclaimed, but Celi promises she will NOT be participating. Can she find the power within herself to take a stand for who she wants to be?
A dazzling story told with the sensitivity, humor, and brilliant verse of debut talent Aida Salazar.
From the time he is a young boy, Neftalí hears the call of a mysterious voice. Even when the neighborhood children taunt him, and when his harsh, authoritarian father ridicules him, and when he doubts himself, Neftalí knows he cannot ignore the call. He listens and follows as it leads him under the canopy of the lush rain forest, into the fearsome sea, and through the persistent Chilean rain on an inspiring voyage of self-discovery that will transform his life and, ultimately, the world.
Combining elements of magical realism with biography, poetry, literary fiction, and transporting illustrations, Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sís take readers on a rare journey of the heart and imagination as they explore the inspiring early life of the poet who became Pablo Neruda.
Maximiliano Córdoba loves stories, especially the legend Buelo tells him about a mythical gatekeeper who can guide brave travelers on a journey into tomorrow. If Max could see tomorrow, he would know if he’d make Santa Maria’s celebrated fútbol team and whether he’d ever meet his mother, who disappeared when he was a baby. He longs to know more about her, but Papá won’t talk. So when Max uncovers a buried family secret–involving an underground network of guardians who lead people fleeing a neighboring country to safety–he decides to seek answers on his own. With a treasured compass, a mysterious stone rubbing, and Buelo’s legend as his only guides, he sets out on a perilous quest to discover if he is true of heart and what the future holds. This timeless tale of struggle, hope, and the search for tomorrow has much to offer about compassion and our shared humanity today.
Sal & Gabi Break the Universe
What would you do if you had the power to reach through time and space and retrieve anything you want, including your mother, who is no longer living (in this universe, anyway)?
When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it, and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared.
Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken–including his dead mother–and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their time and space manipulation could risk the entire universe.
My Year In the Middle
Sixth-grader Lu Olivera just wants to keep her head down and get along with everyone in her class. The trouble is, Lu’s old friends have been changing lately — acting boy crazy and making snide remarks about Lu’s newfound talent for running track. Lu’s secret hope for a new friend is fellow runner Belinda Gresham. But in 1970, blacks and whites didn’t mix in Red Grove, Alabama. As segregationist ex-governor, George Wallace ramps up his campaign against the current governor, Albert Brewer, growing tensions in the state and the classroom mean that Lu can’t stay neutral about the racial divide at school. Will she find the gumption to stand up for what’s right and to choose friends who do the same?
They Call me Güero
They call him Güero because of his red hair, pale skin, and freckles. Sometimes people only go off on what they see. Like the Mexican boxer Canelo Álvarez, twelve-year-old Güero is puro mexicano. He feels at home on both sides of the river, speaking Spanish or English. Güero is also a reader, gamer, and musician who runs with a squad of misfits called Los Bobbys. Together, they joke around and talk about their expanding world, which now includes girls. (Don’t cross Joanna—she’s tough as nails.)
Güero faces the start of seventh grade with heart and smarts, his family’s traditions, and his trusty accordion. And when life gets tough for this Mexican American border kid, he knows what to do: He writes poetry.
Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
Marcus Vega is six feet tall, 180 pounds, and the owner of a premature mustache. When you look like this and are only in the eighth grade, you’re both a threat and a target. After a fight at school leaves Marcus facing suspension, Marcus’s mom decides it’s time for a change of environment. She takes Marcus and his younger brother to Puerto Rico to spend a week with relatives they don’t remember or have never met. But Marcus can’t focus, knowing that his father–who walked out of their lives ten years ago–is somewhere on the island.
So begins Marcus’s incredible journey, a series of misadventures that take him all over Puerto Rico in search of his elusive namesake. Marcus doesn’t know if he’ll ever find his father, but what he ultimately discovers changes his life. And he even learns a bit of Spanish along the way.
Land of the Cranes
Nine-year-old Betita knows she is a crane. Papi has told her the story even before her family fled to Los Angeles to seek refuge from cartel wars in Mexico. The Aztecs came from Aztlan. Now the Southwest US called the land of the cranes. They left Aztlan to establish their great city in the center of the universe-Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City. It was prophesized that their people would one day return to live among the cranes in their promised land. Papi tells Betita that they are cranes that have come home.
Then one day, Betita’s beloved father is arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Mexico. Betita and her pregnant mother are left behind on their own, but soon they too are detained and must learn to survive in a family detention camp outside of Los Angeles. Even in cruel and inhumane conditions, Betita finds heart in her own poetry and the community she and her mother find in the camp. The voices of her fellow asylum seekers fly above the hatred keeping them caged, but each day threatens to tear them down lower than they ever thought they could be. Will Betita and her family ever be whole again?
Yes! We Are Latinos: Poems and Prose about the Latino Experience
A true celebration of Hispanic heritage in the United States, Yes! We Are Latinos presents profiles of 13 fictional Latino American characters coupled with historical information about the countries their families came from. This read provides a window into the breadth of diversity amongst Latino people for Hispanic and non-Hispanic readers.
Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States
Growing up Latino in America means speaking two languages, living two lives, and learning the rules of two cultures. ‘Cool Salsa’ celebrates that double life’s tones, rhythms, sounds, and experiences. Here are poems about families and parties, insults and sad memories, hot dogs and mangos, the sweet syllables of Spanish, and the snag-toothed traps of English. Here is the glory―and pain―of being Latino American.
Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics
Musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot―the Latinos featured in this collection, Bravo!, come from many different countries and backgrounds. Celebrate their accomplishments and contributions to a collective history and a community that continues to evolve and thrive today!
Biographical poems include: Aida de Acosta, Arnold Rojas, Baruj Benacerraf, César Chávez, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Félix Varela, George Meléndez, José Martí, Juan de Miralles, Juana Briones, Julia de Burgos, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Paulina Pedroso, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, Ynes Mexia, Tomás Rivera
Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes
‘Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes,’ written by Juan Felipe Herrera and illustrated by Raul Colon, is devoted to 20 essential and inspirational Hispanic Americans. Hispanic Americans who have helped shape United States history in some way. With a wide range of influential people, Herrera shares short motivational biographies for each. Including the usual popular picks for people of influence about Hispanic Americans. Like Cesar Chavez, Sonia Sotomayor, and Roberto Clemente.
However, Herrera goes one step further. Writing about people from the arts, such as Desi Arnaz, Joan Baez, and Rita Moreno. People from the field of science such as Luis W. Alvarez and Ellen Ochoa. Additionally, lesser-known figures are Julia de Burgos, Judith F. Baca, and Ignacio E. Lozano.
You could not help by be inspired as you read and learn about each individual and their life and accomplishments.
Who Was Frida Kahlo?
‘Who Was Frida Kahlo?’ by Sarah Fabiny and illustrated by Jerry Hoare is a fantastic book for children to learn about the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. This book is perfect for anyone interested in an in-depth look at Frida Kahlo’s life. It is a lovely book with beautiful illustrations, and it is entirely age-appropriate. Additional historical facts about the time and places Frida lived through were included. We highly recommend this book to you if you are interested in learning about Frida Kahlo.
Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring
Paloma Marquez is traveling to Mexico City, the birthplace of her deceased father, for the very first time. She’s hoping spending time in Mexico will help him unlock memories of their time together. While in Mexico, Paloma befriends Lizzie and Gael, brother and sister, presenting Paloma with an irresistible challenge. They want her to help them find a valuable ring that once belonged to Frida Kahlo. What better way to honor her father than to return a priceless piece of jewelry that once belonged to his favorite artist? However, the siblings have a secret. Do they want to return the ring, or are they after something else?
The suspense this novel builds up! We loved learning a little about Frida Kahlo while also being on an exciting mystery to find her missing ring. There are twists and turns, secrets, lies, loyalty, betrayal, and so much more. If you haven’t read it yet. Make sure you do!
Download A Printable Version of The Hispanic Heritage Month Middle-grade Book List
Want to take this list to the library or bookstore? Print out a copy for yourself.
All of the Hispanic Heritage Month Middle-Grade Books
These are not all the middle-grade books offered to celebrate Hispanic heritage but they are many of the ones we have enjoyed in our family. We also shared a list of fantastic reads for young readers. Want even more books? Check out our Hispanic Heritage Book List on our Amazon storefront. We are constantly adding new titles.