The Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoíris

Written by: Linda Elovitz Marshall

Illustrated by: Elisa Chavarri

Children’s Book Press 2016

Ages: 3-7

Region: Guatemala/Central America

Ixchel lives in the Highlands of Guatemala, and is longing to learn how to weave, like her mother, and grandmother, and many generations of Mayan women before her. Ixchel’s mother uses part of the proceeds that her weaving earns to pay for Ixchels school fees and books. Ixchel not only wants to learn the way of weaving like her ancestors before her, but also wants to help her mom pay for her school and books. Unfortunately, there is not enough thread to spare, and Ixchel can only watch. Frustrated Ixchel sets off to find a different material to weave with, first it is grass, second is wool, but to no avail. Right when Ixchel is about to give up she notices the vibrant colors of the plastic bags on the roads and in the ditches. Putting her creativity to the test Ixchel repurposes the colorful plastic bags into weaving material to be sold at the market, starting a movement that catches on amongst other weavers in the village.

Ixchel vive en las tierras altas de Guatemala, y tiene un gran deseo aprender a tejer, como su madre, abuela y las muchas generaciones de mujeres Maya que vine antes de ella. La madre de Ixchel usa la ganancia de su tejido para pagar para la escuela y los libros de Ixchel. Ixchel quiere aprender a tejer no solo para ser como su antepasadas, before también para ayudar su mama pagar para su escula. Desafortunadamente, no hay suficiente hilo para sobrar, como resultado Ixchel solo puede mirar. Frustrada, Ixchel se desembarca para encontrar otra material para poder tejer, primero usa hierba de pajón, segundo usa lana, pero sin suceso. Al momento que Ixchel se va rendir, se nota los colores vibrantes de las bolsas de plástico en el camino y colgando de las ramas. Usando su creatividad Ixchel se reutiliza las bolsas de plástico en material de tejido para vender en el mercado. Su creatividad se prende entre las otras tejedoras empezando un movimiento en su pueblo.

Additional Resources:

Teacher’s Guide to Rainbow Weaver

Spanish Playground Rainbow Weaver Activities

The Author’s Website

Written in Starlight

Isabel Ibañez (Page Street 2021)

Region: Bolivia/South America

Age: High school

Isabel Ibañez’s second book, Written in Starlight, details the captivating coming of age story of Catalina Quiroga. Catalina, the last royal Illustrian, has been banished to the Yanu Jungle for disobeying the new Queen.

It is pure luck that she runs into Manuel, the son of her old guard, whose been trying to make contact with the Illari the last sixth months. With Manuels survival skills the two team up to try and find the Illari’s golden city to ask for an army to re-conquer the Inkasisa. But something dangerous is afoot in the jungle, beyond the poisonous plants, crocodiles, pumas and the unfriendly Illari. Will Catalina’s powers as a seer help uncover the evil thats lurking in the jungle? And will she be able to win back the throne? Find out in the sequel to Woven in MoonlightWritten in Starlight.

Discussion Questions:

What’s one lesson Catalina learns while in the Jungle?

Describe Catalina’s character development. Give examples.

Additional Resources:

The Author’s Website

Interview with Isabel Ibañez

Red Palms

Cara Haycak (Wendy Lamb Books 2004)

Region: Ecuador/ South America

Age: 12 and up

Benita Mariah, a wealthy young girl from Guayaquil Ecuador, has her world  turned on its axis, when her father tells her and the rest of the family that they’ve lost their fortune as a result of the Great Depression. The Mariah’s are forced to sell all of their things, pack up, and move to the small island of Paita. Her fathers plan is to create a coconut plantation and restore their riches, but Josef doesn’t know the first thing about farming, let alone the culture and customs of life on Paita.

Benita and her father soon begin to clash, Benita has been forced to grow up and no longer believes in her father, as a result of their escalating situation she runs away to the other side of the island with Raul, a local young man who has wooed Benita, much to her fathers chagrin. Benita’s coming of age story is about acting on what she believes is right, even if that means defying the ones she loves most.

Principle Themes:

As a coming of age story its only natural that there exists some child-parental tension. At the beginning of the book Benita and her father have a close relationship for she has blindly put her trust in him, but as Josef continues to obscure the truth, Benita is disillusioned and learns she must find her own way, even if her father disagrees. Religion is another principal theme of the book, the Mariahs are Christians, and the Indigenous people of Paita have their own religion. There is a tension throughout as Josef disparages the Indigenous people for their ways of life, and Benita  learns from and comes to respect the Indigenous people of the Island through her relationship with Raul, despite her fathers racist and disparaging comments. Lastly, Benita’s story is about finding oneself, throughout the book she puts her trust and faith in different people, but this only take her so far, before Benita finds the courage to believe in herself and do what she must to lead a fulfilling and purposeful life.

Additional Resources:

Author’s Bio

Zonia’s Rainforest

Written by Juana Martinez-Neal (Candlewick Press 2021)

Zonia is Asháninka, a member of “the largest Indigenous group living in the Pruvian Amazon, with a poulation estimated at more than 73,000”. Zonia’s Rainforest details all of the friendships she has with the many different animals that live in the verdant and lush rainforest. Towards the end of her day she come across a deforested patch of land, where nothing grows, and none of her friends can be seen, all of the vibrancy and life of the jungle is gone. Zonia answers the rainforest call for help, and encourages the reader that it is a call “we all must answer”.

Discussion Questions:

What call do you think Zonia is being asked to answer?

How can you play a role in protecting rainforests/and stopping deforestation?

What are some things you think Zonia can do to protect her rainforest?

Additional Resources:

The Authors website

The Asháninka Peoples

Zonia’s Rainforest Classroom Activities

Region: The Amazon (South America)

Ages: 3-6

My Day with the Panye

Written by Tami Charles

Illustrated by Sara Palacios

(Candlewick Press 2021)

Who? What? Where?

Fallon is a young girl living in the mountainous region of Haiti. Her story begins with a an eagerness and insatibale desire to carry the Panye. To carry the Panye is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years and is done around the world, it is the act of carrying and holding important items in the Panye on top of the head, as such it is practically a rite of passage for young girls like Fallon. On a visit to the market, wit her mother, Fallon keeps wanting to prove that she is ready to carry the panye without much success, her mother however has some lesson to teach Fallon first. Carrying the Panye is more than a method of transporting important goods it is also about grace and strength, and along the way Fallon learns the meaning of her mothers XX “Pitit, pitit, build your nest.”

Principle Themes:

Fallon, is taught patience throughout My Day with the Panye, she is eager to carry the basket all at once and carry barely contain her excitement, and her mother has to teach her the virtue of taking it one step at a time, “pitit, pitit, build your nest.” A rite of passage is another theme in the book, Fallon is so eager to learn in part because she sees so many other young girls and their mothers’ carrying the Panye so gracefully, yet Fallon learns that she too will be ready in her own time.

Discussion Questions:

Why is it important for Fallon to carry the Panye?

What message do you think “Pitit, pitit, build your nest” is trying to convey?

Can you think of any other rites of passage?

Additional Resources:

Tami Charles’ Website

Candlewick Press Teacher Tips

Region: Caribbean (Haiti)

Age: 3-7

The Grief Keeper

By: Alexandra Villasante published by Penguin Randomhouse (2019)

Who? What? Where?

Marisol and her younger sister, Gabi, are seeking asylum in the United States. The book begins with Marisol’s credible fear interview at an unnamed detention center. The two have fled El Salvador, leaving behind  their family, their home and the lives they once knew in search of refuge. The burden of ensuring Gabi’s safety weighs heavily on Marisol. Marisol fears they won’t be granted asylum, securing their future in the U.S. becomes ever more precarious, that is until she is offered a deal. Marisol must participate in a new experimental study in exchange for asylum. The experiment requires Marisol hold the grief of another, but the study never intended for her to meet the beneficiary. As Marisol navigates the grief of another as well as her own in this new and unfamiliar place, a relationship between her and the beneficiary of the experiment deepens. The Grief Keeper is a story of immigration as much as it is a story of love, and the depths to which Marisol will go to protect the ones she loves most.

Principle Themes

The Grief Keeper explores the many facets of trauma. Trauma impacts the main characters in different ways. At times it drives them a part, and at others it creates a shared bond. Love is a theme as central to the book as trauma. It is Marisol’s love for her sister that drives her to persist despite all that Marisol has already endured. The Grief Keeper explores these themes in tandem, unearthing how love and trauma inform each other.

Additional Resources:

An interview with Alexandra Villasante

Teaching the Grief Keeper

Review of the book by Latinxs in Kid Lit Blog

Region: North America/United States

Age: High School

Maxy Survives the Hurrican / Maxy Sobrevive el huracán

By/Por Ricia Anne Chansky &/y Yarelis Marcial Avecedo

Illustrations by/Ilustraciones de Olga Barinova

Who? What? Where?/¿Quién? ¿Qué? ¿Dónde?

Maxy the dog lives with Clarita and her family in Puerto Rico. Maxy has a great life with Clarita and the two of them spend their days with each other. On a day in September however Maxy notices a change in Clarita and her family, they all seem to be preparing for something, putting belongings on high shelves, collecting water and canned food and flashlights. Not long after Hurricane Maria makes land in Puerto Rico causing destruction of the land and its infrastructure. Maxy was terrified. After the hurricane was gone Maxy continued to be terrified of the rain, afraid it would bring the next Hurricane. Clarita and her family explain why rain and water are good, and that “not every rain is a hurricane.” Maxy Survives the Hurricane/Maxy sobrevive el huracán was written for the children of Puerto Rico whom in the wake of the hurricane were afraid of the rain and the dark caused by the power outtages. “The authors hope that Maxy helps children around the world who have had similar experiences with natural disasters.” 

Maxy el perrito viva con su family en Puerto Rico. Maxy tiene una gran vida con Clarita, los dos pasan su días juntos. Pero un día en Septiembre Maxy se nota un cambio en Clarita y su familia, todos parecen estar preparando para algo, poniendo sus pertenencias en sitios altos, recogiendo agua y aliementos enlatados y linternas. Poco después huracán Maria destruyendo tierra y infraestructura. Maxy estaba aterrorizada. Despues de que se fue el huracán Maxy seguio aterrorizada de la lluvia, pensando que iba a traer el próximo huracán. De repente, Clarita y su famili le explica que la lluvia es buena cosa y que “no todas las lluvias son huracanes”. Maxy sobrevive el huracán fue escrito para los niños de Puerto Rico quienes como resultado del huracán tenían miedo de la lluvia y la oscuridad a causo por las cortes de energía. “Las autores esperan que Maxy ayude a los niños alrededor del mundo quien han tenido experiencias parecidas con desastres naturales”.

Principle Themes/Temas principales

Fear is one of the principle themes in Maxy Survives the Hurrican, Maxy has to learn how to cope with his fear after the hurrican and with the help of his family is able to overcome it. Family is another principle theme in the text. Family comes together in preparation of the hurricane and is there after to support one another. Lastly, Resiliency is an apparent theme in the book as Clarita’s family perseveres after the devastation and continues to work towards rebuilding their communities and lives.

El temor es uno de los temas principales en Maxy sobrevive el huracán, Maxy tiene que aprender como enfrentarse con su miedo después del huracán, y con la ayuda de Clarita y su familia lo supera. Familia es otro tema principal en el texto. La familia se une en preparación para la huracán y se apoyan mutuamente después del desastre natural. Ultimamente, resistencia es aparente en el libro por la manera en que la familia de Clarita se reconstruya la comunidad tras el impacto del huracán María.

Discussion Questions/Preguntas de discusión

Why is Maxy scared of the rain after the Hurricane? Por que Maxy tiene miedo de la lluvia después del hurracán

How does Maxy overcome his fear of the rain? ¿Cómo supera Maxy su miedo a la lluvia?

Additional Resources/Recursos adicionales

A profile on one of the authors, Yarelis Marcial Acevedo:

A list of books that help children understand natural disasters:





Hold Tight Don’t Let Go

Laura Rose Wagner (Abrams Books 2015)

Wagner’s book details the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, through the experience of two teenage girls. Magdalie and Nadine, are cousins turned twin sisters, who rely on each other as they try to re-build their lives. When Nadine is presented with the opportunity to leave Haiti the sisters’ bond is tested. The book details the grief and anger Magdalie faces surviving in the capital and among the tent cities as she attempts to save up enough money to buy a plane ticket to the United States. Hold Tight Don’t Let Go captures the complex experiences of life in Port-Au-Prince, from the ingenuity and tenacity of making ends meet to the belief in a better future and a stronger nation. Hold Tight Don’t Let Go is as much of a coming of age story as it is about not giving up.

Principle Themes:

Kinship is a principle theme. As old familial bonds are strained, and new kinship ties are forged, Magdalie creates community and family in the tent cities all the way to the countryside of Jeremie, relying on both old and new connections to sustain her spirit and keep her moving.  Hope, is a contradictorily fleeting and consistent aspect of Magdalies life after the earthquake. Magdalie is able to continue hoping despite the multitudinous obstacles she faces. Lastly, tenacity is a key theme, for when hope fails Magdalie tenacity is what propels her forward despite her the uncertainty of the future.

Language: English

Age: High School Reading Level (YA reading topics)

Region: Caribbean

Discussion Questions:

What are some of the challenges Magdalie faces in the wake of the earthquake?

How does Magdalie’s sense of community change?

Educator Questions:

Do you include Haiti in your Latin American Curriculum? Why or why not?

What are some ways to create intentional space for histories, culture, language (etc.) in your classroom when discussing Latin America? 

More Resources:

The authors website

Podcast Episode with the Author: “Bringing Back Radio Haiti, A Station That Told The Overlooked Stories.” Interview on WUNC’s The State of Things with Frank Stasio about the Radio Haiti Archive. With Michèle Montas and Laurent Dubois. (February 2015)

New York Times Book Review

Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight

By: Duncan Tonatiuh

Published by: Abrams Comicarts (New York)

Age: 9-12

Region: United States

Language: English

Who? What? Where? Why?

The picture book is about a young person named Juan, who comes to the United States from his small town in Mexico, to help support his family. Staying with his tío and other men who migrated to the United States Juan gets a job at restaurant working twelve hours a day, seven days a week for less than minimum wage. Until the day that co-worker and him discuss the unfairness of their pay for the work they do. Juan becomes involved in a Workers Right center and starts to organize his co-workers, after several months of organizing they are finally able to take legal action to challenge their bosses exploitation. Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight, is wonderfully illustrated, read from front to back, and then back to front in an accordion style layout, it is a must read and would be a wonderful addition to any educator’s classroom. Undocumented: A Worker's Fight: 9781419728549: Tonatiuh,  Duncan: Books

Principle Themes

Undocumented, a central theme of the book is Juan’s undocumented status and how it impacts his job security and the types of recourse at his disposal that won’t jeopardize his life in the United States. Despite the hurdles that Juan faces he challenges the labor violations his boss has been capitalizing on and asserts his rights to a fair wage. Workers’ rights, as we have seen in other texts, workers’ rights continues to play an important role in the fight for equity and justice. Collective Action, lastly, collective action is a tenet principle of the book. Juan believes that workers’ rights is based in collective action, and that the commonality of facing the same hardships and the fight for fair labor practices is what unites people in this struggle. Furthermore when Juan’s boss tries to pay him off Juan declines because he recognizes this struggle is not only about him it’s also about everyone else at the restaurant who aren’t being paid their fair wages.

Discussion Questions

What is the message of this book?

What hardships do Juan his co-workers face as they try to organize for better wages?

How does documentation status intersect with labor rights?

How do fair wages and labor protections impact workers?

Educator Questions we would love to hear your feedback in the comments section!

Do you have a book like this in your classroom already? If not why not? What other texts could you supplement with Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight?

How do you teach the intersection of labor rights and documentation status in your classroom?

With the Fire on High

By Laura Acevedo

Who, What, Where?

Laura Acevedo tells the story of an aspiring Afro-Boricua chef and teen mom in the heart of Philadelphia, in With the Fire on High.  Emoni, in her senior year of high school faces one of life’s toughest challenges, growing up and learning how to continue following her passion. Emoni juggles parenting, working and being a full time student when she takes a leap of faith and joins a cooking class as her senior elective, with the opportunity to travel to Spain. This book is a wonderful coming of age story that portrays its protagonist as a capable, loving and independent young woman who need a little help from her friends and family along the way. With the Fire on High (Audible Audio Edition): Elizabeth  Acevedo, Elizabeth Acevedo, Hot Key Books: Audible Books & Originals

Principle Themes

Some of the principle themes in the book are (1) cooking as a form of connection (2) family, and (3) Afro-Boricua identity. Emoni’s biggest passion is cooking, and throughout the book the dishes she makes are not only a way to connect with people but to also express and evoke emotions. Family is an important theme in Emoni’s intergenerational household, from being a mom herself to living under Abuela’s roof and a father back on the island of Puerto Rico, family relationships and their dynamics are a central part of With the Fire on High. The last principle theme is Afro-Boricua identity, and how Emoni navigates through different spaces in a world that’s quick to put is into boxes.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe Emoni’s relationship to cooking? How does it define her life? What does it add to her life?
  2. Where is home for Emoni and how does she describe it? What does home mean to her?
  3. What is the difference between chosen family and nuclear family? Do you consider anyone part of your chosen family? Who does Emoni choose as her family? How do these people contribute to her life?
  4. How does young motherhood shape and change Emoni’s life? What kind of challenges does she face and how does she work to overcome them?

Age: 13-17 years old

Region: USA: Philadelphia

Language: English

Additional Resources

  1. Check out the author’s website:
  2. Sample lesson for teaching With the Fire on High:
  3. Reading guide questions: