Reading Roundup: 6 LGBTQIA Latinx Books for Young Readers

Buenos días! In light of LGBTQIA Pride month, we decided to extend our writing schedule into June and provide you with a Reading Roundup of LGBTQIA Latin American/Latinx children’s books. We decided to focus specifically on children’s books rather than include YA titles because it seems books for younger readers are particularly scarce and difficult to find. In effect, we wanted to do the legwork for you!

In our search we came across the following useful websites for discovering other books that intersect Latinx and LGBTQ themes:

Another resource we want to point out to you is an animated series created in 2017 by Somos Familia. It documents a Latinx family’s journey in understanding the coming out of their gay son. It has 15 episodes and is in Spanish with English subtitles.

Sometimes we find books that seem interesting, but we don’t include them in our roundup unless we can actually read and review a hard copy! This proved particularly so for this search! Of the many that we were unable to review personally, here are a few that made the top of our list. Based on the information we could find online, they look promising!

  • ¿Camila tiene dos mamas?, written by Peruvian Verónica Ferrari and illustrated by Mayra Avila. I found the book read aloud in Spanish online, which I recommend checking out. Also, In this video you can see Avila’s process of illustrations, and in another video you can hear an interview with Ferrari. This book received a lot of attention in Peru.
  • Olívia tem dois papais, written in Portuguese by Márcia Leite and illustrated by Taline Schupach.

Most importantly, for the teachers who may not feel comfortable teaching this subject, especially with young readers, here are articles to prompt reflection and resources to help you on the way:

And now, without further ado, here are the best titles we came across that would help young readers with this topic:


One of a Kind Like Me/Único como yo
Written by Laurin Mayeno
Illustrations by Robert Liu-Trujillo
Translations by Teresa Mlawer
Published by Blood Orange Press
ISBN: 9780985351410
Age Level: 4-7

Tomorrow is the school parade, and Danny knows exactly what he will be: a princess. Mommy supports him 100%, and they race to the thrift store to find his costume. It’s almost closing time – will Danny find the costume of his dreams in time? One of A Kind, Like Me / Único como yo is a sweet story about unconditional love and the beauty of individuality. This unique book lifts up children who don’t fit gender stereotypes, and reflects the power of a loving and supportive community.

My thoughts:
I loved this book and its statement of the importance of love, respect and understanding. Through this book, we see the possibilities of fun and happiness when one embraces both bravery and acceptance. This book is filling an important gap in children’s literature, showing the liberation that Danny feels when he is true to himself and his identity even as a young child, demonstrating that gender need not prevent us from feeling happy, comfortable and free. I appreciated the note at the end of the book with the photos and story of the original Danny who inspired the story. The author, Laurin Mayeno, is Danny’s mother, and she and Danny wrote this story together. Robert Liu-Trujillo’s illustrations are beautiful, soft and filled with color; they complement the story perfectly. Mayeno is a major proponent for supporting diverse families like her own. In the author’s note, Mayeno offers the website she founded, outproudfamilies.com, as a great resource for diverse families. I also suggest checking out Maria Ramos-Chertok’s review of the book on one of our favorite sites, Latinx in Kid Lit. In this review, Ramos-Chertok offers teaching tips for using the book in the classroom.

Antonio’s Card/La tarjeta de Antonio
Written by Rigoberto González
Illustrations by Cecilia Concepción Álvarez
Published by Children’s Book Press
ISBN: 9780892392049
Age Level: 7-10

Antonio loves words, because words have the power to express feelings like love, pride, or hurt. Mother’s Day is coming soon, and Antonio searches for the words to express his love for his mother and her partner, Leslie. But he’s not sure what to do when his classmates make fun of Leslie, an artist, who towers over everyone and wears paint-splattered overalls. As Mother’s Day approaches, Antonio must choose whether or how to express his connection to both of the special women in his life.

Rigoberto González’s bilingual story resonates with all children who have been faced with speaking up for themselves or for the people they love. Cecilia Concepción Álvarez’s paintings bring the tale to life in tender, richly hued detail.

My thoughts:
In this bilingual story, Rigoberto González sensitively discusses situations with which young children of gender-diverse families are often confronted. In the story, Antonio has ambiguous feelings – he is self-conscious about the gender norms broken by his mother and her partner, Leslie, yet at the same time, he loves Leslie and is happy to have her in his life. Throughout his struggle, Antonio’s mother and Leslie are nothing but supportive and understanding; they do not push ideals onto Antonio, but show him constant love, which eventually overpowers Antonio’s self-conscious feelings. Furthermore, I like that this book brings to light the gendered aspect of holidays like Mother’s Day, offering multiple perspectives on how such holidays can help children celebrate diverse families. Cecila Goncepción Álvarez’s illustrations are beautiful and soft, reflecting the loving relationship between Antonio, his mother, and Leslie. Lee & Low Books also has a teacher’s guide for Antonio’s Card/La tarjeta de Antonio that we recommend checking out.

Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol
Written & Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
Published by Lee & Low Books Inc.
ISBN: 9780892392940
Age Level: 6-10

What does it mean to be like a tree?
For one young child, it all begins
as a tiny seed
that is free to grow
and reach out to others
while standing strong and tall—
just like a tree in the natural world.

With this gentle and imaginative story about becoming your fullest self, Maya Christina Gonzalez empowers young readers to dream and reach . . . and to be as free and unique as trees.

Our thoughts:
This is a beautiful book about a gender-neutral child who beautifully grows into a tree. I love this book and believe that its messages of belonging and diversity, as well as the importance it gives to our connectedness with nature, are relatable and empowering for children. Its illustrations are also breathtaking. If you would like to read a more in-depth review of this book, please check out Lorraine’s post. Also, I recommend checking out the interview with Maya Christina Gonzalez about why she made the protagonist of Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol gender neutral. Lee & Low Books also made a Teacher’s Guide to accompany the book.

Sparkle Boy
Written by Lesléa Newman
Illustrations by Maria Mola
Published by Lee & Low Books Inc.
ISBN: 9781620142851
Age Level: 4-8

Casey loves to play with his blocks, puzzles, and dump truck, and he also loves things that shimmer, glitter, and sparkle. Casey’s older sister, Jessie, thinks this is weird. Shimmery, glittery, sparkly things are only for girls. Right?

When Casey and Jessie head to the library for story time, Casey proudly wears his shimmery skirt and sparkly bracelet. His nails glitter in the light. Jessie insists that Casey looks silly. It’s one thing to dress like this around the house, but going outside as a “sparkle boy” is another thing entirely. What will happen when the other kids see him?

This sweet and refreshing story speaks to us all about acceptance, respect, and the simple freedom to be yourself. Shimmery, glittery, sparkly things are fun—for everyone!

My thoughts:
Just looking at the sparkly cover of this book, I was excited to read it. This book has been on our shelves for some time, and we’ve been eager for the chance to share it with you, our readers. While this book does not have as much Latinx content as other books on the list, it is a beautiful story that discusses issues of bullying from a standpoint that demonstrates the importance of family. It also demonstrates the importance of not passing judgments upon others, and shows the value of acceptance and the irrelevance of gender norms in a way that children will understand. Lee & Low books has a teacher’s guide for Sparkle Boy, which I recommend checking out. Enjoy!

Family Poems for Every Day of the Week/Poemas familiares para cada día de la semana
Written by Francisco X Alarc
ón
Illustrations by Maya Christina González
Published by Lee & Low Books Inc.
ISBN:
9780892392759
Age Level: 4-8

the first day                                         el primer día

of the week is                                       de la semana fue

dedicated to the Sun—                      dedicado al Sol—

with family around                              con familia alrededor

it’s always sunny                                 siempre hace sol

on Sunday                                           el domingo

So begins this bilingual collection of poems that takes us through the week day by day. Children spend Sunday visiting their grandparents, play with school friends on Monday, daydream on Tuesday, eat popcorn at the local market on Wednesday, and more, until we arrive at Saturday, when they get to play nonstop all day. Along the way, we also learn how the names of the seven days came to be.

Partly based on the real life experiences of Alarcón’s own family, this festive, celebratory collection of poems highlights the daily life of children while also honoring the experiences of the poet’s Latino family in the United States. With her vibrant illustrations, illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez has created a loving tribute to childhood, to family, and to Francisco Alarcón, who passed away in January 2016.

My thoughts:
This is a beautiful book that illustrates the importance of love and family, and it also highlights the interconnectedness of ancient languages across the world and their connection to all of us today. While reading this book, I was overwhelmed by feelings of comfort and inclusivity. Family Poems for Every Day of the Week / Poemas familiares para cada día de la semana is not explicitly LGBTQIA, however, Francisco X Alarcón identified as gay and this book demonstrates that not all books that honor specific experiences, such as LGBTQIA experiences, need to explicitly label them. Sometimes we can just acknowledge individuality. Maya Christina González is a major promoter of gender rights and she and Alarcón worked on a number of books together. González made a five-week Gender Blog Series, which I recommend checking out. For a more in-depth review of this book, I suggest taking a look at the review that Beverly Slapin wrote for the De Colores blog. Lee & Low Books made a teacher’s guide for this book as well.

¡Eso no es normal!
Written by Mar Pavón
Illustrations by Laure du Fa
ÿ
Published by Nubeocho Ediciones
ISBN:
9788494413780
Age Level: 3 and up

El elefante tenía una trompa larguísima.
Con ella ayudaba a sus amigos,
pero el hipopótamo siempre se burlaba
–¡Eso no es normal!
Pero, ¿Qué es “normal”?

The elephant has a very long trunk.
With it he helps all his friends,
but the hippopotamus always mocks him and says:
“that’s not normal!”
But what is “normal”?

My thoughts:
This book was very fun to read and illuminates the special qualities that everyone has to offer, especially those that are less common. As the author and illustrator revealed the fun and ridiculous ways that the elephant used its long trunk, I was laughing out loud. This book is not only fun, but it does a great job at shedding a positive light on our differences and reveals important lessons about treating others with respect. While this book is neither Latin American/Latinx, it is written in Spanish and could be used in the Spanish classroom. And, similar to the preceding title, it does not specifically address LGBTQ issues, its emphasize on accepting individuals can become part of a discussion about how individuality is an important aspect of the LGBTQIA experience — again, one which doesn’t need to be explored with explicit language. I hope you like this book as much as I do!

 

Saludos,

Kalyn

¡Mira Look!: Martina the Beautiful Cockroach

Image result for martina the beautiful cockroachSaludos todos! This week we are concluding our monthly theme of love with Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, an adaptation of an old Cuban folktale, written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Michael Austin. This book won recognition as a Pura Belpré Honor Book. According to the introduction of the book, this folktale is one of the best known in Latin America, but versions of this classic tale also exist in other regions of the world. Nonetheless, Deedy takes this traditional tale, and its familiar themes, and intertwines it with her own creative twists and childhood memories. This in itself is one of the beautiful things about traditional folktales—their themes and plots have become so familiar to most people that they can be retold and adapted across countries, cultures and individual experiences to reflect both common sentiments of society, and the particular lives of individuals. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach deals primarily with themes of romantic love, but also of familial love, as young Martina relies on the advice of her wise abuela in choosing a future spouse. This charming story conveys themes of respect, compatibility, and family love, and is bound to make any reader smile as they follow the journey of Martina the beautiful cockroach.

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¡Mira Look!: My Tata’s Remedies/ Los remedies de mi tata

my tata's remediesSaludos todos! This week we are kicking off our February themes of love, including romantic love, love of self, love of community, and love of country by featuring My Tata’s Remedies/ Los remedios de mi tata. This wonderful story emphasizes themes of love through community and family support, but also of self love and care by showcasing various natural remedies that have been passed on through various generations of a young boy’s family. Aside from this unique and engaging narrative, My Tata’s Remedies/ Los remedios de mi tata also won the 2016 Pura Belpre Honor Book for Illustration. This bilingual story, written by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford and illustrated by Antonio Castro, is a sequel to its precursor, My Nana’s Remedies/Los Remedios De Mi Nana, now narrating the herbal remedies and natural medicinal recipes of the young protagonist’s grandfather rather than his grandmother. This informative tale is best for ages 4-11, though its abundant, non-fictional information may also be interesting for older readers.

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The Day After: What Do We Tell the children?

Dear friends,

Last night I watched the states turn red across the map and I was overwhelmed by feelings of uncertainty. I received call after call, message after message of friends calling me in tears. I, like many others, was stunned. In the face of that disbelief come true, I began to wonder: what will school look like tomorrow? What are we supposed to say? What am I supposed to say to friends calling me in tears?

As we enter our classrooms, today and in the coming weeks, we must recognize that many students feel unsafe and vulnerable in their own country and classrooms, and that this fear is not conducive to living nor learning. As educators we are supposed to remain “neutral,” but we need not remain silent in that neutrality. It is crucial we do speak, that we make space for conversations, and that we listen.

But how do we do this? Where do we start? What do we say, and how do we say it?

While I don’t have the answers, I recognize that no one has the answers – only ideas. It is with this in mind I share with you two resources to support you in the coming weeks:

“Teach them, third, how to be responsible members of a civic society. Teach them how to engage in discussion—not for the sake of winning, but for the sake of understanding and being understood. Students need to learn…to question taken-for-granted assumptions, to see their own biases, to take feedback, to challenge one another. We need to teach students how to disagree—with love and respect. These skills will be priceless in the coming months and years as we work to build a democratic society that protects the rights of all people ― regardless of the cooperation or resistance those efforts face from the executive branch.”

  • Some guidance from Teaching Tolerance’s post The Day After:
    • Begin within. Prepare yourself first to engage in difficult conversations surrounding the various topics—racism, civil rights, immigration and so forth—that the election has raised. Then develop a game plan to do so with students. The distinct life experiences, cultures, languages and backgrounds represented in your classroom can lead to high-stakes conversations that are uncomfortable at times. Work to draw a connection between the diversity of our country and the diversity in your classroom.
    • Get back to instruction. This is not to imply that you have pushed instruction aside, but the election season has taken its toll on us all. So think of this as a time to press “reset.” Try new instructional strategies. Talk to a fellow educator about a lesson that works well in their class. Use a new read aloud or app. Step outside of your box and go for that project or unit you always wanted to try. Focusing on delivering new, exciting instructional content to your kids is a way to reinvigorate the classroom and yourself.
    • Strengthen your classroom community. Think about the go-to strategies for building a classroom community. Choose some activities in which students build relationships and understanding with each other. For example, play a collaborative game together or break out a classic morning meeting book. These types of activities can help transcend politics and breathe life into a divided classroom.
    • Create space for reflection. As adults, we have our hopes for what this next presidency will accomplish. We have specific issues that are personal and close to us. The same is true for your students. Share with them your thoughts, and allow them to share theirs with you and their classmates. Students are often more apt to put these types of thoughts down on paper, so consider a related journaling activity.
    • Discuss what respect means. In a recent Teaching Tolerance survey, teachers mentioned over 500 times that respect is the number one rule in their classrooms. Think about spending some time breaking down the essence of respect with students. What is it? Who gets it and why give it? Find ways to encourage students to pay respect to the democratic process and the office of the presidency itself, regardless of who occupies the executive seat. Emphasize that using a critical lens and holding our elected officials accountable is not the same as being disrespectful or uncivil.
    • Look—and plan—ahead. New presidential administrations tout goals for their “first 100 days” in office. There is a great deal of strategic planning involved. How about the next 100 days in your classroom? What will you focus on? What standards will you cover? What accomplishments await your students at the end? Consider involving students in 100-day plans of their own (for example, class projects or individualized plans to reach a reading level or similar achievement).
    • Talk about losing with grace. One candidate will lose this election, and countless people will have poured their time, energy and hopes into that person’s campaign. Take the opportunity to talk with your students about what happens when you try really hard for something—and you don’t get it. This could be in sports, academics, personal relationships or something else. Remind them that we all lose and confront failure, but it’s how we recover that matters.

Wishes of strength in the coming weeks,

Hania

WWW: Teaching about Haiti with Love

¡Feliz viernes a todos!

I am so happy you are reading today because I am showcasing a great resource from Teaching for Change, which is another blogging site full of great teaching guides and supporting resources for the classroom. This week, to honor our themes of Afro-Caribbean cultures, Black History Month, Haiti, love and community, I am highlighting their resource for Teaching about Haiti. Because of all the supporting documents available through the page, this resource makes including Haiti in classroom discussion even easier! According to Teaching for Change, “It is important for students to gain a deeper understanding of the history and the roots of…Haiti. The U.S has been involved with Haiti for centuries, yet it has received little attention in textbooks or the curriculum. Part of our commitment to the people of Haiti can be to not only increase our support but also our awareness. As informed citizens, we can advocate for respectful and constructive relations with Haiti in the months and years ahead.” Continue reading

En la Clase: Love, Community, & Poetry

Vamos a Leer | En la Clase: Love of Community Through PoetryThis week’s En la Clase post continues to look at ways in which to think, teach, and talk about love in our classrooms.  As I was writing last week’s post on teaching about love through immigration, I was reminded of another classroom resource that could also be used to teach about love.  In the fall we reviewed Linda Christensen and Dyan Watson’s book Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice.  The whole book is wonderful, but given this month’s theme of love, I’d like to highlight one of the lessons that I think could be particularly compelling for creating or deepening the ties of community within our classrooms.  The lesson is available as a pdf here.  In “Remember Me: A farewell poem,” Christensen asks her students to write a Remember Me poem about a fellow classmate.  Christensen uses it at the end of the year, but I also think it could be used during the month of February to expand upon conversations around love of community.  As students are bombarded with the commercialized representations of love, it’s important to provide the space for them to think through these messages, challenge them, and create their own statements on the meaning of love.

In the lesson plan, Christensen writes, “Students need to learn how to build new traditions–ones that don’t involve corporations telling them how to think and feel about death, birth, illness, goodbyes, celebrations, or each other.  By creating practices in our classrooms that honor our time together, our work, and our community, we can teach students how to develop meaningful new traditions.” I couldn’t agree more.  Incorporating “Remember Me” poems into the classroom allows students to think deeply about the people in their classroom community, and hopefully foster a sense of love for that community. Continue reading

En la Clase: Teaching About Love Through Immigration

Love GenerationWith Valentine’s Day just a little over a week away, today’s post focuses on how to teach about love and social justice. It may not be the typical Valentine’s Day themed lesson, but I think it’s a powerful way to expand upon the ways in which we frame our conversations about love in the classroom. As we think about the ways in which we can guide our students to think about love in terms of love for the world and the societies in which we are a part, I can imagine no better way to talk about love than as a form of compassion, empathy, and activism through knowledge of the lived realities of those with whom we share this world.

Today’s post highlights a piece of the Rethinking Schools curriculum The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration. The connection to Valentine’s Day may not be immediately clear, but just bear with me for a bit. The Line Between Us is a book we highly recommend at Vamos a Leer. I used it as the basis for a semester long study when I taught 7th grade Social Studies and it was one of my most successful units (for both my students and myself as a teacher). If you’re not familiar with the book, here’s a quick overview: Continue reading