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

March 16, 2018 | Week in Review

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Saludos a todxs,

As the week draws to a close, we are pleased to share our findings from happenings related to Latinx narratives, children’s literature, and multicultural education, but first we acknowledge the humbling power and strength of the many students and teachers who marched, stood, or took a knee this week to protest shootings within schools. To be inspired by the students’ actions and to fit them within a larger history of social protest by youth, visit the Zinn Education Project on Twitter.

~ Keira

  • We start with a piece from the NYTimes: “Black Kids Don’t Want to Read About Harriet Tubman All the Time.” It’s an article that resonates with a lot of our internal conversations here at Vamos a Leer. The author, Denen Millner, acknowledges the advances in making children’s literature more inclusive, but critiques the industry’s ongoing tendency to focus on the mirror images of “degradation and endurance” of her people. She writes, “You can fill nearly half the bookshelves in the Schomburg with children’s books about the civil rights movement, slavery, basketball players and musicians, and various “firsts.” These stories consistently paint African-Americans as the aggrieved and the conquerors, the agitators and the superheroes who fought for their right to be recognized as full human beings…Meanwhile, stories about the everyday beauty of being a little human being of color are scarce.”
  • Following up on last week’s article we shared on  What Do the Allegations Against Sherman Alexie Mean for Native Literature?,  now we draw your attention to Booktoss’ analysis of “The Single Story of ‘Part-Time Indian'” and related resources for expanding your bookshelf’s collection of indigenous writers for young readers. p.s. if you haven’t already, definitely take a moment to watch the TED talk with Chimamanda Adichie!
  • Lee & Low’s blog, The Open Book, is offering an ongoing series exploring what culturally responsive teaching looks like at different grade levels, and offering concrete examples and resources to go along with that. This week, they focused on Grade 4: Studying Informational Text .
  • Also from The Open Book, an interview featuring Maya Christina Gonzalez on Honoring Francisco X. Alarcón and Family. “Released last fall from the Children’s Book Press imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, Family Poems for Every Day of the Week/Poemas familiares para cada día de la semana is a celebratory collection of poems that highlights the daily life of children every day of the week while also honoring the experiences of Latino poet Francisco X. Alarcón, who passed away in January 2016. We interviewed illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez about the important role that family and friends play in Family Poems for Every Day of the Week and what the creative process was like.”
  • From the amazing Jacqueline Woodson’s Twitter feed, we were tuned into this feature of Slam Poet Elizabeth Acevedo Debuts Novel, ‘The Poet X’.When asked what gave her the idea to write the novel, Acevedo responds with ” I was teaching eighth grade English Language Arts at a school with a high population of students of Latin American descent. One day, one of my students asked me why we never read books with students that looked like her and her classmates. I decided to write a book for her, and her classmates, and my younger self, and my best friend, for anyone who wants to read a story from a place that feels familiar.” Definitely a new #TBR for us here at Vamos a Leer!
  • Dwelling for a moment on Acevedo, here’s another review of the book and its impact for reclaiming heritage for young adult readers. “While struggles with faith, family, and self-acceptance are not unique teenage experiences, it is their presentation through the lens of Xiomara’s Afro-Latina heritage that makes her story a startling standout. “
  • Edi Rodríguez at CrazyQuiltEdit tackled the issues of #kidlitwomen in two recent posts titled Black Girls Economics in Young Adult Fiction and Black Girls Economics in Young Adult Fiction part 2 or This is What Marley Dias Was Talking About, a sobering reminder of how little representation and opportunities exist for authors of color. This series is part of her March effort to celebrate “Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for osical and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ industry.” She invites everyone to join the conversation on her blog or follow on Twitter via #kidlitwomen. She opens her post on Black Girls Economics with this poignant quote from Jacqueline Woodson, “What am I going to do about a time of my life in which the brilliance of Black girls had no mirror?”
  • Continuing with the theme of #KidLitWomen, Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children’s Literature is running a “campaign to lift Indigenous women who have written books for children and teens.” Visit her blog to be inspired, open your mind to new writers, and benefit from her hard work in compiling amazing titles from which you can choose. As she notes in the conclusion to her March 10th post on the topic: “I made an Indigenous #KidLitWomen pdf for you that has book titles on it, plus some gorgeous covers! Right after the book title is the name of the Native woman. In parenthesis is that woman’s nation, followed by the publisher and year the book was published. Here’s what it looks like (and beneath the image of it, you’ll see the book list), but hit that pdf link and print it out as many times as you want! Take it with you to the book store, to the library… to your next book club meeting!”
  • We’re a bit late catching wind of this resource, but still couldn’t resist sharing: 21 Books for an Inclusive Read Across America Day. It starts with Yo Soy Muslim, which we recently reviewed here, as well as many of our other favorite titles, such as Drum Dream Girl, Separate is Never Equal, Mama’s Nightingale, and more!
  • Similarly, we wish we’d found this sooner, but it maintains its power today, because every month should be Black History Month! From The Conscious Kid, Black Books Matter: Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys. This is a “curated list of children’s books celebrating Black boys, in partnership with Moms of Black Boys United. These books center, reflect, and affirm Black boys, and were written and illustrated by Black authors and artists.
  • Finally, if you’re in the New York area in April, you might consider registering for The Color of Children’s Literature Conference organized by Kweli, an online magazine whose “mission is to nurture emerging writers of color and create opportunities for their voices to be recognized and valued….[their] vision is for a world where the narratives being told reflect the truth of our histories and the possibilities for our future.”

10 Children’s and YA Books Celebrating Latinx Poetry and Verse

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Hello all –

I am thrilled to be celebrating National Poetry Month with you!  As with many of you, poetry holds a dear place in my heart.  As a young person, I recall writing poem after poem and finding such liberation in exploring my voice, playing with syntax and line breaks, and testing out vocabulary that had yet to find a place in my daily life.  Poetry allowed for a freedom and creativity that was unmatched in other mediums.  And because of this, I believe that writing poetry enables us to develop our own voice, author our own truths, and honor our own experiences; all of which play an integral part in a young person’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.

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5 Latino/a Children’s and YA Books Honoring Immigrant Experiences in the Winter Season

 

2016-December-Reading-RoundUp.pngBuenos días a todas y todos,

The Vamos a Leer theme for this month, as written in Keira’s Sobre Deciembre post, is focused on winter celebrations.  I was eager to explore children’s and YA literature around this topic in hopes of finding books that are reflective of the diverse familial celebrations, religious and spiritual practices, and cultural traditions throughout Latin America.  However, it would be disingenuous to state that this eagerness remained after learning the outcome of the election.  Rather, like many others, I began to reflect on the multiple uncertainties that our communities face.  More specifically, what will the future hold for those that are from other countries and living in the United States?  With everything that I read being filtered through this lens, I decided it was best to reframe the theme a bit.

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Voces: Affirmation and Validation in the Aftermath of the Election

In the aftermath of the election I struggled to think of what I could write that related to books. As much as I love books, they seemed all of the sudden insignificant, a resource incapable of addressing and/or combating the stories of hatred and hurt I was hearing in the news and on social media.

Books do not possess magical fixing capacities. It follows that they are not going to fix the deeply embedded “isms” in our society. Yet, I find myself turning to books for solace – in search of alternative realities, inspiration or affirmation.

As a white blonde woman, affirmation in books is relatively easy to find. However, in this moment in time it is not I who needs to find this affirmation and validation. I stand by my friends and fellow students – whose communities have been the target of repeated insults and mounting hate crimes – in search of ways to amplify their voices over mine, to affirm and validate their experiences.

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¡Mira, Look!: Prietita and the Ghost Woman

“Though we tremble bChildren's Book Review: Prietita and the Ghost Woman by Gloria Anzaldúa | Vamos a Leerefore uncertain futures/ may we meet illness, death and adversity with strength/ may we dance in the face of our fears.”
― Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Saludos, everyone! This week I will be reviewing another rendition of the Hispanic legend of La Llorona, continuing to draw from this month’s themes. Our featured book for the week is Prietita and the Ghost Woman, written by Gloria Anzaldúa and illustrated by Christina Gonzalez. Anzaldúa creates a feminist adaptation of the Hispanic legend by featuring strong, female protagonists, and portraying La Llorona as a benevolent spirit, rather than a haunting ghost. The female relationships in the story are loving and respectful, and women of all different ages look out for each other in a lovely constellation of female alliances.

Children's Book Review: Prietita and the Ghost Woman by Gloria Anzaldúa | Vamos a LeerThe story is written in English with a Spanish translation on each page, as well as Spanish words peppered throughout the English text. When interspersing Spanish words, Anzaldúa has taken care to provide translations or context clues for English-language readers. For example, when Prietita asks Doña Lola for help, Doña Lola replies, “I’m sorry, mijita, I’m sorry, my child, but I’ve used up all the ruda I had and none of the neighbors grow it.Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: Call Me Tree/Llámame árbol

Call Me TreeSaludos, readers! In light of Earth Day (April 22) and National Poetry Month I am delighted to present to you a very special book that perfectly celebrates a child’s relationship to nature through bilingual poetry. Call Me Tree/Llámame árbol, written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez, is a beautiful book that manages the unique achievement of being gender neutral.

Here is a description from Goodreads:

In this spare, lyrically written story, we join a child on a journey of self-discovery. Finding a way to grow from the inside out, just like a tree, the child develops as an individual comfortable in the natural world and in relationships with others. The child begins “Within/ The deep dark earth,” like a seed, ready to grow and then dreaCall me Tree earthm and reach out to the world. Soon the child discovers birds and the sky and other children: Trees and trees/ Just like me! Each is different too. The child embraces them all because All trees have roots/ All trees belong. Maya Christina Gonzalez once again combines her talents as an artist and a storyteller to craft a gentle, empowering story about belonging, connecting with nature, and becoming your fullest self. Young readers will be inspired to dream and reach, reach and dream . . . and to be as free and unique as trees.

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