May 2021 Latinx Book Releases!

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We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

In addition to listing 2021 titles by/for/about Latinx on our master list, we will remind readers of what’s releasing each month. CONGRATULATIONS to these Latinx creators. Let’s celebrate these May book babies! Please let us know in the comments if we are missing any.

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RUN LITTLE CHASKI: AN INKA TRAIL ADVENTURE by Mariana Llanos, illustrated by Mariana Ruiz Johnson (Barefoot Books, May 1, 2020). Picture Book. The book will also be released in Spanish: Corre Pequeño Chaski: Una aventura en el Camino Inka.

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HAND-ME-DOWN MAGIC #3: Perfect Patchwork Purse by Corey Ann Hayduillustrated by Luisa Uribe (Katherine Tegen Books, May 4, 2021). Chapter Book. Alma knew it the first time she saw it: The patchwork purse in the window of the Curious Cousins Secondhand Shoppe was magical. Special. Perfect. But when her friend Cassie spots the purse and buys it, what could Alma do but agree that the purse really did look just right on Cassie?

Del decides it’s up to her to bring some homespun magic back into Alma’s life, and she’s got just the plan to do it. After all, she is the EXPERT on magic! All she needs is some glitter and lots and lots of glue . . . because she knows magic can always come from the most unexpected places, but most importantly, that best-friend-cousins never let each other down.

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HOME SWEET FOREVER HOME (The Invincible Girls Club #1) by Rachel Alpine, illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda (Aladdin, May 4, 2021). Chapter Book. Lauren is a huge dog lover and is over-the-moon excited when she gets to go to the local shelter to read to the dogs. While there, she learns that the older dogs are often not adopted, so she and her friends set out to find them homes.

Together, Lauren, Ruby, Myka, and Emelyn create a brilliant event, where attendees can eat delicious cupcakes while meeting adoptable dogs. But on the big day, it seems like everything goes upside down. Can the girls save the event and make sure their four-legged friends get a chance at their fur-ever homes?

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ART WITH HEART (The Invincible Girls Club #2) by Rachel Alpine, illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda (Aladdin, May 4, 2021). Chapter Book. Someone is writing mean messages about Emelyn and other kids in her grade on pieces of paper and sticking them to lockers and bathroom walls. When Emelyn discovers a classmate hiding in the bathroom crying about the mean words written about her, Emelyn brings this problem to The Invincible Girls. Together, they decide to fight the negativity with positivity!

Emelyn, Laura, Ruby, and Myka spread words of kindness and cheerful images all over the place to cancel out the negative ones. But they keep running into speed bumps along the way—and Emelyn isn’t sure she’s the right person to lead the charge. Can the girls help stop the bullying in their school? And can Emelyn ultimately find her own voice?

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INDIVISIBLE by Daniel Aleman (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, May 4, 2021). Middle Grade. Mateo Garcia and his younger sister, Sophie, have been taught to fear one word for as long as they can remember: deportation. Over the past few years, however, the fear that their undocumented immigrant parents could be sent back to Mexico has started to fade. Ma and Pa have been in the United States for so long, they have American-born children, and they’re hard workers and good neighbors. When Mateo returns from school one day to find that his parents have been taken by ICE, he realizes that his family’s worst nightmare has become a reality. With his parents’ fate and his own future hanging in the balance, Mateo must figure out who he is and what he is capable of, even as he’s forced to question what it means to be an American.

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JUAN HORMIGA by Gustavo Roldán, translated by Robert Croll (Elsewhere Editions, May 4, 2021). Picture Book. Juan Hormiga, the greatest storyteller of his entire anthill, loves to recount his fearless grandfather’s adventures. When Juan and his fellow ants gather around for storytime, he hypnotizes all with tales of his grandfather’s many exploits – including his escape from an eagle’s talons and the time he leapt from a tree with just a leaf for a parachute. When he’s through telling these tales, Juan loves to cozy up for a nice long nap. He’s such a serious napper that he takes up to ten siestas every day! Though well loved by his ant friends, Juan decides telling tales and sleeping aren’t quite enough for him – it’s time to set off on his own adventure.

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KUAN YIN: The Princess Who Became the Goddess of Compassion by Maya van der Meerillustrated by Wen Hsu (Bala Kids, May 4, 2021). Picture Book. Miao Shan isn’t your typical princess. She likes to spend her time quietly meditating with the creatures of the forest or having adventures with dragons and tigers. Miao Shan’s heart is so full of love that her dream is to spread happiness throughout the land and help people endlessly. But her father has other plans for her–he intends to have her married and remain in the palace. With the help of her little sister Ling, Miao Shan escapes and begins her journey to discover the true meaning of compassion.

During their adventure, Ling and Miao Shan are eventually separated. Ling must overcome doubts, fears, and loneliness in order to realize what her sister had told her all along–that love is the greatest power in the world. After the sisters’ reunion, Miao Shan realizes her true calling as Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion.

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LA JOVEN AVIADORA by Margarita Engleillustrated by Sara Palacios (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, May 4, 2021). Picture Book. Spanish version of THE FLYING GIRL. En una animada calle en la encantadora ciudad de París, una joven llamada Aída miró hacia el cielo y se quedó maravillada ante la vista de un dirigible. ¡Cuánto le gustaría surcar el cielo de esa manera! El inventor del aparato, Alberto, la invitó a dar un paseo en su dirigible, pero Aída no quería viajar como pasajera. Ella quería ser el piloto.

Aída era apenas una adolescente, y ninguna mujer o joven había volado antes. Pero eso no la detuvo. Todo lo que ella necesitaba eran algunas clases y una oportunidad.

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MEET CUTE DIARY by Emery Lee (Quill Tree Books, May 4, 2021). Young Adult. Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.

When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.

Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.

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OLIVER’S LOLLIPOP by Allison Wortcheillustrated by Andrés Landazabal (Philomel Books, May 4, 2021). Picture Book. Oliver finds the perfect lollipop on his birthday trip to the zoo, and it’s all he can think about! Forget riding the carousel–he might drop his precious treat. No point roaring at the lions with his brother or engaging with any of the animals. After all, who needs the peacocks’ beautiful feathers or the flamingoes’ brilliant hues when there’s a colorful swirly lollipop to admire?

But when one particular zoo animal threatens to ruin the fun, Oliver learns that there’s plenty more to see than the candy he’d been coveting. And sharing the day–and his sweets–with his brother might just be the most special treat of all.

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SMALL ROOM, BIG DREAMS: The Journey of Julián and Joaquin Castro by Monica Brown, illustrated by Mirelle Ortega (Quill Tree Books, May 4, 2021). Picture Book. The story of political powerhouse twins Julián and Joaquin Castro began in the small room that they shared with their grandmother Victoriana in San Antonio, Texas. Victoriana crossed the border from Mexico into Texas as a six-year-old orphan, marking the start of the family’s American journey. Her daughter Rosie, Julián and Joaquin’s mom, was an activist who helped the barrio through local government.

The strong women in their family inspired the twins to get involved in politics. Julián and Joaquin have been working at the local, state, and national level—as a former presidential candidate, mayor and member of President Obama’s Cabinet, and a U.S. Congressman, respectively—to make the country a better place for everyone.

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WHAT WILL YOU BE? by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Kate Alizadeh (HarperCollins, May 4, 2021). Picture Book. What will you be when you grow up? A young girl dreams about all the endless possibilities, sparking a sense of wonder, curiosity, and growth. With her abuela’s loving guidance, she learns her potential is limitless.

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MANOS QUE BAILAN (DANCING HANDS) by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López, translated by Alexis Romay (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, May 4, 2021). Picture Book. De niña, a Teresa Carreño le encantaba dejar que sus manos bailaran a lo largo de las hermosas teclas del piano. Si se sentía triste, la música le levantaba el ánimo y, cuando estaba feliz, el piano la ayudaba a compartir esa alegría. Pronto comenzó a escribir sus propias canciones y a tocar en grandes catedrales.

Entonces, una revolución en Venezuela hizo que su familia tuviera que huir a Estados Unidos. Teresa se sentía sola en este sitio desconocido en el que muy poca de la gente a quien conocía hablaba español. Y lo peor es que también había una guerra en su nuevo hogar: la Guerra Civil.

Aun así, Teresa siguió tocando y pronto adquirió fama de ser la talentosa niña del piano que podía tocar cualquier cosa, desde una canción folclórica hasta una sonata. Era tan famosa, de hecho, ¡que el presidente Abraham Lincoln quiso que fuera a tocar a la Casa Blanca! Sin embargo, con el país dividido por la guerra, ¿podría la música de Teresa traer consuelo a quienes más lo necesitaban?

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ILLUSIONARY by Zoraida Córdova (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, May 11, 2021). Young Adult. Reeling from betrayal at the hands of the Whispers, Renata Convida is a girl on the run. With few options and fewer allies, she’s reluctantly joined forces with none other than Prince Castian, her most infuriating and intriguing enemy. They’re united by lofty goals: find the fabled Knife of Memory, kill the ruthless King Fernando, and bring peace to the nation. Together, Ren and Castian have a chance to save everything, if only they can set aside their complex and intense feelings for each other.


With the king’s forces on their heels at every turn, their quest across Puerto Leones and beyond leaves little room for mistakes. But the greatest danger is within Ren. The Gray, her fortress of stolen memories, has begun to crumble, threatening her grip on reality. She’ll have to control her magics–and her mind–to unlock her power and protect the Moria people once and for all.

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THOUGHTS ARE AIR by Michael Arndt, illustrated by Irena Freitas (Dial Books, May 11, 2021). Picture Book. When a trio of friends happen upon a neighborhood tree falling into decay, an idea catches hold. But what makes a dream become a plan, and how does a plan lead to a brighter tomorrow? Thoughts Are Air links thoughts, words, and actions to the water cycle. Just as air becomes water becomes solid matter, thoughts become words become actions. The comparison is subtle yet powerful–air condensing into matter; ideas condensing into doing something that matters.

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ON THE HOOK by Francisco X. Stork (Scholastic, May 18, 2021). Young Adult. Hector has always minded his own business, working hard to make his way to a better life someday. He’s the chess team champion, helps the family with his job at the grocery, and teaches his little sister to shoot hoops overhand.

Until Joey singles him out. Joey, whose older brother, Chavo, is head of the Discípulos gang, tells Hector that he’s going to kill him: maybe not today, or tomorrow, but someday. And Hector, frozen with fear, does nothing. From that day forward, Hector’s death is hanging over his head every time he leaves the house. He tries to fade into the shadows – to drop off Joey’s radar – to become no one.

But when a fight between Chavo and Hector’s brother Fili escalates, Hector is left with no choice but to take a stand.

The violent confrontation will take Hector places he never expected, including a reform school where he has to live side-by-side with his enemy, Joey. It’s up to Hector to choose whether he’s going to lose himself to revenge or get back to the hard work of living.

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PERFECTLY PARVIN by Olivia Abtahi (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, May 18, 2021). Young Adult. Parvin Mohammadi has just been dumped–only days after receiving official girlfriend status. Not only is she heartbroken, she’s humiliated. Enter high school heartthrob Matty Fumero, who just might be the smoking-hot cure to all her boy problems. If Parvin can get Matty to ask her to Homecoming, she’s positive it will prove to herself and her ex that she’s girlfriend material after all. There’s just one problem: Matty is definitely too cool for bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Parvin. Since being herself hasn’t worked for her in the past (see aforementioned dumping), she decides to start acting like the women in her favorite rom-coms. Those women aren’t loud, they certainly don’t cackle when they laugh, and they smile much more than they talk.

But Parvin discovers that being a rom-com dream girl is much harder than it looks. Also hard? The parent-mandated Farsi lessons. A confusing friendship with a boy who’s definitely not supposed to like her. And hardest of all, the ramifications of the Muslim ban on her family in Iran. Suddenly, being herself has never been more important.

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WHERE WONDER GROWS by Xelena Gonzálezillustrated by Adriana M. Garcia (Cinco Puntos Press, May 25, 2021). Picture Books. Grandma knows that there is wondrous knowledge to be found everywhere you can think to look. She takes her girls to their special garden, and asks them to look over their collection of rocks, crystals, seashells, and meteorites to see what marvels they have to show. “They were here long before us and know so much more about our world than we ever will,” Grandma says. So they are called grandfathers. By taking a close look with an open mind, they see the strength of rocks shaped by volcanoes, the cleansing power of beautiful crystals, the oceans that housed their shells and shapes its environment, and the long journey meteorites took to find their way to them. Gathered together, Grandma and the girls let their surroundings spark their imaginations.

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I WISH YOU KNEW by Jackie Azúa Kramerillustrated by Magdalena Mora (Roaring Brook Press, May 25, 2021). Picture Book.

When Estrella’s father has to leave because

he wasn’t born here, like her,

She misses him.

And she wishes people knew the way it affects her.

At home. At school.

Always.

But a school wrapped around a hundred-year-old oak tree is the perfect place to share and listen.

Some kids miss family,
Some kids are hungry,
Some kids live in shelters.

But nobody is alone.

A story about deportation, divided families, and the importance of community in the midst of uncertainty.

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MAXY SURVIVES THE HURRICANE / Maxy sobrevive el huracán by Ricia Anne Chansky and Yarelis Marcial Acevedo, illustrated by Olga Barinova (Piñata Books, May 31, 2021). Picture Book. Maxy the dog survives Hurricane Maria, and like many who go through natural disasters, he is later terrified of storms and rain.

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RAULITO: The First Latino Governor of Arizona /El Primer Gobernador Latino de Arizona by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford (Piñata Books, May 31, 2021). Picture Book. This bilingual biography for kids ages 8-14 follows the dreams and achievements of Raul H. Castro, who was the first Latino governor of Arizona and US Ambassador to El Salvador, Bolivia and Argentina.

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Un tren llamado Esperanza / A Train Called Hope by Mario Bencastroillustrated by Robert Casilla (Piñata Books, May 31, 2021). Picture Book. This bilingual picture book contrasts a boy’s enjoyment of his childhood toy train with his dangerous journey north crowded on a real train in search of family and a better future.

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Celebrating 25 Years of the Pura Belpré Award: Book Talk About Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illus. by Rafael López

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We are an affiliate with Indiebound and Bookshop. If If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission.

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The Pura Belpré Award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latinx writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

We will be marking the award’s 25th anniversary in different ways on the blog. Today, Dr. Sonia Rodriguez and Dora M. Guzmán talk about Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López. The book won the Pura Belpré Award for illustration in 2016. You can find our book talks on our new YouTube channel!

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For more, read this spotlight on the illustrator: CLICK HERE.

Also, check out our review of Drum Dream Girl: CLICK HERE.

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Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her academic research focuses on decolonial healing in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. Sonia is a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader.

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Dora Guzmán is a bilingual reading specialist for grades K-5 and also teaches college courses in Children’s Literature and Teaching Beginning Literacy. She is currently a doctoral student with a major in Reading, Language, and Literacy. When she is not sharing her love of reading with her students, you can find her in the nearest library, bookstore, or online, finding more great reads to add to her never-ending “to read” pile!

Book Review: Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln by Margarita Engle, illus. by Rafeal López

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Review by Dora M. Guzmán

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals.

Then a revolution in Venezuela drove her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too- a Civil War.

Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it the most?

MY TWO CENTS: Dancing Hands is a biographical picture book about María Teresa Carreño Garcia de Sena that embraces creativity, family, and music during turmoil in Venezuela and the United States. Teresa, also known as Piano Girl, learns early on that music is an art for others to enjoy in the moment and in their hearts. Despite inevitable conflict in both her home country, Venezuela, and her new home, the United States, music becomes her refuge. Playing the piano calms the storms, brings together her family, and inspires other artists, and even the president in office, Abraham Lincoln.

While the text is in English only, the language used to describe Teresa’s talent is filled with poetic and descriptive language. It moves the reader through a narrative timeline of events and emotions. The illustrations are phenomenal and invoke more emotions as the reader learns about Teresa’s life changes. The use of acrylic paint and its textured shades contrast against the sharp lines and fierce colors that spread across each page. Each page has strategically placed colors and imagery placement to convey the story’s mood. Still, Teresa’s life experiences and talents remain front and center, with her connection to her music and cultures highlighted. My favorite moment in her story is when, as a young child, Teresa inspired other musicians to come and create music. It shows how far and wide her inspiration reached even at a young age!

TEACHING TIPS: Many of these teaching moments can be implemented in a K-5 setting, with a focus on the grades 3 and up.

  • Writing Mentor Text
    • Descriptive language: The author provides a plethora of metaphors and descriptive language that can serve as models for student writing when used to describe objects, moments, and feelings.
    • Mini lesson on adjectives and verbs
  • Addition to a biography unit or music unit
    • The historical note at the end of the book can serve as a catalyst for further research into the life of María Teresa Carreño Garcia de Sena. Student researchers can also find out more about her music and how it added to the arts during and after her time.
    • In music class, students can learn more about her compositions, as well as listen to her music compositions to add to their study.
  • Author and illustrator study
    • Pair this text with other picture books written by Margarita Engle and compare her writing style as well as the characters.
    • Pair this text with other picture books illustrated by Rafael López and compare his artistic style.

Listen to María Teresa Carreño Garcia de Sena’s composition called La Falsa Nota played by another pianist.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many acclaimed books, including two other collaborations with Rafael López, Bravo! and Drum Dream Girl, as well as The Flying Girl; All the Way to Havana; Miguel’s Brave Knight; The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor book; Jazz Owls; The Poet Slave of Cuba; and her memoirs Enchanted Air and Soaring Earth. She lives in central California. Visit her at margaritaengle.com Follow her on Twitter: @margaritapoet

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ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Rafael López was born and raised in Mexico, a place that has always influenced the vivid colors and shapes in his artwork. He now creates community-based mural projects around the world and illustrates acclaimed children’s books, including The Day You Begin, Bravo!, Drum Dream Girl, We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands, and Book Fiesta! Rafael divides his time between Mexico and California. Visit him at  https://rafaellopez.com/

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ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Dora M. Guzmán is a bilingual reading specialist for grades K-5 and also teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Children’s Literature and Teaching Beginning Literacy. She is also a current doctoral student in NLU’s  EdD Teaching and Learning Program with an emphasis on Reading, Language, and Literacy.  When she is not sharing her love of reading with her students, you can find her in the nearest library, bookstore, or online, finding more great reads to add to her never-ending “to read” pile!