A Rich Year for Art-Related Kid Lit with Latino Flair

By Sujei Lugo and Lila Quintero Weaver

The year 2014 brought us three outstanding Latino children’s books celebrating art. Each book represents a distinct format: Draw! by Raúl Colón, is a wordless picture book; Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales, is a poetic tribute to a beloved artist of worldwide importance; and Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, by Catherine Reef, is a work of non-fiction geared toward upper-level grades. These releases came in a year already brimming with strong Latino titles in children’s publishing, along with the We Need Diverse Books campaign, which challenges publishers and others in the book industry to question their views and roles regarding literature by and about people of color.

And guess what? Latin@s create art, too, so why shouldn’t they be celebrated in art-related books?

Children’s books that extol visual art serve to influence readers in significant ways. Through them, children can learn to appreciate art’s life-enriching power. They can also begin to see themselves as potential creators of art. Up to a certain age, most children freely produce drawings, collages, finger paintings, and other forms of artistic expression. But as kids reach the middle elementary years, inhibition seems to set in. Often, these kids stop making art because they have begun to see themselves as incapable. In fact, many great artists owe their success to a rediscovery of childlike abandon, to a time when the internal critic wasn’t peering over their shoulder. Also, Latin@ children are exposed to fewer artistic role models from within the community. What if good art books transmitted the opposite message–that anyone, from any culture, can create art? Great Latin@ artists already exist and kids need to become familiar with them. The following books make an ideal way to start delivering that message.

Draw!Draw! by Raúl Colón

In this lovely picture book based on Colón’s childhood, readers are transported through a flight of fancy to golden views of the African savanna, where an adventurous drawing session takes place. Initially, we see a boy drawing in his bedroom. His focus is on animals of the African grasslands. Three pages later, the boy is on the ground, somewhere on the African continent, among his subjects, observing them at close range, and capturing their likenesses with deft pencil strokes. Colón achieves this flight of imagination without the aid of words. The paintings in this book display a tender vintage feel in keeping with much of Colón’s acclaimed work in illustration. In every sense, Colón demonstrates a masterful command. His compositions are striking. He nails the anatomy of both human and wild animal subjects, as well as a wide array of studio techniques. These include the use of expressive, swirling textures and a tawny palette of hues, fitting for the story’s era and setting. This gem of a book landed on quite a few “best of” lists for 2014, including:

New York Times Best Illustrated Books of 2014

NPR Best Books of 2014: Children’s Books

Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of 2014: Picture Books

School Library Journal Best Books of 2014: Picture Books

School Library Journal’s Top 10 Latino Books of 2014

For extensive views of interior pages, see this article in SLJ.

Viva FridaViva Frida, by Yuyi Morales

Viva Frida is Yuyi Morales’s love letter to Frida Kahlo. The depth of Morales’s admiration for the groundbreaking Mexican surrealist painter comes through in every expertly prepared page spread. Morales incorporates acrylic painting, stop-motion puppetry and other three-dimensional elements into a series of dioramas, photographed by her collaborator, Tim O’Meara. The result is eye-popping. Each spread bursts with jewel-like colors and captivating details, including Mexican textiles, bits of jewelry and animal fur. Clay figures representing Frida, her husband, Diego, and their animal friends are central to each diorama. Readers familiar with Kahlo’s work will recognize iconic elements in the injured fawn, the monkey, Frida’s famous eyebrows, her hand-shaped earrings and much more. A simple and brief poetic text in Spanish and English complements each page’s visual design. Viva Frida is a stunner that understandably caught the attention of important list-makers.

NPR Best Books of 2014: Children’s Books

Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of 2014: Picture Books

School Library Journal Best Books of 2014: Picture Books

 School Library Journal’s Top 10 Latino Books of 2014

Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature: Best Multicultural Books of 2014

For interior views, see the book’s official page.

Frida and DiegoFrida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, by Catherine Reef

Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, by Catherine Reef, is a complex and satisfying portrayal of two giants of twentieth-century art and the development of their storied careers. The book relies on primary sources and seldom-seen photographs to describe the individual lives and work of each artist, as well as their combined lives. Reef weaves into this dual biography fascinating views of the political and social history of Mexico. Readers learn about Frida Kahlo’s medical odyssey. A childhood diagnosis of polio left her with an atrophied leg. As a young woman, she also suffered a debilitating accident that resulted in many surgeries and long periods of painful convalescence. Reef includes details of the couple’s complicated and often troubled marital life. These are not gratuitous digressions, however, since Frida’s body of work is in many ways a reflection of her physical and emotional suffering. Diego Rivera’s work as a muralist captures the era of upheaval that he lived in and reveals much about his devotion to socialist causes. The book includes behind-the-scenes stories of murals he painted in U.S. cities, which often became entangled in political controversy and resulted in conflict between Rivera and his patrons.

School Library Journal’s Top 10 Latino Books of 2014

Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature: Best Multicultural Books of 2014

These three books come from different perspectives, but their approaches overlap as they magnify works of art and what it takes to produce them. In his picture book, Raúl Colón uses imagination to portray the skills of a budding artist. Yuyi Morales’s tribute to Kahlo reflects the inner world of a powerfully emotional artist. Catherine Reef’s biography informs the reader of the complexity and suffering that composed Khalo’s internal make-up and that of her marital partner.


Draw! by Raúl Colón

Picture book, K-4

This picture book can be integrated into art and language-arts curricula. Teachers and librarians can use this book to encourage children to compose or tell their own illustrated stories. Art teachers will find a useful example of sound artistic practice in how Colón closely observes his subjects.

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

Picture book, K-3

Bilingual and ESL instructors can incorporate this book into their classroom to teach new vocabulary in English and Spanish. The text is brief and focuses on verbs. Teachers of language arts can employ the book’s model of short poetic sentences to suggest a story. In the art classroom, Viva Frida can inspire the creation of dioramas, costumed puppets and other three-dimensional works.

Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life by Catherine Reef

Non-fiction, grades 9-12

This book holds rich possibilities as a classroom text for Mexican American studies, art history, and social studies. One of the key lessons is the importance in an artist’s life of historical context. Students of social studies can create a timeline of historical events, paralleled by notable developments in Frida’s and Diego’s life. The book includes a brief selection of reproductions for each artist and a list of resources for further study, which teachers can use as a basis for assignments. Art history classes may want to explore the work of other muralists and female painters of the twentieth century or of Mexican artists throughout the ages.

For further information on the creators, see the following:

An interview with Raul Colon at Illustration Friday

An interview with Catherine Reef at Teenreads

And please don’t miss this spectacular video featuring Yuyi Morales demonstrating the creation of Viva Frida!

Guest Post: ¡Qué Vivan los Niños Luchadores!


All images from Niño Wrestles the World come courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

By Lettycia Terrones

On a bright, 108º F. Las Vegas afternoon, inside the cavernous decadence of Caesars Palace, audience members attending the 2014 Pura Belpré Award Celebración were treated to a gem of a speech by this year’s Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner, Yuyi Morales. Recognized for her outstanding book, Niño Wrestles the World, Yuyi’s acceptance speech affirmed the resilient strength of children and their power of imagination. Her words served as a reminder to all educators of the important charge we have to provide our children with stories that accurately portray their worlds and strengths.

Since 1996, the Pura Belpré Award has annually recognized Latin@ writers and illustrators for excellence in children’s literature that “best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience.” This year’s winner for illustration, Niño Wrestles the World, does just this by capturing –through story, rhythm, and images— the intangible ingredients that come together to form a uniquely Chicano-Latino flavor that any child growing up in East Los Angeles or El Paso will immediately recognize.

LloronaCardChamucoCardWhat are these ingredients? La Llorna. El Chamuco. El Extraterrestre. La Cabeza Olmeca. Las Momias. These are the protagonists that star in countless cuentos told and re-told in Mexican and Chicano families. Yuyi presents a dynamic cuento of a boy-hero in a wrestling mask, un niño luchador, who through wit, humor, ganas, and family teamwork, outsmarts these terrifying figures of Mexican and Chicano cultural mythology. As Yuyi reminded us in her acceptance speech, children’s imaginative capacity is an empowering tool that enables them to confront life situations with positive resilience. In addition to her prepared remarks, Yuyi described her own imaginative process as a child, where she was able to transform the often scary and mysterious cultural myths of La Llorona and El Chamuco into figures she could contend with and, perhaps most importantly, learn to play with.

This transformative power demonstrates the enormous agency children have to make meaning in the world. It depicts what Dr. Tara Yosso points to in her seminal work on cultural wealth and social capital, which she calls Community Cultural Wealth. Community Cultural Wealth lists specific assets practiced and nurtured in communities of color, which serve as forms of resistance to the myriad social oppressions marginalized people contended with daily. Emerging from the cultural knowledge passed down in families and communities, these assets include “aspirational, navigational, social, linguistic, familial and resistant capital.”

Yuyi’s book exemplifies Community Cultural Wealth at work. Its text and illustration display the wealth of linguistic storytelling traditions of cuentos handed down in our families. It also serves as a meta-narrative of resistance through its prominent use of Mexican and Chicano cultural images. Yuyi’s narrative and illustration authentically capture how, for instance, the myth of La Llorona is in continuous transformation as she is imagined by our children today. Instead of becoming clichéd tropes of Mexican and Chicano culture, El Chamuco, El Extraterrestre, La Cabeza Olmeca, and Las Momias, are represented authentically as living and changing stories. This truly is a marker of Yuyi’s outstanding mastery of the picture book. She brings to the world of children’s literature works that defy cultural stereotypes, and that champion children as creative, imaginative meaning-makers.

Photo by Lettycia Terrones, 2014

Photo by Lettycia Terrones, 2014

I thought a lot about the impact of Yuyi’s Niño Wrestles the World when I attended a Lucha Libre Night at the East Los Angeles Community Youth Center last spring. The family-run event brought in masked luchadores from Tijuana and Los Angeles to battle it out in the recreation center’s well-worn boxing ring. At the halftime marker, the ring became open for the many kids in attendance to frolic with abandon and take photos with the night’s Lucha Libre heroes. I thought about how for many children living in underserved communities, Yuyi’s story of the boy-hero, the niño luchador, is an actual and accurate depiction of their lives. I wondered how many of the kids in attendance that night had been exposed to Niño Wrestles the World in their classroom or public library. I wondered how this exposure would strengthen their sense of belonging and reflect back to them their self-efficacy.

Educators should remember the characters brought to life in Yuyi’s picture book are still very much alive today in the imaginations of Latino children. They are stories that form an essential cultural fabric of what it means to be Mexican and/or Chicano. Whether we call our people first-generation, second-generation, or if we are from generations that preceded the Treaty of Guadalupe, or are present-day refugee generations embarking on perilous journeys, climbing atop trains and traversing deserts, to seek our families and a promise of a better future in the United States. These stories are ours. They form an American story.


Pura Belpré Award


Yosso*, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91.

Yuyi Morales, Illustrator Award Acceptance Speech, page 4 http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpre-14.pdf


Lettycia Terrones, M.L.I.S., serves as the Education Librarian at the Pollak Library at California State University, Fullerton. Her research interests are in Chicana/o children’s literature and critical literacy. Lettycia is an American Library Association Spectrum Scholar and a member of REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.

Scholastic Asks Three Questions to Three Latina Illustrators

By Concetta Gleason
Editorial Manager of Club Leo en Español

To mark the end of Hispanic Heritage Month this week, Club Leo en Español is proud to share exclusive art and interviews with three fantastic and dynamic Latina illustrators: Yuyi Morales (author/illustrator of Niño Wrestles the World), Angela Dominguez (author/illustrator of Maria Had a Little Llama /María tenía una llamita), and Alejandra Oviedo (illustrator of Animaletras).

We asked each artist to answer three questions in words and art:

1. What inspires your work?
2. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
3. What are your words to live by?

Each woman provided wildly imaginative, unique, and different examples of her artistic persona and motivations. Let’s explore!

Yuyi Morales won the 2014 Pura Belpré Illustration Award for Niño Wrestles the World. Not to brag but Yuyi briefly made us Internet-famous (by association) when she shared a sneak peek of her exclusive art on her resplendent Instagram account.

Yuyi answered the questions in a comic-book style and as a new person: she awoke one morning—transformed and “more beautiful than ever”—as “Tzitzimitl,” an ancient Aztec deity who shares a deep connection with the stars and astrology. Ha! Eat dust, Kafka.

For the record, Tzitzimitl > cockroach. Any day of the week. Thanks, Yuyi!


Alejandra Oviedo, the illustrator of Animaletras, sent us sweet and imaginative illustrations that capture the beauty and freedom of childhood. Her illustrations are made from intricate and delicate paper cuts, and she is inspired by looking at the world through the eyes of a child.

1. What inspired your work for Animaletras?

My inspiration for the illustrations came from kids’ drawings. I find them beautiful, and they portray the most important elements of each animal. I also paid attention to animal pictures, and I visited the zoo many times to capture not only the animals’ shapes but also their attitudes and personalities.

2. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I would love to fly like a bird.

3. Words to live by?

Always put love in what you do; believe in your dreams and do not leave them behind.

What inspiring answers! Thanks, Alejandra!


Angela Dominguez, author and illustrator of the Pura Belpré Illustration Honor book Maria Had a Little Llama /Maria tenía una llamita, sent us fun and playful photographs of Peruvian children and llamas that she used to as models and inspiration for her book.

1. What inspired your work for Maria Had a Little Llama/María tenía una llamita?

The inspiration for the project came from an illustrator’s assignment at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. I was given the task of doing my own version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” I was excited about the assignment, but I found it really difficult at first to find inspiration to reinterpret the classic story. My first doodles felt a little quiet, soft, and too familiar. I wanted my Mary to have personality with rich colors!

Whenever I’m stuck, I go to the library. There, I began researching sheep and farm life. It was in a book that I discovered a picture of a little girl with a llama. The idea of including llamas with the sheep led me to set the story in Peru. Finally I knew how I could personalize Mary, and that’s when Mary turned into Maria. The more I looked at books, the more I was inspired by the beautiful faces of the Peruvian children, the rich textiles, and the lush landscapes. I’ve never been to Peru, and I think my desire to visit the country pushed me to create landscapes of this idealized world I have in my head.

2. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

I would teleport. I love traveling, but I don’t particularly enjoy flying or how long it takes to get somewhere. Plus I would love to be able to give a family member or a friend a hug really quickly and then get back to work.

3. Do you have a life motto or favorite phrase? 

I have a few. First, I’m not sure where I read it, but “persistence plus passion equals success” is my favorite motto. I also love so many quotes from Winston Churchill and Henry Ford. This one quote, in particular, from Henry Ford is just so motivating. He said, “Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.” It’s just so beautiful.

Thanks, Angela! We’d be happy to travel to Peru with you!

It’s wonderful to see Latina illustrators have prominence in children’s literature, and that as visual storytellers they have broken new ground—from Mexican myths to remaking classic fairy tales.

We thank and celebrate Yuyi Morales, Alejandra Oviedo, and Angela Dominguez for opening the worldview of children everywhere.

Club Leo en Español supports your classroom with fun and affordable books that connect children’s home language and learning. Our books include amazing series, original titles, and winners of the Pura Belpré Award, which celebrates the remarkable contributions of artists who give voice to the Latino community through children’s literature.

Club Leo en Español apoya tu salón de clases con libros divertidos y asequibles que conectan la lengua materna y el aprendizaje de los niños. Nuestra colección incluye increíbles series, títulos originales y ganadores del Premio Pura Belpré, que celebra los extraordinarios aportes de artistas que dan voz a la comunidad latina a través de la literatura infantil.

Scholastic Book Club Celebrates Cesar Chavez Day With “Harvesting Hope”

Latin@s in Kid Lit is excited to have the opportunity to cross-post with Scholastic’s Club Leo en Español, the largest Spanish school book club in the country offering Spanish, English, and bilingual books and educational materials to children in grades Pre K-8.

On Monday, May 31, the Scholastic site celebrated Cesar Chavez Day by highlighting Pura Belpré Honoree Harvesting Hope! Click here to see the original post, which has been reblogged below.

By Concetta Gleason
editorial assistant/admin coordinator for Club Leo

“Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society.…Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.”

—Cesar Chavez, co-founder of United Farm Workers

Today is Cesar Chavez Day, and to celebrate we are revisiting Harvesting Hope by Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales. Harvesting Hope chronicles Chavez’s life as an advocate for the rights of migrant farm workers and laborers.

Cesar Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona. His parents, who were Mexican immigrants, prospered as business owners and farmers. However, the Great Depression crushed the family’s financial prospects, as it did to so many Americans. In 1937, Chavez’s family moved to California to find employment as migrant workers. Chavez was only ten years old when he experienced the inhumane conditions migrant workers were forced to endure as they worked long hours in the fields for meager pay. From this difficult experience Chavez learned the enduring importance of human dignity and compassion, which would fundamentally inform his leadership as an adult.

In Harvesting Hope, Krull maintains the delicate balance between showing and telling, providing significant historical background while taking the reader on a journey from Chavez’s idyllic childhood in Arizona to his hard-won victory over a corporate giant to ensure the legal rights of farm workers. Morales’s illustrations imbue the book with a dreamlike quality. Her figures command the page with grace and her use of colors shows the richness of Cesar’s emotional life and the depth of his plight as a migrant worker. This book is a worthy tribute to such a noble historical figure, and in 2004 it won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor.

As a leader, Chavez refused to engage in bullying tactics that dehumanized others and he is revered for being a catalyst of social change. Cesar Chavez Day is an official state holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas that is dedicated to acts of community service. Join us as we celebrate Cesar Chavez’s life works and some excellent Latino children’s literature!

Author’s Note: Club Leo en Español supports your classroom with fun and affordable books that connect children’s home language and learning. Our books include amazing series, original titles, and winners of the Pura Belpré Award, which celebrates the remarkable contributions of artists who give voice to the Latino community through children’s literature.

Club Leo en Español apoya tu salón de clases con libros divertidos y asequibles que conectan la lengua materna y el aprendizaje de los niños. Nuestra colección incluye increíbles series, títulos originales y ganadores del Premio Pura Belpré, que celebra los extraordinarios aportes de artistas que dan voz a la comunidad latina a través de la literatura infantil.

Diversity in Kid Lit was ‘On Fire’ at National Latino Children’s Literature Conference

My signed conference poster! The gorgeous artwork comes from Laura Lacamara's new book, Dalia's Wondrous Hair.

My signed conference poster! The gorgeous artwork comes from Laura Lacamara’s new book, Dalia’s Wondrous Hair.

By Lila Quintero Weaver

Let me float down to earth, grab a keyboard and pound out a report about the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference. That was my self-talk on March 15. The two-day conference, held at the University of Alabama and headed by mover-and-shaker Dr. Jamie Naidoo, had wrapped up at 4 pm the previous day.

Sixteen hours later, my whole being still felt tingly with the residual vibrations of what we’d experienced: great dialogue, stimulating talks, and warm connections with people passionate about the same thing, increasing diversity in children’s books. And it’s amazing how many presentations referenced last year’s incendiary New York Times article on minority characters in kid lit. The conference stirred my juices, but before I could touch my keyboard to write about it, Marianne Snow posted a great recap on her blog. There’s no way that I could improve on her account. 

That’s not the end of the story. Over the same weekend, The New York Times published a pair of essays from prize-winning YA author Walter Dean Myers and his son Christopher, an author-illustrator of note, on the scarcity of characters of color in children’s books. Spine tingling, timely, and powerful. Clearly, diversity in children’s books is a topic on fire!

And now, back to the conference. Since Marianne’s recap covers only the second day, here are select quotes and highlights from the first day:

NLCLC LogoLiterary agent Adriana Dominguez outlined some of the challenges facing Latin@ children’s literature: “Many editors think about Latino books as niche or institutional.” Neither of these spells the huge sales figures that the industry has become hungry for. She pointed to the Harry Potter phenomenon as a watershed moment in children’s publishing. Previously, marketing departments targeted libraries and schools, but the commercial success of Harry Potter and other blockbusters has shifted the dynamics.

Members of the audience asked how to best advocate for Latin@ children’s literature. Librarians can push these books, Dominguez said. She cited the late Rose Treviño as a personal mentor and a role model in the field of library services to children. Ms. Treviño was a beloved Houston public librarian who served the local Latin@ community and brought Latin@ books to the attention of a wider audience. Her passionate advocacy was captured in this extensive interview by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Someone else asked, would more Latinos on the “inside” of publishing help to balance the equation? Yes, Dominguez said, because “you’re a stronger advocate for something you truly believe in.” She pointed out that graduate programs in publishing are recruiting zones for the “big five.”

In her keynote, recent Pura Belpré winner Meg Medina raised the topic of universal themes, those that address the experiences of all children, regardless of demographic labels. She reminded us that “Latino” is a uniquely American concept. Many Latin@ children grapple with the additional challenges of biculturalism. She shared that in her work, she strives to present a range of Latin@ characters, a “whole tapestry,” not merely those that the public has come to expect. (In her Monday post, Meg offered a terrific conference recap of her own.)

7789203Author-illustrator Laura Lacámara gave the day’s final keynote. Her journey into publishing has taken some interesting turns. She was first an illustrator of children’s books. Then came her debut as a writer, Floating on Mama’s Song, a story inspired by her mother’s devotion to opera. But Laura didn’t illustrate it; Yuyi Morales did. Now, hot off the presses is Laura’s newest book, her first to write and illustrate, the delightful Dalia’s Wondrous Hair (see the conference poster image, above). Count on a book talk in the near future!

The variety of breakout sessions boggled the mind. Thursday, I sat in on Lettycia Terrones’s illuminating talk on image-making in Latin@ children’s literature, followed by Araceli Esparza’s “Roots of Race in Chicano/Latino Picture Books,” another enriching experience. The next day, I heard an expert presentation by Catalina Lara on the Latin@ child and language.

Social media is an excellent tool, but let’s not forget the value of face-to-face meetings. They spark connections like nothing else. Next time you hear about a conference that addresses diversity or Latin@ children’s books, consider attending.

Book Review: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

By Sujei Lugo

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Señoras y señores, put your hands together for the fantastic, spectacular, one of a kind…Niño! In a single move, he takes down his  competition! No opponent is a challenge for the cunning skills of Niño, world champion lucha libre competitor!

MY TWO CENTS: As soon as you take a glimpse of the book cover, you know that Yuyi Morales is presenting you with a treat of pint-sized lucha. The colorful and mixed-media artwork and its wrestling match layout, capture the energy and enthusiasm of the characters and lucha libre itself. Written in English with a dash of Spanish words and onomatopoeias, readers are exposed to an action-packed picture book filled with elements of Mexican and other Spanish-speaking cultures.

NiñoWrestlestheWorldCover“¡Niño! ¡Niño! ¡Niño!” It is through this chant that we are introduced to Niño, a paleta eater, toy-loving, and acrobatic boy. Once Niño puts on his luchador mask, contenders such as La Momia de Guanajuato, La Llorona and Cabeza Olmeca, line up to challenge him. With his playful lucha style, Niño challenges his opponents with puzzles, dolls, marbles, popsicles and tickles, showing how Morales playfully incorporates childhood glee into this wonderful homage to lucha libre. At the end of the story we also meet Niño’s toddler sisters, who are mischievous and loud and drive Niño crazy! This is where Yuyi Morales uses the opportunity to capture and address siblings’ relationships, while showcasing the “best move” to defeat sibling rivalry.

I could not deny that it crossed my mind that Niño Wrestles the World, plays as a homage and retelling of the legacy of Mexican lucha icon, El Santo. Like El Santo, once Niño puts on his luchador mask, he never takes it off. Like El Santo, in his movies, Niño challenges the mummy of Guanajuato, the llorona, and aliens. And you could say that when later in the book Niño joins his sisters and challenges new opponents, we are seeing a retelling of adventures where El Santo joins fellow luchadores Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras. Setting the wonderful El Santo references aside, in this picture book we have a fun and energetic story and lovable characters that will release the inner luchador or luchadora in kids and adults of all ages.

Niño Wrestles the World is the 2014 Pura Belpré Illustrator Winner and was named a highly commended title by the 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award. It was also included in a series of list such as A Fuse #8 Production 100 Magnificent Children’s Books 2013, School Library Journal Top 10 Latino-themed Books of 2013, Fanfare (Horn Book’s list of the best books for young people published in 2013), Center for the Study Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Multicultural Books of 2013 and Latinas for Latino Lit Remarkable Latino Children’s Literature of 2013.

TEACHING TIPS: While early readers and kids between the ages of 4-8 might enjoy reading this picture book, it is through the activity of reading aloud that its energy and humor really stands out. Adults and childrens’ librarians can read the book, while teaching new vocabulary and words in Spanish to kids.

Language Arts, Visual Arts, and Social Studies teachers (pre-school- 2nd grade) could also use Niño Wrestles the World with their students. The book is filled with fun onomatopoeias, adjectives and words in Spanish, which will attract students to the language learning process. Art teachers can collaborate with Language Arts teachers with the masks of the different characters of the story. Templates of different lucha masks are available on Yuyi Morales’ website, or you can be creative with your own mask!

The elements of Mexican culture exposed through Niño’s opponents, the trading-card-style information of each opponent (includes pronunciation), and Yuyi Morales’ illustrations provide the opportunity to incorporate them into Social Studies curricula. Educators should be provided with resources and materials that will serve as tools to bring multiethnic/multicultural exposure and discussion into the classroom. This is especially relevant now since Mexican American and Latin@ Studies curricula and books are constantly challenged in the U.S. public education system.


AUTHOR: Yuyi Morales is a Mexican author, illustrator, artist, and puppet maker. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Physical Education from the University of Xalapa, México and used to host her own Spanish-language radio program for children in San Francisco, California.

She has won numerous awards for her children’s books such as the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008), the Pura Belpré Author Honor for Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009), the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004), Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008), and Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor for My Abuelita (2010) and Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez (2004).

Morales divides her time between the San Francisco area and Veracruz, Mexico. Her lastest picture book Viva Frida! will be released in September 2014.

For more information about Niño Wrestles the World visit your local library or bookstore. Also check out Macmillan Publishers, Goodreads, Indiebound.org, WorldCat.org, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.  

Enjoy this video of Yuyi Morales reading Niño Wrestles the World!