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Arts & Culture

Hispanic Heritage Month book recommendations from a local librarian

Covers of various book and movie titles are shown in a graphic for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Courtesy of Katia Graham
The covers of various book and movie titles are shown in a colorful graphic for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Hispanic Heritage Month is well underway and KPBS reached out to a local librarian for book recommendations that highlight Hispanic, Latina/o/x and Chicana/o/x identities and communities.

When curating a reading list, local youth services librarian Katia Graham said she makes her picks based on what the month is all about: Justice.

San Diego youth services Katia Graham holds up the picture book, "Empanadas for Everyone" by Jackie Azúa Kramer, in an undated photo.<br/>
Katia Graham
San Diego youth services Katia Graham holds up the picture book, "Empanadas for Everyone" by Jackie Azúa Kramer, in an undated photo.

Graham is also launching the project "Librarian on the Go," a "catalyst to encourage reading and community engagement."

“For children’s books, it’s colorful illustrations. It’s stories that speak to the heart,” Graham said in an interview with Midday Edition. “Hispanic culture is so much about togetherness, family, and food, so I especially love books that reflect that.”

Her list of recommendations encompasses all genres, but especially speaks to youth and their coming-of-age experiences.

“It’s a celebration of their culture, the way their mom speaks Spanish to them, or their abuela speaks Spanish to them,” Graham said.

Many of these books can be found at city and county libraries and are available to borrow for free with a library card.



  • Empanadas for Everyone by Jackie Azúa Kramer
    "An ode to diverse communities, Kramer and Wen’s joint effort exudes compassion and generosity. Kramer overstuffs the narrative with lovely turns of phrases ... full of warm colors like soft yellows and oranges, the artwork complements Carina’s adventure ... a yum for the tum and heart." – Kirkus Reviews
  • Abuela’s Super Capa by Ana Siqueira
    “Beautiful and full of life, this picture book is an excellent choice for gently discussing the illness of a loved one as well as sharing the magical relationship between children and their grandparents. Highly recommended for picture book collections.” – School Library Journal
  • Alma and How She Got her Name/Alma y Como Obtuvo Su Nombre by Juana Martinez-Neal
    “Like artifacts, the names that parents give children often have stories to tell. Every piece of Alma’s name, she discovers, comes to her from someone in her family, and, as she and her father talk, Alma feels a new sense of connection (…) Touching on cultural themes (…) this is a tender outing for children ages 4-8.” – Wall Street Journal
  • Frida Kahlo y Sus Animalitos by Margaret Brown
    “Featuring charming visuals and lively, often lyrical prose, this picture book introduces Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, interweaving biographical details while highlighting her special relationships with pets ... Rich-hued, folk art–style illustrations incorporate evocative touches, fanciful details, and collagelike compositions.” – Booklist
  • Dreamers/Sonadores by Yuyi Morales
    “Many books about immigration describe the process of making new friends and fitting in; this one describes what it’s like to become a creative being in two languages, and to learn to love in both. ‘We are two languages./ We are lucha./ We are resilience./ We are hope.'” – Publishers Weekly
  • Imagine/Imagina by Juan Felipe Herrera
    “Castillo’s ink and foam monoprint illustrations are a tender accompaniment to Herrera’s verse, the black lines of her illustrations flowing across the page in rhythm with the author’s poetry. Together this makes for a charming read-aloud for groups or a child snuggled in a lap. A lyrical coming-of-age story in picture-book form that begs to be shared.” — Kirkus Reviews
  • Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise
    “Denise and Escobar pay tribute to the legacy of librarian Pura Belpré in this vibrant picture-book biography … Planting Stories is a glossy immigration tale of dreams coming true, and the lyrical language lends itself to being read aloud.” — ALA Booklist


  • Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros
    “Debut author Cisneros paints a vivid and palpable #ownvoices picture of the lost childhoods as children and parents are separated due to immigration issues. But even as Efrén's world seems to be crashing around him, Cisneros celebrates the kindness of the Mexican American community and its richness of food, culture, and resilient spirit. Honest and tender: a must-read.” — Kirkus Reviews
  • Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
    “The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina’s life is one many readers will relate to as she discovers that change can be hard, but it’s the ride that matters. Pura Belpré–winning author Medina cruises into readers’ hearts with this luminous middle grade novel. A winning addition to any library’s shelves.” —School Library Journal
  • Mañanaland by Pam Munoz Ryan
    “… richly layered … Ryan has created a world of enchantment that is both innately familiar and uniquely magical … (Young readers) will be drawn to the mystery and intrigue. They will appreciate the economical prose. They will relate to Max … Readers will be led into every rocky corner and wondrous ledge of Ryan's world through her vivid use of imagery, which keeps readers present on every page. She weaves so much relevant lyricism into this small, meaningful volume … Mañanaland manages to be both timely and timeless.” – The New York Times Book Review
  • They Call her Fregona: A Border Kids’ Poems by David Bowles
    “The budding poet uses different forms of poetry to narrate this tale, which educators can easily implement in a poetry unit. There is diverse representation in Güero's circle, including Afro-Dominican, Korean, and gay friends. All other characters are primarily Latinx. VERDICT This resonant middle grade title has so much heart. Purchase for every collection serving tweens.” – School Library Journal
  • Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya
    “One boy’s search for his father leads him to Puerto Rico in this moving-middle grade novel, for fans of Ghost and See You in the Cosmos.” – Penguin Random House

Young Adults

  • I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez
    “I fell in love with Erika L. Sánchez’ stunning novel. ... The depth, wit and searing intelligence of her writing, and her young Latina heroine, struck me to my core and left me wanting so much more.” – America Ferrera, Emmy award-winning actress in Ugly Betty
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
    "Tackles family secrets, toxic masculinity, and socio-economic differences with incisive clarity and candor ... Every line is laced with betrayal and longing as the teens struggle with loving someone despite his imperfections. A standing ovation." – Kirkus Reviews
  • Breathe and Count Back from Ten by Natalia Sylvester
    "Readers will be pleased to see Verónica strike the right balance of being authentic to herself while valuing relationships as a two-way street." – Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


  • Finding Latinx: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity by Paola Ramos
    "Paola Ramos explores Latinx identity and makes a case for why it is important that we as a community find a term that evolves with us as a community. She believes and demonstrates in her book how the term 'Latinx' might be the best term that captures our wide spectrum of stories and histories." – Popsugar
  • The House of the Spirits/La Casa de Los Espiritus by Isabel Allende
    “Spectacular ... an absorbing and distinguished work ... The House of the Spirits ... is a unique achievement, both personal witness and possible allegory of the past, present, and future of Latin America.” – The New York Times Book Review
  • San Manuel Bueno, Mártir by Miguel de Unamuno
    The short novel explores the internal conflict of a priest torn between doubts about faith and societal expectations.
  • Cuentos Completos/Complete Stories by Jorge Luis Borges
    “This volume compiles all of Borges’ stories, who left one of the most influential and astounding legacies in Western literature.” – Penguin Random House
  • Solito: A Memoir by Javier Zamora
    “A gripping memoir … Solito is special for many reasons, but the main one is Zamora’s voice and the energy of his vivid retelling of his journey ... And that makes it required reading.” – Gabino Iglesias, NPR
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