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Children's Books--Content Area Themes and Topics

Author Spotlight

Julia Alvarez

"Born in New York City in 1950, Julia Alvarez's parents returned to their native country, Dominican Republic, shortly after her birth.  Ten years later, the family was forced to flee to the United States because of her father’s involvement in a plot to overthrow the dictator, Trujillo.

Alvarez has written novels (How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, In the Time of the Butterflies, ¡Yo!, In the Name of Salomé, Saving the World, Afterlife), collections of poems (Homecoming, The Other Side/ El Otro Lado, The Woman I Kept to Myself), nonfiction (Something to Declare, Once Upon A Quinceañera, and A Wedding in Haiti), and numerous books for young readers (including the Tía Lola Stories series, Before We Were Free, finding miracles, Return to Sender and Where Do They Go?). 

Alvarez’s awards include the Pura Belpré and Américas Awards for her books for young readers, the Hispanic Heritage Award, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award.  In 2013, she received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama."


Photo by: NY Times

The Secret Footprints

"The ciguapas are a secret tribe who live underwater "in cool blue caves hung with seashells and seaweed" and venture onto land only at night because they are so afraid of humans. Their unusual anatomy helps preserve their hidden existence-their feet are on backward, so that "when they walked on land, they left footprints going in the opposite directions." But Guapa, an especially beautiful ciguapa, does not fear humans, even after the ciguapa queen warns her that if they capture her, people "will force you to take baths and do laundry and wash your hands before meals." Guapa's curiosity nonetheless drives her to surface from the sea one bright day, whereupon an encounter with a kind boy and his family threatens to ruin the ciguapas' secret." --Publishers Weekly

Review Citation and Link: THE SECRET FOOTPRINTS (Book Review). (2000). Publishers Weekly, 247(33), 354.

Intended Grade:  PK-2

How Tia Lola Ended up Starting Over

"The new school year is underway, as the action picks up shortly after the end of How Tia Lola Saved the Summer (2011). Victor Espada and his daughters, Victoria, Essie and Cari, have now moved to Vermont, where they share a large house with the crotchety but lovable Colonel Charlebois." -- Kirkus Reviews

Review Citation and Link: How Tía Lola Ended up Starting over. (2011). Kirkus Reviews, 79(15), 1342.

Intended Grade: 1-8

El Mejor Regalo Del Mundo

"This bilingual picture book is an original story about the Dominican folk character who delivers toys to poor children in the Dominican Republic the week after Three Kings Day." -- School Library Journal

Review Citation and Link: Hickman, R. (2009). El mejor regalo del mundo: La leyenda de La Vieja Belén/The Best Gift of All: The Legend of La Vieja Belén. School Library Journal, 55(8), 94.

Intended Grade: 1-8

Return to Sender

"After Tyler's father's accident, his family hires undocumented Mexican workers in a last-ditch effort to keep their Vermont farm. Despite his reservations, Tyler soon bonds with a worker's daughter, who is in his sixth-grade class. His problems seem small compared to Marl's: her family fears deportation, and her mother has been missing since re-entering the States months ago." --Publishers Weekly

Review Citation and Link: Return to Sender. (2008). Publishers Weekly, 255(45), 50–51.

Intended Grade:  4-8

Awards: Pura Belpré Award

How Tia Lola Learned to Teach

"This sequel to How Tia Lola Came to Visit/Stay (Knopf, 2001) continues the story of the Guzman family: 8-year-old Juanita, 10-year-old Miguel, and irrepressible Tia Lola. The new school year has begun and the children's aunt has been invited to teach Spanish a few days a week, a prospect that first alarms her since she never finished school when she was growing up in the Dominican Republic." --School Library Journal

Review Citation and Link: Dorio, T. (2010). How Tía Lola Learned to Teach. School Library Journal, 56(11), 100.

Intended Grade:  4-8

A Gift of Gracias

"After the failure of her father's olive crop, María fears that her family will have to leave their farm in the New World. Then one night, inspiration comes when she dreams of planting the seeds from the oranges that came from her parents' homeland of Valencia, Spain."--School Library Journal

Review Citation and Link: O’Donnell, D. L. (2005). A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia. School Library Journal, 51(11), 82.

Intended Grade:  K-3

Illustrator Spotlight

Rafael Lopez

"Rafael López is an internationally recognized illustrator and artist. His illustrations bring diverse characters to children’s books and he is driven to produce and promote books that reflect and honor the lives of all young people. Born and raised in Mexico City to architect parents, López was immersed in the rich visual heritage, music and surrealism of his native culture."

Author Website:

Maybe Something Beautiful

"In a neighborhood full of gray, young Mira shares her colorful art (and heart) with the world beyond her window. First Mira gives a painting of an apple to Mr. Henry, the shop owner. She then offers a songbird to Mr. Sax and a deep red heart to the local beat cop. Still, her art project hits its limit. "Her city was less gray--but not much." Soon a mysterious artist approaches Mira, offering a boost." --Kirkus Reviews

Review Citation and Link: MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL How Art Transformed a Neighborhood. (2016). Kirkus Reviews, 84(3), 91.

The Day You Begin

"A beautiful and inclusive story that encourages children to find the beauty in their own lives and share it with the world. A young girl with brown skin and curly black hair stays home through the summer to watch over her younger sister while her classmates travel to distant lands." --School Library Journal

Review Citation and Link: Hottle, L. (2018). The Day You Begin. School Library Journal, 64(8), 55.

Just Ask!

"Drawing on her experiences as a child with juvenile diabetes, the Supreme Court justice addresses kids' curiosity about disability and illness. "Each of us grows in our own way," says Sonia, a Latina child based on the author, as she and her friends plant a garden. Just as each plant has a "different color, different shape, and different purpose," kids are "all different too." Encouraging curious readers to "JUST ASK,"" --Kirkus Reviews

Review Citation and Link: JUST ASK!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You. (2019). Kirkus Reviews, 87(15), N.PAG.

Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico!

"This concept book serves as a delicious introduction to 14 types of food, all of which have their origins in the Americas. Snippets of information and a haiku poem accompany each one, ranging from blueberry and chili pepper through papaya, prickly pear, and vanilla." --School Library Journal

Review Citation and Link: Taniguchi, M. (2007). Yum! MmMm! Qué rico!: Americas’ Sproutings. School Library Journal, 53(9), 185.

Book Fiesta! Celebrate Children's Day / Book Day

"A happy assortment of multicultural children, adults and friendly critters celebrate books and reading in recognition of El d"a de los ni-os/El d"a de los libros. Joyful and vibrant scenes convey the theme of the universal pleasures of reading every day and everywhere--under trees and in boats, on trains and planes, in the car and at the library." --Kirkus Reviews

Review Citation and Link: Book Fiesta! (2009). Kirkus Reviews, 77(3), 147.

Bravo! (Bilingual Board Book - Spanish Edition)

"Eighteen Hispanic individuals from diverse professional and personal backgrounds are honored in Engle's plainspoken freeverse poems, written from each person's perspective." --Publishers Weekly

Review Citation and Link: Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics. (2017). Publishers Weekly, 264(3), 61.

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