Books About Mexico to Accompany Little Passports Kit
If you have been following this blog for awhile, then you know that I have been doing a monthly series of posts to accompany the Little Passports monthly subscription kits. As I mentioned last month, as we have progressed through the kits, we have been going into more and more detail about each country. Consequently, my posts about each country have been getting longer and longer. I finally decided that they are just too long, so I am going to start breaking them up into multiple posts. I will start with my lists of picture books about each country, so that you can reserve the books from your library ahead of time, if you want. The first country I am did this with was Australia and that post seemed really popular, so I am going to continue doing things this way. So, here is the list of picture books about Mexico that we used for our unit study about Mexico in our homeschool.
Adelita – Hace mucho tiempo—a long time ago—there lived a beautiful young woman named Adelita. So begins the age-old tale of a kindhearted young woman, her jealous stepmother, two hateful stepsisters, and a young man in search of a wife. The young man, Javier, falls madly in love with beautiful Adelita, but she disappears from his fiesta at midnight, leaving him with only one clue to her hidden identity: a beautiful rebozo—shawl. With the rebozo in place of a glass slipper, this favorite fairy tale takes a delightful twist. Tomie dePaola’s exquisite paintings, filled with the folk art of Mexico, make this a Cinderella story like no other.
Borreguita and the Coyote (Reading Rainbow Books) – What’s a little lamb to do about a fierce coyote that wants to eat her? Why, trick him, of course…and and trick him again…and trick him one more time! Here’s a lively retelling of a Mexican folk tale by master story teller Verna Aardema, illustrated in bold, winning colors by Petra Mathers.
Cinco De Mouse-O! – Que felicidad! It s Cinco de Mayo, and Mouse follows his nose to the festival, where musicians play, dancers stomp, and delicious treats abound. Then Mouse spots a pin ata and wants just one piece of candy . . . but he isn t the only one looking for a snack. Cat is planning his own fiesta with Mouse on the menu! This lively cat-and-mouse tale offers a humorous and easy introduction to the Cinco de Mayo holiday.
Clatter Bash! A Day of the Dead Celebration – At dusk on the holiday known as Day of the Dead, a Mexican family has set out fiesta offerings in the graveyard in hopes that departed loved ones may return to visit. The playful skeletons rise from their graves to celebrate with gusto. All night long, they sing, dance, dine, tell stories, and play games. As morning approaches, they give thanks to the stars for their night of fun, tidy up after themselves, and leave no trace of their “clatter bash” behind as they return to their coffins until next year’s Day of the Dead. Author-illustrator Richard Keep’s rollicking rhyme–sprinkled with Spanish words–captures the bone-rattling sounds and fun of the evening. His vivid cut-paper art is sure to raise the spirits of young readers without frightening them. A two-page illustrated afterword gives factual information about el Día de los Muertos, the reverent but fun celebration honoring relatives who have passed on, and the special rituals, images, foods, and customs associated with this joyful Mexican celebration.
The Chocolate Tree: A Mayan Folktale (On My Own Folklore) – Ever wonder where chocolate came from? We have the Mayan king Kukulk n to thank. Kukulk n is more than a king he is also a god. One day he brings his people an amazing gift: a chocolate tree! But there is just one problem. Kukulk n’s brother, Night Jaguar, doesn’t want regular people to have chocolate. He thinks only gods should eat the tempting treat. Will Night Jaguar prevail? Or will the Mayans get to keep their chocolate tree?
Cuckoo/Cucu: A Mexican Folktale/Un cuento folkl¢rico mexicano – Cuckoo is beautiful. Trouble is, she’s lazy. She never does her share of work—that is, until a field fire threatens the season’s seed crop and Cuckoo is the only one who can save it. But will she risk harming her lovely feathers by flying through the thick smoke and flames?
Day of the Dead – Above a small town in Mexico, the sun rises like a great marigold, and one family begins preparations for an annual celebration, El día de los muertos, the Day of the Dead. Soon they will go out into the night, join their neighbors, and walk to the graveyard to welcome the spirits of their loved ones home again. Framed by decorative borders and peppered with Spanish words, Day of the Dead is a glorious introduction to a fascinating celebration. A note at the end of the book provides factual information about the holiday.
The Day of the Dead / El Dia De Los Muertos – Follow two children as they celebrate their ancestors on this vibrant holiday. They offer marigolds, sugar skulls, and special bread, and make delicious foods. By spreading marigold petals, they guide the dead home to join the festivities. Finally, after singing and dancing, it’s time for bed. Bob Barner’s luscious collages incorporate the traditional symbols of Day of the Dead. His poetic text is both English and Spanish. An author’s note provides additional information on the holiday.
The Dead Family Diaz – Every skeleton in the Land of the Dead is excited to celebrate el Día de los Muertos with the Living. But not Angelito. His big sister has told him all about their horrifying bulgy eyes and squishy skin. So when Angelito is separated from his family in the Land of the Living, he’s petrified—until he makes a new friend who is just as terrified of THEM as Angelito is. Then his new buddy turns out to be (gulp!) a living boy! Angelito runs as fast as his bony feet can carry him. Fortunately the traditions of the Day of the Dead reunite the two boys, just in time for some holiday fun.
Dia de Los Muertos – It’s Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and children throughout the pueblo, or town, are getting ready to celebrate! They decorate with colored streamers, calaveras, or sugar skulls, and pan de muertos, or bread of the dead. There are altars draped in cloth and covered in marigolds and twinkling candles. Music fills the streets. Join the fun and festivities, learn about a different cultural tradition, and brush up on your Spanish vocabulary, as the town honors their dearly departed in a traditional, time-honored style.
Domítíla: A Cinderella Tale from the Mexican Tradition – Domitila is not only -sweeter than a cactus bloom in early spring, – she is also a talented cook and an amazing leather artist. Most of the classical elements of a Cinderella story can be found in Domitila. A gentle weaving of her mother’s nurturing with strong family traditions is the secret ingredient for Domitila to rise above hardship to eventually become the Governor’s bride. Moreover, with a firm belief in simplicity and realism, Domitila makes a lasting impression as a triumphant Cinderella in her humility, service, and unassuming modesty.
The Eagle and the Rainbow: Timeless Tales from Mexico – In this collection of hard-to-find Mexican folktales, brilliant, robust illustrations highlight each of the indigenous cultures of Mexico. Brave Aztec warriors, artistic Tarascans, feet endurance runners of the Tarahumaras, and many other intriguing legends bring ancient Mexico alive.
Erandi’s Braids – The yellow dress Erandi wants for her birthday will look beautiful with her long, thick braids. But Mama’s fishing net is full of holes, and there isn’t enough money to buy both a new net and a birthday dress. The only solution lies with the hair buyers from the city. But Mama’s hair isn’t nearly as beautiful as Erandi’s. Will Erandi have to choose between her birthday present and her braids? This touching tale of love and sacrifice is sprinkled throughout with Spanish words and expressions.
Fiesta Fiasco – There is another desert party in the works in this spicy companion book to Mañana, Iguana. This time it is Snake’s birthday, and Iguana, Tortoise, and Rabbit are shopping for birthday gifts to bring to his fiesta. But what presents should they buy for Snake? In a sneaky twist, Rabbit convinces them to buy gifts that aren’t for Snake at all―but for him! With a clever text, a spattering of Spanish vocabulary. and lively illustrations, this author-illustrator team presents quite the fiesta fiasco. Glossary included.
Gift For Abuelita / Un regalo para Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of the Dead/En celebracion del Dia de los Muertos – The love and rituals surrounding the Mexican folk holiday― The Day of the Dead.
I Remember Abuelito: A Day of the Dead Story / Yo Recuerdo a Abuelito: Un Cuento del Día de los Muertos – It’s the Day of the Dead! It’s time to celebrate! In this bilingual book, a young girl is busy helping her family prepare to honor those who have died–especially her grandfather. She misses him very much and is excited for his spirit to visit that night.
If You Were Me and Lived In… Mexico – The first entry in an exciting new children’s series that focuses on learning and appreciating the many cultures that make up our small planet. Perfect for children from Pre-K to age 8, this book is a groundbreaking new experience in elementary education. Interesting facts and colorful illustrations help children realize that although the world is large, people all over the globe are basically the same.
From North to South / Del Norte al Sur – Near the border, the cars began to move very slowly. Papá, go fast. I want to see Mamá, I said. José loves helping Mamá in the garden outside their home in California. But when Mamá is sent back to Mexico for not having proper papers, José and his Papá face an uncertain future. What will it be like to visit Mamá in Tijuana? When will Mamá be able to come home? Award-winning children s book author René Colato Laínez tackles the difficult and timely subject of family separation with exquisite tenderness. René is donating a portion of his royalties to El Centro Madre Assunta, a refuge for women and children who are waiting to be reunited with their families up north. Joe Cepeda s bright and engaging illustrations bring this story of hope to vivid life.
The Legend of the Poinsettia – In Mexico, the poinsettia is called flor de la Nochebuenao flower of the Holy Night. At Christmastime, the flower blooms and flourishes, the quite exquisite red stars lighting up the countryside. This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl’s unselfish gift to the Christ Child. Beloved Newbery honor-winning author and Caldecott honor-winning illustrator Tomie dePaola has embraced the legend using his own special feeling for Christmas. His glorious paintings capture not only the brilliant colors of Mexico and its art, but also the excitement of the children preparing for Christmas and the hope of Lucida, who comes to see what makes a gift truly beautiful.
The Lizard and the Sun / La Lagartija y el Sol – A long, long time ago in ancient Mexico, the sun disappeared. Everything was dark, and the people were afraid. The animals decided to search for the sun through the fields and forests, rivers and lakes. But the sun was nowhere to be found. At last the animals stopped looking – all except the lizard. This is the story of a brave little lizard who would not give up until she had brought back light and warmth to everyone.
La Llorona / The Weeping Woman – This is the ghost story to end all ghost stories and truly the most popular cuento of Hispanic America. This story of the weeping woman appears at first to be only a frightening tale filled with mysterious events which cause children to sit wide-eyed. Yet it’s the simple, universal wisdom at the core of the story that finally works its magic into their hearts.
Manana, Iguana – !Caramba! Iguana is planning a fiesta. Tortuga the tortoise, Gonejo the rabbit, and Gulebra the snake all want to come. But do they want to help Iguana deliver invitations or stuff the pinata or cook the food? No, no, and no! A lazy trio loses out in this clever update of the story of the Little Red Hen with a Mexican twist. A glossary of Spanish words is included.
The Mystery at the Maya Ruins – My, oh Maya! Mimi, Papa, Christina, and Grant really get in over “skulls” in this Mexican hat dance of a mystery set in the Yucatan Peninsula. When they go to explore ancient Maya ruins, “number” clues seem to abound! But what is someone trying to lead them to…or wary from? Snakes…human hearts…a wall of skulls…human sacrifice? How creepy can you get, the kids wonder. But in searching for clues, they encounter the wonder that is Mexico and find themselves laughing at things they never thought could be funny―all along the way!
The Night the Moon Fell: A Maya Myth – A whoosh from her grandfather’s blowgun causes Luna, the moon, to tumble from the sky and fall to pieces in the dark ocean. To save herself, she enlists the help of little fish to glue her back together. At last she rises, beautiful and round again, taking her new friends with her to create the Milky Way. Pat Mora and artist Domi have taken the traditional Mopan Maya (Belize) myth — in which the moon is a young weaver and the Milky Way a fish — and transformed it into a magical story of friendship and imagination.
Off We Go to Mexico – Swim in turquoise seas, admire grey whales and monarch butterflies, trek to native villages and sing and dance to the music of Mariachi bands. Along the way, you can learn Spanish words and phrases and discover Mexican culture. Enjoy your journey!
Opossum and the Great Firemaker – Relates the traditional Cora Indian tale in which Opossum outwits the larger and more powerful Iguana and returns the stolen fire to the people of the earth.
Our Lady of Guadalupe – One morning, while walking to an early church service, Juan Diego hears a voice calling, “Juanito! Juan Dieguito!” He comes face to face with the Virgin Mary! “I would like a shrine built on this hill”, she tells him, and she instructs him to take her wish to the bishop. Juan Diego, a lowly peasant, protests that the bishop will pay no attention to him, but the Virgin says that she will protect him. Juan Diego visits the bishop three times, but only after he brings a sign from the Virgin, a bunch of roses that are miraculously blooming in December, does the bishop relent and agree to the Virgin’s request. From then on, the image of the Virgin is imprinted on Juan Diego s rough cactus-fiber tilma, the cloak in which he carried the roses. Today, millions of pilgrims visit the shrine and pray before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Tonya Engel’s sweeping oil-and-encaustic illustrations capture 16th-century Mexican country and city landscapes with stunning clarity. An Author s Note about the origins of the legend and miracle is included.
P is for Pinata: A Mexico Alphabet – The country of Mexico has long been a popular travel destination. But there’s much more to enjoy and appreciate than just sunshine and warm temperatures when exploring this region with its ancient history and proud traditions. Enjoy an A-Z tour of our neighbor to the south in P is for Piñata: A Mexico Alphabet. Young readers can visit the tomb of a Mayan king, experience the life of the vaquero (Mexican cowboy), attend the world-famous Ballet Folklórico de Mèxico, and sample the everyday treat that was once known as the “food of the gods.” From folk art to famous people to the original “hot dog,” the treasures of Mexico are revealed in P is for Piñata. Vibrant artwork perfectly captures the flavor, texture, and spirit of its landscape and culture.
The Pot that Juan built – Quezada creates stunning pots in the traditional style of the Casas Grandes people, including using human hair to make brushes and cow dung to feed the fire. This real-life story is written in the form of “The House That Jack Built,” and relays how Juan’s pioneering work has changed a poor village into a prosperous community of world-class artists. Illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner David Diaz.
The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes – Award-winning author Duncan Tonatiuh reimagines one of Mexico’s cherished legends. Princess Izta had many wealthy suitors but dismissed them all. When a mere warrior, Popoca, promised to be true to her and stay always by her side, Izta fell in love. The emperor promised Popoca if he could defeat their enemy Jaguar Claw, then Popoca and Izta could wed. When Popoca was near to defeating Jaguar Claw, his opponent sent a messenger to Izta saying Popoca was dead. Izta fell into a deep sleep and, upon his return, even Popoca could not wake her. As promised Popoca stayed by her side. So two volcanoes were formed: Iztaccíhuatl, who continues to sleep, and Popocatépetl, who spews ash and smoke, trying to wake his love.
The Race of Toad and Deer – Pat Mora has created a poetic adaptation of the Maya version of the much-loved fable of the tortoise and the hare. The arrogant deer who boasts of his strength and speed is finally challenged to a race by the wily toad. While all the wondrous animals of the jungle – jaguar, tapir, armadillo and toucan – gathered around to watch, the toad makes a plan. He may not be as large as Venado, but he is very clever and has many friends to help him.
Rosita y Conchita – Two sisters try to find each other on the Day of the Dead, each from her own world.
The Sad Night: The Story of an Aztec Victory and a Spanish Loss – “This sensitive treatment of La Noche Triste, or The Sad Night, the last battle the Aztecs won against the Spaniards, is a highly effective melding of graceful, lucid text and stylized art. Designed to resemble Aztec codices, the illustrations appear in double-page strips above the bordered text. Beginning with the Aztec migration to Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City), the history of this people is traced through their final conquest by Cortés’s forces. . . . This title has the distinction of combining myth with historical fact in a particularly successful manner. An engaging introduction to Mexican history.”
The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote – Poor Coyote! How’d he get bonked by a rock-hard fruit underneath the jicara tree? Who tricked him into whacking a wasps’ nest with a stick? And why is he always howling at the moon? Because of Rabbit, that’s why!
– Talking Eagle and the Lady of Roses: The Story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe – This is the traditional story, told simply and elegantly, of how Juan Diego meets the beautiful Lady on a windswept hilltop in December and carries her message to the disbelieving bishop. The Lady fills Juan’s cloak with full-blooming roses and impresses her image on its fibers as a sign for the bishop to fulfill her request of building a house of prayers. The story tells of how, over many years, countless hands built the great church dedicated to the Lady of Roses, Nuestra Senora Guadalupe on the hill of Tepeyac.
‘Twas Nochebuena – It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re invited to a Nochebuena celebration! Follow a family as they prepare to host a night filled with laughter, love, and Latino tradition. Make tasty tamales and hang colorful adornos (decorations) on the walls. Gather to sing festive canciones (songs) while sipping champurrado (hot chocolate). After the midnight feast has been served and the last gifts have been unwrapped, it’s time to cheer, “Feliz Navidad and to all a good night!”
Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead – A family celebrates Día de Muertos, a holiday for remembering those who have passed. When the monarch butterflies return to her Mexican countryside, Lupita knows that Día de Muertos, “the Day of the Dead,” is near. She and her favorite uncle watch the butterflies flutter in the trees. When a butterfly lands on Lupita’s hand, her uncle reminds her that she should never hurt a monarch because they are believed to be the souls of the departed. Lupita and her family get ready for the holiday. When the first of November arrives, the family will go to the cemetery to honor the memories of their loved ones. But this year is different—Lupita’s uncle cannot join them. Now, Lupita learns the true meaning of the celebration.
Under the Lemon Moon – One night young Rosalinda wakes up to a “Wsss–shhh–snap!” outside. She slips out of bed and peers out the front door into the darkness. Way back by the lemon tree, something is moving. It’s a man stuffing lemons, her very own lemons, into a cloth sack! To make matters worse, by the end of the week her lemon tree is very sick. As she wanders through the Mexican countryside seeking tree-healing advice, she sees the mysterious Night Man at the mercado–and he is selling her beautiful limones! She summons the help of La Anciana, a wise old woman with gentle eyes, and it is finally she who provides a creative solution. That night, Rosalinda sleeps under her lemon tree, and as she slumbers, “Her tree glowed golden in the night, dripping with lemons as big and round as baby moons.” Her tree is magically cured! The next day she hands out the amazingly fat lemons, one by one, giving the very last lemon to the Night Man at the mercado. “Siembra las semillas. Plant the seeds,” she tells him as he tilts his head towards his hungry family. “For you and for them.” He agrees to do as she says, and Rosalinda’s heart is “as full as a lemon moon.”
What Can You Do with a Paleta / ¿Qué Puedes Hacer con una Paleta? – In this bilingual paperback edition, discover the joys of a paleta—the traditional Mexican popsicle treat sold from the wagon with the tinkly bell that brings children running from every direction. Create a masterpiece, make tough choices (strawberry or coconut?), or cool off on a warm summer’s day—there’s so much to do with a paleta.
La mujer que brillaba aún más que el sol / The Woman Who Outshone the Sun – Retells the Zapotec legend of Lucia Zenteno, a beautiful woman with magical powers who is exiled from a mountain village and takes its water away in punishment.
Turning Things Over to You
Did I miss any of your favorite books about Mexico? If I did, please let us know about the book in the comments below. I hope you find this list useful even if you aren’t doing the Little Passports monthly subscription kits.