Middle Grade Books Featuring Latine & Hispanic Main Characters

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I love sharing books that offer doors, windows, and mirrors for children to see others and themselves. Today, I want to share wonderful middle grade books for ages 8 to 12 with Latine and Hispanic main characters.

Dive into these books all year round — and feature them in your classrooms and libraries for Hispanic and Latine Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15.

Before I share the middle-grade book list, let me admit that I’m confused about the best term to describe folks from Spanish-speaking countries or with heritage from Spanish-speaking countries because it seems to depend on who you talk to. Latinx is in vogue with mostly white folks, Latine seems more popular lately with more people from Spanish-speaking counries, and many people identify as Latino or Latina. Please know that want to be respectful and to help readers find books. Comment if you want to share which you prefer.

PRINTABLE LIST

ALSO READ: Picture Books for Hispanic and Latine Heritage Month

Middle Grade Books Featuring Latine and Hispanic Main Characters


Me, Frida, and the Secret is the Peacock Ring
by Angela Cervantes
Mystery and adventure collide when Paloma visits Mexico, her deceased father’s homeland –and it becomes much more than a summer vacation. Her new Spanish tutor and his sister ask for Paloma’s help to find Frida Kahlo’s missing peacock ring. But they don’t tell her that their dad is in jail for stealing the ring! Filled with information about Kahlo and Mexican cultural richness from mariachis to paletas, this is an excellent, atmospheric middle grade mystery.

Middle Grade Books Featuring Latinx Main Characters
Star in the Forest
by Laura Resau
Zitlally’s dad has been arrested and deported back to Mexico.
As she waits anxiously for him to come back via an illegal “coyote,” she befriends a maltreated dog named Star. Her relationship with Star helps her as she waits for her dad — until the worst happens and Star disappears.

Middle Grade Books Featuring Latinx Main Characters
Esperanza Rising
by Pam Munoz Ryan
When her father dies, Esperanza and her mother flee from Mexico to the United States where they must work as migrant farmworkers. This well-written, beautiful historical fiction story will stay with you so you can remember what it’s like for undocumented immigrants and migrant workers and be inspired by the resiliency of Esperanza and her mom.


Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes
A powerful and meaningful story about family and love. Gaby loves animals and hopes to one day adopt a cat. But that’s not possible now ever since her mom was deported to Honduras and Gaby had to live with her neglectful father who doesn’t notice her, let alone remember to buy her food. But she hopes that when her mom returns, everything will be better, and she can finally adopt her favorite shelter cat.

Middle Grade Books Featuring Latinx Main Characters
Stef Soto, Taco Queen
 by Jennifer Torres
In a sweet middle grade book about figuring out who you are and taking pride in your culture, Stef Soto is feeling embarrassed by her dad’s taco truck, especially when he picks her up at school. But that changes when she learns that new city regulations could force her dad to sell the truck and get a different job. Filled with relatable middle school angst, Spanish words, Hispanic and Latine culture, friendship troubles, and a loving family, this yummy read is a savory treat.


Land of the Cranes
by Aida Salazar
Written in verse, this timely story of immigration and deportation follows 9-year-old Betita who lives in the United States but ends up in detention. When her Papi gets taken by ICE, Betita, her mom, and a neighbor make the mistake of trying to meet him at the border where they also get thrown into detention. Detention is traumatic for them, with horrible conditions and racist guards. Betita relies on her father’s story of cranes, using this overarching metaphor to talk about her clipped wings and her song. She draws and writes poetry to send to her Papi which she gives to a lawyer to pass along and tell her story. Then, her pregnant mom’s sickness forces her into the medical ward, leaving Betita alone in detention. Betita makes the best of it by teaching others how to write poetry and imagine their crane wings flying in the wild.  Ultimately, the family agrees to voluntary departure even though it’s not safe in Mexico because at least they’ll be together and not in prison. Powerful and important.

Middle Grade Books Featuring Latinx Main Characters
What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau
Mexican-American Clara Luna doesn’t know anything about her father’s Mexican heritage until she spends the summer with her grandparents in rural Mexico. There, she discovers the beauty of her grandparents’ lives and culture and grows into her own identity. This is one of my all-time favorite books and an excellent choice for teaching children to write using sensory images.

Middle Grade Books Featuring Latinx Main Characters
Return to Sender
by Julia Alvarez
When Mari’s parents are deported to Mexico, she and her sisters are stranded in the United States, desperately worried about what to do next. This is SUCH a powerful book — heartbreaking and wonderful and important — because you’ll see the human complexities of deportation policies that don’t consider children.

 


Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls
by Kaela Rivera
Cece’s town of Tierra del Sol fights against the criaturas, powerful, evil spirits that surround them in the desert, but Cece doesn’t believe the criaturas are all bad. When her sister is kidnapped, Cece decides to risk everything by becoming a forbidden bruja so she can capture a criatura and get her sister back. She’s helped by the legendary Coyote, but he’s just the first criatura who willingly helps Cece in her quest. If they work together, will she be able to rescue Juana?


Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna
by Alda P. Dobbs
Based on the true history of the author’s great-grandmother, this is a beautiful and important story of hope, resiliency, and family set in historical Mexico, 1913. Petra Luna, her Abuela, her little sister, and her baby brother flee their home when Federales burn the village. Petra’s Abuelita calls reading and writing barefoot dreams, meaning they’re not meant to go far but when they’re helped by a female rebel captain, Petra reaffirms that she can be more than her Abuelita thinks — that she can keep her promise to save her family and realize her barefoot dreams, too. Their trials culminate in a harrowing and life-threatening experience as they wait with throngs of other people trying to cross the bridge into the United States before the Federales arrive on the Mexican side. Exciting, interesting, and inspiring.


Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes
Izzy’s life is a series of houses, sadness, and secrets. When her mom unexpectedly sends Izzy to her Nana’s in New Mexico, whom she barely knows, Izzy discovers her past, present, and future. While Izzy learns to make tortillas with practice and patience, she also learns the story of her dad, her mom, and ultimately, her own story. The wisdom mixed with grief mixed with love creates a beautiful coming-of-age story.


Santiago’s Road Home
by Alexandra Diaz
Santiago is thrown out of his cruel tia’s home in rural Mexico with nowhere to go. He unexpectedly meets a kind woman and her daughter who let him join with on their journey to el Norte. Santiago is a keen survivor and helps them find a trustworthy coyote but when their group is attacked, they must find the route without the coyote’s help. The heat and lack of water almost kill them but he and his adopted little sister are rescued and taken to internment camps. This book is amazing — unflinchingly honest about the situation of illegal immigrants with a heroic main character whom you’ll love.


Beast Rider
by Tony Johnston and Maria Elena Fontanot de Rhoads
I couldn’t put this book down! It’s an eye-opening, powerful children’s chapter book about growing up, immigration, and courage. Missing his older brother, 12-year-old Manuel decides to leave his family’s farm in Mexico for the United States. He hitches a ride ON TOP of a north-bound speedy freight train and begins a long, awful, and beautiful journey.


Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
by Kelly Jones, illustrations by Katie Kath
Newly living at the farm of her deceased great-uncle Jim, Sophie writes letters to her dead abuelita, her dead great-uncle Jim, and Agnes of the Extraordinary Chickens catalog. While her parents are figuring out their new lives, Sophie figures out the farm. Specifically, the magical chickens who seem to have telekinesis, invisibility, and carnivorous chicks. Unfortunately, a neighbor chicken thief is also interested in Jim’s magical chickens, too — and Sophie must use her wits to stop her. Exceptional writing, characterization, and plot with an endearing Latina main character!


In These Magic Shoes
by Yamile Saied Mendez
A tenderhearted, beautiful story about a family, asking for help when you need it, racism, and grit. When their mom doesn’t return home from work, Minerva steps up to care for her siblings and herself. She doesn’t tell anyone that her mom’s missing so they won’t get sent to foster care or a holding center. She knows her mom would never leave them but she doesn’t know what to do. She bravely faces each day with strength but desperately wants to just be a kid again with no responsibilities — like pulling her little sister out of an abusive daycare. At school, Minerva tries out for the Peter Pan musical and speaks up against the play’s racism. At home, her sisters talk about the fairies they see just like the fairies from her mamá’s stories. Finally, Minerva contacts her mom’s estranged mother, their abuela, for help because the kids are out of food and money and desperately need help.

 

The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcarcel
Quijana’s doesn’t fit with the other Latino kids because she doesn’t speak Spanish fluently. Not only that, she knows she won’t fit in with her father’s family in Guatemala and is planning on running away instead of visiting. The only place she knows she fits is with her scientist, Florida-living grandmother but she’s worried about her grandmother’s cancer diagnosis. Meanwhile, her little brother seems to be adding more unusual behaviors besides not talking, he’s averse to lights, sounds, and touch. Heartfelt and relatable, this coming-of-age story will appeal to readers who like to read about complicated characters trying to figure out who they are.

 

Get ready for an exciting adventure filled with Hispanic mythology! This story is immediately engaging with the perfect balance of action, dialogue, & description interspersed with Spanish words and phrases. Charlie Hernández’s house burns down, his parents go missing, and he is sent to a foster home. But it’s when he grows HORNS, the WINGS, and meets the MYTHS in real life — like calacas, mukis, and El Justo Juez — that he’s really freaked out. Fortunately, a  persistent classmate Violet Rey (also his crush) helps Charlie follow the clues to find out what happened to his parents — and what it has to do with La Mano Peluda and the prophesied Morphling who is meant to save the world. Incredible writing makes this magical adventure come to life.

 

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez
An excellent, diverse, page-turning coming-of-age story, this is about a girl with divorced parents, Mexican on her mom’s side, and punk rock on her dad’s side. Malú’s unhappily forced to move to Chicago with her mother where she eventually finds her place after starting a Latin-flavored punk band. When their group doesn’t get into the talent show, they decide to play anyway. In the parking lot. (So punk!) We see Malú discover herself through life’s challenges and adventures and also learn what the first rule of punk actually is. I love how she is supported by both her parents!

 

This is National Geographic’s first fictional book series with full-color illustrations that hits the spot with an exciting mix of science, technology, adventure, and mystery. Newly accepted into the prestigious Explorer Academy for science and exploration, Cruz realizes that someone is trying to kill him; someone who doesn’t want him finding out about his mother’s mysterious research and untimely death. There’s tons of cool tech, amazing friendships, plot twists, plus an intriguing premise.

 

Middle grade books with Hispanic and Latine main characters
Marcus is an entrepreneurial kid who uses his intimidating size to make money off of other kids. He’s also very protective of his brother with Down syndrome who faces prejudice at school. When Marcus gets suspended, his mother takes them to Puerto Rico, the home country of their father who abandoned them years ago. Even though they are only meant to visit relatives, Marcus hopes to find his father and reconnect. Instead, he finds a loving, extended family, the truth about his dad, and a growing sense of his own identity. Remarkable. I loved every moment of this story with a Hispanic main character.

 

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Harbor Me is a middle grade novel that tackles some very big issues including race, immigration, bullying, learning differences, friendship, and forgiveness. The story is about six diverse children with learning differences. They bond during a special kids-only time on Friday afternoons where they share their stories, many of which Haley records on a tape recorder. Even as she learns about the other kids who are, Haley is reluctant to share that her own dad is in jail for the car accident killing her mother. When she does eventually share, it’s beautiful to see the other kids support her. This incredible story deserves to be not just read but discussed deeply as it contains a wealth of ideas to ponder. Such as what does it mean to “harbor” someone? Amazing!!

 

After a happy, hardworking life in the U.S., Guerrero’s parents are deported to Columbia, leaving Diane behind and forgotten just as she’s about to start high school. She survives by staying with different friends, moving when they don’t have space for her, trying to be invisible, and excelling in school. Her personal narrative story is an incredible journey of survival and strength and will profoundly affect readers.

 

Maximilian thinks Mexican wrestling (luchadores) are the best, especially the Guardian Angel. When his uncle takes him to see his hero wrestler, they discover that the secretive wrestler is a long lost relative!  Written with English on one side of the page and Spanish on the other, this is a cool reading experience either to practice reading in both English and Spanish or to learn Spanish.

 

 

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya
Each Tiny Spark is one of the best books about learning differences that I’ve ever read that also tackles PTSD and prejudice with a compelling Latinix main character. Emilia is a Cuban-American girl whose ADHD makes focusing on school and school work a challenge. Her mom helps her stay on top of her assignments but her mom leaves for a work trip, leaving Emilia on her own. During this time, the community proposes to redraw the school district’s boundary lines, exposing prejudice and ongoing injustice. Emilia must decide if she’ll ignore the situation or fight for justice.

 


The Way to Rio Luna
by Zoraida Cordova
In this middle grade novel with a Latine main character, Danny’s latest foster home is not good–particularly bad because he’s not with his beloved sister who’s been missing for two years. Danny mostly still believes in magic and in his sister’s promise to be waiting for him in the land of Rio Luna. On a field trip to the New York Public Library, he sees magical arrows pointing him to the original Rio Luna book of fairy tales. With the help of a new friend, Glory and Glory’s aunt, they all set off on an epic adventure to follow the magical signs that only Danny can see– to find Rio Luna and hopefully, Danny’s sister. Mysteries, magic, magical creatures, monsters, stories, and betrayal, this heart-stopping fantasy adventure will keep you up all night reading.
Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar
Based on the author’s own life experience, Ruthie’s entire body is in a cast after a terrible car accident. She’s stuck in bed for months, then more months, then over a year with no television (it’s 1960). It’s a time of hardship made easier by a vibrant, caring neighbor, a loving school tutor, and a determined physical therapist. Overall, Ruthie feels gratitude that she didn’t die, even on her hardest days but it’s a challenging time, to say the least, one that I personally connected to because of a daughter with a long-term illness.

Middle Grade Books Featuring Latinx Main Characters
A Handful of Stars
by Cynthia Lord
Is it possible for the Latine main character, the daughter of a migrant farmworker, to be friends with a white town girl? And what about entering the local blueberry queen contest? Lord thoughtfully explores the topic of immigration and migrant workers in this middle grade book with a Latine and Hispanic main character.

 

Good Chapter Books with Latinx Main Characters
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Picture Books for Hispanic and Latine Heritage Month

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    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

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