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 (Latino/Latina) main characters.
Middle Grade Books Featuring Latine/o/a 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 mystery.
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.
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 farm workers. This well-written, beautiful story will stay with you so you can remember what it’s like for undocumented immigrants and migrant workers and be inspired at 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.
Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
In a sweet story 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, Latinx culture, friendship troubles, and a loving family, this yummy read is a savory treat.
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.
A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord
Is it possible for the Latinx daughter of a migrant farmworker to be friends with a town girl? And what about entering the local blueberry queen contest? Lord thoughtfully explores the topic of immigration and migrant workers .
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 blanket 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?
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!
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 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, diverse characters trying to figure out who they are.
Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo
Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit
Maximilian: The Mystery of the Guardia Angel by Xavier Garza
The Way to Rio Luna by Zoraida Cordova
Danny’s latest foster home is not good, even worse without his beloved sister who’s been missing for two years. Danny mostly still believes in magic and 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.
Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs
15- year old Victor wants to help his family in Mexico by working in the United States. But first, he must survive the dangerous immigration journey to get there.