12 Picture Books Celebrating Afro-Latinidad by Afro-Latinx Writers

From 'Pelo Bueno' to 'Me & Mama,' here are 12 Afro-Latinx picture books to read for BHM

Afro-Latinx picture books

Photos: Imprint; Denene Millner Books; HarperCollins

Black History Month is in full swing and we’re excited to spend the month celebrating Black thinkers, changemakers, and leaders throughout history and in present day. One way to honor BHM is to read Black authors, especially in the Latinx community and those writing for children. The number of Afro-Latinx picture books being published every year remains low, which is why it’s so important to read and support their creative work this month and every month. Latinx literature doesn’t often include the diversity within Latinidad but Black stories are also a part of the cultura and Afro-Latinx authors are working to amplify those stories. Of the 3,450 books published in 2022 that were received by The Cooperative Children’s Book Center, 11 percent were by a Latinx author, illustrator, or compiler and 13 percent were Black but there’s no data specific to Afro-Latina writers. This is not an exhaustive list but is a good starting place as you put together your TBR list for Black History Month specifically for children’s literature centering Afro-Latinx writers and stories. Read on to learn more about 12 Afro-Latinx picture books to read to your children and little ones in your lives this BHM and all year round.

Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: Holiday House

Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez follows Ramsey, a young boy watching Grandma make her famous octopus stew. But as she cooks, the octopus begins to grow to gigantic proportions! Before they know it, the octopus has trapped her and Ramsey must use his artistic skills and his intellect to free his beloved abuela. Featuring gorgeous illustrations, this is a beautiful celebration of creativity, heroism, family, grandmothers, grandsons, Puerto Rican food, and Latinx culture. Available in both English and Spanish, it even features the real Velasquez family recipe for octopus stew.

Pelo Bueno by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: EDP University Of Press

Pelo Bueno/Good Hair by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro and illustrated by Brittany Gordón Pabón offers a profound message about hair and self-love. Told from the perspective of Grandma Petronila, the book celebrates her family stories, provides lessons about how to take care of her natural hair, and highlights Afro-Boricua culture. One of the most powerful lines in the book is: “Your hair does not behave wrongfully, does not lie, does not offend, does not humiliate, does not mock. That is why your hair cannot be bad. Your hair has done nothing wrong.”

Plátanos Go With Everything by Lissette Norman

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: HarperCollins

Plátanos Go With Everything by Lissette Norman tells the story of Yesenia, a Dominican girl whose favorite food is plátanos because of their versatility as a sweet or savory treat. Over the course of the story, she explains all the different ways she eats them with her family’s Dominican meals and why it’s the beating heart of her local community. With English and Spanish text, this is perfectly designed for bilingual and ESL readers.

The Bronx Is My Home by Alyssa Reynoso-Morris

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: Christy Ottaviano Books

The Bronx Is My Home by Alyssa Reynoso-Morris is a beautiful love letter to the Bronx that appeals to all readers regardless of their zip code. Through the eyes of Santiago, readers will be introduced to the beautiful sights, history, landscape, cuisines, cultures, and activities of the people who live there. From Pelham Bay to the Bronx Equestrian Center, Siwanoy Trail to Arthur Avenue, Santiago and his Mami take readers on a dynamic Saturday tour of food, bodegas, businesses, and community.  

If Dominican Were a Color by Sili Recio

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: Denene Millner Books

If Dominican Were a Color is Sili Recio’s debut picture book that celebrates Dominican culture through the landscapes, people, and food of the Dominican Republic. From the amarillo color of maiz to the cocoa and mahogany of people’s skin, this is an evocative, descriptive rhyming book about the beauty of people, community, joy, and love.

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: Puffin Books

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers is a powerful biographic picture book about the Queen of Salsa herself, Celia Cruz. Readers will be able to follow the extraordinary journey of her life: her childhood in Havana, her rise to stardom, and her immigration from Cuba to the U.S. where she would go on to become a global icon. Readers will also learn about her passion for education, how she was a classically trained musician, and her love for her country despite her complicated relationship with it. You’ll also want to check out the audiobook version, which is narrated and sung by salsa and jazz singer Michelle Manzo, accompanied by renowned salsa musicians.

Isabella’s Hair and How She Learned To Love It by Marshalla Soriano Ramos

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Isabella’s Hair and How She Learned to Love It by Marshalla Soriano Ramos follows Isabella, a young Afro-Boricua girl living in Carolina, Puerto Rico. At the beginning of the book, she struggles to love her natural hair, both in its texture and its color. But over the course of the story, it’s her grandmother who shows her how to accept and celebrate her unique beauty, and transform her whole community along the way.

Me & Mama by Cozbi Cabrera

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: Denene Millner Books

Me & Mama by Cozbi Cabrera is a wonderful story to be read between mothers and daughters and all the little ones in your life. While the narrator’s father and brother are asleep, she decides that she wants to spend the day with her mama on a rainy day appreciating the little moments in life that are so easily overlooked. The book’s tender and sweet moments between mother and daughter emphasize the important of familia and family bonds. Upon publication it was named a Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: Lantana Publishing

Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona centers on Anita, a young girl living in a village in the Dominican Republic. One day, she watches dragons high above her as she hops across all the cement roofs in her neighborhood, but is determined to be valiant and brave enough to embark on new adventures. Tenderly written, this is a beautiful story about the fear, excitement, sorrow, and bravery immigrants may experience when leaving their home countries to start fresh in a new country.

Freedom Soup by Tami Charles

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: Candlewick

Freedom Soup by Tami Charles is a celebration of Haitian dances, culture, and food. Told from the point of view of a young girl named Belle, readers will be encouraged to dance and clap along as her Ti Gran teaches Belle how to make the special and traditional Freedom Soup, originally created during the Haitian Revolution, as part of the holiday feast. Along the way, Belle learns the history of the soup, their family, Haiti where they’re from, and all the traditions that have been passed throughout the generations.

The Afro-Latino Alphabet by Keaira Faña-Ruiz 

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: Keaira Faña-Ruiz

The Afro-Latino Alphabet by Keaira Faña-Ruiz is a great way for readers to learn their Spanish ABCs. Written in both English and Spanish, the book pays homage to all the Afro-Latin cultures of Latin America, as well as their history, changemakers, and diversity through all the different letters of the alphabet. Perfect for a read-aloud and family storytimes to practice literacy and learn more about this history that is often overlooked or rarely told.

Stella’s Stellar Hair by Yesenia Moises

Afro-Latinx picture books
Photo: Imprint

Stella’s Stellar Hair by Yesenia Moises tells the out-of-this-world story of Stella, whose hair just isn’t acting right. At a loss for what to do, Stella decides to hop on her hoverboard and visit her aunties living all across the solar system to find the perfect hairdo. Not only will readers learn more about space and planets but they’ll also get to see a diversity of hairstyles from across the African diaspora. Celebrating hair, family, self-love, and empowerment, the book also provides more information about each style and how to take care of Black girl hair.

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