You know it’s the holiday season when we’re constantly shopping for our familia’s gifts and cooking our traditional Christmas food like tamales. But how many of the little ones in our lives know why this time is so special and why we celebrate Navidad and Noche Buena? There’s no better moment than now to start teaching our kids about the history of the holidays we honor in December, not to mention how the celebrations vary widely across Latin America. Picture books can be great educational, language, and sensory tools, and help them appreciate their culture that much more.
We’ve put together this list of picture books for kids that spotlight different Christmas traditions and celebrations throughout LATAM and the U.S. Each are paired with colorful illustrations and Spanish-English text. Read on to learn more about 12 picture books by Latinx authors that you can use to teach your kids about the spirit of the Navidad and Noche Buena season.
A Piñata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora
If “Twelve Days of Christmas” is your kid’s favorite holiday song, A Piñata in a Pine Tree by award-winning author Pat Mora is a perfect read. The book tells the story of a girl receiving gifts from a secret benefactor, using the structure of the traditional carol to include a Latinx twist like Spanish vocabulary, numbers, and pronunciations. Instead of partridges, turtledoves, and gold rings, readers will see bright, colorful piñatas, burritos bailando, lunitas cantando, and more on every page. And in case they don’t know a word, there’s a helpful glossary in the back! This is great for reading together and as a stocking stuffer.
Federico and the Magi’s Gift by Beatriz Vidal
Federico and the Magi’s Gift by Beatriz Vidal tells the story of Federico, a young boy looking up at the sky on the Eve of the Epiphany, also known as the Feast of the Three Kings. In his tradition, this night means that the Three Wise Men, a.k.a. Magi, deliver gifts to children who have been good. But the trouble is he’s been naughty and now he’s worried he won’t get a gift this year. Along with seeing stunning illustrations of the night sky, readers will learn about his deepest wishes and what makes this evening different than any other throughout the year. And maybe ask for a gift from the Magi too!
Grandma’s Gift by Eric Velasquez
Travel to New York City during Christmastime with Grandma’s Gift by Eric Valasquez. This heartwarming story follows Eric and his grandmother as they get ready for Christmas, Puerto Rican style. Along the way, they’ll even visit the iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art, leading Eric to make an important discovery about himself, feel the true spirit of the season, and deepen his relationship with his grandmother through gift-giving. This is especially perfect for a grandparents to read to their grandchild, or for the whole family to enjoy.
Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano
Miracle on 133rd Street is a beautiful Latinx take on the classic Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street. In this iteration, a family tries to cook Mami’s Christmas roast but the oven is too small. Readers will follow the young narrator Jose and his father as they go from house to house throughout their neighborhood to find the perfect fit and discover the true magic, charity, and miracle of Christmas. The book is written by Puerto Rican South Bronx native actress, Sonia Manzano, who is best known for playing Maria on Sesame Street, and also created the children’s animated series, Alma’s Way.
My Little Donkey / Mi Burrito by Susie Jaramillo
For our kids with little hands, look no further than author Susie Jaramillo’s board book My Little Donkey. This sing-along-style read is based on “El Burrito Sabanero,” a popular Christmas song from Venezuela. Told in both English and Spanish and paired with hand-drawn illustrations, the book tells the story of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem from the perspective of a boy and his donkey traveling to the city. It also includes a slipcase (perfect for gifting!), accordion-style folds to fully immerse readers in the story, and interactive flap features to help little ones develop their motor skills.
The Christmas Gift / El regalo de Navidad by Francisco Jiménez
The Christmas Gift by Francisco Jiménez is another beautiful bilingual read for the kids in your life. In this simple but heartwarming story, readers will learn about a single family’s Christmas traditions and the importance of generational bonds through hand-painted illustrations and Spanish-English text. Gather the whole family together (and tissues!) to read this one.
The Storyteller’s Candle by Lucía Gonzalez
Instill your young ones with the warm spirit of the Christmas season and teach them about a historical Latina figure by reading The Storyteller’s Candle by Lucia Gonzalez. The story takes place in 1929 and follows Puerto Rican immigrant children Hildamar and Santiago as they adjust to New York City’s winter. With Three Kings’ Day coming soon and their hearts full of homesickness, they suddenly get a visit to their school class: Pura Belpré, New York City Public Library’s first Latina librarian.Through her teachings about the library, community, and language, the cousins grow to appreciate reading and learn more about what it means to leave a home and build a new one, especially during the holidays.
Las Navidades: Popular Christmas Songs from Latin America by Lulu Delacre
If you’re looking for a wider overview of Christmas celebrations in LATAM, be sure to pick up a copy of Las Navidades by Lulu Delacre, the illustrator of The Storyteller’s Candle. By reading this stunning bilingual collection, readers will learn about popular Christmas songs in various Latin American countries, and how celebrations vary throughout different regions and cultures. Fun for all ages!
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
If your kid has ever thought they could never eat too many tamales on Christmas Eve, help them think again by reading Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto. Readers will follow the journey of a young girl named Maria, who’s helping make the delicious meal for Christmas dinner in time for her cousins’ arrival. But things start to go wrong when her mom leaves the kitchen and Maria tries on her diamond ring, only for it to be lost in a batch of tamales! Told with humor, warmth, and heart, the story is guaranteed to make family laugh along as the children eat tamales in their search for the lost treasure and try to make Christmas perfect once more.
Feliz Navidad: Two Stories Celebrating Christmas by José Feliciano
We all know the classic Latin Christmas song “Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano that’s played at all our holiday functions. But how many of us have read the book written by the singer, Jose Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad? Told in both Spanish and English, the book is an illustrated version of the hit song and shows two traditional Christmas celebrations with songs, music, and food. Perfect for reading or singing along!
Pablo’s Christmas by Hugo C. Martín
Pablo’s Christmas by Hugo C. Martin follows Pablo, a young boy who lives with his family on a farm in the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico. Featuring folk art-inspired illustrations, the story follows Pablo adjusting to life without his father, who has traveled to the U.S. to save money for the new baby that’s about to be born. With his papa gone, Pablo takes on the role as the “man of the house” for the sake of his mother and sisters but is worried he won’t return in time for Christmas. Told with tenderness, grace, and just the right amount of suspense until the end, this is a timeless classic for the whole family to enjoy.
La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story by Antonio Sacre
Take a visit to the heat and humidity of the American south in Antonio Sacre’s powerful picture book La Noche Buena. The story sees Nina, a young Cuban American girl, visiting her grandmother in Miami for Christmas instead of staying home in New England. Though it takes her a bit to adjust to a new climate, Nina and her readers will learn all about her Cuban roots and Christmas traditions, meals, dances, and music during one unforgettable Noche Buena with her family.