2016 Américas Award Winning Children’s Books

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2016 Americas Award Winning Children's Books

Earlier this week the 2016 Américas Award winning Children’s Books were announced: Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope-Pérez, along with two Honourable Mentions and other Commended Titles.

The Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult literature recognizes US published books that authentically portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or American Latinos. Books are chosen for their distinctive literary quality, cultural contextualization, integration of text and illustration, and potential for classroom use.

2016 Américas Award Winning Children’s Books


by Pam Muñoz Ryan

2016 Américas Award Winning Children's Books: Echo

Lost in a forbidden forest, four children find themselves entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica. In the early 20th century, the same harmonica lands in the lives of Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California. All three children experience the horrors of war and discrimination, and face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. The common thread of music and creativity masterfully ties the children’s stories together. Echo is a richly imagined, touching story about the turmoil in these children’s lives, and the healing and connecting powers of music. Committee member Maria Sheldon: “Muñoz Ryan’s message sings right off the pages and into students’ imaginations”.  ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Also available as an audiobook: Echo – Audio

Out of Darkness
by Ashley Hope-Pérez

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books - Out of Darkness

“This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?” Out of Darkness tells the moving story of the ill-fated love between a Mexican girl and an African American boy in 1937. Wash Fuller tries to navigate the cruel world of racial divisions, Naomi Smith is terrorized by the sexual advances of her white stepfather, and tries to protect her younger twin siblings. Set against the historical backdrop  of the catastrophic East Texas school explosion, Pérez weaves the fictional stories of the two families together in this compelling novel about segregation, family, forbidden love and destructive forces. ~ Hispanic – High School, African – High School

Honourable Mentions

Growing Up Pedro
by Matt Tavares

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: Growing Up Pedro
Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues celebrates baseball hero Pedro Martinez and his brother Ramón who supported Pedro on his way to fame. With detailed, realistic paintings and simple text, the book describes the deep connection between the two brothers, from their childhood throwing rocks at mangos or pitching against each other to giving each other strength through injury and other obstacles. ~ Hispanic – Elementary School

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras
by Duncan Tonatiuh

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: Funny Bones

Funny Bones tells the story of artist José Guadalupe Posada, famous for his skeletons in the park, skeletons wearing fancy hats, and the skeletons for Mexico’s Day of the Dead. With a stunning mix of biography and art, young readers are invited to look at the deeper meaning behind Don Lupe’s artwork: His critiques about social class, quickly changing technology, and violence during the Mexican Revolution. This unique picture book lends itself for classroom use. Includes an author’s note, glossary, and bibliography. ~ Hispanic – Elementary School

Commended Titles

Two White Rabbits
by Jairo Buitrago

2016 Américas Award Winning Children's Books: Two White Rabbits

Told from the child’s perspective, Two White Rabbits follows a little girl and her father as they travel north toward the US border. The girl counts everything she sees along the way, from animals by the road to the clouds in the sky. This poignant picture book with its expressive illustrations is a moving introduction into the struggles of immigrants on their challenging journey. ~ Hispanic – Preschool

Salsa: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem
by Jorge Argueta

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: Salsa

“I am ready with four tomatoes./ They are bongos and kettledrums./ The onion is a maraca./ Cloves of garlic are trumpets,/ and the cilantro is the orchestra conductor/ with his shaggy, green hair.” Two young siblings prepare a traditional salsa, singing and dancing all the while and imagining the ingredients as parts of an orchestra. With gorgeous Mixtec-inspired illustrations in earthy tones, Salsa is a fun cooking poem for preschoolers. ~ Hispanic – Preschool

More multicultural poetry books: 26 Multicultural Poetry Books for Children aged 0 to 10

Finding the Music / En pos de la música
by Jennifer Torres

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: Finding the Music

Reyna feels terrible when she accidentally breaks her Abuelito’s vihuela, a small guitar her late grandfather used to play in a mariachi band. As she searches for someone in her neighbourhood who can fix the instrument, Reyna gathers stories about Abuelito and his music. She eventually finds a music store whose owner can fix the vihuela and even gives her a recording of her grandfather’s music. With realistic illustrations bilingual Finding the Music tells an engaging story about family, community and the connecting power of music. ~ Hispanic – Elementary School

Maya’s Blanket / La manta de Maya
by Monica Brown

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: Maya's Blanket

To protect Maya from bad dreams, her grandmother makes her a special blanket. As Maya grows, the blanket is made into smaller and smaller items, starting with a dress and ending in a bookmark. Each of the items holds a special meaning for Maya. After losing the bookmark, she creates a book about all the items and, years later, shares it with her own daughter. Inspired by a traditional Yiddish folk song, Maya’s Blanket is a heartfelt story about family ties and creativity, complemented by colourful mixed-media illustrations.  ~ Hispanic – Elementary School

My Tata’s Remedies / Los remedios de mi tata
by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: My Tata's Remedies

Aaron is fascinated by his grandfather’s knowledge of the healing powers of plants and herbs. With compassion and gentle wisdom, Tata helps his neighbours who come to him with their ailments and injuries, from bee stings to itchy feet and eye infections. Aaron learns all about making and applying herbal remedies. My Tata’s Remedies is a warm portrayal of a loving Latino family, complemented by realistic watercolour illustrations. Includes a herbal remedies glossary. ~ Hispanic – Elementary School

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music
by Margarita Engle

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: Drum Dream Girl

Based on the life of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, Drum Dream Girl tells the story of a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo of female drumming. Little Millo dreams of pounding congas and tapping bongós, and practices in secret. She eventually becomes the first well-known female drummer in Cuba. With lyrical text and enchanting illustrations, this is an inspiring picture book about a young girl’s determination. ~ Diverse – Elementary School

For a more in-depth review of this book, go to Multicultural Book of the Month #3

More inspiring books about girls & women: 26 Multicultural Picture Books about Inspiring Women & Girls

A Handful of Stars
by Cynthia Lord

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: A Handful of Stars

A blind dog brings together two girls from very different backgrounds: When Lily’s beloved Lucky runs away in a small town in Maine, Salma, the daughter of migrant workers, helps her catch him. The girls start bonding over their love for dogs, art, and blueberry enchiladas. Together they come up with creative ideas to raise money for Lucky’s eye surgery. When Salma becomes the first migrant girl to enter the Blueberry Queen pageant, Lily’s eyes are opened to prejudice and racism of some people in her white community. A Handful of Stars is a heartfelt and powerful novel about discrimination, loss and friendship.  ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Island Treasures
by Alma Flor Ada

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: Island Treasures

Island Treasures is a collection of autobiographical stories from renowned author Alma Flor Ada, offering an moving glimpse into her childhood in Cuba. The book features Ada’s award-winning books ‘Where the Flame Trees Bloom’ and ‘Under the Royal Palms’ as well as five new stories, family photos and a Spanish/English glossary. The poignant and often humourous stories bring to live some of the important people in Ada’s life, from her blind great-grandmother with her wisdom and generosity to her brave airplane-flying Uncle Medardo, from music-loving worker Samoné  to Ada’s beloved and supportive dance teacher.  ~ Hispanic – Middle School

The Jumbies
by Tracey Baptiste

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: The Jumbies

Corinne La Mer is convinced that jumbies are just tricksters made up by parents to frighten their children. But when one night yellow eyes follw her as she chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest, she is not so sure anymore. The next day a beautiful stranger called Severin turns up at Corinne’s house with plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. In order to save her home, Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic. The Jumbies is a cheerful and hypnotic tale that draws on Caribbean folk traditions. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

The Lightning Queen
by Laura Resau

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: The Lightning Queen

When a traveling caravan arrives in Teo’s small village in the Mexican mountains in the 1950s, they bring with them the magic of cinema films. Teo meets mysterious Romani girl Esma, and feels alive again for the first time after losing his mother and sister. The caravan’s Mistress of Destiny predicts that Teo and Esma will be lifelong friends and will save each other. With the help of a rescued duck, a three-legged skunk, a blind goat, and others, they must overcome many obstacles to fulfill their destiny. The Lightning Queen tells the heart-warming story of an unlikely lifelong friendship, giving a fascinating glimpse into the cultures of the Roma and the Mixtec Indians. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

More Multicultural Middle Grade Novels: 21 Multicultural Middle Grade Novels for Summer Reading

Dream Things True
by Marie Marquardt

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: Dream Things True

Evan and Alma’s paths have crossed a few times in the fifteen years that they have lived in the same town. When Evan helps Alma stop her father’s out-of-control truck, the two teenagers fall in love, trying to ignore their different backgrounds. Evan is the nephew of a senator and seems to have it all, Alma comes from a family of undocumented Mexican immigrants. Both dream of escaping their small town in Georgia, Evan’s one-way ticket being soccer, Alma’s her academic success. Dream Things True is a compelling debut novel about love and fear, highlighting the harsh reality of undocumented immigrants. ~ Hispanic – High School

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
by Margarita Engle

2016 Américas Award winning Children's Books: Enchanted Air

Margarita is a girl between two worlds: Feeling lonely in the noisy city of Los Angeles, she longs for the idyllic island of Cuba, her mother’s home country. Her worlds collide when tensions between Cuba and the United States rise and eventually erupt at the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Will she ever be able to visit her beloved island again? Multi-award-winning Enchanted Air is Engle’s deeply personal and hauntingly beautiful memoir-in verse. ~ Hispanic – High School

*You can buy any of the books on this site from Amazon USA, CAN or UK by clicking on the book titles or covers*

Pura Belpré Award Winners 1996 – 2016

Pura Belpre Award Winners 1996 - 2016

More books with Hispanic or Hispanic American characters:

Hispanic – Babies & Toddlers

Hispanic – Preschool

Hispanic – Elementary School

Hispanic – Middle School

Hispanic – High School (YA)


12 Responses

  1. What a wonderful post! I’ve only read “Echo,” “Funny Bones,” and “Enchanted Air,” but I loved all three, and am adding several more of these to my TBR list. Thanks for your insightful descriptions of these books and for sharing with #diverkidlit!

    • Colours of Us

      Glad you find the list useful! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Marjorie (MWD)
    | Reply

    This year’s list looks particularly rich and I look forward to exploring these titles… it just takes a bit longer to get hold of them in the UK!

    • Colours of Us

      Thank you! You can buy all the books on the list from Amazon UK by clicking on the book titles.

  3. Jane
    | Reply

    What a fantastic collection of titles! We have a small Hispanic community in my city, which is dwarfed by other, much larger immigrant groups, but this just makes the need to have a well-curated, sensitive collection of diverse materials available even more important. Thank you for sharing these, I wish the Hispanic-Canadian experience was as well represented!

    • Colours of Us

      Thank you! I agree, there should be more books about Hispanic Canadians. Unfortunately I haven’t come across a single one yet.

  4. Alex Baugh
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing these with us. These books were some of the best that I read all year (so far, anyway). There are so many more wonderful diverse authors and their books than there used to be , I hope the trend keeps going and going.

  5. Thanks for featuring this great list. I’ve read a few books on it, but many are my TBR list! It was great the see the list with the book descriptions together. Made my perusing much easier!

    • Colours of Us

      Great to hear you’re finding the list useful!

  6. Gayle H Swift
    | Reply

    Thanks for gathering this collection; the more we increase our understanding of other cultures, the more we respect and value them.

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