I’ve been planning this list of best Latino middle-grade and chapter books for a while now. I enjoy Latin American culture and literature, especially where middle-grade is concerned. In this list, I’ve tried to include chapter books and middle-grade books by Latino authors. I’ve read several books on this list and many of these authors have other books which I may not have mentioned on this list, but hopefully you can follow the breadcrumbs.
Click on the book’s cover to head over to the book’s Amazon page. I’ve marked Kindle Unlimited titles with an asterisk(*), and indicated when a book is part of a series.
Chapter Books by Latino Authors (Recommended for Ages 6-9)
My Family Adventure* (Sofia Martinez Series)
Published: February 1, 2015
Little Sofia Martinez has a big personality and big plans, which makes every day memorable. Between her sisters and cousins, her family is the focus of her many adventures. From taking school pictures to doing chores, this 7-year-old knows how to make every moment count. Sofia loves her family and loves her life. What could be better?
Freddie Ramos Takes Off (Zapato Power Series)
Published: March 1, 2010
One day Freddie Ramos comes home from school and finds a strange box just for him. What’s inside? ZAPATO POWER-shoes that change Freddie’s life by giving him super speed! But what will Freddie do with his fast new skills? Weird things are happening at the Starwood Park Apartments where he lives, and his friends at school need his help. Is Freddie Ramos ready to be a hero? In this imaginative new story by Jacqueline Jules, an ordinary boy in a city neighborhood learns how to use his new-found powers for good. Illustrations by Miguel Benitez lend just a touch of comic-book style to this chapter book adventure.
Juana and Lucas (Series)
Fans of Judy Moody and Clarice Bean will love Juana, the spunky young Colombian girl who stars in this playful, abundantly illustrated series. Juana loves many things: drawing, living in Bogotá, Colombia, and especially her dog, Lucas, the best amigo ever. She does not love wearing her itchy school uniform, solving math problems, or learning the English. Why is it so important to learn a language that makes so little sense? Hilarious, energetic, and utterly relatable, Juana will win over los corazones (the hearts)of readers everywhere.
Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome (Series)
Published: September 11, 2018
Sarai Gonzalez is AWESOME.
Fourth grader Sarai Gonzalez can do anything. She can bake, dance, and run her own cupcake business. But when Sarai’s grandparents are forced to move, even Sarai’s not sure what to do. So she hatches a super-awesome plan with her younger sisters and cousin to buy back the house. But houses are more expensive than she ever thought, her sisters won’t listen, and she’s running out of time. Will Sarai find a way to save the day?
Inspired by the life of viral video sensation and social activist Sarai Gonzalez with the help of award-winning children’s book author Monica Brown.
Lola Levine Is Not Mean (Series)
Published: November 3, 2015
Lola Levine likes writing in her diario, sipping her mom’s cafe con leche, eating her dad’s matzo ball soup, and playing soccer with her team, the Orange Smoothies. So what if she doesn’t always fit in?
Lola is fierce on the field, but when a soccer game during recess gets too competitive, she accidentally hurts her classmate Juan Gomez. Now everyone is calling her Mean Lola Levine! Lola feels terrible, but with the help of her family, her super best friend, Josh Blot, and a little “pencil power,” she just might be able to turn it all around.
In this first book in a series, young readers will be inspired by Lola’s big heart and creative spirit as she learns to navigate the second grade in true Lola style!
Related: More Chapter Books for Beginning Readers
Best Latino Middle-Grade Books (by Latino Authors, with Latino Protagonists)
Published: August 29, 2017
Edver isn’t happy about being shipped off to Cuba to visit the father he barely knows. Why would he want to visit a place that no one in Miami ever mentions without a sigh? Yet now that travel laws have changed and it’s a lot easier for divided families to be reunited, his mom thinks it’s time for some father-son bonding.
Edver doesn’t know what this summer has in store, but he’s definitely expecting to meet a sister he didn’t know existed! Luza is a year older and excited to see her little brother, until she realizes how different their lives have been. Looking for anything they might have in common, they sneak onto the internet—and accidentally catch the interest of a dangerous wildlife poacher. Edver has fought plenty of villains in video games. Now, to save the Cuban jungle they love, he and Luza are going to have to find a way to conquer a real villain!
How to Make Friends with the Sea
Published: March 31, 2020
Pablo is homesick.
He’s only twelve years old, but he’s lived in more countries than he can count. After his parents divorced, he and his mother have moved from place to place for years, never settling anywhere long enough to call it home. And along the way, Pablo has collected more and more fears: of dirt, of germs, and most of all, of the ocean.
Now they’re living in the Philippines, and his mother, a zoologist who works at a local wildlife refuge, is too busy saving animals to notice that Pablo might need saving, too. Then his mother takes in Chiqui, an orphaned girl with a cleft lip―and Pablo finds that through being strong for Chiqui, his own fears don’t seem so scary.
He might even find the courage to face his biggest fear of all…and learn how to make friends with the sea.
Related: More Middle-Grade Books About Anxiety
Published: March 31, 2020
Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman—or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger siblings Max and Mía feel safe and loved.
But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. His worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.
Now more than ever, Efrén must channel his inner Soperboy to help take care of and try to reunite his family.
Stella Díaz has Something to Say (Series)
Published: January 16, 2018
Stella Diaz loves marine animals, especially her betta fish, Pancho. But Stella Diaz is not a betta fish. Betta fish like to be alone, while Stella loves spending time with her mom and brother and her best friend Jenny. Trouble is, Jenny is in another class this year, and Stella feels very lonely.
When a new boy arrives in Stella’s class, she really wants to be his friend, but sometimes Stella accidentally speaks Spanish instead of English and pronounces words wrong, which makes her turn roja. Plus, she has to speak in front of her whole class for a big presentation at school! But she better get over her fears soon, because Stella Díaz has something to say!
Stella Díaz Has Something to Say introduces an infectiously charming new character with relatable writing and adorable black-and-white art throughout. Simple Spanish vocabulary is also integrated within the text, providing a bilingual element.
The First Rule of Punk
Published: August 22, 2017
There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school—you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malú (María Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.
The real Malú loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malú finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!
Lucky Broken Girl
Published: April 11, 2017
In this unforgettable multicultural coming-of-age narrative—based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s—a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. Ruthie’s plight will intrigue readers, and her powerful story of strength and resilience, full of color, light, and poignancy, will stay with them for a long time.
Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English—and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen—a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger and she comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
Published: May 16, 2017
Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?
For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of José Martí.
Funny and poignant, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is the vibrant story of a family, a striking portrait of a town, and one boy’s quest to save both, perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia.
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe
Published: March 5, 2019
What would you do if you had the power to reach through time and space and retrieve anything you want, including your mother, who is no longer living (in this universe, anyway)?
When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared.
Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken–including his dead mother–and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk.
A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.
The Other Half of Happy
Published: August 20, 2019
One-half Guatemalan, one-half American: When Quijana’s Guatemalan cousins move to town, her dad seems ashamed that she doesn’t know more about her family’s heritage.
One-half crush, one-half buddy: When Quijana meets Zuri and Jayden, she knows she’s found true friends. But she can’t help the growing feelings she has for Jayden.
One-half kid, one-half grown-up: Quijana spends her nights Skyping with her ailing grandma and trying to figure out what’s going on with her increasingly hard-to-reach brother.
Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
Published: August 21, 2018
Marcus Vega is six feet tall, 180 pounds, and the owner of a premature mustache. When you look like this and you’re only in the eighth grade, you’re both a threat and a target.
After a fight at school leaves Marcus facing suspension, Marcus’s mom decides it’s time for a change of environment. She takes Marcus and his younger brother to Puerto Rico to spend a week with relatives they don’t remember or have never met. But Marcus can’t focus knowing that his father–who walked out of their lives ten years ago–is somewhere on the island.
So begins Marcus’s incredible journey, a series of misadventures that take him all over Puerto Rico in search of his elusive namesake. Marcus doesn’t know if he’ll ever find his father, but what he ultimately discovers changes his life. And he even learns a bit of Spanish along the way.
Each Tiny Spark
Published: August 6, 2019
Emilia Torres has a wandering mind. It’s hard for her to follow along at school, and sometimes she forgets to do what her mom or abuela asks. But she remembers what matters: a time when her family was whole and home made sense. When Dad returns from deployment, Emilia expects that her life will get back to normal. Instead, it unravels.
Dad shuts himself in the back stall of their family’s auto shop to work on an old car. Emilia peeks in on him daily, mesmerized by his welder. One day, Dad calls Emilia over. Then, he teaches her how to weld. And over time, flickers of her old dad reappear.
But as Emilia finds a way to repair the relationship with her father at home, her community ruptures with some of her classmates, like her best friend, Gus, at the center of the conflict.
Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya is a tender story about asking big questions and being brave enough to reckon with the answers.
Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers
Published: September 3, 2019
When three very different girls find a mysterious invitation to a lavish mansion, the promise of adventure and mischief is too intriguing to pass up. Ofelia Castillo (a budding journalist), Aster Douglas (a bookish foodie), and Cat Garcia (a rule-abiding birdwatcher) meet the kid behind the invite, Lane DiSanti, and it isn’t love at first sight. But they soon bond over a shared mission to get the Floras, their local Scouts, to ditch an outdated tradition. In their quest for justice, independence, and an unforgettable summer, the girls form their own troop and find something they didn’t know they needed: sisterhood.
The Moon Within
Published: February 26, 2019
Celi Rivera’s life swirls with questions.
About her changing body.
Her first attraction to a boy.
But most of all, her mother’s insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It’s an ancestral Mexican ritual that Mima and her community have reclaimed, but Celi promises she will NOT be participating. Can she find the power within herself to take a stand for who she wants to be?
A dazzling story told with the sensitivity, humor, and brilliant verse of debut talent Aida Salazar.
Ana María Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle
Published: October 2, 2018
Her last name may mean kings, but Ana María Reyes REALLY does not live in a castle. Rather, she’s stuck in a tiny apartment with two parents (way too lovey-dovey), three sisters (way too dramatic), everyone’s friends (way too often), and a piano (which she never gets to practice). And when her parents announce a new baby is coming, that means they’ll have even less time for Ana María.
Then she hears about the Eleanor School, New York City’s best private academy. If Ana María can win a scholarship, she’ll be able to get out of her Washington Heights neighborhood school and achieve the education she’s longed for. To stand out, she’ll need to nail her piano piece at the upcoming city showcase, which means she has to practice through her sisters’ hijinks, the neighbors’ visits, a family trip to the Dominican Republic . . . right up until the baby’s birth! But some new friends and honest conversations help her figure out what truly matters, and know that she can succeed no matter what. Ana María Reyes may not be royal, but she’s certain to come out on top.
Stef Soto, Taco Queen
Published: January 17, 2017
Estefania “Stef” Soto is itching to shake off the onion-and-cilantro embrace of Tia Perla, her family’s taco truck. She wants nothing more than for Papi to get a normal job and for Tia Perla to be a distant memory. Then maybe everyone at school will stop seeing her as the Taco Queen.
But when her family’s livelihood is threatened, and it looks like her wish will finally come true, Stef surprises everyone (including herself) by becoming the truck’s unlikely champion. In this fun and heartfelt novel, Stef will discover what matters most and ultimately embrace an identity that even includes old Tia Perla.
Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Published: September 11, 2018
Merci Suárez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, as strong and thoughtful as Merci is, she has never been completely like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. And Merci is left to her own worries, because no one in her family will tell her what’s going on. Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal, this coming-of-age tale by New York Times best-selling author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.
Lupe Wong Won’t Dance
Published: September 8, 2020
Don’t you want to read a book that starts like that??
Lupe Wong is going to be the first female pitcher in the Major Leagues.
She’s also championed causes her whole young life. Some worthy…like expanding the options for race on school tests beyond just a few bubbles. And some not so much…like complaining to the BBC about the length between Doctor Who seasons.
Lupe needs an A in all her classes in order to meet her favorite pitcher, Fu Li Hernandez, who’s Chinacan/Mexinese just like her. So when the horror that is square dancing rears its head in gym? Obviously she’s not gonna let that slide.
Not since Millicent Min, Girl Genius has a debut novel introduced a character so memorably, with such humor and emotional insight. Even square dancing fans will agree…
Related: More Middle-Grade Sports Books
The Fresh New Face of Griselda
Published: August 27, 2019
Griselda “Geez” Zaragoza has a love for beautiful things, like her collection of vintage teacups and the flower garden she and her dad planted in the front yard. But when his business fails, Griselda loses not just her home, but also her confidence and her trust in her unflappable parents.
Tagging along with big sister Maribel, who postponed college for a job selling Alma Cosmetics, Geez dreams up a way to reclaim the life she thinks she lost. If she can sell enough tubes of glistening, glittery Alma lip gloss, she’ll win a cash prize that could help jump start her dad’s business.
With ups and downs along the way, Geez will discover that beauty isn’t just lost or found, but made and re-made.
The Tequila Worm
Published: December 18, 2007
Sofia comes from a family of storytellers. Here are her tales of growing up in the barrio, full of the magic and mystery of family traditions: making Easter cascarones, celebrating el Dia de los Muertos, preparing for quincea–era, rejoicing in the Christmas nacimiento, and curing homesickness by eating the tequila worm. When Sofia is singled out to receive a scholarship to an elite boarding school, she longs to explore life beyond the barrio, even though it means leaving her family to navigate a strange world of rich, privileged kids. It’s a different mundo, but one where Sofia’s traditions take on new meaning and illuminate her path.
Published: July 12, 2011
Mexico may be her parents’ home, but it’s certainly not Margie’s. She has finally convinced the other kids at school she is one-hundred percent American—just like them. But when her Mexican cousin Lupe visits, the image she’s created for herself crumbles.
Things aren’t easy for Lupe, either. Mexico hadn’t felt like home since her father went North to find work. Lupe’s hope of seeing him in the United States comforts her some, but learning a new language in a new school is tough. Lupe, as much as Margie, is in need of a friend.
Little by little, the girls’ individual steps find the rhythm of one shared dance, and they learn what “home” really means. In the tradition of My Name is Maria Isabel—and simultaneously published in English and in Spanish—Alma Flor Ada and her son Gabriel M. Zubizarreta offer an honest story of family, friendship, and the classic immigrant experience: becoming part of something new, while straying true to who you are.
Published: October 1, 2000
Esperanza thought she’d always live a privileged life on her family’s ranch in Mexico. She’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home filled with servants, and Mama, Papa, and Abuelita to care for her. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard work, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances-because Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.
Related: More Middle-Grade Historical Fiction
Lety Out Loud
Published: February 26, 2019
Can Lety find her voice before it’s too late?
Lety Muñoz’s first language is Spanish, and she likes to take her time putting her words together. She loves volunteering at the animal shelter because the dogs and cats there don’t care if she can’t always find the right words. When the shelter needs a volunteer to write animal profiles, Lety jumps at the chance.
But classmate Hunter also wants to write profiles-so he devises a competition to determine the official shelter scribe. Whoever gets their animals adopted the fastest wins. Lety agrees, but she’s worried that if the shelter finds out about the contest, they’ll kick her out of the volunteer program. Then she’ll never be able to adopt Spike, her favorite dog at the shelter!
The Long Ride
Published: September 24, 2019
Jamila Clarke. Josie Rivera. Francesca George. Three mixed-race girls, close friends whose immigrant parents worked hard to settle their families in a neighborhood with the best schools. The three girls are outsiders there, but they have each other.
Now, at the start seventh grade, they are told they will be part of an experiment, taking a long bus ride to a brand-new school built to “mix up the black and white kids.” Their parents don’t want them to be experiments. Francesca’s send her to a private school, leaving Jamila and Josie to take the bus ride without her.
While Francesca is testing her limits, Josie and Jamila find themselves outsiders again at the new school. As the year goes on, the Spanish girls welcome Josie, while Jamila develops a tender friendship with a boy–but it’s a relationship that can exist only at school.
Related: More Upper Middle-Grade Books (for Older Tweens)
My Name Is Maria Isabel
Published: April 30, 1993
For María Isabel Salazar López, the hardest thing about being the new girl in school is that the teacher doesn’t call her by her real name. “We already have two Marías in this class,” says her teacher. “Why don’t we call you Mary instead?”
But María Isabel has been named for her Papá’s mother and for Chabela, her beloved Puerto Rican grandmother. Can she find a way to make her teacher see that if she loses her name, she’s lost the most important part of herself?
Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring
Published: March 27, 2018
Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. Includes exclusive bonus content!
A room locked for 50 years.
A valuable peacock ring.
A mysterious brother-sister duo.
Paloma Marquez is traveling to Mexico City, birthplace of her deceased father, for the very first time. She’s hoping that spending time in Mexico will help her unlock memories of the too-brief time they spent together.
While in Mexico, Paloma meets Lizzie and Gael, who present her with an irresistible challenge: The siblings want her to help them find a valuable ring that once belonged to beloved Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Finding the ring means a big reward — and the thanks of all Mexico. What better way to honor her father than returning a priceless piece of jewelry that once belonged to his favorite artist!
Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook* (Series)
Published: May 9, 2017
If life were a baseball game, all-star pitcher Gabby Garcia would be having her Best. Season. EVER! Until she’s suddenly sent to another school and her winning streak is about to disappear—both on and off the field.
But Gabby never gives up! She has a PLAN to keep her champion status intact, and every step of is written out—PLAY by PLAY. How could it not work?
This new series written by Iva-Marie Palmer is filled with funny illustrations, sports facts, and blooper-reel moments that will have readers laughing and rooting for more.
There they are: 31 of the best Latino middle-grade books (and chapter books)! I hope you find one that’s just right for your readers. These Latino middle-grade books by Latino authors are full of culture, sass, and excellent storytelling — I had so much fun making this list!
Which of these Latino middle-grade books have you read? Which would you recommend? Any additions to this list you would make? Please share!
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I loved Merci Juarez! I still have Esperanza Rising on my TBR!
Torrie @ To Love and To Learn says
I lived in El Salvador for a year and a half and dated someone before that from Guatemala, so there’s a lot about the Latin American culture that I find fascinating! I loved Esperanza Rising, but I wasn’t familiar with a lot of these other books. Looks like I have a lot of catching up to do on my middle grade fiction game!
You always have the BEST middle grade recommendations. I just wish there were more hours in my day as I’ve found several I’d like to read. Maybe one day when I retire I can read as much as I want to. Thanks for all you do.
Afoma Umesi says
Aww, Gayla, that’s so kind — thank you! And yes, yes, I wish I had more time in the day too. Thank you for reading!
Thank you so much for this resource.
Afoma Umesi says
You’re so welcome!