Kids Books in Spanish: Growing in Leaps and Bounds

Schools and libraries throughout the country have increasing numbers of Spanish speakers among their constituents. Keeping pace with demand is an array of large and small publishers, each taking its own approach to meeting the needs of Spanish-speaking students. Some publish original content while others publish translations of well-known American authors.


Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S., representing approximately 18 percent of the total population and more than 50 percent of population growth since the 2010s. While this population is highly concentrated in just nine states, schools and libraries throughout the country have increasing numbers of Spanish speakers among their constituents. Retailers have them too—more than half of Barnes & Nobles’s bookstores have at least a small section of books in Spanish, notes Alex Correa, President & CEO of Lectorum, the largest distributor of Spanish-language books in the U.S.

Keeping pace with demand is an array of large and small publishers, each taking its own approach to meeting the needs of Spanish-speaking students. Some publish original content while others publish translations of well-known American authors. Some act as publishers and distributors, while others are solely one or the other.

Educating Spanish-speaking students follows two models—one approach, popular in the 1990s, is to immerse students in English accompanied by some Spanish language for a year or two and then ditch the Spanish altogether. More common today is the dual-language approach that began about 30 years ago and is increasingly becoming the norm.

From first through fifth grade, students are taught with educational resources in both languages. By the time these students enter middle school, they are fully bilingual. Ten percent of New York City’s 1,800 school districts use this method. Just this slice of the pie illustrates how essential Spanish-language books are to our communities, schools, and libraries.

We spoke with six publishers about their publishing programs and the new titles they are most excited about.


Belgium-based Clavis publishes books worldwide for children of all ages. About 10 years ago, the company began publishing some 70 English-language children’s titles per year in the U.S. This past spring, Clavis introduced Spanish-language children’s books, publishing four titles. Three more are planned for the fall, and two for spring 2023.

The books selected are ones for which Clavis owns the Spanish rights and that have previously been published in Belgium. However, new translations of the titles have been done in the U.S., changing the castellano Spanish common in Spain to Latin American Spanish.

The Spanish-language editions, selected from highly popular series, authors, and illustrators, are published simultaneously with the English editions. The back cover of each Clavis title features a color-coded train that denotes the reading level and topic area for educators and parents.

Published in June, Hop aprende a nada (Hop at Swimming Class) by Esther van den Berg, ISBN 9781605377544, was well received, earning a starred review from School Library Journal. A frog called Hop and his friends are taking swimming lessons, but Hop is slow learning the basics and the fun tricks. By the end of the book, Hop does learn to swim but not at the same levels as his fellow frogs. “It’s a fun take on accepting our limitations,” said Carolina Schwarz, marketing consultant for Clavis, who added that the book is aimed at children ages 4–8.

Un dia con papa (Owen’s Day with Daddy) by Kate Banks, illustrated by Lauren Castillo, August 2022, ISBN 9788426137470, looks at a changing family dynamic. After his baby brother comes home, Owen grows jealous, believing that the baby is getting the lion’s share of his father’s attention. But after Owen and his father spend a special day together, he transforms into a proud sibling. A timely book for children ages 4–8, with new siblings, “it demonstrates that parental love never changes, even with a new child in the house,” says Schwarz.

Dulces sueῆos, Lily y Milo (Sweet Dreams, Lily and Milo), November 2022, ISBN 9781605378091, is from the acclaimed “Lily and Milo” series by Pauline Oud that fosters different stages of a child’s development such as language or daily life skills. This interactive book for children ages 2–4 helps kids establish a bedtime routine.

Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial

Launched in Miami in 2014, Grupo Editorial, a division of Penguin Random House, is a U.S.-based team of Hispanic book professionals who publish books in Spanish for children under 11 imprints. Silvia Matute, president of Grupo Editorial, says, “as a ‘hybrid,’ PRH Grupo Editorial enjoys the best of both worlds. We work as a local American publisher leveraging PRH’s production and distribution capability. At the same time, we work as a Spanish/Latin American publisher, bringing a vast list of titles acquired and developed by our sister companies in Spain, Mexico, and elsewhere in Latin America.”

Of the 300 new children’s and YA titles Grupo Editorial publishes annually, about half are originally written in Spanish and are from Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Chile, and other Latin American countries; the rest are translations of best-selling titles. Responding to market demand, the company is publishing books on social emotional learning, nonfiction for grades K–5, graphic novels, and STEM-related fiction and nonfiction. Next year, Grupo Editorial will publish manga for the first time.

Among this fall’s highlights is Stamped (para niños): El racismo, el antirracismo y tú (Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You) by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, adapted by Sonja Cherry-Paul, illustrated by Rachelle Baker, July 2022, ISBN 9781644735961. This chapter book edition of the #1 New York Times best-seller by luminaries Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds introduces the history of racism and antiracism in America to readers ages 7–10.

YA novel Furia (Furia) by Yamile Saied Méndez, September 2022, ISBN 9781644735589, is “powerful contemporary YA for fans of The Poet X and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” said Matute. Set in Argentina, it is the story of Camilla, who must put everything on the line to follow her dream of becoming a soccer star and winning a college scholarship. She leads a double life as the dutiful daughter at home and La Furia on the field, a powerhouse of skill and talent.

Diario de Rowley: ¡Un chico supergenial! (Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal) by Jeff Kinney, August 2022, ISBN 9781644736517, is a spin-off from Kinney’s series “Wimpy Kid,” about the long-suffering Rowley Jefferson. This tale, for grades 3–7, centers on Rowley playing the role of biographer for Greg. But Rowley is a poor choice for the job, and his “biography” of Greg is a hilarious mess.

Ada Magnífica, científica: Todo sobre volar (Ada Twist, Scientist: Exploring Flight) by Andrea Beaty and Dr. Theanne Griffith, October 2022, ISBN 9781644737026, is a new addition to the “Questioneers” series. This full-color nonfiction early-reader series for grades K–3 is based on the new Ada Twist, Scientist Netflix series. In this title, Ada teaches kids all about flight.

In Mati y los Matemonstruos. ¿Quién tiene miedo de las matemáticas? (Mati and the Mathmonsters. Who’s Afraid of Math?) by mathematician and teacher Clara Grimes, illustrated by Raquel Gu, October 2022, ISBN 9788448860431, Miguel is starting a new school year and will have to take math—a scary prospect! But his sister Mati, who loves math, and her gang of Mathmonsters make math fun and he loses his fear. For grades pre K–3.


Lectorum, the world’s largest distributor of Spanish-language books, wears two hats. The larger is as a distributor of more than 25,000 titles from hundreds of domestic and foreign publishers. Remarkably, each of these books has been carefully selected and read by someone at Lectorum. “We make sure that the Spanish is correct, that the illustrations aren’t offensive, that there is no mention of smoking, drinking, or violence,” says President and CEO Alex Correa. He adds that Lectorum also avoids highly controversial issues. “We select books that are right in the middle; nothing offensive.”

Lectorum’s other hat is as a publisher of around 200 books for children that the company translates themselves. The list includes well-known books, authors, illustrators, and series, including the 48 titles in “The Magic Treehouse” series, The Giving Tree and other titles by Shel Silverstein, P.D. Eastman, Kate DiCamillo, and other boldface names.

Among this year’s highlights is the graphic novel Una amiga de verdad (Making Friends) by Kristen Gudsnuk, January 2022, ISBN 9788418184956, for grades 4–6. In the novel, Daniela must change schools and is sad to leave her friends. But when she receives a magic notebook from her great aunt, she discovers that whatever she draws comes to life. So, she creates new friends but soon learns that making friends is easier than keeping them.

Aquí no hay conejos! (No Bunnies Here!) by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Ross Burach, March 2022, ISBN 9788412384185, is a humorous picture book in which a wolf shows up in Bunnyville looking for rabbits. Worried that he’s hungry and looking for a meal, a bunny tries to convince him to look elsewhere, until he discovers the wolf's motive.

Has llamado a Sam (You’ve reached Sam) is a debut YA novel by Dustin Thao, March 2022, ISBN 9788418539862. When seventeen year-old Julie’s boyfriend Sam dies, her plans to move away with him, attend college, and travel the world are upended. Then her life gets even more difficult—and strange—when, wanting to hear his voice one more time, she calls his cell phone…and he answers.

Las gallinas de Sonia (Sonya’s Chickens) by Phoebe Wahl, April 2022, ISBN 9788484706410, is a picture book that helps explain the natural food chain to young readers up to grade 2. In this story, Sonya's father brings her three chicks, which she takes care of as if she were their mother. The chicks thrive under her care until one is taken by a fox. She's brokenhearted, but her father explains that the fox just needed to feed her babies.

From Kate Dimillo is a chapter book for grades 5–8, La profecía de Beatryce (The Beatryce Prophecy), illustrated by Sophie Blackall, May 2022, ISBN 9781632459565. In this fantasy novel, Brother Edik enters a stable and is stunned to find Beatryce curled up with the demonic goat Answelica. Beatryce doesn’t know where she comes from or whether she has family, but the king's soldiers know and are determined to find her!

Editorial Flamboyant

Launched in 2009, Barcelona-based Editorial Flamboyant began with Spanish rights acquisitions only, but “slowly but surely we started to publish our own content,” says General Director and CEO Eva Jiménez. The company’s publishing program now has a 50/50 balance between translations and its own books, with offerings for readers 1–12 years old.

Comprising women only, Flamboyant’s team focuses on books that interest and empower girls. They are also committed to the environment and sustainability in both the books they publish and their own practices. “Each year we analyze how much carbon dioxide we use and offset it. We also plant 1,000 trees a year and reduce our plastic use as much as possible in all our processes,” says Jiménez.

Editorial Flamboyant’s list includes several books about nature “so that children can understand and respect it.” One such title of which Jiménez is extremely proud is Un Millón de Ostras en lo alto del montaña (One Million Oysters on Top of the Mountain) by geologist Alex Nogués and award-winning illustrator Miren Asiain Lora, October 2019, ISBN 9788417749354. “It’s a book about geology, so it’s very niche. But the narration and the amazing illustrations make it an interesting and fun way for children to learn about the topic,” says Jiménez.

Esto no es una Selva (This Is Not a Jungle) by Susanna Isern, illustrated by Rocio Bonilla, a well-known and important illustrator in Spain, March 2017, ISBN 9788494603525, is a humorous picture book for readers ages 4–7. Paola refuses to pick up after herself, and her mother warns her that her room is going to turn into a jungle. And that’s exactly what happened the next day: the house has turned into a jungle, with wild animals like monkeys and crocodiles running roughshod all over it.

One of Editorial Flamboyant’s acquisitions is Mofeto Y Tejón (Skunk and Badger) by Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake and illustrator Jon Klassen, November 2021, ISBN 9788418304217. In this picture book, the adventure begins when a badger and a skunk become roommates. This story of unlikely friends was on numerous best-book lists of 2020, including that of the New York Public Library and the Chicago Public library.

Vista Higher Learning

With Vista Higher Learning’s acquisition of Spanish-language publisher Santillana USA in 2018, it became the only specialized K-20 world language publisher in the U.S. The acquisition combined Vista’s strength in secondary education with Santillana’s reach in the preschool and elementary arena. Vista’s products—print and digital—are designed to work alongside school curricula, correlating to and enhancing topics of classroom study including math and science.

Vista publishes about 50 books a year, focusing on quality rather than quantity. With school closures during the pandemic, many of the titles on the 2020 and 2021 lists did not get the attention they deserved, according to Diana Minella, literature distribution specialist. Minella hopes that schools will revisit some of these books, now that children are back in the classroom. Here are three 2021 titles (all translations) that Minella believes deserve the spotlight.

Abominable: la masacre racial de Tulsa (Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre) by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, July 2021, ISBN 9781543357714, sensitively introduces young readers ages 8–12 to the tragedy of the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation’s history. The book traces the history of African Americans in Tulsa’s Greenwood district—also known as Black Wall Street—and chronicles the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the prosperous Black community

2021 Caldecott Medal winner, Somos guardian del agua (We Are Water Protectors) by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade, August 2021, ISBN 9781543357721, is a Iyrical exploration of the values, connections, and wisdom of Indigenous people as it relates to Mother Earth. The book, for grades K–3, was inspired by Indigenous-led movements in North America to protect water as a sacred source of and for life.

In Fue idea de Elizabeth (Elizabeth Started All the Trouble) by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Matt Faulkner, October 2021, ISBN 9781543335897, engaging text and vibrant illustrations tell the story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her crusade to demand equal treatment of women—including the right to go to college and to vote. Written for grades 3–5, the book seeks to inspire children to keep the movement going.

Editorial Destellos

After the devastation to Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria in 2017, Laura Rexach Olivencia, founder and lead editor of Destellos, decided to write a children’s book about the hurricane to explain the catastrophe. At that time, no publishing company was looking for new projects, so she self-published.

In the process, she interacted with “so many wonderful people with different stories to tell” that she founded the press to “focus more on other people’s content.” Five years later, the small but growing house has 11 titles on its list and, in March this year, signed a distribution agreement with IPG. 

Just before another catastrophic event, the COVID pandemic, Destellos published Ellas: historias de mujeres puertorriqueñas (Ellas: Stories of Puerto Rican Women), February 2020, ISBN 9781732073159. Written by the editorial team at Destellos and illustrated by Mya Pagán, the bilingual book compiles the stories of 64 Puerto Rican women who were trailblazers in their fields. Despite its inauspicious timing, it is the company’s best-selling title, with an impressive 10,000 copies sold.

Tengo mucho sueño (I’m Really Sleepy) by Olivencia herself, illustrated by Mariana (Pupé) Pereyra, November 2022, ISBN 9781737275725, was prompted by her own experiences as the mother of three with chaotic bedtimes. It is the story of tiny Paz and her litany of excuses to avoid bedtime, such as “I haven’t taken a bath yet,” that are rebutted by her dad. In the end, dad loses the battle, as illustrated by Paz eating cookies and reading a book cuddled next to her sleeping father. Olivencia emphasizes that her own books are vetted by several outside editors to ensure that they are of the highest quality.


Bogotá, Colombia-based MakeMake (sounds like Mockee Mockee) is a subscription-based digital library comprising 1,600 authentic Latin American ebooks in Spanish for readers ages 3–15. Launched eight years ago, the company is in every Colombian library system, in the country’s national Ministry of Education, and in private and public schools. It also has a strong presence in other Latin American countries.

Three years ago, with Lectorum as their exclusive sales partner, MakeMake entered the U.S. market. It is now in schools across the country, including in many large library systems like Los Angles, Denver, and some cities in New York, according to Editorial Director Catalina Holguín.

Make Make books are culled from 80 publishers from all over Latin America and cover topics from local culture to universal themes. Visual appeal and interactivity are core principles of the company’s publishing program. For both nonfiction and fiction titles, and from early reading books to chapter books, there is an emphasis on color, graphics, and illustration. The lively visuals make reading “less scary” for reluctant readers, Holguín notes.

The company’s carefully vetted offerings range from Gabriel García Márquez's graphic biography Gabo: memorias de una vida mágica (Rey+Naranjo Editores); to interactive books for toddlers with songs and animation, such as Te cuento del camino lo que vi (Pequeño Editor); and up-to-date nonfiction titles, such as Sabores de América (Amanuta). New titles are acquired constantly, keeping the collection fresh and current.

MakeMake has two platforms: one for public libraries, the other for schools. The library platform presents an open-shelf visual, like Netflix. The libraries pay a flat fee according to the institution’s size for a multi-user, unlimited subscription. “Kids like to read the same book eight times,” Holguín says, “and our platform makes it super easy.”

For schools, the platform is more multifaceted. Teachers and students have their own dashboards. A single student or a whole class can sign in. MakeMake is compatible with white boards, projectors, and TV screens, allowing seamless integration into lesson plans. Access 24/7 ensures that students can use the platform for both homework and leisure reading. Plus, students can create their own bookshelves and form book clubs within the platform.

Noting the importance of making Spanish-language books available in the U.S., Holguín quotes Jamie Campbell’s remark in Once upon a cuento, that “second-language acquisition is enhanced when a child receives instruction in his first language. Bilingual instruction reinforces language development in BOTH languages.”



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