26 Titles to Read This Caribbean American Heritage Month and Beyond

June is National Caribbean American Heritage Month. Here are some titles by Caribbean American authors and titles infused with Caribbean American culture to share with young readers.

June is National Caribbean American Heritage Month. Here are some titles by Caribbean American authors and titles infused with Caribbean American culture to share with young readers.


Picture Books

Book covers related to Caribbean American Heritage Month

 Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste. illus. by Amber Ren. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062970817.It’s getting dark, so Naya’s mother calls her to come to bed. But Naya says that she’s not scared of the Jumbies, creatures from Caribbean stories similar to fairies and trolls that come out at night. Naya’s mom tells her that Jumbies are only in stories, but Naya goes searching for one anyway. She doesn’t find a scary Jumbie, but she does discover an interesting cast of mythical creatures from Caribbean folklore.

Marley and the Family Band by Cedella Marley with Tracey Baptiste. illus. by Tiffany Rose. Random. ISBN 9780593301111.
Marley and her family have moved from Jamaica to Delaware. In a new city, they decide to host a concert night at the park where Marley hopes to meet the neighbors and make lots of new friends. The weather has other plans and it starts to rain. Marley comes up with the idea to hang umbrellas at the outdoor venue, so people don’t get wet. She realizes that since storms create problems, if they help their neighbors with those problems, they might get some umbrellas in return. Written by the eldest daughter of Bob and Rita Marley, this is a celebration of family and community. 

Suzette and the One-Eyed Cat by Jeanne Fortune. illus. by Viktoriia Popova. 5Ms. ISBN 9781735092898.
Suzette, a young Black girl, along with her adoptive mother who is Black and her adoptive father who is white, is traveling to Haiti to meet her biological family for the first time. When they arrive at their destination, Suzette is struck by the similarities between herself and her biological mother but is still nervous. She hears the sound of children laughing and wonders if the voices belong to her siblings. After the children play together and get to know each other, Suzette begins to appreciate both the differences and similarities among them.

Alicia and the Hurricane /Alicia y el huracán: A Story of Puerto Rico/Un cuento de Puerto Rico by Leslea Newman. illus. by Elizabeth Erazo Baez. Children’s Bk. Pr. ISBN 9780892394555.
Alicia and her family live in Puerto Rico, where she loves to fall asleep to the sound of the coquí, a tree frog abundant on the island. However, when Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico, the family has to shelter away from home with hundreds of other people. This child-friendly picture book expresses the loss of homes and neighborhood damage from the eyes of a supportive and loving family.

Book covers related to Caribbean American Heritage Month

Broken Butterfly Wings/Alas de mariposa rotas by Raquel M. Ortiz. illus. by Carrie Salazar. Piñata. ISBN 9781558859227.
After waiting patiently for the mail, Gabriela finally receives a present from her aunt Sylvia: beautiful, glittery butterfly wings. When Gabriela’s father finds her using tools to try to get her wings to work, he helps her realize her wings really do work---and with his help, the little girl spreads her wings and pretends she travels to El Yunque rain forest in Puerto Rico.

Coquí in the City by Nomar Perez. illus. by author. Dial. ISBN 9780593109038. 
When Miguel and his parents have to move to the U.S. mainland, he has to leave so much that he loves in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As he finds familiar things they loves—empanadillas, a baseball field, and even a pond full of frogs like Coquí—New York City begins to feel much more like home.

Pura’s Cuentos: How Pura Belpré Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories by Annette Bay Pimentel. illus. by Magaly Morales. Abrams. ISBN 9781419749414.
Pura Belpré grew up listening to stories in Puerto Rico, especially those told by her grandmother. Later, when she moved to Harlem in New York and started working at a branch library, she felt drawn to follow the path of the librarians, who were reading stories from books to the kids. This loosely biographical picture book depicts a brave and determined woman whose bilingual English and Spanish story times broke the status quo to spread the power of storytelling. 

Book covers related to Caribbean American Heritage Month

 My Day with the Panye by Tami Charles. illus. by Sara Palacios. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763697495.
A mother is planning a special day for her daughter, Fallon, in the markets of Port-au-Prince. Charles sprinkles Haitian words into the text of this loving book, which is part interpersonal story and part travelogue. There are metaphors for carrying the panye (a large woven basket) that extend to Haiti itself—that it sways under the weight of sad events but is not crushed.

La casita de Esperanza by Terry Catasús Jennings. illus. by Raúl Colón. Holiday House/Neal Porter. ISBN 9780823452033.
A family just arriving from Cuba is searching for an affordable place to call home when they find it: La Casita. It is a small house, and it has a bit of a musty smell, but Esperanza, Manolo, and their parents (who are light-skinned) see something more. Through hard work and dedication, they begin to slowly repair La Casita, making the little house a home. Time goes on, and friends and family come and go from the little home; every time they do, Esperanza offers them a gift of hope as they set out.

 Alicia Alonso Dances On by Rose Viña. illus. by Gloria Félix. Albert Whitman. ISBN 9780807514542.
The inspirational life of Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso is shared with young readers in this lovingly illustrated beginning biography. The illustrations excellently depict Alicia’s dedication as well as the difficulties with her eyesight and will inspire readers to chase their dreams amid challenges and struggles. Highly recommended for biography collections and nonfiction picture book collections for children.

 A Song of Frutas by Margarita Engle. illus. by Sara Palacios. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534444898.
A young girl visits her abuelo in Cuba and accompanies him as he sells delicious frutas, calling out in song and inviting everyone they pass to come and have a look. Bright, colorful spreads share the beauty and vibrancy of the streets of Cuba and the joy shared by the family. Delightful verses sprinkled with Spanish express the girl’s love of family and home, as well as her longing for a time when seeing family will not be so difficult. 


Middle Grade

Book covers related to Caribbean American Heritage Month

A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780063043435. 
Readers will be invested in the twisted tale of Black middle schooler Kela and Ophidia, an aging, vindictive mermaid. A unique blend of Caribbean folklore and realistic grief with a vindictive mermaid twist. Hand to fans of mermaid tales, general fantasy lovers, and readers seeking a rare gem in the genre.

Cuba in My Pocket by Adrianna Cuevas. Farrar. ISBN 9780374314675
First-generation Cuban American author Cuevas offers a historical novel inspired by the experience of her father, who as a boy had to leave Cuba alone and start a new life in the United States. The 34-chapter work, written in English with some Spanish terms interlaced in the narrative, is divided into two sections—one depicting Cumba’s life in Cuba, and the second, starting in chapter 12, exploring his life in Florida.

The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold. HarperCollins/Versify. ISBN 9780358272755. 
After moving from a close-knit community in Haiti to Brooklyn to live with her uncle and his family, Gabrielle is desperate to become a “real” American, and she succumbs to the overtures of a wily witch who offers to grant wishes in return for Gabrielle’s essence. Gabrielle starts to use the wishes and discovers that her cultural identity is disappearing. A fantasy adventure combined with a loving portrayal of Haitian culture and immigrant experiences creates an action-packed story with a lot of heart.

 Hurricane: My Story of Resistance by Salvador Gómez-Cólon. Norton. ISBN 9781324016656.
In hi-lo–friendly prose, the author describes the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria and the subsequent near-total abandonment of the Puerto Rican people and the island itself. In response to the decimation and lack of emergency response, the author founded an organization and raised funds to distribute solar- and hand-powered essential devices to families in need.

 Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa by Julian Randall. Holt. ISBN 9781250774101. 
Twelve-year-old Domincana Pilar “Purp” Ramirez is going to be an award-winning director some day. So when her older sister lines up the perfect interview for the documentary Pilar’s working on, she jumps at the opportunity. But when a file sucks Pilar into the mythical world of Zafa, she’s faced with a terrifying answer to the mystery she’s been investigating. Set partially in a modern, rapidly gentrifying Chicago and partially in a world of Dominican legend, this first title in a new fantasy duology seamlessly intertwines the magic of Spirited Away and the danger of Jumanji with Dominican history and myth. 

Book covers related to Caribbean American Heritage MonthRima's Rebellion: Courage in a Time of Tyranny by Margartia Engle. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534486935.
After taking readers to 1991 Cuba in last year’s Your Heart, My Sky, Engle travels further back in Cuba’s history to the 1920s, where women are struggling to win the right to vote. Rima, having been born illegitimately, faces bullying constantly—but finds solace in riding horses with her grandmother. As women fight for suffrage, Rima finds inspiration and strength in others, and during these unprecedented times, begins falling in love.

 Manu by Kelly Fernández. illus. by Kelly Fernández. Scholastic/Graphix. ISBN 9781338264197. 
Almost everyone at La Academia de Santa Dominga, a school for girls with magic abilities, wonders about Manu’s origins. Her magic is far more powerful than that of the other students. When Manu’s magic starts malfunctioning, Sister Noela wonders if the saints are intervening to prevent the wild child from using her powers. The tale is set in the Dominican Republic; characters are Latinx and frequently mix in Spanish phrases.

Miosotis Flores Never Forgets by Hilda Eunice Burgos. Tu Bks. ISBN 9781643790657. 
Miosotis faces many social issues in her young life, including racism, physical abuse, and animal cruelty. Her Abuela, Papi, and brother Jacinto teach her about her culture and how they have faced racism due to their Dominican background. Readers will find a connection with Miosotis and gain insight on how to proceed in difficult social situations. 

Sofía Acosta Makes a Scene by Emma Otheguy. Knopf. ISBN 9780593372630. 
Fifth grader Sofîa has grown up in a “ballet” family that lives and breathes dance. Sofîa worries she won’t have a place in her family without dance, and it seems she doesn’t possess the family talent. She starts noticing discrimination and racism within her neighborhood, and even in her friend circle. An important and honest look at immigration, racial inequities, and understanding how one person can make a difference.

 Isla to Island by Alexis Castellanos. ­illus. by Alexis Castellanos. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534469242.
In 1961 Cuba, revolution and violence convince Marisol’s parents to make the difficult decision to send their daughter to safety in the United States. This historical graphic novel is an inspiring, empathy-building story, accessible to all readers.


Young Adult

Book covers related to Caribbean American Heritage Month

 Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora ed. by Saraciea J. Fennell. Flatiron. ISBN 9781250763426.
A collection of 15 incisive entries by authors from the Latinx diaspora that will resonate with readers long after the last page is turned. The authors featured hail from Panama, Haiti, Mexico, Cuba, and more, and the topics covered include family identity, grief, immigration, and irreparable loss. 

High Spirits by Camille Gomera-Tavarez. Levine Querido. ISBN 9781646141296. 
In this debut collection of 11 interrelated yet stand-alone stories, the Afro-Latino Dominican American experience is center stage, a breath of fresh, saltwater air to all readers and a mirror to island-hopping teenagers in the United States with strong ties to their extended families in the Dominican Republic. 

Reclaim the Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms & Space ed. by Zoraida Córdova. Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250790637. 
Justice, prison reform, polyamorous love, feminism, toppling dictators, and other timely topics populate the pages of this collection of short stories set in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, magical realms, and distant planets. This collection is recommended for older teens due to the intimate nature of the various characters within the stories.

 Inheritance: A Visual Poem by Elizabeth Acevedo. illus. by Andrea Pippins. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780062931948. 
This latest publication by award-winning The Poet X author Acevedo is a bold spoken word journey through the history of Black oppression as seen from the proverbial salon chair. Full of hard questions directed at people of both past and present, Black, white, and Latinx, Acevedo’s work is a declaration of peace with her Afro-Dominican heritage and offers a model for representation for herself and future children. 

 Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger by Margarita Engle. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534464964.
Summer 1991 in Cuba has brought the Pan American Games to Havana, but outside of the bright lights and full tables of the city, many go hungry every day. Liana is struggling to find enough to eat. Yet hunger has also made her brave: she finds the courage to skip a summer of so-called volunteer farm labor, even though she risks government retribution. Nearby, a quiet, handsome boy named Amado also refuses to comply. He wanders alone, trying to discover rare sources of food. United in hope and hunger, they soon discover that their feelings for each other run deep. 

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