Some of my favorite Spanish books are an amalgamation of unique illustrations + a nod to the experience of being different. We’ve all felt a bit odd, weird, and out of sorts. Children’s books have a wonderful way of conveying this in a simple and dazzling way.
First up is Monstruo rosa by Olga de Dios. It’s one of those fun little monsters that shake up the world, not by scaring kids a la James P. Sullivan style, but by simply being itself. Monstruo is big, pink, and lives in a colorless world where he’s not quite like the rest of his friends. While he’s in search of the sun, he finds cool wiggly monsters that make him feel at home.
Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre by Juana Martinez-Neal is a sweet homage to all the people in the world whose long name seems to run on forever. The sketch-like illustrations and the hint of color make it a wonderful page-turner that will keep you coming back to explore what you’ve missed. It teaches patience when you aren’t old enough to understand why your name takes up half a page.
Lola by Junot Diaz is one of my absolute favorites. Lola goes to a school where everyone comes from a different corner of the world. But when it’s her turn to illustrate her place of birth, she doesn't remember. Luckily her family bands together to help her recall the island. Even without the tangible memories, she learns that the music, the food, and the history of the island live on. Quite possibly one of the best love songs to the immigrant experience that children live through.
To round up the list is Mi papi tiene una moto by Isabel Quintero, another quintessential book of the immigrant experience. If you're from California and the Inland Empire has ever been on your radar of places you know, it’s a sweet ride out to the desert just like you might remember. Don’t be fooled, it’s not just about a little girl riding on the back of her dad’s motorcycle. It’s about the community you come from where the paletero and albañiles were as essential to your day to day life as your family. I can almost hear the cacophony of cars, music, and the loud chatter of my neighbors which I dearly miss.
All of these books, with the exception of Monstruo rosa are in English at LPL. If you know Spanish I would encourage you to read them all in Spanish first.
Here’s to a summer of happy reading and always staying different!
-Vanessa Reynaga is a Youth Services Outreach Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.