Aida Salazar’s The Moon Within features a beautifully dimensional cast of Latinx characters who are evocatively brought to life through her poetic vignettes. However, at its core the book is a coming-of-age story about 11-year-old Celi Rivera, a shy and sensitive black Puerto Rican Mexican American girl.
Celi desires privacy and a skater boy named Iván’s attention. Her mother, on the other hand, confuses her shyness for shame, and demands her blushing pre-teen celebrate her changing body in a moon ceremony, far more publicly than she would like. Celi’s father teaches world music and isn’t as excited at the thought of his little girl growing up. Additionally, Celi has a little brother, Juju, who respects her privacy about as much as her mom does. Continue reading
Matt Mendez’s emotionally demanding Barely Missing Everything (2019) explores the lives of working-class Mexican Americans living in El Paso, TX. A teenage boy named Juan anchors the text, which focalizes his experiences as well as those of his mother, Fabi, and his best friend, JD.
Juan and JD are high school seniors planning life after high school, but just barely. They both have hazy visions of the future. JD, a film enthusiast, aspires to make movies and carries a camera wherever he goes. Juan, a high school basketball star on a mediocre team, doesn’t imagine himself doing anything else. Additionally, Fabi, a teen mom turned 30-something mom of a teenager, tends bar to make ends meet. Continue reading
Written by Anika Aldamuy Denise and illustrated by Paola Escobar, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Story Teller Pura Belpré (2019), is an exceptional biography of New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian. In addition to accessibly and inventively capturing Pura’s story, the book provides a window into US history. It is also a timely tale of Arts-based activism that speaks to ongoing struggles to secure equal access to cultural representation. Continue reading
Antonio’s Card, written by Rigoberto González and illustrated by Cecilia Concepción Álvarez, was published in 2005 by Children’s Book Press, a non-profit publisher of multicultural children’s literature. The protagonist, a Latinx boy named Antonio, lives with his mother and her partner, Leslie.
Antonio’s peers make fun of Leslie, a tall woman with a boyish haircut and penchant for paint-splattered overalls. They suggest she looks “like a box of crayons exploded all over her” or “like a rodeo clown.” Antonio doesn’t share this with his mom or Leslie. Continue reading