Please welcome Michael Genhart with his list of picture books that celebrate Spanish, in the context of when speaking Spanish was prohibited in the United States.
Picture books about celebrating Spanish (when it was prohibited)
Spanish is the Language of My Family/ El Español es La Lengua de mi Familia by Michael Genhart, illustrated by John Parra
Mateo enters the Spanish spelling bee at his school and asks his abuela to help him study. She shares that speaking Spanish in public school was not allowed when she was his age. In fact, children were shamed for doing so. Mateo and Abuela join together in this story of healing and celebration of family, culture, and Spanish. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
To Boldly Go: How Nichelle Nicholes and Star Trek Helped Advance Civil Rights by Angela Dalton, illustrated by Lauren Semmer
A true story about Nichelle Nichols playing the first Black female astronaut on screen – as Lt. Uhura on television’s Star Trek. This trailblazing role and her real-life inspired others to pursue their dreams and to boldly go out into uncharted territories (doing things that people who looked like her had never done before). Readers will learn about her connection to the Civil Rights Movement and how she opened doors for actual female astronauts like Sally Ride and Dr. Mae Jemison. [picture book biography, ages 4 and up]
A Garden in My Hands by Meera Sriram, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat
This is a story about family ties, culture, and traditions featuring the art of henna designs and the stories they tell. A family prepares for a wedding and a little girl and her mother share tender moments as the mother carefully applies the henna while her daughter patiently waits for it to dry – culminating in a beautiful garden in the little girl’s hands. A real celebration of history, love, and the connections to deeply rooted expressions of Indian cultural pride. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
How This Book Got Read by Margaret Chiu Greanias, illustrated by Melissa Iwai
Red is a red panda who discovers that all of the books about pandas spotlight the black-and-white kind but leave out red pandas. So she sets out to write her own book, which turns out to be challenging. She is ultimately successful, not only at completing her book but bringing attention to the importance of representation in books. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Banana Dream by Hasan Namir, illustrated by Daby Zainab Faidhi
Set in post-Gulf War Iraq, a little boy, Mooz, longs for the taste of banana (a fruit he likes, and “moz” is the Persian word for banana). Mooz has not always been fond of his name, especially when classmates tease him, but then he learns the story behind it – and is proud. Bananas don’t grow in Iraq and warfare has made it difficult to import the fruit. Mooz’s desire for bananas ultimately reveals a story that poignantly depicts the impact of war. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Fresh Juice by Robert Liu-Trujillo
Art figures out what to do when his father gets a cold. He sets out to make his dad a healthy juice with special ingredients, especially ginger. But finding ginger isn’t easy. So father and son canvas the neighborhood farmer’s market, grocers, and downtown area. In this tale of a neighborhood coming together in search of all the healthy fruits and vegetables to put into the juice, what takes center stage is the love Art has for his father. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Molly’s Tuxedo by Vicki Johnson, illustrated by Gillian Reid
It’s picture day at school and Molly is looking for the perfect outfit to wear. Mom picks out a dress, but Molly is not at all interested. Then she decides that her brother’s old tuxedo is the perfect choice. Mom and Molly continue to disagree on what Molly should wear for the photo. In the end, it’s Molly’s courage and pride in herself that win, highlighting why it’s important to follow one’s heart and connect outside and inside identities, especially with gender non-conforming kiddos. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Rock Your Mocs by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by pictures by Madelyn Goodnight
The pride and joy of First Nations peoples is in full force on Rock Your Mocs Day (November 15) when everyone wears their moccasins – a connection to the past, to tradition, and to ancestors. A beautiful way to celebrate Native American Heritage Month as well as Native American identity – year-round. Presented in a joyfully modern manner, readers are introduced to many different kinds of moccasins that people wear, reflecting not only individuality but the incredible number of unique tribal nations located across the country.[picture book, ages 4 and up]
Michael Genhart, Ph.D. has been a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco for over thirty years. He is also the author of twelve picture books for kids including LOVE IS LOVE, RAINBOW: A FIRST BOOK OF PRIDE, and THEY’RE SO FLAMBOYANT. His recent titles, honoring his multicultural heritage, include ACCORDIONLY: ABUELO and OPA MAKE MUSIC, MAY YOUR LIFE BE DELICIOSA (which received a 2022 Pura Belpré Honor) and SPANISH IS THE LANGUAGE OF MY FAMILY (2023, which has received six starred reviews thus far). He has two forthcoming picture book biographies, featuring the accomplishments of activist Edie Windsor and muralist/artivist Judy Baca. He lives with his husband in Marin County. They are the proud parents of a newly minted elementary school teacher.
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