Whether you’re looking for books to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, teaching a unit on Mexico, or just looking for more expanded reading options this post has lots of books that are set in Mexico or that have a Mexican influence.
Books used for Story Time:
The two books below are the ones I used for a Cinco de Mayo story time. Check out that post for some ideas of activities and food to go along with them.
Cinco de Mouse-O by Judy Cox
The book follows a little mouse who is excited to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and get treats from a Pinata but a cat that’s prowling after him threatens to ruin everything. The book shows many of the traditional celebrations for the holiday as mouse weaves his way through all the festivities. We did a pinata at our story time so this story helped build anticipation for that.
Chicks and Salsa by Aaron Reynolds
This is a fun story about a rooster that gets inspired to make Mexican food. All the other barn animals follow suit and decide that Mexican dishes would be much more enjoyable than their normal food. The kids enjoyed saying “Ole!” together each time it came up.
Books celebrating Mexico/Mexican Culture:
I used all of these when I did an Around the World Lesson preschool unit when Mexico was our featured country.
What Can You Do With a Rebozo? by Carmen Tafolla
This is a sweet story of a girl showing all the ways a rebozo could be used. I’m sure many children could relate to the girl’s creativity in the many ways she uses it.
Off We Go to Mexico! by Laurie Krebs and Christopher Corr
The book describes all the things you can do in Mexico and is accompanied by bright, colorful illustrations. There are also several Spanish words on each page that children could learn.
The Tortilla Factory by Gary Paulson
With simple text the book shows the cycle of how tortillas come to be. It is a great way to teach children about the work that happens to bring food to them, with out bogging them down in too much information. A great activity to go along with the book would be making homemade tortillas together. It is not difficult to do and they taste so good! I included the recipe I use for it at the end of this post.
P is for Pinata by Tony Johnston
This is part of the awesome Discover the World series that is perfect for teaching kids about places around the world. It shares an aspect of Mexico for each letter of the alphabet and there is additional information on the side that you can read or skip over depending on the level of your reader.
Mexican Folk Tales:
Adelitia by Tomie dePaola
This is a Mexican version of Cinderella and has Spanish phrases spread without. Both this book and the one below are more lengthy and not as ideal for a young toddler.
The Legend of the Poinsetta by Tomie dePaola
This is a retelling of a Mexican legend about a girl who is trying to figure out what gift she could give to baby Jesus for Christmas. It has a great message!
Southwestern Retellings of Folk Tales:
These ones aren’t strictly Mexican tales, but are all set in the region of Southwestern American and into Mexico.
Senorita Gordita by Helen Ketteman
My son loved this book and wanted to read it over and over again! It is a retelling of “The Gingerbread Man” where a gordita (a little corn cake) jumps out of the frying pan and must outrun various desert animals. It’s a fun read aloud and there are several Spanish words thrown in which provide some more exposure.
The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell
I grew up in New Mexico and read this book as a child. My own kids are obsessed with the story of “The Three Little Pigs” so they were excited to experience this new version with javelinas (wild pigs), a coyote, and some new building materials.
The Three Little Tamales by Eric Kimmel
This is another retelling of “The Three Little Pigs” but with runaway tamales and Senor Lobo. There are Spanish words sprinkled throughout with a helpful glossary and pronunciation guide in the front.
Rattlestiltskin by Eric Kimmel
This is a retelling of Rumplestiltskin about a girl who is supposed to make tortillas so light they float in the air and receives help from a little snake man. This is another book that would pair well with the activity of making homemade tortillas together.
Holy Squawkamole! by Susan Wood
This is a fun take on the Little Red Hen and is based around one of my favorite foods: guacamole! The story is sprinkled with Spanish words throughout and includes some fun history and facts about guacamole in the back. And of course making your own guacamole afterward would always be a great idea ;).
Stories from Popular Media:
I generally don’t seek out books based on movies or TV shows, but both of these were ones I thought were well done and brought something new to the table.
Miguel and the Grand Harmony by Matt de la Pena
This is an original story based around the characters in the movie Coco. It is told from the perspective of the spirit of music and is little a bit abstract and advanced for younger kids. It’s probably best for about 5 years old and above. It’s beautifully done and provides some added insight into the movie’s story which I enjoyed.
Elena and the Secret of Avalor by Craig Gerber
This one does follow the story as shown on the show, but it doesn’t as feel as much like a direct copy because of the original illustrations which I found really beautiful and fun. Also I might just be totally biased because I love the show! It’s my favorite kids show out there right now and I may or may not have encouraged my kids to watch it so I could see it as well. They ended up getting hooked and loving it themselves. They got this set of Elena figures for Christmas and both play with it all the time. I included this one on the list because, although it’s set in a fantasy world, it’s directly inspired by various Hispanic countries and cultures. I love that aspect of it and seeing all the music, architecture, clothes, customs, etc that are based on actual cultures.
I know there are a lot more Children’s novels out there that celebrate Mexican heritage and culture, but this is the one I had as a child and have read as an adult as well:
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
It is a riches to rags story about a rich Mexican girl who has to flee to California during the Great Depression and starts working in farming camp there. I think this would be a great book for young people to read and learn from Esperanza. The authors note at the end which talks about the real life influences on the book was very interesting.
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Homemade Flour Tortillas
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp shortening or oil (I use oil)
1/2 – 1 cup water
Mix dry ingredients together, then add shortening/oil. Add water or milk. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Grease your hands and form the dough into small balls slightly larger than a golf ball. Let dough stand for 15 minutes. Roll or pat the balls of dough until they are thin. Heat skillet (preferably iron) until it’s hot. Place tortilla on skillet and bake until they start to bubble. Flip it over and bake a few seconds on the other side. A few burned spots on tortillas are customary.
(Recipe came from a friend of a friend)