Top Ten Best Children and Teen Books for 2016

1) I dreamt…about hope – Gabriela Olmos

This is a book much needed for children around the world who live surrounded by violence through wars, gangs, bullying and harassment. The book, created in Mexico was done due to the last years of a vicious war in that country, which has brought fear and insecurity to many children. This children’s book will hopefully open up a path for children to discuss anxieties or fears and give them a reason to move forward and hopefully stand firm against the grief that comes their way. Many Mexican illustrators have donated their art to help create this book. What a wonderful way to give back to the world.

2) Captain Mama’s Surprise, La Sorpresa de Capitan Mama – Graciela Tiscareño-Sato

This is the second book by this author on the Captain Mama series. The book is amazing in that it shows females in a different light. Usually we see mostly males in the role of aviators and it’s a welcome surprise to show young women, and young men as well, that women are just as capable in any field. Additionally, it provides the young reader with insight into the unique parts of an airplane and how a crew member does their work. The STEM activity included in the book is also a plus. What a great way to introduce your child to the world of aviation.

3) The Farolitos of Christmas – Rudolfo Anaya

This is keepsake volume of a classic New Mexico Christmas story. It is Mr. Anaya’s rendition of this wonderful holiday tradition celebrated in New Mexico, which includes reenactments of nativity stories such as Los Pastores and Las Posadas (traditions of a Latino Christmas). The magic of Mr. Anaya’s writing is transferred into this book capturing the mystic and allure of this time with family and friends, yet it also brings forth recollections of a world that has changed. The sentiment and emotion that this holiday brings to many, is something that shouldn’t be just shared in December or early January as many Latinos celebrate Los Tres Reyes Mago, but rather throughout the year. The Los Tres Reyes Mago is the holiday that many Latinos hold holy and which commemorates the three wise men traveling from afar to bring baby Jesus gifts. Although this book is about Christmas, it is much more than this. It is about a rich culture that is very much prevalent in the llanos of New Mexico.

4) A Charmed Life, Una vida con suerte – Gladys E. Barbieri

Ms. Barbieri has captured the thinking of a young girl Felicia perfectly. Felicia comes from a working class family and is suddenly thrown into an environment which is out of her league. With this new encounter Felicia and her mother’s insecurities come through. Felicia quickly realizes that she isn’t in Kansas anymore and she begins to explore her surroundings; although, her mother has asked her to not to do so. Felicia has an encounter with the owner of the place and is quickly transformed as they begin to share stories. Felicia’s dreams begin to materialize and she begins to feel that she too can have all this one day. In the end, Felicia realizes that people are not so different after all. What a great sedge way into a teaching moment for all. This is such a great message for everyone, but especially for those that are not quite as fortunate as others.

5) The Tongue Twister Tournament, El torneo deTrabalenguas – Nicolás Kanellos

This is fun children’s book that will tickle your child’s tongue as they try these tongue twisters out with friends and family. It’s an amazing way to make your child laugh and yet begin to appreciate language and words with a fun spin. What a perfect way to get your child’s laughter started for the day.

6) Who’s Ju? – Dania Ramos

The author has written a 7th Grade Sleuths Mystery club book filled with lots of punch for a young audience. It’s a book about three students, Justina, Ig, and Gunther who end up having to solve their first case regarding vandalism at their middle school. In addition, a class project regarding the study of DNA and how it works, takes both Ju and lg on different paths and struggles. The author has managed to weave a clever mystery story, but has also created characters that readers can identify with and become entrenched into the story. Hopefully more 7th Grade Sleuths books are on the way.

7) A Mystery Bigger than Big – René Saldaña Jr.

There’s a new girl in school and she has become a mystery. She is quiet and there are many rumors circulating regarding her persona. Mickey Rangel vows to discover the truth about this new girl Natalia. One day he overhears a conversation that takes this whole mystery gathering task on a different spin. Is she an undocumented child that has traveled from Guatemala on her own? Mickey has lots of questions but no answers and this takes him on an unexpected path of discovery. With Mickey’s detective work, he begins to learn some hard truths about life. A very thought provoking book for an intermediate audience and one that should be read by many.

8) Gaby, Lost and Found – Angela Cervantes

Gaby’s mom has been deported to Honduras and Gaby dreams of having her mom back. Her parents had split up way before the deportation, but when the mom was taken away the father reenters Gaby’s life with a not so pleasant attitude. It appears that life has been difficult on him and it shows as he struggles to take care of his daughter. Gaby’s sixth grade class begins volunteering at an animal shelter and Gaby makes an immediate connection to Feather, a fragile little cat who is need of a home and love. Gaby knows her father will not allow her to bring it home. As the plot unfolds, the reader will be taken further and further into the folds of the story and all the time you are rooting for Gaby. This is a thought provoking book that will tug at your heartstrings.

9) Whisker Tales and Wings: Animal Folktales from Mexico – Judy Goldman

The author does a magnificent job of retelling folktales from five indigenous groups in Mexico; the Tarahumara, Seri, Huichol, Triqui, and Tseltal. This is an excellent way to teach children of the many different cultures around the world, and what better way to begin than with some of Mexico’s rich ethnicities and backgrounds. After every story, Ms. Goldman includes more information for the reader; thereby, making the stories that much more rich.

10) The Remembering Day, El Dia de los muertos – Pat Mora

The author has skillfully crafted a story which involves a grandmother and her granddaughter as they navigate through life together. The story focuses on the great relationship between both individuals as well as insight into the cultural observation of el dia de los muertos. The relationship is shown through great storytelling. Although I realize the book was written for a younger audience, I felt as if the story spoke to me as well. This is credited to a good writer. The story took me back to relationships with loved ones who have departed and still remain very much a part of my everyday life today. Ms. Mora did a superb job in capturing raw emotions, yet bringing the story full circle for her audience. With this story, the author has shed light into a cultural event that is not always appreciated as it was meant to be. In some places, el dia de los muertos is celebrated as a fun event, but the author shows that there is much more meaning behind the festivities. It totally sheds light on this unique event.

Be sure to check out our previous year’s top 10 lists by clicking here.

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