Historical Fiction: Hispanic Heritage (Grades 6-12)

These novels capture the detail, tension, and experiences of young Latinos and Latin Americans in a wide range of historical settings, including a New York City barrio during World War II and the battle of the Alamo. Recommended for grades 7-12.

Before We Were Free

Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her 12th birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have emigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government's secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition of el Trujillo's dictatorship. Using the strength and courage of her family, Anita must overcome her fears and fly to freedom, leaving all that she once knew behind.

Cinnamon Girl: letters found inside a cereal box

Age Level: 14-16

"Yolanda's grasp on reality crumbles along with the World Trade Center after her beloved Uncle DJ is injured on September 11. Still coping with a tragic incident from her past in Iowa, Yolanda's fear after this new calamity is palpable through the poetry used as the vehicle to tell her story.

Echo: A Novel

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Pam Muñoz Ryan weaves together three stories of young people living through a tumultuous period in the 20th century: 12-year-old Friedrich Schmidt in 1933 Germany, as the Nazi Party gains momentum; orphaned 11-year-old Mike Flannery in 1935 Philadelphia during the Depression; and Ivy Maria Lopez living in Southern California in 1942 as World War II rages. Their stories revolve around a single Hohner Marine Band harmonica and are framed by a tale of a lost boy, three sisters, and a witch's curse. Newbery Honor Book.

El Bronx Remembered

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: In the South Bronx — or El Bronx, as it's known to the people who live there — anything can happen. A migrant "fresh off the boat" from Puerto Rico can be somebody on the mainland, pursue the American Dream…and maybe even make it come true. Here are stories that capture the flavor and beat of El Bronx in its heyday, from 1946-1956.

Firefly Summer

Age Level: 9-12

"In this turn-of-the-century novel, seventh-grader Teresa attends school in San Juan and travels home in time to celebrate the Feast of the Cross with her extended family, friends, and plantation workers on her parents' finca…Belpré submitted Firefly Summer for publication during World War II, but it was rejected because of a paper shortage; it is available now because of a national project whose aim is to locate, identify, preserve, and make accessible the literary heritage of U.S. Hispanics." — School Library Journal

Gringolandia

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: Daniel's papá, Marcelo, used to play soccer, dance the cueca, and drive his kids to school in a beat-up green taxi — all while publishing an underground newspaper that exposed Chile's military regime. After Papá's arrest in 1980, Daniel's family fled to the United States. Now Daniel has a new life, but when Daniel's father is released and rejoins his family, they see what five years of prison and torture have done to him. Even though Daniel dreams of a real father-son relationship, he may have to give up everything simply to save Papá's life.

I Lived on Butterfly Hill

Illustrated by: Lee White
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile — until the time comes when even Celeste, with her head in the clouds, can't deny the political unrest that is sweeping through the country and is eventually sent by her parents to Maine. Accented with interior artwork, steeped in the history of Pinochet's catastrophic takeover of Chile, and based on many true events, this multicultural ode to the power of revolution, words, and love is both indelibly brave and heartwrenchingly graceful.

In the Shade of the Nispero Tree

Age Level: 9-12

"Set in Puerto Rico in 1961, this story features Teresa Giraux and her best friend, Ana, who are looking forward to their fourth-grade teacher's wedding and the Ponce junior queen competition — until Teresa's pride and temper fracture their friendship. A socially ambitious seamstress, Teresa's mother has never invited Ana on family outings because Ana is not only poorer, she's also darker. Aided by one of her wealthy clients, Teresa's mother enrolls Teresa in an exclusive academy. Then it is she and Teresa who feel the sting of discrimination." — Booklist

In the Shadow of the Alamo

Age Level: 12-14

"Fifteen-year-old Lorenzo Bonifacio, who has never left his Mexican village, is conscripted into the Mexican army and soon finds himself with troops headed to retake the Alamo from North American settlers. The journey is hard, but Lorenzo finds solace in unexpected friendships and belief in the cause. However, when the battle finally occurs, his beliefs are challenged and his perspective is broadened as he comes to realize that triumph and tragedy and heroes and villains aren't as easily defined as he thought." — Booklist

Lorenzo's Secret Mission

Age Level: 12-14

"Pursuing his father's dying wish, 15-year-old Lorenzo Bannister sets off to deliver a letter to his grandfather and becomes unexpectedly involved in some lesser-known aspects of the American Revolution, rubbing shoulders with such legendary figures as Bernardo de Gálvez and George Washington. Beginning in New Orleans, the teen travels up the Mississippi River as a medic on a flatboat delivering supplies and intelligence to the American rebels, and to Virginia to meet his grandfather for the first time.

Nilda

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: It's the summer of 1941, and all ten-year-old Nilda wants to do is enjoy the cool water of the open fire hydrant with her friends. But two policemen's curses end their fun, and their animosity is played out over and over again in Nilda's life. At home, though, she is surrounded by a large and loving — if somewhat eccentric — family that supports and encourages her artistic abilities. She experiences the onset of World War II and watches anxiously as several brothers go off to war.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women — brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul — this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.

Out of Darkness

Age Level: 14-16

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive. Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the deadly 1937 New London school explosion as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people. Michael L. Printz Honor Book Award.

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

Age Level: 14-16

This Hollywood is a barrio in 1968 New Mexico, where the students at Las Cruces High School struggle through heartbreak, loss, and an entrenched racial divide to find their place in the world.

Secret of the Andes

Age Level: 9-12

"Cusi, a modern-day Native American boy, and his guardian, Chuto, tend a herd of prized llamas in Hidden Valley, an isolated valley high in the Andes Mountains. Cusi is unaware that he is a direct descendant of the ruler of the ancient Incas. During the course of the story he is instructed by his guardian in the religion and history of his ancient people, and goes in search of his true identity." — BookRags Newbery Winner.

Sylvia & Aki

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Sylvia Mendez never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle; all she wanted was to enroll in school. Aki Munemitsu never expected to be relocated to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert; all she wanted was to stay on her family farm and finish the school year. The two girls certainly never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected in Southern California during a time when their country changed forever. Based on a true story.

The Color of My Words

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Twelve-year-old Ana Rosa is a blossoming writer growing up in the Dominican Republic, a country where words are feared. Yet there is so much inspiration all around her — watching her brother search for a future, learning to dance and to love, and finding out what it means to be part of a community — that Ana Rosa must write it all down. As she struggles to find her own voice and a way to make it heard, Ana Rosa realizes the power of her words to transform the world around her — and to transcend the most unthinkable of tragedies.

The Honorable Prison

Age Level: 14-16

"Loosely based on the author's childhood experiences, Marta Maldonada's story begins as her journalist father continues to attack, in the pages of his newspaper, the country's dictator. As a result, Marta, her younger brother and her parents are jailed in a house in the Andes — their honorable prison. At first optimistic, Marta and her family try to make the best of their situation. But as the weather becomes colder, money and food scarcer, and her father's health worsens, Marta begins to give up hope that they'll ever be free.

The Hummingbird's Daughter: A Novel

Age Level: 16-18
Product Description: It is 1889, and civil war is brewing in Mexico. A 16-year-old girl, Teresita, illegitimate but beloved daughter of the wealthy and powerful rancher Don Tomas Urrea, wakes from the strangest dream — a dream that she has died. Only it was not a dream. This passionate and rebellious young woman has arisen from death with a power to heal — but it will take all her faith to endure the trials that await her and her family now that she has become the Saint of Cabora.

The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist

Age Level: 12-14

Opposing slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century was dangerous. The most daring abolitionists were poets who veiled their work in metaphor. Of these, the boldest was Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula. In passionate, accessible free verse, Engle evokes the voice of this book-loving feminist and abolitionist who bravely resisted an arranged marriage at the age of fourteen and was ultimately courageous enough to fight against injustice. Historical notes, excerpts, and source notes round out this exceptional tribute.

The Meaning of Consuelo: A Novel

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: The Signe family is blessed with two daughters. Consuelo, the elder, is thought of as pensive and book-loving, the serious child — la niña seria — while Mili, her younger sister, is seen as vivacious, a ray of tropical sunshine. But, for all the joy both girls should bring, something is not right in this Puerto Rican family; a tragedia is developing, like a tumor, at its core.

The Red Umbrella

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States — on their own. Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, and a new way of life.

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom

Age Level: 14-16

Winner of the Pura Belpré Award and a Newbery Honor Book, The Surrender Tree tells the haunting story of Rosa, a freed Cuban slave at the time of Cuba's third War of Independence from Spain. Rather than enjoy her freedom, she hides in the forest in order to tend the wounded with wild plants. Written in verse, Rosa's vivid description of the healing plants and tragedies of war will mesmerize readers long after they turn the final page. Bilingual edition available.

Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba

Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Daniel has escaped Nazi Germany with nothing but a desperate dream that he might one day find his parents again. But that golden land called New York has turned away his ship full of refugees, and Daniel finds himself in Cuba. As the tropical island begins to work its magic on him, the young refugee befriends a local girl with some painful secrets of her own. Yet even in Cuba, the Nazi darkness is never far away.