Migrant Farmworker Families: Books for Kids

These books explore the life of migrant farm workers in a way that children can understand and relate to. From an alphabet book to stories about Cesar Chavez to a young adult novel, these titles offer thoughtful and moving portraits that will inspire all children. The selected books also offer a rich opportunity to discuss the experience of children who have worked as young laborers, as well as a lens in which children of migrant families can see their struggles and triumphs reflected.

A Day's Work

Illustrated by: Ronald Himler
Age Level: 6-9

When Francisco's grandfather arrives from Mexico speaking no English and in search of a job, Francisco becomes his translator. In his desire to help Abuelo find work quickly, Francisco lies about what his grandfather knows how to do, creating trouble for both of them. In the end, Francisco learns an important lesson in this poignant story about immigrant families and day laborers.

Amelia to Zora

Illustrated by: Megan Halsey
Age Level: 6-9

"An introduction to 26 diverse, 20th-century women who have made a difference in such varied fields as the arts, sports, journalism, science, and entertainment. The entries include Dolores Huerta and Frida Kahlo." — School Library Journal

Amelia's Road

This moving story opens with the line, "Amelia Luisa Martinez hated roads." For Amelia, all roads represent the impermanence of moving from one farm labor camp to the next. Amelia longs for a place to call home in the midst of so much change. Her quest for home is a tribute to the resilience and resourcefulness shown by migrant children each day, whether they are arriving at a new school or are working in the fields. Acrylic paintings on canvas offer a lovely texture to the illustrations.

Calling the Doves

Product Description: Calling the Doves is poet Juan Felipe Herrera's story of his migrant farmworker childhood. In delightful and lyrical language, he recreates the joy of eating breakfast under the open sky, listening to Mexican songs in the little trailer house his father built, and celebrating with other families at a fiesta in the mountains. He remembers his mother singing songs and reciting poetry, and his father telling stories and calling the doves.

César: Yes, We Can!

The life and times of César Chávez are vividly re-created in this collection of evocative poems. Where most biographies stick to the facts of what a person did, this one also touches on the man's character and values. Children will learn about Chávez, but, more importantly, they will learn about the important lessons he taught others even amid great challenges.

Esperanza Rising

Instead of celebrating her 13th birthday in her prosperous Mexican home as she expected, Esperanza must adjust to the murder of her father, the loss of her house and wealth, and her new life as a farm worker in California during the Great Depression. This readable coming-of-age novel is based on the life of the author's grandmother.

First Day in Grapes

Chico has had lots of first days, like the first day of artichokes and the first day of onions. Today will be his first day in grapes as his family arrives in a new place to harvest a new crop. Despite some trouble from some bullies, Chico has a good first day — and he may even be at this school long enough to participate in the math contest! Through Chico's eyes, students will have a new appreciation for what it's like for migrant kids or other kids who move a lot and who always know they have a new first day just around the corner.

Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English

Using the alphabet as a pattern, paintings and brief poems explore rural life in Mexico presented first in Spanish and followed by English. From A to Z, brilliant illustrations and fluid poems evoke the plants, and more and the emotional impact on the lives of farm workers.

Ghosts for Breakfast

Illustrated by: Shelly Shinjo
Age Level: 6-9

A Japanese-American agricultural community in the 1920s is the setting for an excursion into tongue-in-cheek adventure. When rumors swirl that a field is haunted by "dozens of ghosts, dancing in the moonlight," a curious farmer and his son set out to investigate.

Going Home

Illustrated by: David Diaz
Age Level: 6-9

Mama and Papa are excited to take a break from working in the fields and go home, but Carlos and his sisters are not sure how they feel about traveling to Mexico. Soon after arriving, however, they meet their loving extended family, and the children begin to understand what it meant for their parents to leave home in order to offer the family a better future. David Diaz's stunning illustrations layered on top of photos of Mexican folk art bring Eve Bunting's beautiful story to life.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

As a young boy, Cesar Chavez grew up on an 80-acre ranch in Arizona in the midst of joyous family reunions. When his family had to leave Arizona, however, to work as migrant laborers in California, their lives were turned upside down. During these excrutiating days and nights, Cesar struggled — but then found the resolve to one day help his fellow workers. Yuyi Morales brings Cesar's childhood and early days as an organizer to life with stunning illustrations.

La Mariposa

Young Francisco is excited to go to school. His excitement gives way to shame and frustration, however, as he realizes that he doesn't fit in and he can't understand what is happening around him in English. The story explores Francisco's isolation and his daydreams about a caterpillar in a jar in his classroom.

This story is an excerpt from The Circuit and is based on the experiences of the author as the child of migrant farmworkers. Both English and Spanish versions available.

Papi's Gift

Graciella's father leaves his family to pick fruit far away, but calls every Sunday. The surprise he sends for Graciella's seventh birthday is lost as is the child's hope of seeing Papi — at least temporarily. This realistic, universally appealing story told from the child's point of view is gently illustrated.

Radio Man

Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Diego and his family are migrant farmers who move from state to state picking fruits and vegetables. Each day brings a new experience — a different place, a different crop, and different people to meet. But no matter where Diego goes, his radio goes with him — it helps him to learn about the places he's going and to keep in touch with the people he meets along the way.

Return to Sender

Age Level: 9-12

When Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, the family decides to hire a family of Mexican migrant workers. For Tyler, the workers' presence on the farm — as well as that of the three young daughters — is shrouded in mystery. As he develops a friendship with Mari, the eldest, he begins to wonder about the family's immigration status and what it means to be patriotic. In the meantime, Mari struggles with her own complicated feelings and worries about her mother, who is missing.

Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and César Chávez

Illustrated by: Joe Cepeda

Many years ago in California, an energetic young Girl Scout named Dolores worked to raise money for soldiers fighting in World War II. A thoughtful young boy named Cesar worked in the fields to help his family put food on the table. As young adults, these two extraordinary individuals would meet and spend the rest of their lives working tirelessly on behalf of migrant workers and children through nonviolent struggle — side by side.

The Christmas Gift

"A few days before Christmas, Panchito's family decided it was time to move again." So begins the Christmas tale of a young boy whose migrant family is struggling to make ends meet. Based on the childhood experiences of author Francisco Jim&eacuate;nez, the beautiful story and paintings capture Panchito's loneliness, as well as his parents' devotion to their children and each other.

Tomás and the Library Lady

By: Pat Mora
Illustrated by: Raúl Colón

Tomás, child of migrant workers, visits the town library to find stories like the ones told by his grandfather. There he meets a librarian who provides him with a cool place, stories and books, and friendship before Tomás and his family move on to the next place. Handsomely illustrated in earth tones, this touching story was inspired by the real life of writer and educator, Tomás Rivera. Also available in Spanish.

Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Farmworkers Tell Their Stories

This moving collection of photos, poems, and essays offers an intimate look at the challenges and hopes of the children of migrant farmworkers. From the details of what it's like to picking strawberries to the difficulty of moving frequently, Voices does exactly what the author intended — it gives a voice to an often overlooked group of children and families, and puts their strength and dreams into words in a way that students will be able to relate to. Most content is appropriate for grades 4 and up, but some is more appropriate for high school students.