5 Must Read Latinx YA Novels in Verse

  1. Downtown Boy by Juan Felipe Herrera (Scholastic Press, 2005)

A201SchDownBoyJKT_0.tifJuanito Palomar is new to San Francisco. He moved there from the central valley after his father had to go away. Herrera’s historical novel in verse is set in the 1950s and follows Juanito through the trials and tribulations of being a young man of color. Juanito doesn’t understand why his father comes and goes from the family as often as he does. Throughout the novel in verse, Jaunito struggles to define his masculinity and to define his relationship with his father. Herrera tells a beautiful story about a father’s and son’s desire to belong, to find healing, and to be with each other.



  1. The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle (Henry Colt & Co, 2008)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      the surrender tree                                            This historical novel in verse opens in 1896 in Cuba and tells a fictional account of Rosa Castellanos, more often refer to as “La Bayamesa, her commitment to freedom. Rosa was a slave and she escapes in order to serve as a healer and nurse to all the other runaway slaves that have been hurt by those that seek to hunt them. Through Rosa, the reader is privy to the atrociousness of slavery in Cuba and the political climate that depend on the slavery and further oppression of her people. Engle creates a powerful and heartfelt story with a strong and beautiful heroine. (Also available in Spanish) (Newbery Honor Book, Pura Belpre Award)



  1. The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan & Peter Sis (Scholastic Press, 2010)

the dreamer          Based on the childhood events in the life of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Muñoz-Ryan and Sis capture a beautiful story about a young boy’s struggle to find his voice despite his father’s domineering presence. Because Neftali is smaller than most boys his age, his father is determined to strengthen him and turn him into a real man. Neftali, is more interested in collecting objects, reading books, and daydreaming. All of which only further infuriate his father. The Dreamer is an exceptional story of the power of poetry in the face of adversity. (Also available in Spanish) (Pura Belpre Award)




  1. Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Lee & Low Books, 2011)

under_mesquite        Lupita lives happily with her family in Coahuila until she must move to South Texas to accompany his father to a new job and so that her mother can receive proper cancer treatment. While her father needs to work to maintain the family and her mother is in another town getting treatment, Lupita is in charge of taking care of her younger siblings. When her situation becomes too burdensome she finds solace under the mesquite tree where she sits to write. Garcia McCall tells an emotionally charged story of a young girl forced to take on adult responsibilities and her unwavering commitment to become a writer. (Tomas Rivera Book Award, Pura Belpre Award)



  1. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle (Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2015)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              enchanted-air                                    In this riveting nonfiction memoir, Engle tells of her upbringing in Los Angeles during the Cold War era, learning about the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the palpable fear she felt for her family in Cuba. Engle describes the challenges of growing up with two cultures and always longing for one place while in another. Young Margarita finds herself in words when it feels like she belongs to both culture and neither at the same time. Enchanted Air is the outstanding memoir of a truly amazing writer.(Pura Belpre Award)


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