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Central America & Caribbean Area Countries – Picture Books

November 16, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Picture books which take place in specific Central American & Caribbean nations.
Anguilla ;  Antigua and Barbuda ; Aruba ; The Bahamas ; Barbados ; Belize ; British Virgin Islands ; Cayman Islands ; Costa Rica ; Cuba ; Curacao ; Dominica ; Dominican Republic ; El Salvador ; Grenada ; Guatemala ; Haiti ; Honduras ; Jamaica ; Montserrat ; Navassa Island ; Nicaragua ; Panama ; Puerto Rico (not a nation) ; Saint Barthlemy ; Saint Kitts and Nevis ; Saint Lucia 



Sawdust Carpets by Amelia Lau Carling (Groundwood, 2005)*
Celebrating Easter with her Christian cousins in Antigua, Guatemala, a Buddhist Chinese girl enjoys creating a traditional sawdust “carpet” on the cobblestone street near the church of La Merced–until she learns that it will be destroyed under the feet of the La Merced procession.

Anna Carries Water by Olive Senior (Tradewind, 2014)*
When Anna and her family fetch water from the spring, she wonders when she will learn to carry it on her head like her brothers and sisters.


A Day with Bonefish Joe by Elizabeth Howard (David R. Godine, 2015)
Young Flossie is thrilled when she finally gets the chance to spend a day at sea with Bonefish Joe, one of the best-known bonefish guides in the Bahamas. Includes facts about Joseph Cleare and Harbour Island.

Kobee Manatee: A Wild Weather Adventure by Robert Scott Thayer (Thompson Mill Press, 2015)
Kobee wants to surprise his sister, Kim, who lives in the Bahamas, on her birthday. But it won’t be easy to get there from Key West, Florida. Kobee will have to travel across the mighty Atlantic Ocean and into the strong Gulf Stream current. Not only that – it’s hurricane season! Can Kobee and his friends Tess and Pablo swim safely through a giant thunderstorm, a wild waterspout and a monster hurricane?


Emerald Blue by Ann Marie Linden (Atheneum 1994)*
A young girl describes the life that she and her brother share with their grandmother in her Caribbean island home, until their mother comes to take them away.


The Village Basket Weaver by Jonathan London (Dutton 1996)*
A young boy helps his aging grandfather complete a basket to be used by their Garifuna village to carry on the tradition of making cassava bread.


Song of La Selva by Joan Banks (Soundprints 1998)*
A strawberry poison frog travels through a Costa Rican rain forest searching for his territory.

After a While, Crocodile: Alexa’s Diary by Dr. Brady Barr (Arbordale, 2016)
Alexa and the other children at her rural school in Costa Rica have a special project: they are raising American Crocodiles and returning them to the wild. End notes discuss the physical characteristics and conservation of crocodiles.

Tortuga Squad: Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rica by Cathleen Burnham (Crickhollow, 2016)
NONFICTION. An inspiring real-life story of a group of kids in Costa Rica helping to protect endangered sea turtles and their eggs, patrolling the beaches for poachers and protecting the eggs from animal predators.

A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke (Margaret McElderry, 2013)*
NONFICTION. Hang around just like a sloth and get to know the delightful residents of the Avarios Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, the world’s largest sloth orphanage. You’ll fall in love with bad-boy Mateo, ooh and ahh over baby Biscuit, and want to wrap your arms around champion cuddle buddy Ubu!

Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey by Loree Griffin Burns (Millbrook, 2014)*
NONFICTION. Introduces readers to a butterfly farm in Costa Rica.

When the Monkeys Came Back by Kristine L. Franklin (Atheneum 1994)
Always remembering how the monkeys in her Costa Rican valley disappeared when all the trees were cut down, Marta grows up, plants more trees, and sees the monkeys come back.

Fernando’s Gift=El Regalo de Fernando by Douglas Keister (Sierra Club, 1995)
One day young Fernando, who lives in the rain forest of Costa Rica with his family, goes with his friend Carmina to look for her favorite climbing tree only to find it cut down.

Morpha: A Rain Forest Story by Michael Tennyson (Colorado Mountain, 2002)
Morpha, a Blue Morpho butterfly begins life in the rain forest of Costa Rica and describes the interdependence of plants and animals.


The Remembering Stone by Barbara T. Russell (Dorling Kindersley 1999)
As a young girl and her mother watch the flocks of black birds preparing for their journey south, the mother dreams of returning to Costa Rica where she was born.


Good-bye, Havana! Hola, New York! by Edie Colón (S&S, 2011)
When Fidel Castro’s government takes over their restaurant in 1960, six-year-old Gabriella and her parents move from Cuba to New York City.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)
Follows a girl in the 1920s as she strives to become a drummer, despite being continually reminded that only boys play the drums, and that there has never been a female drummer in Cuba. Includes note about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who inspired the story, and Anacaona, the all-girl dance band she formed with her sisters.

The Road to Santiago by D. H. Figuredo (Lee & Low, 2003)
In Cuba, in the early 1950s, a young boy and his family try their best not to let the rebel soldiers keep them from traveling to Santiago to celebrate Christmas with their relatives. Based on a true incident in the life of the author.

The Dog Who Loved the Moon by Cristina Garcia (Atheneum 2008)
When her dog becomes lovesick for the moon, a young Cuban girl and her uncle call the moon down to give the dog a kiss, with surprising results.

Dalia’s Wondrous Hair by Laura Lacámara (Piñata Books, 2014)
A Cuban girl transforms her long and unruly hair into a garden.

Mama Does the Mambo by Katherine Leiner (Hyperion, 2001)
Following the death of her Papa, Sophia fears that her Mama will never find another dancing partner for Carnival.

Rooly and Flora’s Reunion by Raul Martinez (Soundprints 2006)
Rooly finds many things to enjoy during his family reunion in Havana, Cuba, including a trip to the beach and wonderful food, but the best part is spending the day with his favorite cousin, Flora.

A Mango in the Hand by Antonio Sacre (Abrams 2011)
Guided by proverbs from his father and other relatives, Francisco makes several attempts to bring ripe mangoes home for dessert on his saint day, and in the process learns lessons in love and generosity. Includes glossary of Spanish terms.


Amelia’s Show-and-Tell Fiesta = Amelia y la Fiesta de “Muestra y Cuenta” by Mimi Chapra (HarperCollins, 2004)
Excited about the first show-and-tell in her new American kindergarten, Amelia brings in her special fiesta dress from Cuba.

Good-bye, Havana! Hola, New York! by Edie Colón (Simon & Schuster, 2011)
When Fidel Castro’s government takes over their restaurant in 1960, six-year-old Gabriella and her parents move from Cuba to New York City.

Birthday in the Barrio by Mayra L. Dole (Children’s Book Press, 2004)
When Lazarita’s unemployed father cannot afford a party for her “quinces,” the birthday celebration that marks a fifteen-year-old girl’s entrance into womanhood, her friends in her Miami Cuban-American community enlist the mayor’s help to plan a surprise block party.

Drum, Chavi, Drum! = Toca, Chavi, Toca! by Mayra L. Dole (Children’s Book Press, 2003)
Chavi’s music teacher believes that only boys should play drums in Miami’s Festival de la Calle Ocho, but Chavi knows she is a good musician and looks for a way to prove it.

La Noche Buena: a Christmas Story by Antonio Sacre (Abrams, 2010)
While spending Christmas with her Cuban American grandmother in Miami, Florida, young Nina misses her usual New England holiday but enjoys learning about the foods and other traditions her father knew as a child.


A Gift of Gracias by Julia Alvarez (Knopf 2005)*
Maria’s family is almost forced to leave their farm on the new island colony, until a mysterious lady appears in Maria’s dream.


Look Back! by Trish Cooke (Crocodile Books, 2015)
After his Dominican Grannie tells him of her attempts to catch the mischievous Ti Bolam when she was young, Christopher decides he will go after the strange being himself.

Luis Paints the World by Terry Farish (Carolrhoda, 2016)
Nico doesn’t have to join the Army to see the world–that’s what younger brother Luis tries to show by painting a mural in the neighborhood alley. But Nico is deployed and his small brother paints the world in the alleyway to hold on to him.

My Feet are Laughing by Lissette Norman (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2006)
Sadie, an imaginative young Dominican American, relates her experiences growing up in her grandmother’s brownstone house in Harlem.


Magic Dogs of the Volcanoes = Los Perros Mágicos de los Volcanes by Manlio Argueta (Children’s Book Press, 1990)
When the magic dogs who live on the volcanoes of El Salvador and protect the villagers from harm are pursued by wicked lead soldiers, they are aided by two ancient volcanoes.


Xochitl and the Flowers by Jorge Argueta (Children’s Book Press, 2003)
Xochitl and her family, newly arrived in San Francisco from El Salvador, create a beautiful plant nursery in place of the garbage heap behind their apartment, and celebrate with their friends and neighbors.

Francisco’s Kites = Las Cometas de Francisco by Alicia Z. Klepeis (Pinata Books, 2015)
Francisco misses his village in El Salvador, and especially flying a kite with his friends, but Mamá cannot afford to buy a kite so he gathers discarded materials around his apartment building and makes his own, which catches the eye of a store owner and leads to a wonderful project.

I am René, the Boy = Soy René, el Niño by René Colato Laínez (Pinata Books, 2005)
When René learns that in the United States his name is also a girl’s name, he does some research and relates the name’s meaning and letters to his homeland of El Salvador and the things that make him special.

René has Two Last Names = René Tiene dos Apellidos by René Colato Laínez (Pinata Books, 2009)
In this story based on the author’s childhood, a young Salvadoran immigrant is teased for having two last names until he presents his family tree project celebrating his heritage.

Waiting for Papa = Esperando a Papá by René Colato Laínez (Pinata Books, 2004)
When a young boy and his mother come to the United States from El Salvador, leaving his father behind, the boy misses his father very much and wants to do something special to show him how much he cares.

Bonesy and Isabel by Michael J. Rosen (Harcourt Brace, 1995)
Isabel, an adopted Salvadoran girl, adjusts to her new life in America by befriending the old dog Bonesy, but then she must deal with her grief when he dies.


Mama and Papa Have a Store by Amelia Lau Carling (Dial 1998)*
A little girl describes what a day is like in her parents’ Chinese store in Guatemala City. Age 4-7. AR: 4.1. Lexile: 810

Abuela’s Weave by Omar S. Castaneda (Lee & Low 1993)
A young Guatemalan girl and her grandmother grow closer as they weave some special creations and then make a trip to the market in hopes of selling them. Grade 2-4. AR: 5.2. Lexile: 960

The Sleeping Bread by Stefan Czernecki (Hyperion 1992)
The bitter tear of an unwanted beggar causes the bread dough in the bakery shop to “sleep,” and the villagers fear it will not rise in time for the festival of the town’s patron saint. Age 6-8.

Iguana Beach by Kristin L. Franklin (Crown 1997)
Though little Reina has promised not to swim in the waves during her first trip to the ocean, it becomes intolerable for her to keep that promise as her cousins frolic in the water–and then she finds a solution to her problem. Preschool-Grade 2.

Pascual’s Magic Pictures by Amy Glaser Gage (Carolrhoda 1996)
Having saved enough money to buy a disposable camera, Pascual goes into the Guatemalan jungle to take pictures of monkeys, but the results are not what he expected. Grade K-2.

People of Corn: A Mayan Story by Mary-Joan Gerson (Little, Brown, 1995)*
FOLKLORE. After several unsuccessful attempts to create grateful creatures, the Mayan gods use sacred corn to fashion a people who will thank and praise their creators. Grade K-3.

My Pig Amarillo by Satomi Ichikawa (Philomel 2003)*
Pablito, a Guatemalan boy whose pet pig Amarillo has disappeared, uses a kite to send him a message that he still loves him. Grades K-2. AR: 2.2

The Snake’s Toothache: A Qeqchi Maya Myth by Melinda Lilly (Rourke, 1999)
FOLKLORE. An old witch who lives in a cave in a volcano with a fiery snake uses her wits to keep the serpent from destroying her village. Grades K-2. AR: 4.9

Rainbow Weaver = Tejedora del Arcoíris by Linda Elovitz Marshall (Children’s Book Press, 2016)
Ixchel, a young Mayan girl who is not allowed to use her mother’s thread to weave, exercises her ingenuity and repurposes plastic bags to create colorful weavings. Grades K-3.

The Race of Toad and Deer retold by Pat Mora (Orchard, 1995)
FOLKLORE. With the help of his friends, Tio Sapo, the toad, defeats the overconfident Tio Venado, the deer, in a race.

Elena’s Story by Nancy Shaw (Sleeping Bear, 2012)
Elena lives with her mother and siblings in a small village in Guatemala and tries to make time to improve her reading as she helps her mother with daily chores.

The Wheels on the Bus illustrated by Melanie Williamson (Barefoot Books, 2014) 
In this version of the classic song, residents of a rural Guatemalan village travel by bus to the city. Includes endnotes on Guatemala’s geography, agriculture, transportation, currency, landmarks, and customs. Ages 3-6. RL: 1.4


I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien (Charlesbridge, 2015)
Three children from other countries (Somalia, Guatemala, and Korea) struggle to adjust to their new home and school in the United States.


Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat (Orchard, 2010)
Junior tells of the games he played in his mind during the eight days he was trapped in his house after the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Includes author’s note about Haitian children before the earthquake and her own children’s reactions to the disaster.

Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren (Boyds Mills, 2006)\
Each day Chrislove asks his friend Josias when he will “hold the book,” or join them at school, but Josias can only think of tending the bean garden so that his family will have enough food.

Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope by Youme Landownd (Cinco Puntos, 2004)*
A homeless boy on the streets of Haiti joins other street children, and together they build a home and a radio station where they can care for themselves and for other homeless children.

Running the Road to ABC by Denize Lauture (Simon & Schuster, 1996)*
Long before the sun even thinks of rising the Haitian children run to school where they learn the letters, sounds, and words of their beautiful books.

Mama Rocks, Papa Sings by Nancy Van Laan (Knopf 1995)
A little Haitian girl describes how her parents’ house fills up with babies as relatives drop off their children on their way to work.

Hope for Haiti by Jesse Joshua Watson (Putnam’s, 2010)
A young boy finds hope when he is given an old soccer ball to play with in the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.

Circles of Hope by Karen Lynn Williams (Eerdmans, 2005)*
After many futile attempts to plant a tree in honor of his new baby sister, a young Haitian boy discovers the perfect solution.

Painted Dreams by Karen Lynn Williams (Lothrop, 1998)*
Because her Haitian family is too poor to be able to buy paints for her, eight-year-old Ti Marie finds her own way to create pictures that make the heart sing.

Tap-Tap by Karen Lynn Williams (Clarion, 1994)
After selling oranges in the market, a Haitian mother and daughter have enough money to ride the tap-tap, a truck that picks up passengers and lets them off when they bang on the side of the vehicle.


Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat (Dial, 2015)
When Saya’s mother is sent to jail as an illegal immigrant, she sends her daughter a cassette tape with a song and a bedtime story, which inspires Saya to write a story of her own–one that just might bring her mother home.

Aunt Lilly’s Laundromat by Melanie Hope Greenberg (Dutton, 1994)*
Aunt Lilly thinks about her island home, Haiti, while she works in her laundromat in Brooklyn.

Calling the Water Drum by LaTisha Redding (Lee & Low, 2016)
A young boy loses both parents as they attempt to flee Haiti for a better life, and afterward is only able to process his grief and communicate with the outside world through playing the drums.


The Face at the Window by Regina Hanson (Clarion, 1997)
When Dora goes to take a mango from Miss Nella’s tree, she is frightened by the woman’s strange behavior.

The Tangerine Tree by Regina Hanson (Clarion, 1995)
When Papa announces that he must leave Jamaica to work in America, Ida is heartbroken until he tells her a secret.

A Season for Mangoes by Regina Hanson (Clarion, 2005)
In Jamaica, Sareen is concerned about participating in her first sit-up, a celebration of the life of her recently deceased grandmother, but discovers that sharing her stories of Nana’s passion for mangoes helps lift the sadness.

The Chalk Doll by Charlotte Pomerantz (Lippincott, 1989)
Rosy’s mother remembers the pleasures of her childhood in Jamaica and the very special dolls she used to play with.

The Crab Man by Patricia E. Van West (Turtle, 1998)
When Neville sees the hermit crabs which he so gently collected being mistreated by the crab man at a Jamaican hotel, he no longer wants to supply them but would thereby forfeit his income.

Angelina’s Island by Jeanette Winter (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007)
Every day, Angelina dreams of her home in Jamaica and imagines she is there, until her mother finds a wonderful way to convince her that New York is now their home.


A Shelter in Our Car by Monica Gunning (Children’s Book Press, 2004)*
Since she left Jamaica for America after her father died, Zettie lives in a car with her mother while they both go to school and plan for a real home.


My Little Island by Frane Lessac (Lippincott 1984)*
A young boy goes with his best friend to visit the little Caribbean island where he was born.


Hands of the Rain Forest: The Emberá People of Panama by Rachel Crandell (Henry Holt, 2009)*
NONFICTION. An introduction to the lifestyle and traditions of the Emberá culture of Panama.



Mis Abuelos y Yo = My grandparents and I by Samuel Caraballo (Pinata Books, 2004)
Illustrations and rhyming text describe all the special things a Puerto Rican boy enjoys doing with his grandparents throughout the year.

Pelican’s Catch by Janet Halfmann (Soundprints, 2004)
Brown Pelican, who lives on a mangrove island off the coast of Puerto Rico, learns how to fish and take care of herself. Includes facts about brown pelicans.

Hurricane! by Jonathan London (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1998)*
A young boy describes the experiences of his family when a hurricane hits their home on the island of Puerto Rico.

Abuelita’s Paradise by Carmen Santiago Nodar (Albert Whitman 1992)
Although her grandmother has died, Marita sits in Abuelita’s rocking chair and remembers the stories Abuelita told of life in Puerto Rico.

A Doll for Navidades by Esmeralda Santiago (Scholastic, 2005)
While preparing for Christmas in Puerto Rico, seven-year-old Esmeralda asks the Three Magi for a baby doll like her cousin’s, but when they bring something else instead she gains a deeper understanding of the meaning of the holiday.

Sergio and the Hurricane by Alexandra Wallner (Henry Holt, 2000)
A young boy is excited when he hears that a hurricane is coming to his oceanfront home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but when it comes, he learns how dangerous hurricanes can be.


No Dogs Allowed! by Sonia Manzano (Atheneum, 2004)
When Iris, her family, and the neighbors take a trip to Enchanted Lake, everyone brings what they think is needed, but the family dog turns out to present a problem.


My Grandpa and the Sea by Katherine Orr (Carolrhoda, 1990)
When Grandpa, a traditional fisherman, is forced from his livelihood because increasingly efficient technology has depleted his island’s supply of fish, he creates an ecologically sound solution by starting a sea moss farm.


Gregory Cool by Caroline Binch (Dial, 1994)*
When he goes to visit his grandparents and his cousin on the island of Tobago, Gregory misses home at first, but as he gets to know both the island ways and his relatives, Gregory begins to enjoy himself.

Fish for the Grand Lady by Colin Bootman (Holiday House, 2006)
In Trinidad, two brothers try fishing in a new place, hoping to bring home a big catch for their grandmother.

An Island Christmas by Lynn Joseph (Clarion, 1992)
Rosie’s preparations for Christmas on the island of Trinidad include picking red petals for the sorrel drink, mixing up the black currant cake, and singing along with the parang band.

Jasmine’s Parlour Day by Lynn Joseph (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1994)*
Jasmine helps her mother prepare to sell fish and sugar cakes at their parlour, or market stand, on market day on the island of Trinidad.

Jump up Time: A Trinidad Carnival Story by Lynn Joseph (Clarion, 1998)
Although she is jealous of all the attention being paid to her older sister’s Carnival costume, Lily helps Christine when she gets nervous before time to go on stage.

Divali Rose by Vashanti Rahaman (Boyds Mills, 2008)
As the festival of Divali approaches, Ricki wants to confess that he accidentally broke a rosebud off the bush he and his grandfather planted, but grandfather is busy blaming the neighbors who are newly arrived in Trinidad from India.

A Little Salmon for Witness by Vashanti Rahaman (Dutton, 1997)*
On Good Friday, a school holiday in Trinidad, Rajiv spends the day searching for a special birthday present for his grandmother.


NOTE: Asterisked books can be borrowed from the Middletown Library Service Center by Connecticut libraries. Please email Linda.Williams@ct.gov.

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