Every June the United States observes Caribbean American Heritage Month! Celebrations honor the amazing and varied impacts that people of Caribbean ancestry have had on America's past and present.
While the islands of the Caribbean Sea number more than 700, most of us are most familiar with the 34 countries/territories that make up the Greater and Lesser Antilles.
Did you know?
- The islands of Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Jamaica, Puerto Rico, & Trinidad make up the largest and most populous islands of the Caribbean.
- There are six official languages spoken in the Caribbean (Spanish, French, English, Dutch, Haitian Creole, Papiamento) and many other Creole and Indigenous languages are spoken throughout the area as well.
- The people of the Caribbean vary widely in ethnicity and race. From the Indigenous peoples of the islands who continue to thrive to descendants of European colonizers, trafficked and enslaved African people, and the countless migrations of free and indentured laborers from around the world, the people of the Caribbean islands represent a truly diverse community.
In celebration of Caribbean American Heritage month, the Diverse BookFinder would like to share some of our favorite (and some up & coming) picture books starring characters from the many islands of the Caribbean!
"From Pura Belpré Award–winning author Margarita Engle comes a lively, rhythmic picture book about a little girl visiting her grandfather who is a pregonero—a singing street vendor in Cuba—and helping him sell his frutas. The little girl loves visiting her grandfather in Cuba and singing his special songs to sell all kinds of fruit: mango, limón, naranja, piña, and more! Even when they’re apart, grandfather and granddaughter can share rhymes between their countries like un abrazo—a hug—made of words carried on letters that soar across the distance like songbirds." -- publisher
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
"A boy is living with his abuelita while his father is away. He dreads the first day at a new school because he has nothing special to share about himself. Each family member offers him an object that represents a memory from the summer, but the boy doesn’t think any of these is interesting. Then his abuelita whispers a secret in his ear. Whenever it’s his turn to talk, all he needs to do is open his backpack. When the moment arrives, he dumps the backpack’s contents onto the table. As his classmates pick up the objects, he retells the stories they represent. Suddenly, he is surprised that he has much to say. And when he returns home, his abuelita has an even bigger surprise." -- publisher
"Anita used to watch the dragons from high above in her village, but now she must enter the belly of the beast. Will Anita be brave enough to take flight to new adventures? A beautifully tender story touching on the range of emotions immigrants may feel when leaving their home countries – excitement and sorrow, fear and courage. Anita watches the dragons high above her as she hops from one cement roof to another in her village in the Dominican Republic. But being the valiant princesa she is, she never lets them scare her. Will she be brave enough to enter the belly of the beast and take flight to new adventures?" -- publisher
"An ode to New York's iconic feline friend, and the communities they call home. Bodegais a Spanish word for "grocery store," but they are so much more than that. Bodegas are often a community cornerstone, a welcoming neighborhood haven, and in New York, an emblem of the city's cultural diversity. And who knows these treasured institutions better than the cats who run them? (Or at least they think they do!) In Bodega Cat, a cat named Chip takes us through his bustling workday at the Matos family's bodega: from receiving boxes in the morning and the breakfast rush, through counting inventory and making deliveries, to dinnertime with his family, when Papi cooks up some of the best Dominican food in the borough for their friends and neighbors. There is no rest for this busy kitty...except for when it's time to chase pigeons with his brother Damian, or to take the occasional nap on the potato chip bags. A slice of city life that celebrates the people who give New York its heart." -- publisher
"Like all kids, Josefina loves to eat sweets. She loves warm chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven, cupcakes and candy! One night, while eating a piece of flan, Mami asks her to consider giving up sweets for Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. "That's impossible!" Josefina says. When Mami promises to teach her how to make her favorite dessert, habichuelas con dulce, she agrees to give it a try. Josefina can't wait to end her fast and eat the delicious sweet cream beans, her family's traditional Easter dessert. While she and her mom, tías and abuela prepare the dish, they dance to merengue music and tell stories about life back in the Dominican Republic. The kitchen fills with the aromatic smells of cinnamon and sugar, but it's the feelings of love and happiness Josefina will never forget. On Easter Sunday, when the family eats the special dessert she prepared, the girl's grandmother proclaims, "It's the best pot of habichuelas con dulce I've tasted in my life!" This heart-warming, bilingual picture book for children shares a universal story all kids can relate to-learning about one's culture through food, music and family stories-while focusing on a cultural tradition specific to the Dominican Republic. As a bonus, the book includes the recipe for this special dessert-in both English and Spanish!" -- publisher
"A young girl in Haiti is eager to learn how to carry a basket to market in an exuberant picture book with universal appeal. “To carry the panye, we move gracefully, even under the weight of the sun and the moon.” In the hills above Port-au-Prince, a young girl named Fallon wants more than anything to carry a large woven basket to the market, just like her Manman. As she watches her mother wrap her hair in a mouchwa, Fallon tries to twist her own braids into a scarf and balance the empty panye atop her head, but realizes it’s much harder than she thought. BOOM! Is she ready after all? Lyrical and inspiring, with vibrant illustrations highlighting the beauty of Haiti, My Day with the Panye is a story of family legacy, cultural tradition, and hope for the future. Readers who are curious about the art of carrying a panye will find more about this ancient and global practice in an author’s note at the end." -- publisher
"A day-of-the-week picture book about a young boy and his parents who ride the taxi-bus service—called a tap tap—in Haiti, and the fascinating people they meet along the way, illustrated by a Haitian artist known for his vibrant street art. On Monday through Saturday, Claude and Mama walk Papa to the tap tap. Along the way Claude encounters a lady selling mangoes, a fisherman, straw-hat maker, steel drummer, and an artist. Claude wants to join Papa on the bus, but Claude has chores at home and classes at school. Finally, on Sunday Mama and Papa surprise Claude with a ride on the tap tap and they ride to the beach where the lady selling mangoes, the fisherman, straw-hat maker, steel drummer, and artist show Claude how to paint, make hats, and fish. With Creole words sprinkled throughout and a glossary at the end, I Want to Ride the Tap Tap is a warm and lively portrayal of everyday life in Haiti." -- publisher
"Join the celebration in the kitchen as a family makes their traditional New Year’s soup — and shares the story of how Haitian independence came to be." -- publisher
"Every winter, a young girl flies to Haiti to visit her Auntie Luce, a painter. The moment she steps off the plane, she feels a wall of heat, and familiar sights soon follow - the boys selling water ice by the pink cathedral, the tap tap buses in the busy streets, the fog and steep winding road to her aunt's home in the mountains. The girl has always loved Auntie Luce's paintings - the houses tucked into the hillside, colorful fishing boats by the water, heroes who fought for and won the country's independence. Through Haiti's colors, the girl comes to understand this place her family calls home."--|cProvided by publisher
"Anna fetches water from the spring every day, but she can't carry it on her head like her older brothers and sisters. In this charming and poetic family story set in Jamaica, Prize-winning author Olive Senior shows young readers the power of determination, as Anna achieves her goal and overcomes her fear"--Publisher
In this picture book, a young black girl learns to love her difficult-to-manage hair.
"Sundays Are the Best is a touching story that showcases a sweet weekly ritual between a young girl and her grandmother. Follow eight-year-old Sasha and Mama as they make precious memories and cook delicious Jamaican meals." -- publisher
"A lyrical, vibrant tribute to the amazing life and legacy of Pura Belpré, a lauded storyteller, librarian, and pioneer of bilingual storytimes Pura’s abuela always has a cuento to share. She crows ¡Qui-qui-ri-quí! for Señor Gallo, booms Borom, Borom for Señor Zapo, and tells of a beautiful cockroach who loves a mouse. Pura clings to these stories like coquíes cling to green leaves. When Pura grows up and moves from Puerto Rico to Harlem, she gets a job at the library, where she is surrounded by stories—but they’re only in English. Where is Señor Gallo? Where is Pérez the mouse? Where is Puerto Rico on these shelves? She decides to tell children the tales of her homeland in English and in Spanish. Lyrically written, with lively illustrations, Pura’s Cuentos captures the exuberant spirit and passion of Pura Belpré: celebrated storyteller, author, folklorist, and the first Latina librarian in New York City. A pioneer of bilingual storytimes, she welcomed countless new families to the library, formed cultural bridges in her community, and broke the rules by telling stories that weren’t printed in books—at least, not yet." -- publisher
"Author-illustrator Carlos Aponte takes readers on a journey to the heart of Puerto Rico in this enchanting picture book set in Old San Juan. Carlitos lives in a happy home with his mother, his abuela, and Coco the cat. Life in his hometown is cozy as can be, but the call of the capital city pulls Carlitos across the bay in search of his father. Jolly piragüeros, mischievous cats, and costumed musicians color this tale of love, family, and the true meaning of home." -- publisher
"A heartfelt picture book based on the author-illustrator’s own experiences, about a boy who moves to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico and realizes that New York City might have more in common with San Juan than he initially thought. Miguel’s pet frog, Coquí, is always with him: as he greets his neighbors in San Juan, buys quesitos from the panadería, and listens to his abuelo’s story about meeting baseball legend Roberto Clemente. Then Miguel learns that he and his parents are moving to the U.S. mainland, which means leaving his beloved grandparents, home in Puerto Rico, and even Coquí behind. Life in New York City is overwhelming, with unfamiliar buildings, foods, and people. But when he and Mamá go exploring, they find a few familiar sights that remind them of home, and Miguel realizes there might be a way to keep a little bit of Puerto Rico with him—including the love he has for Coquí—wherever he goes." -- publisher
"A reimagined and modern take on the holiday favorite, this picture book weaves together the classic Christmas tale of The Nutcracker and the true-life story of 12-year-old ballerina Charlotte Nebres, the first Black girl to play Marie in the New York City Ballet’s production. The only thing Charlotte loves as much as ballet is Christmas. So, when she gets the opportunity to play Marie in the New York City Ballet's The Nutcracker, she leaps at the chance. Dancing takes practice-hours of adjusting her arms and perfecting her jumps. With the help of her Trinidadian and Filipino families, encouragement from her sister, and a view of her mom and dad in the audience, Charlotte finds the strength to never give up. In this spectacular debut full of fluid, dynamic illustrations, Charlotte provides youngsters with a multicultural tale of family, dance, and holiday cheer." -- publisher
When her two grannies want to eat different meals and tell their own stories, how can Alvina make everyone happy?
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
The U.S. Virgin Islands
One morning, Efa rescues Ms. Aedes, a very smart, fast-talking mosquito trapped in a net. Her act of kindness is rewarded with the granting of a wish. Not even Worren, Efa’s science-loving older brother, could prepare her for the events that lay ahead. With the Virgin Islands as the background, Efa and the Mosquito is a fun and educational tale, set to the beat of an old Caribbean folk song. Read the story of a curious girl, her music loving family, a very special mosquito, and their magical and unforgettable adventure together. -- from publisher
"The sights, sounds and tastes of vibrant Saint Lucia come to life in this cumulative #OwnVoices tale of a girl's journey to Carnival. When a series of unexpected delays disrupts her journey to the big parade, Melba must adjust both her expectations and her route to the festivities. Who will she meet and what will she learn along the way?" -- publisher
Collects songs in a wide array of styles--nursery rhymes from Gabon, lullabies from Cape Verde, and rumbas from the Congo--that are performed in more than a dozen languages
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