Picture Books for Caribbean American Heritage Month

In Caribbean Dream, poetic text accompanied by vibrant watercolors show island children playing, singing, dancing, and swimming. Each spread follows a parallel construction: “Where _____ meets _____, we _____.” For example, “Where sounds meets color, we hide.” The accompanying illustration shows a busy market scene. Short enough for the youngest listeners and beautiful enough for the older ones.

619s7ogwl-_ac_us320_ql65_Under the Breadfruit Tree contains a collection of poems whose narrator is a Jamaican girl raised by her grandparents. These poems describe events from the harvesting of breadfruit, mangoes, and sugar cane to the death of the narrator’s best friend. Family and generosity (or lack of it) are recurring themes throughout much of this collection.

Colin Powell, while technically not a picture book, is accessible for young listeners. It presents a brief overview of Powell’s life. The book doesn’t state the fact, but Powell’s parents were Jamaican immigrants.

51gdxeimawl-_ac_us320_ql65_My Name Is Celia is a bilingual picture book that recounts key facts about the singer’s life in first person, as if Celia were telling her own story. Born in Cuba, Celia Cruz left when the revolution began and eventually became a citizen of the United States.

Food and Recipes of the Caribbean highlights some common ingredients, dishes, and preparation methods used in Caribbean cooking. It contains a handful of recipes that children could help make (such as friend plantains and Caribbean rice). The text is accompanied by photos.

61d62sbkel-_ac_us320_ql65_Feliz Nochebuena, Feliz Navidad is a first-person account of a Cuban family’s Christmas culinary traditions, combined with a history of Caribbean food and a few recipes. It’s a fascinating look at how cultures borrow food from other cultures and then make them their own.

Publication Information

Caribbean Dream/Rachel Isadora. New York: Scholastic, 1998. ISBN 0439168449.

Under the Breadfruit Tree: Island Poems/Monica Gunning; illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck. Honesdale: Wordsong, 1998. ISBN 1563975394.

Colin Powell/Will Mara. New York: Children’s Press, 2003. ISBN 0516279181.

My Name Is Celia, Me Llamo Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Monica Brown; illustrated by Rafael López. Flagstaff: Luna Rising, 2004. ISBN 087358872X.

Food and Recipes of the Caribbean/Theresa M. Beatty. New York: PowerKids Press, 1999. ISBN 0823952215.

Feliz Nochebuena, Feliz Navidad: Christmas Feasts of the Hispanic Caribbean/Maricel E. Presilla; pictures by Ismael Espinosa Ferrer. New York: Henry Holt, 1994. ISBN 080502512X.

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