The best children’s picture books set in South America

Why am I passionate about this?

I feel passionate about spreading the word about all the fantastic children’s literature set in South America. As an author and a multilingual mom whose son enjoys learning about his Latin American heritage, I’ve always brought home stacks of picture books—in Spanish and English—that celebrate Latin American cultures and settings. I’ve loved traveling to the Andes mountains and the Amazon rain forest as part of my children’s book collaborations with Indigenous women in those regions. Most of all, I love transporting young readers to these inspiring places through story.

I wrote...

Stand as Tall as the Trees: How an Amazonian Community Protected the Rain Forest

By Laura Resau, Patricia Gualinga, Vanessa Jaramillo (illustrator)

Book cover of Stand as Tall as the Trees: How an Amazonian Community Protected the Rain Forest

What is my book about?

Patricia (Paty) Gualingaco-author of this book—grew up in her Indigenous Kichwa village in the Amazon of Ecuador where mystical beings called Amazanga help protect the forest. Paty traveled away from home for school until she was called back because an oil company had invaded her community and was destroying its sacred forests. The government had sold drilling rights to the oil company without consulting the Kichwa community first. Paty and her community worked with other groups to make the oil company leave their land, and to bring the Ecuadorian government to the Court of Human Rights. They won an inspiring victory!

Lyrically told and beautifully illustrated, this moving story will remind readers of the importance of nature conservation, perseverance, and standing up for your community.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Zonia's Rain Forest

Laura Resau Why did I love this book?

Several years ago, I took a beautiful and eye-opening trip to an Indigenous-run ecolodge in the Amazon Rain Forest.

Tragically, the following year, the community was displaced after an oil company invaded and destroyed their forest. So, I connected strongly to this book, which tells the story of Zonia, an Indigenous Asháninka girl living in the Peruvian Amazon, who forms playful and sacred bonds with her plant and animal friends.

But when she comes across felled trees, she must respond to the forest’s call for help. The illustrations are sweet and warm, inviting readers to take part in Zonia’s experiences. And when we witness the stark devastation, we feel her despair and her call to action.

I loved this book that encourages us all to support Indigenous and environmental rights.

By Juana Martinez-Neal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zonia's Rain Forest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A heartfelt, visually stunning picture book from Caldecott Honor and Robert F. Sibert Medal winner Juana Martinez-Neal illuminates a young girl’s day of play and adventure in the lush rain forest of Peru.

Zonia’s home is the Amazon rain forest, where it is always green and full of life. Every morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia, and every morning, she answers. She visits the sloth family, greets the giant anteater, and runs with the speedy jaguar. But one morning, the rain forest calls to her in a troubled voice. How will Zonia answer?
Acclaimed author-illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal explores the…

Book cover of Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built

Laura Resau Why did I love this book?

I love that this book is based on the true story of a former garbage collector who became famous for building his own library… starting with a discarded copy of Anna Karenina that he’d found on his route.

The story tells of “two Josés” who lived in Bogotá, Colombia—a young one and an old one. We follow them throughout the week, until their favorite day—library day, when the older José welcomes the younger one and other children into his hand-collected library.

As someone who loves thrifted, upcycled, and re-used treasures, I felt delighted by this heart-warming and inspiring story for book-lovers of all ages.

By Angela Burke Kunkel, Paola Escobar,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Digging for Words as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A gorgeous and inspiring picture book based on the life of José Alberto Gutiérrez, a garbage collector in Bogotá, Colombia who started a library with a single discarded book found on his route.

In the city of Bogata, in the barrio of La Nueva Gloria, there live two Joses. One is a boy who dreams of Saturdays-- that's the day he gets to visit Paradise, the library. The second Jose is a garbage collector. From dusk until dawn, he scans the sidewalks as he drives, squinting in the dim light, searching household trash for hidden treasure . . . books!…

Book cover of Waiting for the Biblioburro

Laura Resau Why did I love this book?

Here we have another inspiring book based on the true story of a passionate librarian in Colombia, only this one takes place in remote villages.

Ana is an imaginative girl who treasures her only book, and feels enchanted when she meets Luis Soriano Bohórquez with his burros, bringing books to the countryside. The books she borrows transport her and inspire her to write a tale about the librarian and his burros.

The ending comes full circle when the librarian packs Ana’s book onto the burro and brings it to another village to inspire another child. This reminds us of the magic and power of books!

By Monica Brown, John Parra (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Waiting for the Biblioburro as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Ana loves stories. She often makes them up to help her little brother fall asleep. But in her small village there are only a few books and she has read them all. One morning, Ana wakes up to the clip-clop of hooves, and there before her, is the most wonderful sight: a traveling library resting on the backs of two burros‑all the books a little girl could dream of, with enough stories to encourage her to create one of her own.
Inspired by the heroic efforts of real-life librarian Luis Soriano, award-winning picture book creators Monica Brown and John Parra…

Book cover of From My Window

Laura Resau Why did I love this book?

The vibrant, colorful cut-out style mosaic artwork first caught my eye—it creates a jubilant sensory experience.

In poignant observations, the author recounts what he saw as a boy from his window, in his favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Although favelas might have problems with lack of services and violence, this story is a celebration of the creative spirit of the favela, where Brazilian funk was born, and where future soccer super-stars hone their skills.

This is a poignant glimpse into the poetry of people’s lives in the favela, and it captivated me completely.

By Otavio Junior, Vanina Starkoff (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From My Window as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

What do you see from your window? This #OwnVoices picture book from Brazil offers a first-hand view of what children growing up in the favelas of Rio de Janiero see everyday. A vibrant and diverse celebration of urban community living, brought to life by unique, colorful illustrations that juxtapose brick buildings with lush jungle plants.

Book cover of Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Laura Resau Why did I love this book?

Music and books are the great loves in our family—my teenage son has been in rock bands since he was a kid.

I love seeing our interests meet in uplifting stories like this one. This inspiring picture book tells the story of young Ada, who lives on a landfill in Paraguay with limited opportunities in life… until Favio Chávez comes to her community, bringing instruments and offering music lessons to the youth.

Without enough instruments, they innovate and use materials found in the landfill to create violins, flutes, and guitars. Soon, the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay is born… and ventures around the world to perform!

This is a heart-swelling book that celebrates ingenuity and following your dreams.

By Susan Hood, Sally Wern Comport (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ada's Violin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

From award-winning author Susan Hood and illustrator Sally Wern Comport comes the extraordinary true tale of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, an orchestra made up of children playing instruments built from recycled trash.

Ada Rios grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option...until a music teacher named Favio Chavez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was…

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Magical Disinformation

By Lachlan Page,

Book cover of Magical Disinformation

Lachlan Page Author Of Magical Disinformation

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in Latin America for six years, working as a red cross volunteer, a volcano hiking guide, a teacher, and an extra in a Russian TV series (in Panama). Having travelled throughout the region and returning regularly, I’m endlessly fascinated by the culture, history, politics, languages, and geography. Parallel to this, I enjoy reading and writing about the world of international espionage. Combining the two, and based on my own experience, I wrote my novel, Magical Disinformation, a spy novel set in Colombia. While there is not a huge depth of spy novels set in Latin America, I’ve chosen five of my favourites spy books set in the region.

Lachlan's book list on spy books set in Latin America

What is my book about?

This book is a spy novel with a satirical edge which will take you on a heart-pumping journey through the streets, mountains, jungles, and beaches of Colombia. Our Man in Havana meets A Clear and Present Danger.

Magical Disinformation

By Lachlan Page,

What is this book about?

In the era of ‘fake news’ in the land of magical realism, fiction can be just as dangerous as the truth... Discover Lachlan Page’s Magical Disinformation: a spy novel with a satirical edge set amongst the Colombian peace process. Described by one reviewer as “Our Man in Havana meets A Clear and Present Danger.”

Oliver Jardine is a spy in Colombia, enamoured with local woman Veronica Velasco.

As the Colombian government signs a peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, Her Majesty’s Government decides a transfer is in order to focus on more pertinent theatres of operation.

In a desperate attempt…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in libraries, orchestras, and Colombia?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about libraries, orchestras, and Colombia.

Libraries Explore 52 books about libraries
Orchestras Explore 6 books about orchestras
Colombia Explore 36 books about Colombia