The best picture books that only Mexican authors (and illustrators) could have made

Who am I?

Hello! My name is Flavia Z. Drago and I'm a Mexican picturebook maker currently living with my partner and my cat in the UK. As a child, most of the books that I read came from foreign countries, particularly Europe and the US, and these have had a huge influence on my work as an author and illustrator. However, now that I'm in charge of making the books that I would have liked as a child, I enjoy adding details of my Mexican culture whenever possible. To some extent, the books that I've shared with you collect some of the stories, experiences, and emotions that as a Mexican have impacted my life.

I wrote...

Leila, the Perfect Witch

By Flavia Z. Drago,

Book cover of Leila, the Perfect Witch

What is my book about?

Leila Wayward is a little witch who excels at everything she does. She’s the fastest flier, the most cunning conjuror, and the best shape-shifter. She has won trophies for potions, herbology, and alchemy—and now she dreams of winning the Magnificent Witchy Cake-off! As the youngest in a long line of powerful experts in the Dark Arts of Patisserie, Leila wants her baking skills to be perfect. But even with the most bewitching of recipes, she realizes a terrible truth: she’s a disaster in the kitchen. Luckily, Leila has three magical sisters who are happy to share their secrets and help her.

Filled with quirky details and references to witches in folklore, pop culture, and history from Mexico and Europe, this picturebook is about the strength of family and sisterhood.

The books I picked & why

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To the Other Side

By Erika Meza,

Book cover of To the Other Side

Why this book?

I had the pleasure—and the privilege—of reading this book before it was published. Having lived for many years in Tijuana, and being a migrant herself, Erika Meza has an undeniable passion for children’s rights and the humanitarian crisis on the border between Mexico and the US. 

In this book, she deals with a complicated topic, the experience of children fleeing their home countries in order to seek stability and security, and how sometimes that experience can be in itself life-threatening and overwhelming. This book is more important than ever, as it deals with a horribly complicated, and sometimes gloomy topic in a sensitive, yet realistic way. Plus, the details of the Mexican masks are amazing!

The Book of Extraordinary Deaths: True Accounts of Ill-Fated Lives

By Cecilia Ruiz,

Book cover of The Book of Extraordinary Deaths: True Accounts of Ill-Fated Lives

Why this book?

Death by tortoise shell, a lifeless head, excess of dance, or playing a concert? Based on true stories, in this impossible to catalogue book, you can find out the tragic, sometimes funny, but always incredible deaths of famous, and ordinary, people alike. 

What I love about this book is Cecilia’s sensitivity and witty sense of humor to deal with the illustrations. While some of the deaths depicted are brutal in nature, the images are never violent or morbid, but they are rather whimsical, poetic, and rather intriguing.

A New Home

By Tania de Regil,

Book cover of A New Home

Why this book?

As a Mexican living in the UK, this story deeply speaks to me, as I truly identify with the characters in Tania’s book. This story reminded me of all of the complicated emotions of migrating, the things that I miss when I am not in Mexico, while reminding me of appreciating the present even more, as there are always things to appreciate, enjoy, and love wherever you are.

The illustrations of Tania are full of life, delicate, and convey in amazing detail the lively atmospheres of Mexico City and New York; the city where she was born, and the city where she currently lives.

Finding Home

By Estelí Meza,

Book cover of Finding Home

Why this book?

In 2017, Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, and later on in September, an earthquake struck Mexico City, inspiring Estelí to write a story about a rabbit called Conejo, who loses his house after a storm strikes his neighborhood, but, with the help of others, he is able to rebuild what he had lost.

I think that it is very important to acknowledge and accept that sometimes in life, bad things will happen, plans will get ruined, and things will be lost, but that it is only with the help of others that we can stay strong, start again, and carry on. We need more books about kindness and a sense of community!

I love the textures, color, and sophisticated shapes of Estelí’s characters!

The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas

By Maria Garcia Esperon, Amanda Mijangos (illustrator), David Bowles (translator)

Book cover of The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas

Why this book?

I would have loved to have had this book in my childhood! As a child, I grew up reading myths and folk tales that came mostly from Europe, however, this book gives a glimpse of myths in America long before the colonization. Thanks to this book I discovered many myths from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego—or the Sea-Ringed World, as the Aztecs called itwhich sparked my curiosity in order to know more. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that some of the stories were intertwined.

Even if this is not a picture book, I decided to include it because the stylish and sophisticated illustrations (of the multi-awarded) Mexican illustrator Amanda Mijangos, fill the spaces that the text is missing and add another level of reading to each one of the tales.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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