South America



Bucay, Jorge. The King and the Magician. New York: Abbeville Kids, 2014.
A powerful and feared king, who commands his subjects to not only obey him and but also admire him, hears of a much loved magician who can foretell the future. Consumed by jealousy, the king plots the magician’s demise. This spell-binding picture book from Argentina – full of magnificent pictures by Gusti, an award-winning illustrator – will be appreciated by readers 8 to 14 years old. [Jealousy; Kings, queens, rulers, etc.; Wisdom; Wizards] 

Whelan, Gloria. The Disappeared. New York: Dial Books, 2008.
“Teenaged Silvia tries to save her brother, Eduardo, after he is captured by the military government in 1970s Argentina.” – CIP. What if you are trying to save your brother who has been kidnapped? What will you do if the kidnappers are part of the 1970s government in Argentina? Recommended for readers 12-years-old and up. [Argentina; Brothers and sisters; Kidnapping]


I am a Taxi

Ellis, Deborah. I Am a Taxi. Groundwood Books, 2006.
In the first novel in a series, twelve-year-old Diego tries to earn money while living with his parents in a Bolivian prison. Highly recommended for readers 11 years old and up. [Boliva; Child labor; Drug traffic; Prisons; Runaways; South America]

Sacred Leaf

Ellis, Deborah. Sacred Leaf. Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2007.
In the second novel in a series, twelve-year-old Diego escapes from slavery at an illegal cocaine operation and is taken in by a family of coca farmers in Bolivia. Highly recommended for readers 11 years old and up. [Cocaine industry; Drug traffic; Farm life; Poverty; Slavery]


Grk and the Pelotti Gang

Doder, Joshua. Grk and the Pelotti Gang. New York : Yearling, [2007].

“Tim, accompanied by Grk the dog, faces kidnapping, a plane crash in the jungles of Brazil, and other adventures as they pursue the infamous Pelotti brothers, a gang of escaped bank robbers originally captured by the recently deceased father of Tim’s friends Max and Natascha Rafiffi.” – CIP. Part of an entertaining and informative series recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old. [Adventure stories; Bank robberies; Rio de Janeiro (Brazil); Dogs; Mystery and detective stories]

Rundell, Katherine. The Explorer. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017.
Fred, Con, Lila and Max were supposed to be flying from Brazil to England. But their plane has crashed into the Amazon rainforest. They’re all alone. Except for the snakes and the monkeys and the caimans. Except for an explorer hiding in a ruined city deep within the jungle.  More fast-paced than Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson and more fantastical than Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, this wildly adventurous tale will appeal to readers 10 to 14 years old looking for a new survival story. [All of Katherine Rundell’s novels are full of mysterious events. If you like those stories that mix the possibly-real with the truly-real, read more of her stories. Then, if you are at least 12 years old, try novels by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.] [Aircraft accidents; Amazon River Region; Brazil; Explorers; Rainforests; Survival]


The Killer's Tears

Bondoux, Anne-Laure. The Killer’s Tears. New York: Delacorte Press, 2006.

“A young boy, Paolo, and the man who murdered his parents, Angel, gradually become like father and son as they live and work together on the remote Chilean farm where Paolo was born.” – CIP. A thoughtful novel highly recommended for readers 11-years-old and up. [Chile; Fathers and sons; Hostages; Thieves]

The Dreamer

Ryan, Pam Munoz and Peter Sis. The Dreamer. New York : Scholastic Press, 2010.
This powerful novel of hope tells the story of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda’s childhood in Chile.  A shy quiet boy with an authoritarian father who despised his son’s love of words, Pablo protected his younger sister and dreamed of another life.  [Chile; Poets; Neruda, Pablo; Fathers and sons; Authors]


Brown, Monica. Waiting for the BiblioburroTricycle Press, 2011.
Ana is so excited when books arrive in her small, remote village that she writes her own story about waiting for the travelling library – two burros loaded with books – to come again. Includes a note about travelling libraries in other remote areas of the world. [Columbia; Books and reading; Libraries].

The Walls of Caragena

Durango, Julia. The Walls of Cartagena. New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2008.
“Thirteen-year-old Calepino, an African slave in the seventeenth-century Caribbean city of Cartagena, works as a translator for a Jesuit priest who tends to newly-arrived slaves and, after working for a Jewish doctor in a leper colony and helping an Angolan boy and his mother escape, he realizes his true calling.” – CIP. Highly recommended for readers 11 to 16 years old. [Catholic Church; Faith; Leprosy; Slavery]

Kunkel, Angela Burke. Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutíerrez and the Library He Built. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020.
A night-time garbage collector, Señor José collects books from the trash of wealthy homes. Then, every Saturday, he opens the doors and welcomes eager children into his neighbourhood library. Set in  Bogotá, Columbia and based on a true story, this inspiring picture book – illustrated by Paola Escobar and accompanied by a detailed author’s note – will appeal to readers 7 to 12 years old who already know the joys of using imagination to enter new worlds


Salama, Jordan. Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena. New York : Catapult, 2021.
Drug lords and gangs. The country of Columbia is often known only for its crime. This fascinating travelogue – by a young New York writer – tells the story of the other people who live along the Magdalena River, the ones who have survived years of fighting between government forces, paramilitaries, and guerrillas. It tells the story of how they have been affected by environmental and political changes but continue to carry making their home along the longest river in Columbia.  Included is a chapter on Luis Soriano, the man famous for starting the ‘biblioburro’ travelling libraries and the subject of several picture book biographies. While this book is not for young children, it is highly recommended for competent mature readers 15 years old and up.

Picture 2

Winter, Jeanette. Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia. Beach Lane Books, 2010.
Luis travels through the villages of rural Columbia, bringing books for children for children to read. [Books and reading; Columbia; Donkeys; Teachers]


Hood, Susan. Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 

Ada lives in a poverty-stricken town that serves as the main garbage dump for the capital city of Paraguay. She – along with thousands of other residents – spend their days picking through the trash to find things to recycle and sell. This poignant and inspiring story tells how a man sent to teach safety practices decided to teach the children how to make musical instruments. The orchestra he formed has now performed around the world!  Dramatically illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, this true story is recommended for readers 7 years old and up. [Musicians; Poverty]

Carmen, Oliver. Building an Orchestra of Hope: How Favio Chávez Taught Children to Make Music from Trash. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2022. 

What happens to the trash taken away by garbage trucks? It goes to landfills. In the capital city of Paraguay, it goes to a landfill in a tiny town where – every day – people pick through the heaps and heaps, looking for something to sell. After school, children join their parents in the search for jewelry, cardboard, plastic – anything at all – that can help them earn enough money to survive. In 2006, Favio Chávez came to teach the people better ways to recycle those mountains of garbage. He decided to also teach the children how to play musical instruments. But how would he get enough instruments? Well, from the trash, of course. This picture book – illustrated by Luisa Uribe – tells the story of how Chávez taught thirty children to read music and play together in an orchestra. A long afterward provides more details about this true story of ingenuity and determination. Highly recommended for all ages.


Island Thieves

Lacey, Josh. Island of  Thieves. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2011.
Tom’s parents leave him with an uncle for a week while they go on a holiday.  What they don’t know is that Uncle Harvey is about to fly off on his own adventure: tracking down buried treasure in Peru. Tom tags along for an exciting week meeting criminals, hiding out in villages and barely escaping death.  A quick read for fans of Anthony Horowitz and Rick Riordan. [Drake, John; Adventure and adventurers; Mystery and detective stories; Islands ; Uncles; Buried treasure; Theft] 

Schmidt, Gary D. Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert. Boston: Clarion Books, 2012.
His father was a Spanish nobleman. His mother was a slave. Born into poverty and sent to work as a servant, there was no bright future for Martin. But miracles happen. And miracles followed this boy from Peru. The lemon trees he planted bore fruit all year long. The bread he gave to the poor never ran out until everyone was fed. The people he treated were healed.  He quietly died in a monastery in 1639, but miracles continued and he was named as the first black saint in the Americas in 1962. Born to be forgotten, Martin de Porres is now known as the patron saint of social justice. This beautiful picture book biography – illustrated by David Diaz – is highly recommended for people of faith and for all those who carry within themselves a reverence for mystery.

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