Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States (anthology)

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  • Vocabulary: combination of English and Spanish (many poems have una mezcla)
    • Poems translated to English from Spanish and vice versa
  • No Lexile rating for poetry books, but appropriate for 7th through 12th grade
  • Wide variety of syntax complexity
  • Requires understanding of poetry conventions (lack of punctuation, personification, metaphor, simile)


  • Many voices and experiences represented, but specifically about being Latino
  • Poems sorted into categories: Language and Identity; Neighborhoods; Amor; Family Moments, Memories; Victory
  • Many poems are about the struggle to communicate

Goodness: YES!

  • Poems could be used to teach students about:
    • Sensory language, metaphor, simile, etc.
    • Exploration of identity
  • Use poems as mentor texts and ask students to write poems about stereotypes, their neighborhood, their family
  • Pair with Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States



Breaking Through by Francisco Jiménez



  • 750L ~ 5th-7th grade
  • Language: occasional Spanish words, mostly simple vocabulary (some difficult words include: disrespects, notifying, snickering, huddles, janitor)
  • Short, quick read (193 pages, but it’s a small book with large text!)


  • Topics: Family, heritage & culture, discrimination & racism, poverty, coming of age, immigration
  • Main character is a bright Mexican immigrant struggling to make his way to college despite the challenges of his family’s undocumented status and poverty.


  • Yes- would recommend (conditionally – see below)


  • Good story, discusses big issues such as racism and poverty without being depressing or hopeless.
  • Note: Some people had issues with this book because of the way it views meritocracy and the path to social mobility – for many people, the success that this narrative presents is not possible (or is even more difficult). However, it then presents a perfect opportunity to open up discussion about these issues through a critical lens!