Believe it or not, there are SO many books out there that feature our beautiful, unique state! Whether you’ve got a little one to snuggle and read with before bedtime or an older kiddo who needs something a little more advanced, there’s a book for everyone . . . right in our own Bernalillo County Library System. Check these out, and add some New Mexican flair to reading time! Click on the titles to link to Bernalillo County Library’s website where you can easily place them on hold and pick them up at your convenience.
Take a Halloween-themed adventure through Santa Fe, Roswell, Albuquerque, and more! If you’re a native New Mexican, you may very well recognize many of the sights along the way. You’ll dive into Conchas Lake and climb up Wheeler Peak. Also, your kids will get a kick out of the “problem” the train passengers must solve!
If you are familiar with New Mexican children’s fiction, you probably guessed we’d have a fair amount of Rudolfo Anaya options! I’ll try not to overdo it, but please check out his many, many publications featuring New Mexico. In this beautiful, funny, story-in-verse, you’ll encounter New Mexican legends and Spanish words. And you’ll enjoy the fantastical story of a brave young man willing to enter the race of his life to win his girl’s heart.
This is not your typical Easter book! In it, our main character travels around New Mexico with a dual purpose. Yes, he intends to leave goodies for little boys and girls. But more importantly, he seeks to help children who have found themselves with a problem along the way. This book can be a fantastic conversation starter for you and your kids about what to do when we come across someone who is facing difficulty.
This incredible alphabet book would be appropriate for children all the way through elementary school. Its stunning illustrations of New Mexico’s animals, people, and places are just as engaging as the information given on each page. E Is for Enchantment delves into all things New Mexico. This book discusses everything from our turquoise jewelry to fry bread to Inscription Rock to Smokey Bear. You can choose to read quickly through each page with little ones or linger with older kids over the wealth of information presented on each topic.
If you homeschool or have kids who enjoy word searches, coloring, drawing, and puzzles, this is an excellent book to bring home. This fantastic book is perfect for road trips (particularly through New Mexico!). You’ll learn about New Mexican Rural Missions, pieces of Native American art, New Mexican legends, and Spanish words. And if you have a printer/copier at home, copy a few of these pages, clip them to a clipboard, grab the colored pencils, and let your kids go to town.
This is a delightful look at a week in the life of a young boy’s grandparents who live in Chimayo! I must say that, because my grandparents grew up in Chimayo, I found this one especially endearing. You’ll find Spanish words and phrases woven throughout this simple story that shows the value in the everyday things we do. And, eternal familial bonds are a beautiful theme that pulls the whole book together.
Another beautifully illustrated Rudolfo Anaya selection, this book is as fun as it is enchanting. It can be read in both Spanish and English. The story follows Jesus and his parents as they are flown away from evil Herod to Egypt via a sleepy angel. They are dropped off in a place that looks much like the sand dunes of Egypt. However, this place turns out to be none other than our beautiful New Mexico! Your children will enjoy the fun, and rather silly, tale that reads like a “what if” tale gone further than anyone expects! You’ll both enjoy the uniquely New Mexican experiences that Jesus and his parents have as he grows.
Okay, okay . . . I KNOW. This one looks like one of those books you were forced to pull off the shelf of your dusty school library for some lame report. I get it. But seriously, for a facts-only book, this one is pretty fun. Among my favorite pages are:
10 Key Plants and Animals of NM – Did you know the javelina is the only native wild boar in the Unites States? Right here in NM!
The Manhattan Project – complete with pictures of Navajo code talkers in action
10 Key People in NM – We have Jeff Bezos, Demi Lovato, and Neil Patrick Harris . . . to name a few!
For real, give it a chance!
This book follows a young girl from Espanola, NM as she and her family celebrate the Christmas tradition of Las Posadas. Las Posadas contains photographs of Kristen, her family, and her friends. You’ll discuss the New Mexican art of Santos carving and painting, discover the legend of San Isidro, and even find an authentic recipe for biscochitos! Most of all, you’ll enjoy delving into the beautiful Mexican tradition of Las Posadas, which has been celebrated for centuries.
This incredible, true story will give your mid-schooler a true appreciation for what the Navajo people endured on the Long Walk from their homes in Arizona and western New Mexico to Fort Sumner. The beautiful Native American tradition of story-telling and its power to strengthen, encourage, and unite people is highlighted throughout Sara Nita’s account of her family’s horrific trek across the desert. The book focuses on what makes a family, what makes one strong, and how to endure hardship. Whether you’re familiar with the Long Walk or not, you’ll definitely want to read this one yourself.
I must admit that this one is my favorite. The author, Joseph Krumgold, was actually a Hollywood screenplay writer and producer. He developed a passion for creating documentaries in which the facts were just as important as the stories of the people. This book follows a documentary that Krumgold made in the late 1940s right here in New Mexico. An easy read, this book will resonate with every young person who feels the pull of adulthood tugging at his heart. Hearing Miguel’s inner thoughts and watching his fumbling interactions with his parents gave me such insight into my own boys and our often confusing interactions. I’d love to say more, but I’ll just leave you with this: please read this book. And have your mid-schooler read it with you!
Quick disclaimer: I have not read these books. Up to this point, I am recommending the books I’ve listed because I can personally endorse them. I haven’t had the time to delve into all of these titles. I have combed through the descriptions, however, and believe these to be appropriate and above-board for high schoolers. Please peruse them before taking my word for it!
This book follows Jean-Baptiste Lamy and Joseph Machebeauf, two 19th-century clergymen who find themselves serving in New Mexico. Your child will enjoy their fictionalized encounters with other historical figures, like Kit Carson, and learn of the many beautiful traditions that are trademarks of New Mexico’s Hispanic and Catholic heritage. These two unlikely heroes escape murder, expose corruption within the church, and offer a positive representation of religious characters that was new for the book’s time.
Tony Hillerman lived in Albuquerque and was best known for a series of detective novels called Navajo Tribal Police Mysteries. The Blessing Way is the first book in this series. In this book, two professors from New Mexico plan a research trip on the Navajo Reservation. They meet a friend there, who happens to be a Navajo police officer. The legendary witches of New Mexico show up in this novel, along with the mystery of a murdered young man. This book is sure to be a page-turner for your teen!
We’ll finish up with one final book by Rudolfo Anaya. Friends, my brother has always hated reading, particularly for school. However, he absolutely loved this book, which was assigned reading for him in his senior year of high school. This novel is a coming-of-age story in which young Antonio Marez y Luna is mentored by Ultima, an elderly curandera. Your teen will revel in the depth, beauty, and intrigue they find in rural New Mexico’s Hispano culture of the 1940s. They’ll get lost in Anaya’s stunning imagery. They’ll be drawn in by the legends of La Llorona, the recounting of curandera folkways, the battle between good and evil, and the pressure a young one feels as they chart their own course. I have a feeling that, like my brother, your teen will not soon forget this book!
Please feel free to add to this list, my fellow New Mexican mamas! If this post has made you wonder about reading with your older kids, check out the post “Reading With Older Kids: 4 Simple Ways To Enjoy Books Together.” All of these titles and more are waiting for us down the road at our local library. Hope to see you there!
Originally published September 2021.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.