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When We Love Someone We Sing to Them

When We Love Someone We Sing to Them


Cuando Amamos Cantamos

Written by Ernesto Javier Martínez
Illustrated by Maya Gonzalez

Available in Hardcover/$19.95 and Paperback/$13.95
Bilingual: English & Spanish
Translated by Jorge Gabriel Martínez Feliciano
8.25″x10.75″ – 40 pages

Intended Audience: Ages 7-10/Grades 2-5

A reclamation of the Mexican serenata tradition, follow the story of a young boy who asks his father if there is a song for a boy who loves a boy.

Awards & Recognitions:

  • 2019 American Library Association’s 2019 Rainbow List
  • International Latino Book Award – Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book

more book details below

When We Love Someone We Sing to Them reframes a cultural tradition to include LGBTQ experience. In this book we learn about the Mexican tradition of singing to family and loved ones through one small boy who naturally assumes the tradition includes him and his experience.

Watch a tradition expand as limitations are lifted to include everyone, all the way to remembering Xochipilli, the Mesoamerican deity of creativity, dance and song.

A perfect book to bring tradition and inclusion into the conversation and support our LGBTQ young ones in knowing that they belong and always have, while providing pride in both our Mexican heritage and our LGBTQ culture and history as families.

About the Author

Ernesto Javier Martínez is a queer Chicano/Puerto Rican literary critic, educator, and writer. He is a tenured faculty member in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon and an Executive Board member of the Association for Jotería Arts, Activism, and Scholarship (AJAAS). His work has received multiple recognitions, including a Lambda Literary Award in 2012. This is his debut children’s book. www.ernestojaviermartinez.com and www.femeniños.com

About the Illustrator

Maya Gonzalez is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and author. She has illustrated more than 30 children’s books many of which she also wrote. Her books have been recognized by the Pura Belpré award, Américas Book Award, and International Latino Book Awards. She is the co-founder of Reflection Press and served as mentor for the writing of this book. A queer, femme Chicanx activist, she lives in San Francisco, California with her partner, Matthew, and two kids. www.mayagonzalez.com

Praise for When We Love Someone We Sing to Them

“What a groundbreaking gem of a book that recognizes and celebrates the first heartbeats of a boy’s crush on another boy. This sensitively written story and its stunning illustrations hold up to the light an emotional truth that has heretofore been whispered and sings it to life!”

Rigoberto González, award-winning author, critic and educator

“A book for parents as much as for children that should have been published centuries ago.”

F. Isabel Campoy, award-winning children's book author and educator

“Families of all backgrounds will love this sweet, evocative, beautifully illustrated book. It transported me to childhood places and reminded me, now as a mom and educator, of how important it is to cultivate our “garden of memories” with mariposas, fuerza, and kindness. Trabajo conmovedor!”

Renata Moreira, Executive Director, Our Family Coalition

When We Love Someone We Sing to Them is touching, beautiful, and necessary. The intricate weaving of song through relationships—between parent and child, child and parents, child and love—gives life to a story that children can embrace from the heart.”

Innosanto Nagara, bestselling author of 'A Is for Activist' and more

“Every word and vibrant illustration in this book makes my heart flutter. How wonderfully refreshing to read a story that unstitches tradition to reweave it with enough space for us all.”

Lourdes Rivas, educator and author of They Call Me Mix

“A wonderful reminder to us as parents, guardians, and caregivers that children already recognize the harmony of el bonito amor and need us to help them share it.”

Manuel Muñoz, award-winning author and educator

How this book came to be

A note from mentor, illustrator and co-founder, Maya Gonzalez:

If we want to create a new world, we must begin with our imaginations then do our best to live it in our hearts until it is real inside and outside. This is why I make kids’ books, to make my dreams real on the outside and actively change the world in unity with some of the most powerful BEings ever, kids.

In 2015 I did an in-depth review of LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex+) children’s books for our online School of the Free Mind. I understood the level of invisibility and silence our community experiences in children’s literature, particularly for indigenous and people of color, in a way that I could not ignore. I sent out a call to my community, “PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW! We need your voices!”

One of the responses I got was from Ernesto. We didn’t know each other, but we began a conversation. We tried different ideas but felt that time was of the essence. Eventually, I encouraged him to make a book with me as his mentor. This book represents our mentorship journey. It is a strong-hearted book that passes on our queer beauty and fabulousness from the inside OUT while creating a new vision of the world. Our LGBTQI+ kids deserve to know our power and the world we want to create with them. We are the revolution.
Viva la raza! ~xomaya

Weight 14.5 oz
Dimensions 8.25 × 10.75 × .25 in
Date of Publication

October 11, 2018 (National Coming Out Day)


10.75”(L) x 8.25”(W) x .25”(D)

No. of Pages

40 pages


Hardcover, Paperback

Intended Audience

Children Ages 7-10, Grade Level 2-5


JUV060000 – Juvenile Fiction / LGBT
JUV026000 – Juvenile Fiction : Love & Romance
JUV070000 – Juvenile Fiction / Poetry


Bilingual English/Spanish

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