Books by Theme

Inspiring Lives: Hispanic Heritage

A Library for Juana

A Library for Juana

By: Pat Mora
Illustrated by: Beatriz Vidal
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This picture book biography introduces Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, one of Mexico's most beloved scholars and poets. At the age of three, Juana promised her sister's teacher that she was "quiet like a turtle" so that she could stay at the school and learn to read. Later, Juana would become a nun and produce poetry that is still learned by children in Mexico today. Handsome, detailed paintings evoke Mexican folk art and tell the story of Juana's life.

Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics

Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics

By: Margarita Engle
Illustrated by: Rafael López
Genre: Biography, Poetry
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Lyrical poems introduce a “variety of amazing people …” including Pura Belpre became a New York librarian. She offered “Two Languages at the Library.” Tomas Rivera wrote “Courageous Poetry” and became the first Latino leader at the University of California.  Each short piece is accompanied by a striking portrait. This handsome, accessible volume concludes with a bit of additional information about each subject. 

Calling the Doves

Calling the Doves

By: Juan Felipe Herrera
Illustrated by: Elly Simmons
Genre: Biography, Poetry, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Calling the Doves is poet Juan Felipe Herrera's story of his migrant farmworker childhood. In delightful and lyrical language, he recreates the joy of eating breakfast under the open sky, listening to Mexican songs in the little trailer house his father built, and celebrating with other families at a fiesta in the mountains. He remembers his mother singing songs and reciting poetry, and his father telling stories and calling the doves.

Celia Cruz: Queen of Salsa

Celia Cruz: Queen of Salsa

By: Veronica Chambers
Illustrated by: Julie Maren
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Celia Cruz began singing on the streets of Havana as a child. She grew up to become a legendary singer and lasting influence on salsa. Bright, bold illustrations echo the vibrancy of the music in this handsome picture book biography.

Cesar Chavez: A Struggle for Justice / César Chávez: La lucha por la justicia

Cesar Chavez: A Struggle for Justice / César Chávez: La lucha por la justicia

By: Richard Griswold del Castillo
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

With simple words and clear pictures, this bilingual picture-book biography introduces young readers to the Mexican American leader who led the labor struggle of poor migrant farm workers. Beginning with Chavez's early childhood on his parents' farm in Arizona, the biography tells of the family's time as migrant workers during the Depression, and then of Chavez's long years working to organize the United Farm Workers and fight violence and discrimination. Inspired by Gandhi, Chavez always insisted on nonviolence, and the stirring pages show him on a hunger strike and leading labor strikes and boycotts.

Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jimenez, Daughter of the Nahua

Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jimenez, Daughter of the Nahua

By: Gloria Amescua
Illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Luz Jimenez would not forget her Nahua culture even after the Mexican Revolution. When she and her family resettled in Mexico City, Luz became a resource for artists and scholars as an Indigenous voice. Illustrated in Tonatiuh’s signature traditional style, the straightforward narrative is enhanced by complete backmatter.

Danza!: Amalia Hernández and Mexico's Folkloric Ballet

Danza!: Amalia Hernández and Mexico's Folkloric Ballet

By: Duncan Tonatiuh
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The story of Amalia Hernández, dancer and founder of El Ballet Folklórico de México. It is a celebration of Hernández’s life and of the rich history of dance in Mexico.

Diego

Diego

By: Jonah Winter
Illustrated by: Jeanette Winter
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The early life of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera is presented in simple, yet revealing language in both Spanish and English. Accompanied by richly colored illustrations, this book is reminiscent of the folk art and themes in Rivera's work.

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours

By: Duncan Tonatiuh
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Duncan Tonatiuh introduces young readers to muralist Diego Rivera and his many sources of inspiration, such as the Cubism movement that he discovered in Paris, the ruins of ancient Mexican civilizations, and the daily lives of the Mexican people. He concludes by asking, "What would Diego Rivera paint today?" These intriguing reflections are brought to life by Tonatiuh's compelling, playful illustrations which evoke some of Diego's best known scenes and murals. 2012 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award.

Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist

Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist

By: Susan Wood
Illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh
Genre: Biography
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Meet Juan García Esquivel whose contributions to music can still be heard. From his early days in Mexico, Juan experimented to find just the right sounds for his music. Additional information and a photograph of Juan are included at the end of this lively picture book biography done in Tonatiuh’s signature style. 

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos

By: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: John Parra
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Featuring charming visuals and lively, often lyrical prose, this picture book introduces Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, interweaving biographical details while highlighting her special relationships with pets. Folk-art style illustrations vividly evoke the Mexican environment.

Frida Kahlo: The Artist who Painted Herself

Frida Kahlo: The Artist Who Painted Herself

By: Margaret Frith
Illustrated by: Tomie dePaola
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Through original artwork by the renowned artist Tomie dePaola — a longtime aficionado of Frida Kahlo's work — as well as beautiful reproductions of Kahlo's paintings, this latest Smart About book explores the creative, imaginative world of Mexico's most celebrated female artist.

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña

By: Marsha Diane Arnold
Illustrated by: Angela Domínguez
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

As a Galápagueña, Valentina spends her days observing the natural world around her. This bilingual story was inspired by the childhood of Valentina Cruz, whose family was one of the first permanent inhabitants of the Galápagos. Valentina is now a biologist and naturalist guide who has dedicated her life to the conservation of the islands.

Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues

Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues

By: Matt Tavares
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Pedro Martinez grew up in the Dominican Republic but became a star in baseball’s major leagues. His life is presented in luminous illustrations and readable text all presented in a large and appealing format.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

By: Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

As a young boy, Cesar Chavez grew up on an 80-acre ranch in Arizona in the midst of joyous family reunions. When his family had to leave Arizona, however, to work as migrant laborers in California, their lives were turned upside down. During these excrutiating days and nights, Cesar struggled — but then found the resolve to one day help his fellow workers. Yuyi Morales brings Cesar's childhood and early days as an organizer to life with stunning illustrations.

Jose! Born to Dance: The Story of Jose Limon

Jose! Born to Dance: The Story of Jose Limon

By: Susanna Reich
Illustrated by: Raul Colón
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Born in 1908, in a small Mexican village, Jose Limon seemed destined to become an artist. The lyrical language incorporates onomatopoeic and Spanish words. The distinctive illustrations with swirling colors reveal the life of a great modern dancer and choreographer.

Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers book cover

Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers

By: Juliet Menéndez
Genre: Biography
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Discover how 40 influential Latinas became the women we celebrate today in this collection of short biographies from all over Latin America and the U.S. From Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to singer Selena Quintanilla to NASA’s first virtual reality engineer, Evelyn Miralles, this is a book for aspiring artists, scientists, activists, and more. 

Cover for picture book Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved our Planet

Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved our Planet

By: Elizabeth Rusch
Illustrated by: Teresa Martinez
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

For his 8th birthday, young Mario Molina got a microscope, which launched a career in science. His interest in chemistry led to a doctorate and work on the atmosphere. In an epilogue by Mario, the Mexican-born chemist declares he has now taken on global warming. Additional back matter adds even greater interest in this accessible and appealing biography. The book is also available in Spanish: Mario y el agujero en el cielo: Cómo un químico salvó nuestro planeta.

Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert

Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert

By: Gary Schmidt
Illustrated by: David Diaz
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Martin and his sister grew up in a Lima, Peru, barrio, children of an African slave and a Spanish nobleman. Martin was apprenticed to a cirujano, would join a Dominican monastery, and later become sought after as a healer. Jewel-like illustrations complement the accessible telling to reveal a man of faith and courage, despite the prejudices he confronted.

Miguel's Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote

Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote

By: Margarita Engle
Illustrated by: Raul Colón
Genre: Biography, Poetry
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A vivid imagination helped Miguel Cervantes to grow beyond a tough childhood and to create a cultural icon: Don Quixote. Luminous illustrations and rich poetry follow young Miguel to adulthood where his creativity triumphs. A note about Cervantes from the author and illustrator conclude this stunning book.

My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz / Me llamo Celia: la vida de Celia Cruz

My Name Is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz / Me llamo Celia: la vida de Celia Cruz

By: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: Rafael López
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The beautiful artwork of this award-winning picture book about salsa queen Celia Cruz practically jumps off the page, and conveys the spirit and rhythmic energy of her music. Learn about Cruz's childhood in Havana and her entry into the world of salsa music from vibrant illustrations and text presented in English and Spanish.

My Name Is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez / Me llamo Gabito

My Name Is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez / Me llamo Gabito

By: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: Raul Colón
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

As she did in My Name Is Celia/Me llamo Celia, Monica Brown tells the story of young Gabriel García Márquez's life in this bilingual picture book. Brown also provides children with a simple introduction to magical realism by showing how young Gabriel’s surroundings and imagination merged in fantastic ways, fostering his creativity and building the foundation for the legendary characters and stories he would later create. Beautiful illustrations complement the lyrical text.

My Name Is Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral / Me llamo Gabriela: la vida de Gabriela Mistral

My Name Is Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral / Me llamo Gabriela: la vida de Gabriela Mistral

By: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: John Parra
Genre: Biography, Poetry, Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

"My name is Gabriela Mistral. It is a name I chose myself because I like the sound of it." With these words, Monica Brown introduces us to the Chilean poet and author who, in 1945, became the first Latin American writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. The lyrical text and exquisite illustrations bring Gabriela's childhood and talent to life for young readers.

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

By: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: Julie Paschkis
Genre: Biography, Poetry, Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Neftali always loved nature and words. This fondness allowed Neftali — better known as Pablo Neruda — to create poetry in a "voice [that] was heard across nations and ocean." Rich language and lush illustrations that incorporate words in Spanish and English are sure to enthuse young writers while introducing this Nobel-winning poet.

Pelé: King of Soccer / Pele, El rey del futbol

Pelé: King of Soccer / Pele, El rey del futbol

By: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: Rudy Gutiérrez
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Did you know that as a boy, Pelé played soccer in bare feet with a grapefruit instead of a soccer ball? Monica Brown shares the inspirational story of the beloved soccer star's rise from humble beginnings to becoming El rey del fútbol. Rudy Gutiérrez's brilliant and fluid illustrations of Pelé and "the beautiful game" of soccer leap off the page. Bilingual text. Curriculum guide available.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré book cover

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

By: Anika Denise
Illustrated by: Paola Escobar
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

What happens when you plant a seed? With a bit of care, something grows. The first children’s librarian from Puerto Rico, Pura Belpré (for whom an American Library Association literary award is named) planted seeds of stories throughout New York City where she worked, introducing children to tales from her homeland in Spanish and English. Illustrations bring the time and period to life.

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

By: Duncan Tonatiuh
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a successful lawsuit in federal court.

Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano Julio C. Tello / Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello

Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano Julio C. Tello / Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello

By: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: Elisa Chavarri
Genre: Biography
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A fascinating bilingual picture book biography of Peruvian archaeologist and national icon Julio C. Tello, who unearthed Peru's ancient cultures and fostered pride in the country's Indigenous history.

Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and César Chávez/Lado a Lado: La Historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chávez

Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and César Chávez/Lado a Lado: La Historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chávez

By: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: Joe Cepeda
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Many years ago in California, an energetic young Girl Scout named Dolores worked to raise money for soldiers fighting in World War II. A thoughtful young boy named Cesar worked in the fields to help his family put food on the table. As young adults, these two extraordinary individuals would meet and spend the rest of their lives working tirelessly on behalf of migrant workers and children through nonviolent struggle — side by side. Monica Brown and Joe Cepeda bring the story of Dolores and Cesar to life through this vibrant bilingual book, which will make an excellent addition to units on migrant farmworkers, civil rights, or women's history.

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx / La juez que crecio en el Bronx

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx / La juez que crecio en el Bronx

By: Jonah Winter
Illustrated by: Edel Rodriguez
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Poverty didn’t stop this girl from working hard, reading lots of books, and graduating top in her class. Meet young Sonia Sotomayor, the child who grew up to become the first Latina Supreme Court justice. Her life is presented through a jaunty, positive narrative and warm-toned illustrations that capture the warmth and joy of Sotomayor's family and story. A bit of background information concludes the engaging glimpse of a contemporary figure.

The Pot that Juan Built

The Pot that Juan Built

By: Nancy Andrews-Goebel
Illustrated by: David Diaz
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A cumulative poem (in the cadence of "The House that Jack Built") chronicles the work and life of Mexican potter, Juan Quezada. Words could center around the culture, the potting process, or art & artists.

The School the Aztec Eagles Built: A Tribute to Mexico’s World War II Fighters

The School the Aztec Eagles Built: A Tribute to Mexico’s World War II Fighters

By: Dorinda M. Nicholson
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A little known history of the Aztec Eagles, the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force created during World War II, is presented in photographs and crisp text. It is also the story of Sargent Ángel Bocanegra del Castillo, who made certain that a school was built in his hometown in Mexico. This is a unique and well-presented bit of history sure to inspire and inform.

Tito Puente, Mambo King / Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo

Tito Puente, Mambo King / Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo

By: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: Rafael López
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Tito Puente was born to be a musician. He grew up to become the Mamba King to whose music people danced the mambo, rumba, and cha-cha. Rhythmic language — in English and Spanish — and animated illustrations briefly present Tito's life and the impact of music throughout.

Tomás and the Library Lady

Tomás and the Library Lady

By: Pat Mora, Raul Colón
Illustrated by: Raul Colón
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Tomás, child of migrant workers, visits the town library to find stories like the ones told by his grandfather. There he meets a librarian who provides him with a cool place, stories and books, and friendship before Tomás and his family move on to the next place. Handsomely illustrated in earth tones, this touching story was inspired by the real life of writer and educator, Tomás Rivera. Also available in Spanish.

Turning Pages: My Life Story

Turning Pages: My Life Story

By: Sonia Sotomayor
Illustrated by: Lulu Delacre
Genre: Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Books and reading can be “magic potions that could fuel [young people] with the bravery of superheroes” and oh! so much more. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor shares her story revealing the power of books throughout. Illustrations echo the rich language and emotions, supported by endpages with period photographs of Sotomayor, her life and career.

Under the Royal Palms: A Childhood in Cuba

Under the Royal Palms: A Childhood in Cuba

By: Alma Flor Ada
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In writing about her childhood growing up in Camaguey, Cuba, Alma Flor Ada evokes all the senses. Readers will smell jasmine, coffee, and grandmother's perfume. They will see the bats flying overhead and hear adults share stories. Companion volume to Where the Flame Trees Bloom.

Proceeds from the sale of books purchased at Bookshop.org and Amazon.com help support the Reading Rockets project. Thank you!

We Are Storytellers promo

 

Space Rangers

Start with a Book: Read. Talk. Explore.

Sign up for our free newsletters about reading

Our Literacy Blogs

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx