Latinas Who Made a Difference

Did you know that the first Latin American author to win the Nobel Prize in Literature was Gabriela Mistral? Many of the recommended titles on this booklist imagine the childhoods of notable women such as Mistral, Celia Cruz, and Sor Juana Inés. Others tell the stories of heroines who refuse to abandon their dreams simply because of their gender.

For more great titles, see this related Women's History Booklist from Reading Rockets!

A Library for Juana

By: Pat Mora
Illustrated by: Beatriz Vidal
Age Level: 6-9

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.

Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina

Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Age Level: 9-12

"Similar in form and concept to many of Bernier-Grand's previous books, this beautiful volume offers a biographical account of ballerina Alicia Alonso through a sequence of free-verse poems, extensive background notes, and large-scale illustrations. Beginning with Alonso's childhood in Cuba, the book relates how she moved to New York in 1937 and overcame partial blindness to dance again, winning worldwide renown." — Booklist

Amelia to Zora

Illustrated by: Megan Halsey
Age Level: 6-9

"An introduction to 26 diverse, 20th-century women who have made a difference in such varied fields as the arts, sports, journalism, science, and entertainment. The entries include Dolores Huerta and Frida Kahlo." — School Library Journal

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music

Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9

Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule — until the drum dream girl. In her city of drumbeats, she dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós. She had to keep quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her dream-bright music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream.

Elena's Serenade

Illustrated by: Ana Juan
Age Level: 6-9

Elena wants to be a glassblower like her father, but there is a problem: "Who ever heard of a girl glassblower?" Elena decides she must go to Monterrey where the great glassblowers are, and sets off on her journey with a pipe in hand — dressed as a boy. Elena soon discovers her own hidden talents and the power of believing in yourself. Ana Juan's lovely illustrations convey the magic of Elena's journey. Also available in Spanish and Chinese.

Frida

Illustrated by: Ana Juan
Age Level: 3-6

In this refreshing tribute to Frida Kahlo and her imagination, Jonah Winter writes, "Frida doesn't cry or complain. Instead of crying, she paints pictures of herself crying." Winter gently explores how her suffering shapes her artwork in a way that children will be able to understand. Ana Juan's colorful fantasies evoke Frida's unique style and paintings.

Isabel Allende: Memories for a Story

Illustrated by: Fernando Molina
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Isabel Allende: Memories for a Story gives readers a glimpse of Isabel Allende's childhood influences. Benatar offers a vivid picture of a unique childhood: bewitched by the séances of her grandmother, enlivened by her own adventurous spirit, and haunted by the silence that descended upon the house after the death of a loved one. With the passage of time, Isabel became the keeper of the family memories, memories that come alive in her writing.

Just Like Me: Stories and Self-Portraits by Fourteen Artists

Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: This remarkable collection highlights the art and inspirational paths of 14 outstanding artists who, over the course of 20 years, have shared their art and lives with children. Each spread comprises a self-portrait, as well as the artist's personal story and reflections on what their art means to them. Artists include George Littlechild, Maya Christina Gonzalez, Enrique Chagoya, Rodolfo Morales, Tomie Arai, and Hideo Yoshida.

My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz

Illustrated by: Rafael López

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 Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral

Illustrated by: John Parra
Age Level: 3-6

"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.

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes

Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Age Level: 9-12

This visually stunning book showcases twenty Hispanic and Latino American men and women who have made outstanding contributions to the arts, politics, science, humanitarianism, and athletics. Gorgeous portraits by Raúl Colón complement sparkling biographies of Cesar Chavez, Sonia Sotomayor, Ellen Ochoa, Roberto Clemente, and many more. Complete with timelines and famous quotes, this tome is a magnificent homage to those who have shaped our nation.

Remember the Ladies: 100 Great American Women

Age Level: 6-9

They have come in all colors and sizes and times throughout American history and their impact is still felt. Meet 100 interesting, diverse women whose contributions range from helping people escape injustice to creating fashion. Portraits accompany each engaging biographical essay.

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

Age Level: 9-12

When Sylvia Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, was forbidden from enrolling in her local school, her parents organized a lawsuit that eventually brought the end of school segregation in California seven years before Brown vs. Board of Education. Based on interviews with Sylvia Mendez, as well as court files and news reports, award-winning author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh brings the Mendez family's story to life in this compelling title that remains as relevant today as it was in 1947. A glossary and an author's note are included.

Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and César Chávez

Illustrated by: Joe Cepeda

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.

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx

Illustrated by: Christina Rodriguez
Age Level: 6-9

This bilingual picture book tells the story of Sotomayor's childhood in the Bronx, her time at Princeton, and her confirmation on the Supreme Court, with a special focus on her mother's unwavering support throughout her life. Lovely illustrations capture the warmth and joy of Sotomayor's family and story. Note: The biography includes a discussion of the racial undertones of her nomination and confirmation hearing.

The Storyteller's Candle

This is the story of librarian Pura Belpré, told through the eyes of two young children who are introduced to the library and its treasures just before Christmas. Lulu Delacre's lovely illustrations evoke New York City at the time of the Great Depression, as well as the close-knit and vibrant Puerto Rican community that was thriving in El Barrio during this time. Bilingual Spanish-English text.

Tía Isa Wants a Car

Illustrated by: Claudio Muñoz
Age Level: 3-6

The narrator and her aunt work to save money to buy a shiny green car to take them to the sea. Though it takes time, Tía Isa and her niece reach their goal and buy the car that brings them to the beach. Cheerful illustrations and an upbeat narration with a sprinkling of Spanish words create recognizable characters in a realistic setting based on the author's childhood memories. Also available in Spanish.

Viva Frida

Age Level: 6-9

In this visually stunning tribute to Frida Kahlo, artist Yuyi Morales offers a representation of Kahlo's creative process with stop-motion puppet and paintings, photographed by Tim O'Meara. The result is a work of art in and of itself lovingly created to honor Kahlo, and Morales shares her own process of creating the book in this video.  Since the text is limited, more biographical information can be found in the books featured on our Diego & Frida children's booklist.