Celebrating Women's History: Latina Trailblazers

Child of the Flower-Song People

Did you know that the first Latin American writer to win a Nobel in Literature was Gabriela Mistral? These books tell the stories of heroines of history who refuse to abandon their dreams simply because of their gender.

For more great titles and activities, see the Trailblazers project from Reading Rockets' Start with a Book project!

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: Middle Grade (9-14)

"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

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics / Poemas sobre Hispanos Extraordinarios (Bilingual board book edition)

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics / Poemas sobre Hispanos Extraordinarios (Bilingual board book edition)
Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Adapted from the Texas Bluebonnet Award–winning Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics, this board book of poems and portraits from writer Margarita Engle and illustrator Rafael López celebrates the lives and accomplishments of a number important figures young readers will enjoy learning about.

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

Child of the Flower-Song People
Illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh
Age Level: 6-9

As a young Nahua girl in Mexico during the early 1900s, Luz learned how to grind corn in a metate, to twist yarn with her toes, and to weave on a loom. By the fire at night, she listened to stories of her community’s joys, suffering, and survival, and wove them into her heart. But when the Mexican Revolution came to her village, Luz and her family were forced to flee and start a new life. In Mexico City, Luz became a model for painters, sculptors, and photographers such as Diego Rivera, Jean Charlot, and Tina Modotti.

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Illustration of girl playing piano while flowers rise above her.
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War.

Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México

Age Level: 6-9

Danza! is a celebration of Hernández’s life and of the rich history of dance in Mexico. As a child, Amalia always thought she would grow up to be a teacher, until she saw a performance of dancers in her town square. She was fascinated by the way the dancers twirled and swayed, and she knew that someday she would be a dancer, too. She began to study many different types of dance, including ballet and modern, under some of the best teachers in the world. Hernández traveled throughout Mexico studying and learning regional dances.

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña
Illustrated by: Angela Dominguez
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Valentina was born on an island formed by fire, surrounded by blue-green sea. As a Galapagueña, Valentina spends her days observing the natural world around her. She greets sea lions splashing on the shore, scampers over lava rocks with Sally-lightfoot crabs, and swims with manta rays. But Valentina also understands the fragility of this wondrous world, and she makes a solemn promise to protect the islands and her animal friends.

Isabel Allende: Memories for a Story

Illustrated by: Fernando Molina
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

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
Language: English, Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

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.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Drawing of a woman and four children sitting on a stoop reading and flowers grow around them.
Illustrated by: Paola Escobar
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

When she came to America in 1921, Pura carried the folk tales of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura's legacy. This portrait of the influential librarian, author, and puppeteer reminds us of the power of storytelling and the extraordinary woman who opened doors and championed bilingual literature.

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes

Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)
Language: English

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.

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

Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

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.

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

Illustrated by: Alexandra Boiger

This book celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted. This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, and Sonia Sotomayor.

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.

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.

Turning Pages

Illustrated by: Lulu Delacre
Age Level: 6-9

As the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor has inspired young people around the world to reach for their dreams. But what inspired her? For young Sonia, the answer was books! They were her mirrors, her maps, her friends, and her teachers. They helped her to connect with her family in New York and in Puerto Rico, to deal with her diabetes diagnosis, to cope with her father's death, to uncover the secrets of the world, and to dream of a future for herself in which anything was possible.

Viva Frida

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.