Celebrating Women's History: Latina Trailblazers
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 Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer!
When young Rosita moved from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States, she didn’t know what to expect — but she knew she loved to sing and dance. Working to overcome the language barrier and bullying she experienced in a strange new country, Rita eventually made her way to Hollywood with a dream to be a star. There, she fought to be seen and heard and eventually reached the pinnacle of success, landing her iconic role in West Side Story and, finally, winning her groundbreaking Oscar.
A Library for Juana
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 Dances On
As a young girl in Cuba, Alicia Alonso practiced ballet in tennis shoes. Within a few years, she was in New York City, with a promising ballet career. But her eyesight began to fail. When Alicia needed surgeries to save her vision, dancing was impossible, but she wouldn't give up her dream. She found the strength and determination to return to the stage and become a prima ballerina. This is the true story of a woman who overcame her challenges, mastered her art, and inspired others to dance and dream.
Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina
"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
"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
Musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot ― the Latinos featured in Bravo!, by author Margarita Engle and illustrator Rafael López, come from many different countries and from many different backgrounds.
Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics / Poemas sobre Hispanos Extraordinarios (Bilingual board book edition)
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
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.
Courageous History Makers: 11 Women from Latin America Who Changed the World
Courageous History Makers: 11 Women from Latin America Who Changed the World highlights 11 women from Latin America who excelled in science, sports, the arts, journalism, politics and more. Some notable women featured include Mexican painter Frida Khalo, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Rigoberta Menchú, Grammy-winning musical icon Celia Cruz, and renowned pilot Hermelinda Urvina. By presenting the true biographical stories of these outstanding women in rhyming verses, young readers will follow their journey to success.
Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln
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
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.
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
In this poetic memoir that’s nothing short of enchanting, Margarita Engle, the first Latina woman to receive a Newbery Honor, tells of growing up as a child of two cultures during the Cold War.
Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is remembered for her self-portraits, her dramatic works featuring bold and vibrant colors. Brown's story recounts Frida's beloved pets — two monkeys, a parrot, three dogs, two turkeys, an eagle, a black cat, and a fawn — and playfully considers how Frida embodied many wonderful characteristics of each animal.
Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña
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
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
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.
Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers
Discover how 40 influential Latinas became the women we celebrate today! In this collection of short biographies from all over Latin America and across the United States, Juliet Menéndez explores the first small steps that set the Latinitas off on their journeys. With gorgeous, hand-painted illustrations, Menéndez shines a spotlight on the power of childhood dreams.
My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz
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
"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.
Nuestra América: 30 Inspiring Latinas/Latinos Who Have Shaped the United States
Nuestra América highlights the inspiring stories of thirty Latina/o/xs throughout history and their incredible contributions to the cultural, social, and political character of the United States.
The stories in this book cover each figure's cultural background, childhood, and the challenges and opportunities they met in pursuit of their goals. A glossary of terms and discussion question-filled reading guide, created by the Smithsonian Latino Center, encourage further research and exploration.
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré
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
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.
Queen of Tejano Music: Selena
Selena Quintanilla's music career began at the age of nine when she started singing in her family's band. She went from using a hairbrush as a microphone to traveling from town to town to play gigs. But Selena faced a challenge: People said that she would never make it in Tejano music, which was dominated by male performers. Selena was determined to prove them wrong. Born and raised in Texas, Selena didn't know how to speak Spanish, but with the help of her dad, she learned to sing it.
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation
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
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
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.
That Girl on TV Could Be Me!: The Journey of a Latina News Anchor
Growing up near Sacramento, CA, little Leticia dreams of being a TV newscaster. But no one on TV looks like her. This shy, small-town girl overcomes barriers, like her fear of public speaking, to become the first in her hardworking Mexican family to attend college. Then, starting as an intern, she climbs the ladder, travels to different cities, and reports on a rainbow of stories. Eventually can she land her dream job... to work at her hometown Channel 3?
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.
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.
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.
See more great related resources and videos in our Multicultural Literature section!