Latinos Who Made a Difference

These titles tell the stories of famous Latinos and Latin Americans whose legacies we continue to celebrate and discuss. The stories often focus on their childhoods and are sure to resonate with young readers.

Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World

Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World
Illustrated by: Rudy Gutierrez
Age Level: 6-9

Carlos Santana grew up surrounded by music. His father, a beloved mariachi performer, teaches his son how to play the violin when he is only six years old. But when Carlos discovers American blues, he is captivated by the raw honesty of the music. Unable to think of anything else, he loses all interest in the violin. When Carlos finally receives his first guitar, his whole life begins to change. From his early exposure to mariachi to his successful fusing of rock, blues, jazz, and Latin influences, here is the childhood story of a legendary musician.

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours

Diego and friends
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

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

Illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Juan Garcia Esquivel was born in Mexico and grew up to the sounds of mariachi bands. He loved music and became a musical explorer. Defying convention, he created music that made people laugh and planted images in their minds. Juan's space-age lounge music – popular in the fifties and sixties – has found a new generation of listeners. And Duncan Tonatiuh's fresh and quirky illustrations bring Esquivel's spirit to life.

José! Born to Dance: The Story of José Limón

Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Age Level: 6-9

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

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

Portraits of 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 Gabito: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez

A painting of Gabriel Garcia Marquez as a young man holding a book
Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Monica Brown tells the story of young Gabriel García Márquez and provides children with an 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. Raúl Colón brings these rich imaginings to life in vivid illustrations that complement the lyrical text. Pura Belpré Honor Award.

Nuestra América: 30 Inspiring Latinas/Latinos Who Have Shaped the United States

Collage of famous Latino/a trailblazers
Illustrated by: Gloria Félix
Language: Spanish

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.

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

Painting of young Pablo Neruda sitting under a tree
Illustrated by: Julie Paschkis
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

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.

Play Ball!

Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Jorge loved the feel of the ball in his glove, the bat in his hand, and the game of baseball. Day and night he would play with his sister, his father, and his friends. At night he dreamed of baseball. When he and his mother visit New York and he sees Yankee Stadium for the first time, he knows there is only one way to get there: work hard and play ball. Based on the childhood of New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, this is the story of a boy from Puerto Rico who grew up to be a champion.

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes

Painting of Sonia Sotomayor
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.

Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates

Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Age Level: 6-9

This moving tribute is the perfect introduction to Roberto Clemente. Readers will learn of his humble beginnings, the challenges he faced in a new country, and his unprecedented accomplishments as one of the greatest baseball players in history. Even more importantly, readers will come to understand the way that Clemente's generosity shaped so much of his life — and his untimely death. Raúl Colón's impressionistic yet evocative illustrations enhance the emotional impact of the text.

Soldier for Equality: José de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War

Drawing of two children and a man look up as they are surrounded by barbed wire and explosions.
Age Level: 6-9, 9-12
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

José de la Luz Sáenz (1888–1953) — or Luz — believed in fighting for what was right. Although he was born in the United States, he and his family experienced prejudice because of their Mexican heritage. When World War I broke out, Luz volunteered to join the fight. Because of his ability to quickly learn languages, he became part of the Intelligence Office in Europe. However, despite his hard work and intellect, Luz often didn’t receive credit for his contributions. Upon his return to the US, he joined other Mexican-Americans whom he had met in the army to fight for equality.

Tito Puente, Mambo King

Illustration of Tito Puente playing drums as a child
Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

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 and animated illustrations briefly present Tito's life and the impact of music throughout.

Waiting for the Biblioburro

Illustration of a male librarian riding on a donkey
Illustrated by: John Parra
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English, Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Meet Ana, a young girl who loves to read. There aren't many books in her small Colombian village, though — until the day Ana meets the Biblioburro, a librarian who brings books through the mountains on the backs of two strong donkeys. Inspired by the heroic efforts of real-life librarian Luis Soriano, this story asks readers, "How far would you go for a book?"

When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana

guitar player
Illustrated by: José Ramírez
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

When Carlos Santana picked up la guitarra, he took the soul of the Blues, the brains of Jazz, and the energy of Rock and Roll, and added the slow heat of Afro-Cuban drums and the cilantro-scented sway of the music he’d grown up with in Mexico. There were a lot of bands in San Francisco but none of them sounded like this. Had Carlos finally found the music that would make his angels real? Winner of the 2019 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Award and the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal.

¡Béisbol!: Latino Baseball Pioneers and Legends

This collection profiles 14 Latino baseball pioneers (Roberto Clemente, Bobby Avila, etc.) who played during the first half of the 20th century, often in the Negro Leagues or winter leagues of Latin America. Readers will learn about the group's accomplishments, including the barriers they had to overcome and how they paved the way for today's Latino baseball stars.