Puerto Rican Stories: Stories for All Ages

Two children sit on a stoop with lush vegetation on one side and brick on the other

These stories highlight a wide, diverse range of Puerto Rican stories — from tales on the island to the experiences of Puerto Rican communities on the mainlaind. They also feature stories about the lives of well-known figures such as Rita Moreno, Sonia Manzano, Pura Belpré, Arturo Schomburg, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer!

Painting of Rita Moreno as a child and as Anita in West Side Story
Illustrated by: Leo Espinosa
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

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 New Kind of Wild

Two children sitting on stoop
Age Level: 6-9

When Ren moves to Ava's city, he feels lost without his wild. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic, where everything is exactly what it seems? Of course, not everything in the city is what meets the eye, and as Ren discovers, nothing makes you feel at home quite like a friend. Inspired by the stories her father told her about moving from Puerto Rico to New York as a child, Zara González Hoang's author-illustrator debut is an imaginative exploration of the true meaning of "home."

Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx

A photo of young Sonia Manzano coming down the stairs

Set in the 1950s in the Bronx, the story of Emmy award-winning actress and writer Sonia Manzano ("Maria" from Sesame Street) plunges us into the daily lives of a Latino family that is loving and troubled. When readers meet young Sonia, she is a child living amidst the squalor of a boisterous home that is filled with noisy relatives and nosy neighbors. Each day she is glued to the TV screen that blots out the painful realities of her existence and also illuminates the possibilities that lie ahead.

Coquí in the City

Coquí in the City
Age Level: 6-9

Miguel's pet frog, Coquí, is always with him: as he greets his neighbors in San Juan, buys quesitos from the panadería, and listens to his abuelo's story about meeting baseball legend Roberto Clemente. Then Miguel learns that he and his parents are moving to the U.S. mainland, which means leaving his beloved grandparents, home in Puerto Rico, and even Coquí behind. Life in New York City is overwhelming, with unfamiliar buildings, foods, and people.

Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa

Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa

"When high-school senior Emily Goldberg leaves her New York suburban home to attend her grandmother's funeral in Puerto Rico, it's her first meeting with her mother's extended family…Emily stays in Puerto Rico for the summer to help Mom reconnect with what she left behind, and discovers a new world…Ostow draws on her own half-Jewish, half-Puerto Rican roots to tell a moving story that has a solid plotline and plenty of family secrets — past and present — as it opens up issues of tradition, feminism, friendship, and loyalty." — Booklist

Grandma's Gift

Illustration of grandmother hugging grandson
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

It's Christmastime, and Eric has a special assignment — he has to write a report about a new painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eric's grandmother makes a deal with him: if he will help her make traditional Puerto Rican pasteles, she will take him to the museum. Together they leave the familiar neighborhoods of Spanish Harlem and venture out to the Met, where Eric encounters a painting that changes his life. A note from author and illustrator Eric Velasquez provides some background to this quiet yet profound story from his childhood.

Grandma's Records

Boy dancing with grandmother at home
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Every summer, Eric goes to live with his grandmother in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) while his parents work. Through the long hot days, Grandma fills her apartment with the blaring horns and conga drums of Bomba y Plena, salsa, and merengüe — the music she grew up with in Puerto Rico — sharing her memories and passions with Eric. Join Eric Velasquez on a magical journey through time and across cultures, as a young boy's passion for music and art is forged by a powerful bond between generations.

My Island and I: The Nature of Puerto Rico

Illustrated by: Alexis Lago
Age Level: 6-9

"Written by Caribbean naturalist Alfonso Silva Lee, My Island and I is a colorful children's picturebook about the natural ecology of an island — from fallen trees becoming food for fungi and termites to the thoughts of lizards and the interaction of fish. The watercolor-style illustrations by Alexis Lago bring to life the festive, multifaceted wonder of natural life." — Children's Book Watch

Octopus Stew

Boy and his grandmother looking startled
Age Level: 6-9

The octopus Grandma is cooking has grown to titanic proportions. "¡Tenga cuidado!" Ramsey shouts. "Be careful!" But it's too late. The octopus traps Grandma! This beautifully illustrated picture book, drawn from the author's childhood memories, celebrates creativity, heroism, family, grandmothers, grandsons, Puerto Rican food, Latinx culture, and the importance of sharing family stories.
 

Parrots Over Puerto Rico

Collage art of parrots flying
Age Level: 6-9

Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore use collage illustrations and a unique format to recount the efforts of the scientists of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the parrots and ensure their future.

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, 9-12
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

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.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Age Level: 6-9

Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe's vivid text and bold artwork echoes Basquiat's own and carries the powerful message that art doesn't always have to be neat or clean to be beautiful. Winner of the Caldecott Medal.

Rafi and Rosi

Rafi and Rosi playing on the beach
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

Three short stories present three adventures shared by Rafi and Rosi, young tree frogs who live in Puerto Rico. Rosi knows that her older brother is magic; not only can he find things in the sand, he can also make the sea shine! But it is Rosi's magic that finds Rafi's lost pet hermit crab. Cheery, colorful illustrations enhance the humor of this engaging duo.

Rafi and Rosi: Carnival!

Rafi and Rosi dress up for carnival
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

It's time for Carnival! Three short stories in this Easy Reader present the adventures shared by Rafi and Rosi, charming and mischievous young tree frogs who are brother and sister, and live in Puerto Rico. The stories include young Rosi dressing up in "Queen for a Day," as well as Rafi's "magical" periscope, used to watch the Carnival parade. Children and adults alike will enjoy the amusing experiences of these two siblings, as well as the cheerful and colorful illustrations. Spanish version also available.

Rafi and Rosi: Music

Drawing of frogs in clothing dancing and playing the drums.
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

Rafi and Rosi, two curious tree frogs, explore the bomba, plena, and salsa music traditions of their home island, Puerto Rico.

Rafi and Rosi: Pirates

Rafi and Rosi dressed up as pirates
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

In this new book in the popular Dive Into Reading: Rafi and Rosi chapter book series, Rafi and his younger sister, Rosi, are excited to visit El Morro Fort, the four-hundred-year-old fortress that guards the entrance to San Juan harbor. At the fort they pretend to be pirates, engage in a fierce battle, and learn about Roberto Cofresi, Puerto Rico's most famous pirate. As they go deeper into the fort they discover a gleaming, hidden treasure — Spanish gold doubloons and silver pieces of eight — hidden in the inner reaches of the fort's kitchen.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
Illustrated by: Eric Velasquez
Age Level: 6-9

Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked. Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro–Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages.

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx

Illustration of young Sonia Sotomayor sitting on steps
Illustrated by: Christina Rodriguez
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

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 Golden Flower: A Taino Myth from Puerto Rico

Illustrated by: Enrique O. Sanchez
Age Level: 6-9

This Taino creation story describes how the island of Puerto Rico came into existence when the Earth was a desert without water. A young boy's adventures lead to the growth of a beautiful forest on top of a mounatain and then the introduction of the sea and its creatures around the base of the mountain, which becomes an island. The lovely, stylized illustrations are a perfect match for the traditional story.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano

A hand reaches up in front of rowhouses with a Puerto Rican flag waving

There are two secrets Evelyn Serrano is keeping from her Mami and Papi: her true feelings about growing up in her Spanish Harlem neighborhood, and her attitude about Abuela, her sassy grandmother who's come from Puerto Rico to live with them. Then, like an urgent ticking clock, events erupt that change everything. The Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group, dump garbage in the street and set it on fire, igniting a powerful protest. When Abuela steps in to take charge, Evelyn is thrust into the action. Tempers flare, loyalties are tested.

The Storyteller's Candle

Painting of Pura Belpre telling children a story by candlelight

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.