By Meredith Bartolo Pappas
I love reading biographies to children because they are a great way to teach about non-fiction while giving us a chance to get inspired by other people and places.
There are so many biographies out there but many of them are either too long, causing young children to lose interest, or too short, just glossing over important parts of the person’s life or story. It can be hard to get that balance just right!
This list contains ten Latine biographies for children ages three to eight that are both interesting and informative.
When I read biographies to children, I don’t let it stop at one book. We will look for other books about that person and if they are someone we really find interesting and inspiring, I will also look for more ways to get acquainted with them, not just books.
For example, after reading books about Celia Cruz, we had a dance party to her music and looked at videos and books about Cuba. Getting a small glimpse of her homeland and hearing her music gave us a better picture of her as a person, not to mention her music is so much fun to dance to!
So if you and your children find biographies on this list that inspire you, keep reading, watching, and learning!
Looking for books for preschool and kinder? Here’s our list of Spanish Picture Books For Preschool and Kindergarten
My Name Is Gabito: The Life Of Gabriel Garcia Márquez by Monica Brown and Raúl Colón
Gabriel Garcia Márquez is a world-renowned author from Columbia that has written majestic novels filled with incredible imagery. Those novels are written for adults, but this book will introduce Márquez’s work to children through hearing his life story intermixed with some of that imagery in a creative way.
Celia Cruz, Queen Of Salsa by Veronica Chambers and Julie Maren
Celia Cruz led an inspiring life, and this book tells her story from childhood in Cuba where she sang like a bird, to becoming The Queen of Salsa, in a vibrant way meant to engage readers ages five and up. I highly recommend listening to Celia Cruz’s music both before and after reading!
Planting Stories: The Life Of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar
You might have heard Pura Belpré’s name whenever you pick up an acclaimed Latine book as they may have won the Pura Belpré award. But do you know her story? She was New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, as well as a storyteller and puppeteer, and an all-around inspiring woman who shared the folktales of Puerto Rico with children in the library and beyond. Don’t miss this one!
My Name is Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral by Monica Brown and John Parra
Gabriel Mistral was a Chilean poet, and the first Latina woman to ever win the Nobel Prize for her work. This book pays homage to her by having its words flow like a lyrical poem, and gives more insight into this inspiring woman. (This book is part of the Luna Rising bilingual storybook series, along with My Name Is Gabito.)
Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor and Lulu Delacre
Written by Justice Sotomayor herself, she tells the story of her rise to becoming a Supreme Court Justice and how she started her learning journey through a love of books and reading. Bright and inspiring, this book will show children that with dedication and curiosity, you can achieve your dreams!
Be Bold! Be Brave! Sé Audaz, Sé Valiente!: 11 Latinas who made U.S. History by Naibe Reynoso and Jane Leal
Detailing the life of eleven ground-breaking Latina women, this book is ready to inspire any young woman to be bold and brave! Some women that are featured on this book list are included, like Pura Belpre and Sonia Sotomayor, but it also includes other women like Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina that went to space and Selena, the Queen of Tejano music. A great way to dive into biographies!
Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera and Lauren Castillo
Such a lovely book, and one of my favorites! Written as a poem, this beautiful and lyrical book gently follows along with Herrera from his childhood, where he basked in nature and taught himself to read and write, to his becoming a famous poet and United States Poet Laureate. This poem of a book can help children imagine what they can do and become.
Pelé: El Rey de Fútbol by Monica Brown and Rudy GutiErrez
If you love fútbol, then you know Pelé, the king of fútbol. Though Pelé was from Brazil, this book is written in English with Spanish mixed in, and tells the story of Pelé’s rise from poverty to becoming the legend that he is still today. The illustrations help kick this book into high gear, just like Pelé himself.
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales
Cesar Chavex grew up in a migrant-worker family and knew the hardships that they endured to survive. So as an adult he led an epic march through California to help protest the mistreatment of migrant workers. An inspiring story of a civil right leader that peacefully fought for others.
Dolores Huerta: A Hero To Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren and Robert Casilla
Like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta wanted to help the migrant worker community and bring an end to their mistreatment. She fought for safer and better working conditions, and ultimately better lives, for migrant workers and their children. She was a powerhouse, and this book is written for children ages six and up that includes additional reading and teacher resources.
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales and Tim O’Meara
There are many, many books about Frida Khalo but this one feels different. It is not a traditional biography as it does not delve deep into her complex life and art, but instead it captures an essence that seems to fit with Frida herself. The artwork is made up of beautifully-arranged yet simple scenes with short bilingual text. This is just right for introducing very young children to Frida Khalo and a unique style of picture book illustrations!
Hopefully there will be a Latine biography on this list that will inspire you to bring your own kind of hope and beauty to the world, be it through singing or storytelling or helping others. Most of the people featured in these books have a lot of other books or videos out there about them, and you can always delve deeper into learning about their homeland too through recipes, travel guides and videos, books, atlases, and more. Biographies are a wonderful way to learn about people and places, so I hope you enjoy them all!