New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014

This volume of mini-biographies of Hispanic Americans has plenty of “hey, I didn’t know that” and “oh, that guy!” moments.  There are 19 inspiring stories, plus a poem and a narrative about accomplished Hispanics spanning American history.  It is organized chronologically, the earliest entry being Bernardo de Galvez, who lived in the 18th Century and after whom Galveston, TX was named (hey, I didn’t know that).  Herrera included men and women from occupations as diverse as activists and military heroes, athletes and scientists, farm workers and politicians.  Nearly every walk of life is represented.  Despite their wildly different lives, they all have at least two things in common: their hispanic roots and their abilities, each in his/her own way, to achieve great things.

Colon’s muted, watercolor-washed drawings are beautifully rendered.  The illustrations are modern, but each brings out the era and character of the subject.  The portrait of Desi Arnaz seems a little uncomfortable and Sonja Sotomayor looks more cartoonish than the rest, but otherwise the artwork is spot on.

To add even more interest, Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes has an Idaho connection: naval hero, and first U.S. Admiral ever, David Glasgow Farragut.  His namesake, Farragut State Park in Northern Idaho was an inland naval base during WWII.  Some other entries include Rita Moreno (remember her as the “HEY YOU GUYS!!!” lady from PBS’s The Electric Company?); Robert Clemente, baseball great and humanitarian; Jaime Alfonso Escalante of Stand and Deliver fame (oh, that guy!); Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina astronaut and first Latina director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center; and, of course, activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Hureta.  There are so many smart, heroic, accomplished people in this book, that it is really very difficult to pull out just a few.

Both interesting and inspiring, Portaits of Hispanic American Heroes should have a space on any school library’s 920’s shelf. It’s appeal will span from upper elementary through middle school.  At the end of the book are source notes, a bibliography, and recommended reading sections.

ICS: Reading Standards for Informational Text:  Grade 4, Standards 1-5, 8-10;  Grade 5, Standards 1-2, 4-6, 8-10; Grades 6-8, Standards 1-10.

Dewey:  920                Interest Grades 4-8

Younger students might enjoy:  The Hispanic Headliners series by Zella Williams

High school students might like:  I, Legal in the U.S.A.: a Memoir by Alejandra Campos

Fiction pairing:  Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Film:  The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers’ Struggle, a Rick Tejada-Flores and Ray Telles film, presented by [I]TVS, and available through PBS.

Learn more on LiLI by searching the Spanish language databases.