Nuestra América: 30 Inspiring Latinas/Latinos Who Have Shaped the United States (Sabrina Vourvoulias)

Hello, friends! Hispanic Heritage Month begins today, and to kick things off, we’re reviewing Nuestra América: 30 Inspiring Latinas/Latinos Who Have Shaped the United States, written by Sabrina Vourvoulias and illustrated by Gloria Félix.

This collection of mini-biographies, published in partnership with the Smithsonian Institute’s Latino Center, features thirty Americans of Latin descent – immigrants and native – who have made major accomplishments in the fields of art, entertainment, science, business, activism, the military, and more. Readers can learn about community leaders César Chávez and Emma González; entertainers like Jennifer Lopez, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Celia Cruz; athletes like Laurie Hernández and Roberto Clemente; scientists like Luis Walter Álvarez and Ellen Ochoa, and dozens more.

An awesome collection. This compendium of notable Latinx Americans features a wonderfully wide range of backgrounds and fields of achievement. Each mini-biography is about one to two pages long, and features a brief summary of its subject’s early life, accomplishments, legacy, and a featured quote from the luminary themselves. I was particularly pleased to see trans activist Sylvia Rivera, a figure who is often overlooked in both LGBTQ+ and Latinx history. The portraits by Félix are gorgeous, featuring each subject against bold colorful backgrounds; indeed, nearly every page features colors traditionally associated Hispanic heritage. It’s a fascinating and informative read for middle-graders of any background, and a lovely tribute to Hispanic-American heritage. JJ enjoyed the few biographies we read through together, and she loved the portraits. Overall, a fantastic book, and Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter To His Daughter (Mark Gonzales)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter To His Daughter, written by Mark Gonzales and illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, a powerful look at religious and racial tolerance through an intimately personal lens.

A father speaks to his daughter about the big things in life: the vastness of our planet and the universe beyond; the history that reaches back to earliest man and brought us to where we are and where we are going; what it means to be human. It’s the questions and revelations we all share as we grow and discover who we are. He warns her that there are other questions that we will asked of her: “What are you? And where are you from?”. He sadly notes that these questions will not always be asked in kindness. Still, he encourages her to simply reply, “Yo soy Muslim.” This statement encapsulates generations of history, culture; proud hardworking people and her own future as it lies ahead. He urges her to say it proudly, and to define the words in her own way as she defines herself. “Yo soy Muslim,” he says, “Our prayers were here, before any borders were.”

Absolutely beautiful. Taking an exceptionally personal sentiment, the text and art weaves the father’s words to his daughter into a larger lesson about how we treat people who are “other” than us. Quiet, powerful language emphasizes the importance and value that ever child possesses, even as the world makes groups – especially children of those groups – feel small and powerless. The vibrant, strikingly colorful art fits this tone perfectly, drawing from both indigenous Latin American and Middle Eastern art to paint a world of explosive color. The length is great, and JJ and I both loved it. A gorgeous book to share with any little one to encourage understanding and pride, and for children of Latin and Muslim backgrounds, an astounding gift of representation. Baby Bookworm approved!