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

Denise, Anika Aldamuy. A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno, Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer! Harper, 2020. 978-0-062-87770-3. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Rosita Alverio lives between a mountain and a rainforest in Puerto Rico. But soon after turning five, she and her mother board a steamship bound for America and a new life. In order to make ends meet, her mother works as a sweatshop seamstress. It is not a lot of money, but there is enough to spare so Rosita can take dance lessons. With her perfect twirls and her charismatic charm, Rosita quickly becomes a minor celebrity. She dances for the troops, acts on the radio, and even records Spanish versions of hit Hollywood movies. But soon, Rosita’s life changes when she meets with Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM film studios. Shortly after, she becomes Rita Moreno and goes on to become one of the most famous Latinx stars in the world.

THOUGHTS: Fans of Rita Moreno will love this book as it gives a glimpse into the star’s life before fame. However, even readers who do not know of Moreno will appreciate her journey: a real life rags-to-riches story with a Latinx person at the center of it all. Leo Espinosa’s stunning illustrations make it seem as though Moreno is twirling off the page. This is a must-have for elementary librarians looking to expand their biography section.

921 Rita Moreno          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

YA – Never Look Back

Rivera, Lilliam. Never Look Back. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020. 978-1-547-60373-2. 320 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Pheus is a young bachata singer, full of charm, confidence, and street smarts. Eury is an introverted girl who moves to the Bronx after Hurricane Maria rips apart her home in Puerto Rico – literally and figuratively. Eury is reserved and withdrawn around everyone, except her cousin Penelope, whom she has come to live with after her mother decides that she needs a change of scenery to improve her mental health. Unfortunately, Eury cannot tell anyone, not even Penelope, about what really haunts her – a spirit named Ato who seems like a friend at first but quickly turns into a sinister force. Eury believes he is the reason for the hurricane and is certain he has followed her to the Bronx. Of course, everyone thinks Ato is a creation of her mind, a figment created by the trauma she experienced from the hurricane. But with Pheus, Eury believes she has found a soulmate, someone she can completely confide in and trust. He can see Ato even when others in Eury’s life do not believe he really exists. Ato does not take kindly to Pheus moving in on his territory and does everything in his power to ruin their love. But Pheus is determined to destroy Eury’s demons and prove to her that he will go anywhere – even the Underworld – to fight for her life and her love. Told in alternating chapters between Pheus and Eury’s points of view, this novel combines Afro-Latinx characters and culture with Greek mythology to create a modern day tale of  “Orpheus and Eurydice.”

THOUGHTS: This modern retelling of  the Greek classic is an interesting twist on mythology. Many secondary ELA teachers teach Greek Mythology as part of the curriculum; this book is an exceptional text to pair with this unit. Themes and topics in the story are timely, and students will appreciate the diversity and realness of the characters.

Realistic Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD