Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle

Book review by
Maria Peña, Common Sense Media
Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle Book Poster Image
Captivating tale of girl diving into her Dominican roots.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows struggles of working-class Dominican American family in New York. Shows hard work and practice that goes into preparing for piano recital. Kids learn about food, culture of Dominican Republic. 

Positive Messages

Strong messages about cultural roots, strong family bonds, friendship, humility, kindness, empathy, gratitude. Also learning from mistakes and asking for forgiveness, commitment, and helping out those in need.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Anamay works hard in school, is determined to win a merit scholarship to the prestigious Eleanor School, which she sees as one piano recital away from becoming a reality. She has to deal with an unexpected announcement from her parents and unforeseen circumstances that change how she sees things. Both her parents are solid role models who guide her when she is confused, are firm when she gets out of line. Other beneficial role models are her friends Claudia, Sarita, and Cosita, a servant girl her age that she meets in the Dominican Republic.


Servant girl Cosita gets pushed. One of Anamay's sisters is hit by a car driven by a family member and goes to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.


Nothing explicit, but a 13-year-old girl goes to her bedroom to talk with a boy she likes and is a friend of the family and her father quickly goes to the bedroom and kicks the boy out of their home.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Anamay's uncle, Tio Lalo, has a drinking problem that no one in the family wants to openly talk about, especially Abuelita, her grandmother. The situation becomes a family crisis when he injures a family member while driving under the influence of alcohol. Tio Lalo gets arrested, goes into rehab, asks his family's forgiveness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hilda Eunice Burgos' Ana María Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle is the story of Ana Maria -- called Anamay -- a bright 11-year-old Dominican American girl from the Washington Heights neighborhood near the Bronx who, with her family, takes her first trip to the Dominican Republic, meets many relatives for the first time, and gains a deeper appreciation for family and her cultural roots. An adult family member has a drinking problem, drives drunk, and hits a young relative, who goes to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.  

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Kid, 9 years old February 7, 2019

Heart-warming book, with realistic senarios.

This book is awesome! I has such realistic senarios, and I love it!

What's the story?

In ANA MARÍA REYES DOES NOT LIVE IN A CASTLE, 11-year-old "Anamay" needs to practice hard for an important piano recital that could be the key that will earn her a scholarship to The Eleanor School, a prestigious New York private school. In the months leading up to the recital, Anamay's parents announce that a new baby is on the way, news that makes her very upset. The family makes a trip to their parents' birthplace, the Dominican Republic, to attend Anamay's Tía Nona's wedding. It's the first time Anamay and her three sisters have visited the island, and while there she meets many family members, learns about her cultural roots, and savors traditional foods. By the end of her stay, she finds herself in an unexpected situation that changes her outlook on what's really important and teaches her compassion and generosity.

Is it any good?

This is a captivating, relatable story of family and cultural roots with a determined, confident, but vulnerable girl at its heart. All of author Hilda Eunice Burgos' characters in Ana María Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle are vivid and full of life. Anamay's determination to prepare for her piano recital and get a scholarship to her dream private school in New York sets the tone for the book, and the overall story is full of real-life situations that many families can identify with. Anamay goes through a whirlwind of emotions, and all she really wants is for her parents to love and be proud of her, much like many girls and boys her age.

Anamay's last name is Reyes, which means kings, and her mother's maiden name is Castillo, which means castle. But it doesn't matter that she doesn't live in a castle. Her greatest treasure is her family and their unbreakable bond.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how news of the arrival of a new baby in the family affects Anamay in Ana María Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle. How would you feel if you found out you had a new baby brother or sister on the way? What do you think of Anamay's reaction? 

  • Why do you think the family members don't want to talk about Anamay's uncle's drinking problem? Do you think it's hard to forgive people you love when they make mistakes? 

  • How would you react if you saw an injustice happening to someone else? How would you help that person? What does being compassionate look like?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Latino and immigrant stories

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