Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics Book Poster Image
Inspiring poems about Latinos who excelled in their fields.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Biographical portraits of 18 accomplished Hispanics from different disciplines, plus a roster of more at the end. Snippets of information about the various disciplines, for example early flight, labor conditions for farmworkers, the history of American Revolution, nature painting. Names of different Latin American countries.

Positive Messages

Hispanic-Americans have distinguished themselves in a wide variety of fields. Both men and women are accomplished. There are lots of fields available to kids, who can follow their interests. Multiculturalism enriches the United States.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All 18 Spanish-speaking people featured are positive role models. Many fought for freedom or social justice. All are accomplished, and distinguished themselves in their fields. Both men and women are represented, as are people from a variety of Latin American countries.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics is by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López, who collaborated on the award-winning Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music. Here, Engle has written 18 poems about accomplished Latino Americans or Hispanics who lived in "geographic regions now included in the modern United States," and each poem's accompanied by a gorgeous portrait by López. Some of the subjects are famous, such as musician Tito Puente, labor activist César Chávez, and baseball player Roberto Clemente, and some are unsung. But all are inspiring and "have faced life’s challenges in creative ways." An additional Notes About the Lives sets the poems in context. This book's a welcome addition to the canon of kids' literature about Hispanics.

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What's the story?

BRAVO!: POEMS ABOUT AMAZING HISPANICS consists of 18 poems about American Latinos or Hispanics who lived in areas that are now part of the United States (like Puerto Rico, Texas, and California). Some names are quite familiar, for instance José Martí, Tito Puente, César Chávez, and Roberto Clemente. Others will be revelations. The subjects of the poems include figures from sports, politics, civil rights, music, medicine, botany, zoology, ornithology, library science, and academics. Each of the poems is a first-person account or monologue by the subject, talking briefly about his or her experience and accomplishment.

Is it any good?

The intimate biographical poems in this book are narrated in the first person and feel almost like short monologues, as if we've dropped in to eavesdrop on people talking frankly about their lives. Many of the people featured in Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics demonstrate progressive values. José Martí fought for Cuba's independence from Spain. Félix Varela became a priest in New York City ministering to the Irish who'd fled famine. César Chávez organized farmworkers. And Pura Belpré became the first Spanish Children's Specialist in the New York City Public Library. But author Margarita Engle satisfies widely by showcasing a variety of disciplines, and includes a painter, a jazz musician, a baseball player, a poet, and a medical researcher. She also strikes a nice balance of men and women.

The portraits by Rafael López are stunning and evocative, each incorporating images of the subject's interests and accomplishments. For instance, birds fly around Louis Agassiz Fuertes, who painted birds, and clouds drift past Aída De Acosta, the first woman pilot. The additional notes at the end help satisfy our curiosity, but if the book has a fault, it's that it leaves us wanting to dig in more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the people profiled in Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics. Did you know about any of them before? Which ones interest you the most?

  • Did you realize that some Spanish-speaking regions are now officially part of the United States? Which ones?

  • In the pictures, how did the illustrator incorporate elements of the person's interests or accomplishments into the art? If someone painted a portrait like that of you, what would you want included?

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