Hello there readers and Vamos fans! This month we are proudly celebrating Latina and Latin American women! I am delighted to present to you this week a wonderful book that celebrates the life of one of the most influential females in the history of Cuban music: Celia Cruz. The book, Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa, written by Veronica Chambers and illustrated by Julie Maren, is, of course, about the late, great Cuban-American salsa singer and performer, Celia Cruz.
Here is a description from Goodreads:
Everyone knows the flamboyant, larger-than-life Celia, the extraordinary salsa singer who passed away in 2003, leaving millions of fans brokenhearted. Now accomplished children’s book author Veronica Chambers gives young readers a lyrical glimpse into Celia’s childhood and her inspiring rise to worldwide fame and recognition. First-time illustrator Julie Maren truly captures the movement and the vibrancy of the Latina legend and the sizzling sights and sounds of her legacy.
Beginning with childhood anecdotes, the book spans most of Celia’s life. We learn that she grew up in a crowded home in a poor section of Havana with a very close family. From a young age she would sing to her younger siblings, by which she would gain the affection of her neighborhood. We learn that Celia was initially shy, but that it did not keep her from singing.
Readers might relate to Celia’s life through her tough decisions and the relationship with her father. He wanted her to forget about singing and focus on a more practical career, but she, inspired by her teachers, decided to pursue her dream. The book points out, though, that it was not easy to take a dream and “make it grow in the world,” and that Celia had to work hard to achieve her dream.
The author uses richly descriptive language to reflect the passion that Celia had for music: “It was the kind of music that sizzled from the joy of being alive.” The illustrations reflect and complement the passion and intensity of the text through their bold, varied colors.
This book is a great education tool. The reader is able to see how Celia blossoms into a performer, while also learning about Afro-Cuban music traditions and genres. It includes select words in Spanish and even touches on historical-political information of how, after moving to the U.S., to her deep disappointment, Celia was no longer able to return to Cuba. The book also includes an in-depth author’s note, glossary, and selected discography.
For the classroom, this book could assist in teaching in many different ways. It can accompany lessons that aim to utilize bibliographies, or Cuban-American history. Students can compare this book to another about Celia, or choose their own influential Latina, artist, musician, or any combination thereof! It can also accompany an activity that involves listening to Celia’s music, playing instruments, and/or learning to dance salsa.
The author, Veronica Chambers, was born in Panama, and her many publications reflect her multicultural background, including her renowned memoir, Mama’s Girl, which has been adopted by high schools and colleges throughout the country. See her website for more information about her work, commendations, and personal journey.
If this beautiful book wasn’t enough, see one of our previous posts in which we review Me llamo Celia Cruz by Monica Brown, another children’s book about Celia Cruz.
We hope you’ll look for a local copy of this book, and remind you to keep an eye out for the rest of this month’s ¡Mira, Look!’s, when we’ll continue to highlight influential Latina and Latin American women such as writer Gabriela Mistral, artist Frida Kahlo, and poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
Images: Modified from Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa. Illustrator: Julie Maren