Written By: Anika Aldamuy Denise
Illustrated by: Leo Espinosa
For Ages: 4-8 years
Topics Covered: Rita Moreno, Latinx Family, Show Business, Performance, Acting, Biography, Racism.
Summary: It’s hard to think of a time when the world didn’t know Rita Moreno’s name. After all, she’s one of only six women to have an EGOT! Rosita Alverio was born in Puerto Rico, and moved to NYC when she was a young girl with her mother. There, she began dance classes and was eventually signed by MGM and given the name Rita instead of Rosita (and took her stepfather’s last name Moreno). Unfortunately, despite all of her hard work to be bilingual, she was given only stereotypical roles.
After being the first Puerto Rican (and Latina) to ever win an Oscar for her role in West Side Story, the door opened for her and she continues to act to this day (I personally love her in One Day at a Time). This book is a lovely tribute to the adventure-filled life of Rita Moreno, and I love that it discusses the racism found in the film industry. In the back is a timeline of events with more in-depth information, and a lengthy author’s note. The illustrations are adorable, and I love the joy that Leo Espinosa conveys when Rita is shown dancing and performing.
This book was kindly sent by HarperKids, but all opinions are my own!
Anika Aldamuy Denise writes award-winning fiction and nonfiction books for young readers. Her picture book Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, illustrated by Paola Escobar, was the recipient of the 2020 Pura Belpré Author Honor, NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor for Outstanding Children’s Nonfiction, and the Arnold Adoff Poetry Award for Early Readers. Planting Stories was also named a Best Children’s Book of 2019 by Smithsonian Magazine, School Library Journal, New York Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, Chicago Public Library, Bank Street College of Education, and the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature.
Anika’s books have been featured in The New York Times, Today.com, Kids Indie Next List, A Mighty Girl, Junior Library Guild, and in the Children’s Book Council’s Around the World Showcase. Her forthcoming picture book, A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer!, illustrated by Leo Espinosa, will be released on November 3, 2020.
In addition to writing, Anika is a frequent speaker in elementary schools, high schools, and universities—as well as organizations like SCBWI and the Writers’ Loft of Massachusetts—where she leads workshops in creative writing and diversity in kids’ literature.
Raised in Queens, New York, Anika now lives in Rhode Island with her husband and three daughters.
Leo Espinosa is an award-winning Illustrator and Designer from Bogotá, Colombia, whose work has been featured internationally in a variety of publications, products, animated series and gallery shows. His short list includes The New Yorker, The New York Times, the BBC, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Chronicle Books, Swatch, and Facebook.
Leo’s work has been recognized by The Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Communication Arts, and 3×3. In 2019, he received the Pura Belpré Honor Book award for Islandborn, from the American Library Association. The New York Times bestselling children’s book was written by Pulitzer Prize winner, Junot Díaz.
Most days you’ll find him drawing picture books, unless he’s out riding his bike in the mountains around Salt Lake City, where he lives with his wife.