Monday, April 8, 2013

Tito Puente: Mambo King - Rey del Mambo by Monica Brown, illustrated by Rafael López

Tito Puente was a great musician and a real New York City fixture.  And now, Monica Brown has written a colorful picture book about him and his music for young readers, and the best part is that it is bilingual so that it is accessible to both English and Spanish readers - children and their parents, since this is a wonderful read-aloud book.

Monica Brown is no stranger to writing bilingual biographies of important and influential Latinos.  She has written My Name is Celia: the Life of Celia Cruz, My Name is Gabito: the Life of Gabriel Gracia Márquez and Pelé, King of Soccer, among others.  Tito Puente: Mambo King is her most recent biography and tells the story of Puente's muscial life, which began at home in Spanish Harlem NYC, tapping out a musical beat on pots and pans as a toddler, and how he went on from there to become a band leader and five time Grammy winner.  Brown focuses the book only on Puente and his musical achievements as a well-known, well-respected Latino musician, leaving out the details of his personal life which might detract from that.  

Maybe I am a little biased because I grew up hearing Puente's music, but this is a book I can't recommend enough.  There are few enough good bilingual books out there and even fewer good read-aloud books, but Tito Puente: Mambo King is a real standout.

And, at a time when so many music programs are being cut from school budgets, books like this can really help a classroom teacher introduce students to various artists and the music they play.  Just time of the possibilities!

One of the things I really love in a picture book is when the text and illustrations reflect each other and feel totally connected and that is really the case here.  The illustrations by Rafael López are bright bold and colorful and as musical as the salsa music Puente played and the words that Brown used to describe it.

To get the real flavor of Tito Puente: Mambo King, listen to Brown and López describe the book themselves:

So, grab this book, make a nice Puente playlist for some real background ambiance and enjoy!

This book is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was Morningside Heights Branch of the NYPL

Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week by Andromeda at A Wrung Sponge

This is book 3 of my 2013 Nonfiction Picture Book Reading Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy


  1. This trailer has got me in the dancing mood!

  2. We have the Pele book and love it. Thanks for highlighting this one!


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