A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer!

HarperCollins/Harper. Nov. 2020. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062877703.
PreS-Gr 3–Bright colors enrich this biographical picture book about the early life of Rita Moreno, the award-winning Puerto Rican actor, dancer, and singer. Moreno, who was born in 1931 as Rosa Dolores Alverio, displayed a knack for song and dance at a young age. The text guides readers through the story of Moreno’s beginnings, from the heartbreak she endured leaving family and Puerto Rico to the moment she won an Oscar in 1962 for her moving performance as Anita in West Side Story. The hardships Moreno experienced, including bullying at school and whitewashed Hollywood culture, are purposefully depicted to introduce children to the weight of Moreno’s reality. Denise’s author’s note pays tribute to Moreno’s many accomplishments; this title reflects Denise’s appreciation for Moreno’s ability to shatter barriers for Latinas and other young women of color. Further examination of the other roles Moreno played in her long career would have added to the narrative’s pacing and context. Denise and Espinosa capture Moreno’s determination and her genuine joy for performing. Espinosa’s digital illustrations portray animated, easy-to-read expressions and scenes made of clean lines and contrasting textures. In particular, Moreno’s vibrant performance as Anita is triumphantly represented with swirling flashes of her iconic dance.
VERDICT An inspirational title for young elementary children. This energetic, illustrated biography honors her determined spirit with colorful exuberance.

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