Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Tito Puente, Mambo King

Tito Puente, Mambo King
written by Monica Brown; illustrated by Rafael Lopez; translated by Adriana Dominguez
2013 (Rayo)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Wendie's Wanderings

Tito Puente made noise from an early age. Banging on pots and pans and other household items prompted his Spanish Harlem neighbors to urge his mother to send him to a music teacher. When she did, she started a musical career that led him to becoming the Mambo King. Tito learned to play several instruments including the saxophone which he picked up while serving on a ship during World War II. It was the timbales, a percussion instrument, that would bring him his greatest fame. After playing with several bands in New York City, he became the leader of his own big band, the Tito Puente Orchestra. He went on to create music with legends such as Celia Cruz, Carlos Santana, and La Lupe. Tito won five Grammys and became an international superstar in the music world. His music inspired many and set feet to tapping around the globe.

Man, do I love this book! As you see by the cover, the artwork simply pops. Rafael Lopez's illustrations are some of the most vibrant work you will see. He is able to show you the energy of Tito Puente's music. The text is special as well. Each page is written in English and Spanish. Monica Brown uses onomatopoeia to get your feet tapping even though you can't hear Tito Puente playing the timbales. Speaking of his music, check out this clip from Sesame Street that is located on Brown's teacher resource page:

Tito Puente, Mambo King is instantly one of my favorite books for 2013. Children will enjoy learning about and hearing Tito Puente. His life is a lesson of pursuing your dream and having passion for your work. I would read this book when teaching lessons about character traits such as determination. It is also a good mentor text when teaching lessons about onomatopoeia (sound words). This author/illustrator team has won a Pura Belpre honor before and this book will contend for the 2014 award. I think it deserves Caldecott consideration as well. Tito Puente, Mambo King will rock your feet and your eyes.


  1. This looks like an interesting biography. And don't you love how "historical" videos can be found on You Tube? Great for including with Common Core lessons! (My favorite was a newsreel interview with Helen Keller!)

    1. A newsreel with Helen Keller would be a great find. To put a voice to photographs is valuable. Thank you for stopping by.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. Sounds terrific.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  3. Jeff, I'm so excited to read this book! I hadn't heard about it, and the music/biography/artwork sound terrific! I'm off to order it! So glad you shared it today.

  4. This put me in the dancing mood! Thanks Jeff!

  5. Ooohlala! With that kind of recommendation, I would be sure to check this book out. I think our posts are somewhat related, Jeff. As you know I also featured Jean 'The Django' Reinhardt for nonfiction monday. Very interesting parallels. :)

    1. Yes, Myra. I think Django and Tito would be a great comparison lesson of picture book biographies. Thank you for stopping by!


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