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Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes

Review

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes

Every culture has its heroes, some well-known while others remain unsung. Certainly, unsung heroes come in different forms. In the case of Hispanic Americans, California Poet Laureate and award-winning author Herrera clearly states, "In a land of immigrants, it is an irony that Latino lives have been largely ignored. Although there have been incredible contributions by Hispanic Americans since the beginnings of this nation, their pioneering roles often have been overshadowed and their identities besmirched by terms such as 'alien' and 'illegal.'" Although Herrera's words ring sadly true, there are those who have overcome unconscionable obstacles. It is these heroes that Herrera focuses on in his biographical collection.

Capturing the essence of the heroes, award-winning illustrator Raul Colon has incorporated a mix of watercolor washes, etching, and litho pencils to produce vibrantly exquisite full-page depictions.

Showcasing 19 distinct individuals, Herrera has chosen men and women who share one common theme:  their struggles did not hold them down. Many young readers will definitely recognize names, such as Roberto Clemente, César Chávez and Sonia Sotomayor. Yet very few will be familiar with the majority of outstanding figures, such as physicist Luis Alvarez, astronaut Ellen Ochoa, and pediatrician Helen Rodriguez-Trias, or writers Ignacio Lozano, Julia de Burgos, and Tomás Rivera. And, of course, each biographical portrait would be incomplete without attaching a face to a name. Capturing the essence of the heroes, award-winning illustrator Raul Colon has incorporated a mix of watercolor washes, etching, and litho pencils to produce vibrantly exquisite full-page depictions.

Herrera closes his biographical project by featuring "an unpaved muddy stretch between Honey Creek and Billy Goat Hill," now known as Hero Street U.S.A. Once an unwanted area in Silvis, Illinois, it now is home to a monument that "commemorates the hometown heroes and the Medals of Honor that Latinas and Latinos throughout the nation have won in service of their country." And on a somber note, Herrera includes a sestina, written in remembrance of 27-year-old first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, who offered herself up as a human shield to protect her students when a gunman burst into her classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012.

Replete with a full list of recommended readings for further research, PORTRAITS OF HISPANIC AMERICAN HEROES is not only a compilation of deeply poignant stories written to inspire young minds, but also a wonderful addition to Hispanic literature.

Reviewed by Anita Lock on August 27, 2014

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes
by Juan Felipe Herrera and Raul Colon