Written by Monica Brown
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Boom boom boom! beat the congas.
Clap clap clap! go the hands.
Shake shake shake! go the hips.
This is one of the many musical lessons Simone and Nadia learned when they attended a bilingual reading of My Name is Celia/Me Llamo Celia. Author Monica Brown and illustrator Rafael Lopez entertained a diverse crowd of parents and children with this vibrant book about the Cuban-born Queen of Salsa. Brown read in English, while Lopez read in Spanish. Azucar, or sugar, was one of the many Spanish words Simone and Nadia understood.
The book’s lyrical writing reveals the life of of Celia Cruz. She learns as a child in Havana that she has the gift for song, rhythm and dance, and she rises to worldwide musical acclaim. Celia shows how hard work overcomes adversity. For example, Cruz couldn’t participate in some singing contests because of the color of her skin. She didn’t let that stop her and was honored by presidents. In the end, she sold gold records, won Grammy awards and earned a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
I fell in love with the book, because the lines read like those often heard at poetry slams.
Close your eyes and listen, the book begins. My voice feels like feet skipping on cool wet sand, like running under a waterfall, like rolling down a hill. My voice climbs and rocks and dips and flips with the sounds of congas beating and trumpets blaring.
Of course, I purchased a copy of Celia for our library at home and asked Brown and Lopez to sign it for the girls.
“May your smiles fly across the sky,” wrote Brown, referring to a line in the book.
“Keep on reading and fall in love with books,” Lopez wrote.
No problem, no problem at all.