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Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo: Bilingual Spanish-English

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, clap your hands for Tito Puente... The Mambo King plays and sways ans people dance the mambo, the rumba, and the cha-cha!

Damas y señores, niños y niñas, aplaudan a Tito Puente ... El Rey del Mambo toca su música y se balancea mientras la audiencia baila el mambo, la rumba y el chachachá!

32 pages, Hardcover

First published March 5, 2013

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About the author

Monica Brown

54 books105 followers
Monica Brown, Ph.D. is the author of awardwinning bilingual books for children, including My Name Is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me llamo Celia: La vida de Celia Cruz (Luna Rising), a recipient of the Américas Award for Children's Literature and a Pura Belpré Honor. Her second picture book, My Name Is Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral/Me llamo Gabriela: La vida de Gabriela Mistral (Luna Rising) shares the story of the first Latina to win a Nobel Prize.

Monica's books are inspired by her Peruvian-American heritage and desire to share Latino/a stories with children. "I write from a place of deep passion, joy, and commitment to producing the highest possible quality of literature for children. In my biographies, the lives of my subjects are so interesting and transformational that I am simply giving them voice for a young audience. I don't think it is ever too early to introduce children to the concepts of magical realism, social justice, and dreaming big!"

Her other books include Chavela and the Magic Bubble (Clarion), Pelé, King of Soccer/Pelé, el rey del fútbol (Rayo/HarperCollins), My Name is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Márquez/Me llamo Gabito: La vida de Gabriel Garcia Márquez (Luna Rising), and the forthcoming Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez/Lado a lado, La Historia de Dolores Huerta y César Chávez (Rayo/HarperCollins).

Monica Brown is a Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, specializing in U.S. Latino Literature and Multicultural Literature. She also writes and publishes scholarly work with a Latino/a focus, including Gang Nation: Delinquent Citizenship in Puerto Rican and Chicano and Chicana Literature; and numerous scholarly articles and chapters on Latino/a literature and cultural studies. She is a recipient of the prestigious Rockefeller Fellowship on Chicano Cultural Literacies from the Center for Chicano Studies at the University of California. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Flagstaff, Arizona.

To hear Monica Brown on Arizona NPR radio, click here or here. Find out what Monica Brown has to say about children's books and literacy here and here.

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5 stars
190 (34%)
4 stars
241 (43%)
3 stars
104 (18%)
2 stars
12 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 141 reviews
Profile Image for Zoe's Human.
1,688 reviews67 followers
December 16, 2021
I found this utterly delightful! I love Tito Puente. I found the story charming and loved the art style. I think the level is somewhere between picture book and easy-reader early chapter books.
Profile Image for Melissa Berke.
26 reviews2 followers
April 24, 2014
Reflection on ONE: Text to text, text to self, text to world connection with the book
This onomatopaeia in this book reminds me of Rap a Tap Tap: Here's Bojangles-Think of That by Leo Dillon. Instead of making noise with percussion like Tito Puente, Bojangles makes similar sounds with his feet.

Write six discussion questions using all six stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy

1. Knowledge: What kind of instrument does Tito Puente play?

2. Comprehension: Why did they call Tito Puente, "The Mambo King"

3. Application: The author used onomatopoeia to describe the sounds of the percussion, can you create onomatopoeia for one of the following instruments: Violin, Tuba, Flute?

4. Analysis: What events in Tito Puente's life most greatly influenced his musical development? Why?

5. Synthesis: How might Tito's Puente's music be different if it were composed today?

6. Evaluation: Listen to the TIto Puente piece "Oye como va". Write a music review citing instrumentation, lyrics, musical style, and other musical elements (melody, harmony, timbre, texture, and form). In addition to an evaluation of the music components, write a justification as to why you like or don't like the piece.

An adapted book review citation
March 1, 2013. Booklist. http://www.booklistonline.com/Tito-Pu...
Profile Image for Krista the Krazy Kataloguer.
3,873 reviews263 followers
September 29, 2016
This brief biography of musician Tito Puente, told in both English and Spanish, would have been more enjoyable for me if it had come with a CD of his music or a web site where samples of his music could be heard. The text gets the reader enthused about him, but then doesn't let you carry on that enthusiasm by letting you listen to him. Interesting but also disappointing.
5,870 reviews131 followers
September 19, 2019
Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo is a children's picture book written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Rafael López. It is a biographical picture book of Tito Puente – the King of Latin Music.

Mid-September to Mid-October, at least in my part of the world is Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month, which I plan to read one children's book, particularly a biography, which pertains to the subject everyday this month. Therefore, I thought that this book would be apropos for today.

Ernesto Antonio "Tito" Puente was an American musician, songwriter and record producer. Puente is often credited as "The Musical Pope", "El Rey de los Timbales" (The King of the Timbales) and "The King of Latin Music". He is best known for dance-oriented mambo and Latin jazz compositions that endured over a 50-year career.

Brown's text is rather simplistic, straightforward, and informative. Brown's bilingual text echoes the rhythms of salsa, mambo, and jazz, yet feels somewhat subdued next to Lopez's sizzling acrylics, which have a weathered, mural-like quality but are anything but flat.

The premise of the book is rather straightforward. Tito Puente made music his entire life, from banging spoons and forks on pots and pans, windowsills and cans, to learning the saxophone while serving in the Navy during WWII, studying at Juilliard, and leading the big band that carried his name.

All in all, Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo is a wonderful cursory bilingual biography about Tito Puente – the King of Latin Music.
Profile Image for Maryam.
107 reviews1 follower
July 8, 2013
If Rafael Lopez doesn't get at least a Caldecott Honor AND a Pura BelPre for this book, there's something wrong with the world of children's books. His illustrations are full of such color, energy, and imagination that you can SEE and FEEL Tito Puente's music on the vibrant pages of this bio-tribute. One of my favorite pictures is of Celia Cruz erupting from ocean waves as a flying mermaid -- above Tito, Santana and La Lupe. Monica Brown's text, aimed at young readers/listeners, focuses admirably on Tito's childhood and the early evidence of his amazing musical talents. She includes a short factual biography at the end, and a quick rumba beat lesson on the last page. Even in the frame of the score on this page, Lopez portrays all creatures great and small swept up in the Mambo King's music, including a snake shaking maracas and kids playing congas. Great for music teachers. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Cara Byrne.
3,045 reviews18 followers
November 30, 2014
Me gustan obras de Rafael López, pero este libro no es mi favorito. Pero, me gusta este historia de Tito Puento, quien no conocía antes leí este libro.
Profile Image for Jeimy.
4,400 reviews33 followers
June 6, 2015
The team behind My Name is Celia is back with an equally colorful biography on Tito Puente.
Profile Image for Kylie-Anna.
5 reviews
December 16, 2020
Wuy bein espanol! Pefecto!.an la calle mayor hay biblioteca largo! I see espanol book!
Profile Image for Vamos a Leer.
117 reviews10 followers
May 1, 2017
This lively book narrates the biography of renowned Puerto-Rican/New Yorker musician, Tito Puente, and the lasting impact that he has had on Hispanic-American heritage. Although Tito Puente was a beloved and iconic musician, he is not as well known outside of the Hispanic-American community.Tito Puente, Mambo King/ Rey del mambo is a bilingual picture book that is best for ages 4-7. It won the Pura Belpre Honor Book for illustration in 2014.

\Brown and López have collaborated before to write My Name Is Celia (2004), a children’s book biography of Celia Cruz, the spectacular, Cuban jazz singer, and one of many iconic musicians with whom Tito Puente worked alongside. In the back of Tito Puente, Mambo King/ Rey del mambo, Brown includes a brief, non-fictional biography where she mentions Tito Puente’s many, star-studded collaborations: “He collaborated with the most famous Latin musicians of the twentieth century, including Machito, Santana, Willie Bobo, Gloria Estefan, La Lupe, and especially Celia Cruz.” Yet many of these names have gained more recognition in the U.S. than Tito Puente himself.

This wonderful, colorful story centers on a timeless Latino idol and the musical webs of talent, heritage and friendship that he spun. In general, this book focuses on the collaborations of inspirational Latino icons and their wonderful contributions to the world of music and the arts.

The brief biography provided by Brown also mentions Tito Puente’s humanitarian endeavors: “Tito founded the Tito Puente Educational Foundation, which offers scholarships to students to study music at the Juilliard School of Music. He wanted to inspire other young musicians to pursue their dreams.” In effect, Tito Puente is a particularly fitting Latino figure to feature both here on our blog, and in your classrooms, given his immense dedication to the lives, educations and creative spirits of young children. While Tito Puente spent much of his career collaborating and connecting with other prominent Latino musicians, that care and comradery that was such an integral part of his life and work lives on in the children whose lives he has touched.

These themes of community, care and shared heritage are wholly apparent not only in Tito Puente’s actual life story, but also in this book’s narration, and throughout the award-winning illustrations. According to a review from Kirkus Reviews: “Multihued swirls and plumes emanate from Tito’s timbales and drumsticks; Celia Cruz (a frequent collaborator) soars in a costume whose fuchsia feathers seem to morph from the sea green waves below.” Indeed, the radiant illustrations not only capture the melody and joviality of Tito Puente’s rhythms, but also the community and culture associated with music, the power of songs to bring people together, and the unifying heritage of moving lyrics, memorable beats, and inspirational figures. López's warm palets, dazzling patterns and designs, and beaming faces capture Puente's gifted ability to light up a room. In essence, Tito Puente’s music and Rafael López’s art, though very different in nature, breadth, and time, exemplify two different types of wonderful Latino art, and the comforting and convivial sensations that they can both inspire.

Through this lovely story, music appears as the narrative thread that runs through every scene and phase of Tito Puente’s life. This not only reflects the immense influence that music had on him, but also provides a consistent theme that can help young children follow the storyline more easily. In addition, the short and sweet, rhythmic syllables of the text will have young readers excitedly breezing through the literary challenge, bouncing from page to page as they exercise their novice reading skills. With Lopez’s vibrant illustrations, one can almost hear Puente’s contagious music, making readers want to dance and skip right through the text. As a result, this book could be especially useful for challenging younger, less-advanced readers, since the liveliness of the text would disguise a difficult task as a fun, light-hearted activity.

While the rhythm of the story is emotionally uplifting, many of the themes are equally inspirational and encouraging. The beginning of the story places quite a bit of emphasis on Puente’s childhood, banging “spoons and forks on pots and pans, windowsills and cans,” and creating beats that would resonate throughout his entire Spanish Harlem community. This focus on Puente’s early years is also important for young readers, who will identify with young Puente’s abounding creativity and ambitious dreams, and look to both his success and humility for inspiration. Children and adults alike can learn from Tito Puente’s life story, his persistent work ethic and resounding humanity. This book is a treat in more ways than one, educating young readers through a fun, light-hearted introduction to the history of Latin American music.
9 reviews
February 20, 2019
Tito Puente Mambo King is an easy to read biography of the famous musician Tito Puente. Readers are captured through an amazing energetic writing style to match that of a Mambo dance. The biography is told in both English and then Spanish below on each page. Both the author and illustrator do an excellent job of instilling Hispanic heritage from page to page through vibrate colors and language. We are taken on a journey through the life of Tito Puente and the many different stepping-stones that led him to his overall success. At the end of this short biography, we are able to see an actual picture of Tito, a short description that goes into more detail, as well as a short rumba beat for readers to try on their own. (I love that tie in!)

Overall, this book is a great introduction to what a biography is for primary students, but could also be used in first or second grade to help them write about their own biographies thus far. Due to the fact this book is so multicultural, it is a great resource for students who speak or read Spanish. The relationship between Hispanic culture and music is an obvious theme through Tito Puente’s biography, so relating this to the study of Hispanic culture would be very relevant. As an educator, you could also have your students study the difference in music among cultures and how Tito Puente was inspired as an artist through his own culture. I think this book is excellent because it has so many ways in which you could teach multiple grade levels different reading concepts!
102 reviews
June 21, 2017
The illustrations in this book are bright and colorful, very eye catching. They added so much to the story. I liked this book, not as much for the text, but more for the illustrations. This story showed me how a boy from Spanish Harlem can fulfill his dreams like anyone else, only if you put your mind to it.

This book follows a boy named Tito Puente from a toddler to an adult. He loved to dace and bang spoons and forks on pots and pans. He was very loud when he played, so many people suggested he take lessons in music. Tito loved to dance too. Each year his church held a talent show of sorts. Tito won it four times. He also loved playing baseball with sticks on the streets of his neighborhood. He would later go on to perform at parties and clubs with his first band, Los Happy Boys. Tito was even in the Navy during World War II. After his service, he enrolled in the Julliard School of Music. Tito's dream came true with he was the leader of his very own bad, the Tito Puente Orchestra. He wrote the music and recorded more than one hundred albums.
Profile Image for Mara Rhodes.
5 reviews
December 11, 2017
I believe this story is a great bilingual children’s book that I would use in my classroom! When I first picked it up, the cover caught my attention because of the vibrant contrast of colors. I was curious what the other illustrations looked like inside and how the plotline of the story was going to play out. I was not disappointed. This biographical children’s book uses two-page illustrations that show the passion Tito shares for music and with the endless support of his family, it grew into something that affected the world. The book would be a great introduction to a biography lesson; however, I believe it could use a little more details about Tito’s life. The artistic medias portrayed throughout this story goes well with the writing style of this book and I think children would really be drawn to that. I love that ELL students and other students may be able to relate to this book due to it being wrote in two languages and being about music, something many students enjoy. I believe this would be a great addition to any library and a great read aloud resource!
25 reviews
October 28, 2018
Non Fiction, Bilingual Picture Book, Diversity, Pura Belpre Honor
This is a bilingual picture book about musical legend, Tito Puente. The story goes over his life and how he used music to influence many generations of people worldwide.
Personal Response-
I enjoyed the story and how well and simple it was written. It's great that they used both English and Spanish on each page so that more people could read it.
The artist used acrylic paint and Liquitex on sanded wooden boards. The colors immediately jumped out at me. I also love how the pages are completely full of picture and text.
Classroom Connections-
This would be a perfect book to have in a classroom of English and Spanish speakers. It could be used for music integration and picking out the instruments seen in the book to use to create a song. The class could also go over all the awards Tito got for music and compare those to the awards that authors and illustrators get for books.
Profile Image for Rachel.
57 reviews1 follower
October 6, 2019
"Tito Puente," by Monica Brown is a bilingual picture book about the life of Tito Puente. Beginning in his childhood, Tito Puente only wanted to play music, and this continued throughout his life. Brown gives readers an exciting story about Tito Puente's life, accompanied by Rafael López's bright, vibrant illustrations.

Before reading this book, I did not know about even half of Tito Puente's accomplishments, but I am excited to share it with my young readers. The illustrations, interesting text, and bilingual accompaniment on each page makes for a beautiful, interesting book.

I would connect this book with other "life stories" about musicians and/or young dreamers.

I would definitely use this book as a mentor text about writing biographies - the writing is clear, the illustrations accompany the text perfectly, and each page looks different, inspiring young writers to experiment.
Profile Image for Emily.
19 reviews
September 9, 2014
"Tito Puente" is a bilingual book (English and Spanish) based on the real life of Ernest Anthony Puente Jr. The book follows Tito on his journey to become a musician from Spanish Harlem to earning the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the vibrant illustrations. They made the text come alive and helped you envision the music, along with the setting. I just wish there were more details about his life in general or a detailed snapshot into one single event.

I would use this book in my first grade classroom to discuss illustrations or to introduce musical instruments. This book is a prime example of creating detailed pictures that go beyond the text. This book also has several onomatopoeias.
42 reviews
October 6, 2014
Brown, M., & Lopez, R. (2013). Tito Puente, Mambo King = Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo.

Pura Belpre Winner


This book is a biography of Tito Puente, the mambo king. It starts with his childhood and moves through adulthood. The author mentions Puente's many accomplishments such as the number of Grammy's he has won. I liked this book because the illustrations were very colorful and fun. I also liked that this book was written in both English and Spanish. Because the book is written in both languages this would be a good book to share with Spanish students that are learning the English language. This would also be a good book to share with students during Hispanic Heritage Month in order to review a very notable musician that has contributed to Hispanic culture.
48 reviews1 follower
April 22, 2019
The book had great illustrations and it was nice to look at and enjoy while reading. The book was about a boy name Tito Puente and how he started his career with music. The book has Spanish in there for people that didn't read English. The book was very easy to easy and easy to follow along with and informing. The author did a great job at giving us an better understand who Tito was and how he got started. The book was descriptive as to how he lived his life and what he did. The book is good for children to learn more about people and to see that they make books with Different languages for people to read. I gave the book a 5 star rating because the illustrations were just vibrate and out there to take a moment and look at.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
112 reviews4 followers
June 7, 2013
In this bilingual picture book, Brown, Lopez, and Dominguez rhythmically share the life of Mambo King Tito Puente. Each double-page spread contains illustrations, with text in both English and Spanish featured on only one page. The illustrations are fluid, bright, and almost whimsical. The language is written basically enough for PreK children to understand yet complex enough to hold the interest of older elementary (if not middle) school readers. The occasional sound words, along with the colorful illustrations, make me “hear” the music and “feel” the rhythm. A brief biography and one line of music conclude the book.
Profile Image for Samantha.
4,985 reviews59 followers
December 18, 2013
A bilingual (English/Spanish) biography of the man known as the "King of Mambo" and the "Godfather of Salsa." The author does a great job of showing readers how Puente was born to make music, that it was in his blood before he even had any idea what his attraction to rhythms meant.

Acrylic illustrations are vibrant and provide a solid visual representative of Puente's music genre.

A brief biography follows the story and a simple rumba beat is included for readers to practice.

The only thing that would've made this book even better would've been the inclusion of a CD of some of Puente's music. PreK-2.
February 29, 2016
First of all, I loved the coloring and illustrations throughout the story! They were incredible. This story is a great biography about Tito Puente, and I can picture students enjoying the story. I wish there was a little bit more detail about his life though. I think this story would be a great connection with music class. If this story could be read and then the students could hear some of his music, try some of the instruments mentioned in the story, try some of the dances, and hear some of the music by the other artists mentioned. I also like how this story is written in both English and Spanish :)
73 reviews1 follower
Want to read
June 3, 2016
Title: Tito Puente: The King of Mambo
Grade Level: Kindergarten-Third Grade
Summary: This book was about Tito Puente. Tito had played music since he was very young, by banging on pots and pans. He went to Julliard to study music, after WWII. His dream was to one-day lead a band, and that is just what he did.
Review: This was a very cute book. I loved how it had the words in English and in Spanish. The illustrator used a great variety of colors in the illustrations.
In Class Uses: 1. This book could be use to teach children about Tito Puente.
2. This book can be used to teach children to follow their dreams.
3,025 reviews10 followers
March 8, 2013
This English/Spanish picture book serves as a short introduction to the life and music of Tito Puente, the Mambo King.
From his days as a young child, Ernestito loved to bang on things, and this turned into a lifelong career as a percussionist. He studied at Juilliard, recorded over 100 albums during his career, composed, led bands, and helped to popularize various styles of Latin music and dance.
That's quite a legacy, and an inspiration to every little kid who wanted to make music on the kitchen pots and pans.
Rafael Lopez's illustrations are cartoony, but work well with the material.
Profile Image for Jocelin.
1,831 reviews44 followers
October 19, 2013
This was a great story book. This book gives the history of Legendary Percussionist Tito Puente. I loved the fact that this book was in English & Spanish; being very respectful to the subject's Latin Heritage. It is also a fun way for children to read Spanish alongside the English translation & vice versa.
The book is beautifully illustration and the colors are absolutely vivid. The story is really well-written and fascinating. Adults who are not familiar with Mr. Puente will also learn a lot.
Highly Recommended!
Profile Image for Kate.
989 reviews1 follower
November 18, 2015
The text was okay. It seems to gloss over Tito Puente's life -- granted this is a picture book but at times more info would have been nice (e.g., how old was Tito when he won his first Stars of the Future contest? exactly what Grammy awards did he win and why was it special?). Different phrasing or word choices would have helped at times--really, the music of his band Los Happy Boys made people happy? It's the artwork that make this book. The warm colors pop, and flowing shapes pull you along through the story.
Profile Image for The Reading Countess.
1,728 reviews55 followers
April 13, 2014
Author Monica Brown visited my school following the Texas Library Association's annual conference in my hometown on Friday. She kept our active kids highly engaged with the active participation she required from them as well as by telling them her quiet sound ("Ch-ch-ch-ch"). As she read her book, Tito Puente, the English and Spanish words jumped off the page thanks to the vibrant artwork. I especially loved how she told the kids that no matter where they came from, that they would be able to achieve their dreams like he did. Inspirational and highly recommended.
Profile Image for Lily.
315 reviews
May 26, 2015
I have a soft spot for Latino music, especially salsa. I love Tito and I think this book is a great introduction to Spanish Harlem and the rise of the Latin Jazz Explosion. My children liked this book. It had colorful illustrations and is written in English and Spanish. There was a rhythm beat throughout the book and the last page provides the musical notes to a very basic rumba beat. I love books that touch on more than one subject. Here we have history, music, reading, and language. "Oye Como Va"
Profile Image for Alyssa Adams.
60 reviews
April 19, 2016
Tito has been a performer since before he could walk. Not only does he play the drum, but he likes to dance! As he grows up he continues his music and eventually wins a grammy. He wrote 118 albums and finally had his life long dream fulfilled: to lead the band!
This story is written in both Spanish and English; a perfect book for a diverse classroom.
The illustrator uses a unique form of media. He uses acrylic paint that comes in recycled salsa jars from Mexico along with Liquitex on distressed, hand-cut, and sanded wooden boards
Profile Image for Hannah Poor.
21 reviews
November 27, 2018
This book would be great for an ELL student who is learning to read English but still needs the support of their native language. It is bilingual, and it explains a portion of this culture to curious minds. It also includes engaging, colorful illustrations and a short song at the end of the book to reinforce the overall theme of Tito Puente. Therefore, this book could be used for an interdisciplinary lesson that incorporates literature and music.

Author: Monica Bown
Title: Tito Puente
Illustrator: Rafael Lopez
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date: 2013
Genre: Biography
45 reviews2 followers
January 22, 2019
Tito Puente is a captivating story about the life of Tito Puente, a famous musician known for being the "King of the Mambo" and the "Godfather of Salsa". A bilingual book, this story is an excellent choice for cross-curriculum in the classroom, with its emphasis on music, history, language, and diversity. Its rich vocabulary in both English and Spanish, and its colorful illustrations, make it valuable as well. The bilingual biography and rumba music notes at the end of the book can serve as extended learning opportunities in the classroom as well.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 141 reviews

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