Getting to know Celia Cruz

“Who was Celia Cruz?” by Lisbeth Kaiser and Cecily Kaiser

Who was Celia Cruz?

It’s a legitimate question that a new hardcover book warmly answers through its simple text and attractive illustrations.

The question “Who was Celia Cruz?” is also the title of this playful and educational book for 2 to 4 year olds. And it’s the sixth in the “Who Was?” series. Rise X Penguin Workshop imprint series.

Celia Cruz was a dynamic Afro-Cuban singer who fled her homeland when Fidel Castro suppressed Cuban artistic freedom. She went on to gain international fame as a New York-based “salsa queen”.

“(Cruz) … life exemplifies extraordinary bravery in addition to success. She was an exceptional musician and performer, but that did not protect her from discrimination, separation, exile and immigration hardship,” wrote Cecily Kaiser, Associate Editor, Early Childhood, Penguin Workshop, in an email.

Cecile Kaiser

Before the series launched, there was nothing on the book market that gave a timeline, a life story, for preschoolers, Cecily Kaiser added in a phone interview.

She explained how her team selects subjects: “We consider which people from history – or from the current era – are worthy of our young audience. So this is whose story will inspire and empower our readers.

Celia Cruz’s biography is the sixth in the “Who Was?” series. series, which debuted in fall 2020. The other five are Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Walt Disney, Jackie Robinson and also “Who Is Jane Goodall?”

“If you look at children’s books published over the past 100 years, you realize that almost all of them were about white people,” said Cecily Kaiser.

Considering this, she thinks the series should consider publishing biographies of people of different ethnicities through which all readers can see themselves.

There is also an essential literacy component.

“I would say that all books for illiterate children are the first steps towards literacy. Part of learning to read is wanting to learn to read,” she said.

Lisbeth Kaiser

The author of “Who Was?” board books is Lisbeth Kaiser, a veteran freelance writer and author of the “Little People, Big Dreams” picture book titles for slightly older children. Lisbeth is Cecily Kaiser’s sister.

Her name was mentioned by a colleague of Cecily’s who admired Lisbeth’s previous children’s biographies.

Lisbeth Kaiser felt comfortable and prepared to understand the specific differences of “Who Was?” mission and mark compared to previous picture book biographies she had written.

She found the writing of the text of “Who Was?” deliver a challenge she loves.

“For me, the hardest part is figuring out how to really channel the life of someone who is incredibly remarkable and inspiring,” Lisbeth Kaiser said in a phone interview. “It is an important job to introduce a role model for a child. And it’s always difficult to know what to include, what to leave out… You ask: “What can a child learn and what might lead him to investigate? by himself ? ”

The audience of “Who Was?” hardback books cannot, by themselves, read text. Instead, they can experience having the books read aloud to them.

Or another way is to “read” the story by looking at the illustrations and going at your own pace.

The illustrator for the series was Stanley Chow.

Cecily Kaiser says Chow’s art brings “a bold new look to this age group. He is a Grammy-nominated portrait painter and illustrator whose art is both sophisticated and accessible. The entirety of “Who Was?” involves portraits with oversized heads, and Stanley does it in a user-friendly, streamlined way.

A page from the back pages facing “Who Was Celia Cruz?” has a condensed biography of the singer intended to serve as a base for older readers.

On the opposite page is a black and white photograph of Cruz wearing long jeweled earrings, the feathered top of her dress, large flowers in her hair, and an electric smile on her face that fills the page. with all its liveliness.

The Spanish edition of “Who Was Celia Cruz?” is scheduled for November.


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