Best Believe: The Tres Hermanas, a Sisterhood for the Common Good
NoNieqa Ramos, illustrated by Nicole Medina
The Bronx is a library of stories.
Of poetry in graffiti.
Of sheroes who have changed history.
Of powerhouse families.
Of three sisters who changed destinies.
Meet the Tres Hermanas: Evelina Antonetty, Lillian López, and Elba Cabrera. They moved from Puerto Rico to New York City as children and grew up to become leaders in their Bronx community. Evelina, an activist for social causes, founded United Bronx Parents. Lillian became a librarian and administrator who fought for Spanish and bilingual books and Spanish-speaking library staff. Elba worked closely with Evelina and became an ambassador and advocate for the arts.
Praise for Best Believe
Applying a hip-hop cadence to tightly written lines, Ramos shines a light on three Puerto Rican–born sisters (Las Tres Hermanas) who grew up in the Bronx and would become important changemakers and advocates for their community. Evelina Antonetty, Lillian López, Elba Cabrera, and their mami joined family in New York, thinking life would be easier there. Instead, they, and many like them, faced discrimination targeting their brown skin, poverty, and incomplete command of the English language. Even as a child, Evelina bristled at the injustice but learned that “anger can be a gift.” The sisters’ fiery spirit runs through the text, which frankly calls out disparities and celebrates the Tres Hermanas’ many victories as they passionately defended the rights of Puerto Rican Americans and lifted up their culture: Evelina as an activist, Lillian as a librarian, and Elba as an advocate of the arts. Illustrations channeling the sisters’ Puerto Rican roots feature saturated colors, tropical flower embellishments, moving portraits of the family and community, and a clean, modern aesthetic. Just as impressive as the story itself is its back matter, which contains meticulous source notes, a QR code linked to additional resources and extension activities, a well-curated glossary, and a detailed time line. Ramos notes that they worked closely with 93-year-old Elba to ensure this story was told with authenticity and accuracy.
— Rosie Camargo
Gr 2-5–A stirring, picture book biography about three Puerto Rican sisters who made a lasting impact on the Bronx because of their activism and pride for their community. Evelina López Antonetty, Lillian López, and Elba Cabrera were born in a poor fishing village in Puerto Rico during the Great Depression. They moved to New York City and went on to fight for the needs of Black and Brown children in their borough. Antonetty founded United Bronx Parents in 1965 and fought for bilingual education in the Bronx and beyond. López became the first Puerto Rican administrator in the New York Public Library and spearheaded the South Bronx Project, which helped revitalize library services. Cabrera became the director of the Association of Hispanic Arts. They also helped found Hostos Community College in 1968. Done in verse, the narrative repeats “Best Believe” throughout, adding a layer of oratory that recalls legendary epic poems. The Tres Hermanas are presented as “sheroes,” larger-than-life women who advocated for families’ access to an education, regardless of race, nationality, language, or wealth. The Sisters are heralded as Queens and Madrinas (godmothers) and Ramos’s pride and reverence exudes from out of every word. Medina’s vibrant digital illustrates the powerful presence that these hallmarks had—capturing the righteous anger that drove the sisters to their to help their people. The jewel-tone palette of rich purples and teals is perfect for this tale of Bronx royalty. All quotes are sourced in the back matter, which also features a glossary, bibliography, and time line, and further reading. VERDICT A wonderful choice for picture book biography shelves, especially where there’s a gap in women’s, Latinx, and activism history coverage.–Shelley M. Diaz
“The Bronx is a library of stories./ Of poetry in graffiti./ Of sheroes who have changed history,” declares Ramos at the start of this reverent homage to Puerto Rico–born “Bronx royalty” Evelina Antonetty, Lillian López, and Elba Cabrera. Through the refrain “you best believe,” rhythmic verse lays out the activist sisters’ life work. In the face of systemic discrimination, Antonetty becomes a community organizer who demands better school conditions, librarian and library coordinator López works to put Spanish and bilingual books on the shelves, and Cabrera works as an ambassador for the arts. Medina’s digital illustrations have a sumptuous risograph-like quality, rendering a floral motif alongside images of “Tres Hermanas” working powerfully in concert. An author’s note and glossary conclude. Ages 6–10. (Feb.)