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When Angels Sing

The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana

Illustrated by Jose Ramirez

About The Book

Winner of a Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor and a Robert F. Sibert Honor!

Celebrate music icon Carlos Santana in this vibrant, rhythmic picture book from the author of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters.

Carlos Santana loved to listen to his father play el violín. It was a sound that filled the world with magic and love and feeling and healing—a sound that made angels real. Carlos wanted to make angels real, too. So he started playing music.

Carlos tried el clarinete and el violín, but there were no angels. Then he picked up la guitarra. He took the soul of the Blues, the brains of Jazz, and the energy of Rock and Roll, and added the slow heat of Afro-Cuban drums and the cilantro-scented sway of the music he’d grown up with in Mexico. There were a lot of bands in San Francisco but none of them sounded like this. Had Carlos finally found the music that would make his angels real?

About The Author

Photograph © Roxyanne Young

Michael Mahin has loved music since his grandmother gave him his first piano lesson at the age of five. Like Carlos Santana, he believes that music fills the world with magic and love and feeling and healing. He is the author of Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters and enjoys writing books about people who use their creativity to make the world a better place. He lives in San Diego, California, with his wife, two kids, and several guitars he wishes he played better. Visit him at

About The Illustrator

Photograph © Jose Ramirez

Jose Ramirez is a fine artist and an illustrator of children’s books, including Quinito’s Neighborhood/El vecindario de QuinitoGoodnight, Papito Dios/Buenas noches, Papito Dios; and The Frog and His Friends Save Humanity/La rana y sus amigos salvan a la humanidad. He has been a school teacher in Los Angeles for more than twenty-five years and is currently teaching third grade at Esperanza Elementary. He loves to garden, play music, and work with clay. The proud father of three daughters, Jose lives in east Los Angeles with his wife and youngest child. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (September 4, 2018)
  • Length: 48 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534404144
  • Grades: P - 3
  • Ages: 4 - 8
  • Lexile ® 610L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

* “Exhilarating language. . . . Mahin’s words match well with Ramirez’s intense, beautifully colored folk art, a mosaic of brown faces, young and old. The pictures demand second, even third looks . . . A biography fitting of the man’s music.”

– Booklist, Starred Review

* “A musical journey perfectly aimed at young readers' excitement to know what they will be.”

– Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

* “Vibrant, beautifully colorful folk art illustrations complement the story of Santana's life. . . .This outstanding biography for early elementary readers is a compelling story of persistence in pursuing goals.”

– School Library Connection, Highly Recommended

Awards and Honors

  • ALA Notable Children's Books
  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
  • ALA Robert F. Sibert Award Honor Book
  • Americas Award Commended Title
  • Topaz Nonfiction Reading List (TX)
  • ALA Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Book

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Michael Mahin

More books from this illustrator: Jose Ramirez