A Bronx Girl is Star of Animated Series

Christina Knight | September 30, 2021
A brown-skinned girl stands at New York City intersection. There is a grocery store across the street, cars driving and and elevated train track and high-rise buildings in background.

Alma’s Way is a Fred Rogers Production for PBS.

Alma’s Way airs at 8:30 a.m. every morning but Saturday on THIRTEEN. See schedule for THIRTEEN, WLIW21 and NJ PBS.

The Bronx bursts with color and Latino cultures – and even the sound of the subway – in the new animated series Alma’s Way, a PBS KIDS series premiering on Monday, October 4. Alma Rivera is a six-year-old Puerto Rican girl who lives in The Bronx with her parents, Mami and Papi; younger brother, Junior; her Abuelo; and their dog, Chacho. Performing the voice of Alma is real little girl from the Throggs Neck neighborhood of The Bronx – Summer Rose Castillo. (Learn more about Summer Rose and her family in this Bronx Times article by Jason Cohen).

The show is created by someone who grew up in the South Bronx: Puerto Rican actress Sonia Manzano — known to millions of Americans as “Maria” from Sesame Street, the iconic children’s program set in New York City. Like Rita Moreno before her, Manzano was a trailblazer for Latina actresses, becoming one of the first Latino characters in a national series when she joined Sesame Street in 1971. Manzano is a graduate of New York City’s High School of Performing Arts (Fame!).

Infused with Manzano’s humor, the cartoon series helps kids recognize their own power to think things through as Alma, a proud, confident girl, learns to speak up for herself, make tough decisions, learn how to help friends, and so much more. In every episode, Alma speaks directly to young viewers with asides and her “Think Through” moments, where she stops, thinks, and processes. She models optimism and determination, showing that if she puts her mind to a problem, she can figure it out.

Get a roundup of broadcast and digital premieres, special offers, and events with our weekly newsletter.

A cartoon image of a little girl holding a dog. Behind her is a orange house and a man and a woman. The man holds a little boy on his shoulder.

The Rivera family, including Alma, her parents and brother Junior.

Each episode showcases different aspects of Latino cultures through language, food, Latin music, and customs. Titles of the first week’s episodes include “No-go Mofongo” and “Bomba or Baseball.” All viewers will see how other families are both alike and different from their own. Music is the “backbeat” of the series and includes traditional Puerto Rican styles like Plena, Bomba, and salsa along with other Latino genres such as Cuban son and Colombian cumbia.

So of course, Alma’s Way has a catchy original theme song. New Yorker Lin-Manuel Miranda co-wrote it with his collaborator Bill Sherman, the composer behind Miranda’s Broadway hits In the Heights (set in Washington Heights) and Hamilton (in 2016, 20,000 NYC public high school students got to see it on Broadway with their school). Performing the Alma’s Way song are Flaco Navaja, a singer and poet born and raised in The Bronx, and Summer Rose Castillo.

The series is produced by Fred Rogers Productions (creator of PBS KIDS award-winning series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Peg + Cat, and Odd Squad) and will be available in both English and Spanish on all PBS KIDS platforms.

For Parents and Educators

Alma’s Way Activities and After-school Programs

Games inspired by Alma’s Way will be available in English and Spanish on pbskids.org and on the free PBS KIDS Games App. Spanish and English language parent resources, including tips and hands-on activities to extend the learning at home, will be available on the PBS KIDS for Parents site, and PBS LearningMedia will offer tools for teachers, including video excerpts, games, teaching tips, and printable activities.

Starting October 4, educational programming for kids in PreK through Grade 5 will air between 3 and 5 p.m. on WLIW21 and stream on-demand there and on THIRTEEN.org. Learn more about AfterSchool Superstars programs.

Sonia from The Bronx

A red puppet character with large orange nose and big round eyes at top of his head sits at a table with a woman in red dress who leas the side of her face on her fist. There is a coffee cup in front of her and books in front of the puppet. The woman looks like she doesn't like something

Sonia Manzano as Maria on Sesame Street, next to Muppet character Elmo. Courtesy Sesame Street Workshop.

To share Sonia Manzano’s life growing up in The Bronx, her acting career, her Emmy Award-winning writing and screenwriting, Adelante presents a segment on Manzano, including her personal photos, archival footage and interviews after her retirement from Sesame Street, in which she acted for 44 years.

In Sonia Manzano’s interview with THIRTEEN’s MetroFocus, she talks about growing up with domestic violence in her home, which she described in her award-winning memoir, “Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx.” She also shares how she continues to help children beyond her time starring in Sesame Street.