2011 Pura Belpré Awards
Every January, the American Library Association (ALA) announces the winners of its Youth Media Awards. The top books, videos and audio books for children and young adults are chosen by committees of librarians. Two of the most famous, the Caldecott and the Newbery have been awarded continuously since 1938 and 1922 respectively.
The Pura Belpre award,established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience.
The award is named after Pura Belpré (1899-1982), a talented author and storyteller who wrote and re-interpreted Puerto Rican folk tales and was the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library.
By the way, Children's Day/Book Day, also known as El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Día), is a celebration of children, families, and reading is held annually on April 30. The celebration emphasizes the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
Día is an enhancement of Children’s Day, which began in 1925. Children’s Day was designated as a day to bring attention to the importance and well-being of children. In 1996, nationally acclaimed children’s book author Pat Mora proposed linking the celebration of childhood and children with literacy to found El día de los niños/El día de los libros.
Through a series of grants from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Association for Library Service for Children (ALSC) continues to increase public awareness of the event in libraries throughout the country. ALSC is collaborating on this effort with the Founding Partner of Día, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking (REFORMA). In 2007, ALSC welcomed Target as the first official national sponsor of Día. See a bibliography at the conclusion of this article.
Here are the Pura Belpre 2011 winners accompanied by a Booklist review. Your local library can help you obtain these books:
2011 Author Award Winner
Written by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Illustrated by Peter Sís
(2010) Grades 4-8.
Respinning the childhood of the widely beloved poet Pablo Neruda, Ryan and Sís collaborate to create a stirring, fictionalized portrait of a timid boy’s flowering artistry. Young Neftalí Reyes (Neruda’s real name) spends most of his time either dreamily pondering the world or cowering from his domineering father, who will brook no such idleness from his son. In early scenes, when the boy wanders rapt in a forest or spends a formative summer by the seashore, Ryan loads the narrative with vivid sensory details. And although it isn’t quite poetry, it eloquently evokes the sensation of experiencing the world as someone who savors the rhythms of words and gets lost in the intricate surprises of nature. The neat squares of Sís’ meticulously stippled illustrations, richly symbolic in their own right, complement and deepen the lyrical quality of the book. As Neftalí grows into a teen, he becomes increasingly aware of the plight of the indigenous Mapuche in his Chilean homeland, and Ryan does a remarkable job of integrating these themes of social injustice, neither overwhelming nor becoming secondary to Neftalí’s story. This book has all the feel of a classic, elegant and measured, but deeply rewarding and eminently readable. Ryan includes a small collection of Neruda’s poetry and a thoughtful endnote that delves into how she found the seeds for the story and sketches Neruda’s subsequent life and legacy.
— Ian Chipman REVIEW. First published February 1, 2010 (Booklist).
“The committee felt Muñoz Ryan’s combining of lyrical, minimalistic text with poems in Neruda’s style to reconstruct his life, made for an emotional, joyous, inspiring book,” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Martha M. Walke.
2011 Illustrator Award Winner
Written and illustrated by Eric Velasquez
(2010) Grades 1-3.
In this prequel to Grandma’s Records (2001), Eric spends his winter break with his Puerto Rican grandmother in her apartment in New York City’s El Barrio. Together, they shop, cook traditional dishes such as pasteles, and complete Eric’s homework assignment: to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and view Diego Velázquez’s masterpiece Juan de Pareja. The pleasing, realistic oil paintings include a well-done replica of the famous painting. Those who appreciated the personal connections between grandmother and grandson in the earlier book will again be satisfied with this story, which incorporates Spanish phrases in the long, descriptive text.
— Andrew Medlar REVIEW. First published November 15, 2010 (Booklist).
“The committee felt strongly about Velasquez’s accurate, realistic portrayal of the times, the intimate relationship between child and grandmother, and life in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) as seen through his illustrations,” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Martha M. Walke.
2011 Author Honor Books
Written and illustrated by George Ancona
(2010). Grades 5-8.
Veteran photo-essayist Ancona turns to a subject that may not be an immediate choice for children, but they’ll soon be enticed by the story of flamenco, an art form that’s more than dancing and has been around for hundreds of years. He begins with a short introduction that chronicles his visit to Spain, where he encountered Gypsies (his term) practicing the flamenco, “the art of song, dance, and music.” He then returns readers to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where a group of young people are learning flamenco. A helpful map traces the art form’s roots, while the text explains both the history of the Gypsies and flamenco. Full-color photographs capture the excitement and dazzle, though some of the images set against white backgrounds do not seem as crisp as they might. All aspects of flamenco are explored, including movements, facial expressions, and sound effects. A CD would have been a great accompaniment, but the book makes a good starting place. A glossary and resource notes complete the package.— Ilene Cooper REVIEW. First published December 1, 2010 (Booklist).
The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba
by Margarita Engle
(2010) Grades 6-12.
As in The Poet Slave of Cuba (2006) and The Surrender Tree (2008), Engle draws on little-known Cuban history to tell a stirring, immediate story in poetry. Based on the diaries and letters of Swedish suffragist Fredrika Bremer, who spent three months in Cuba in 1851, this title focuses on oppressed women, the privileged as well as the enslaved, in three alternating free-verse narratives. Fredrika remembers that back home in Sweden, she was kept hungry so that she would grow up to be thin and graceful. Her savvy translator is Cecilia, a teenage slave who remembers being captured in the Congo when she was eight years old and sold to a trader by her own father. Elena is a fictional character, a privileged girl in a slave-owning family who is forced into a life filled with “frilly dresses and ornate dance steps” that allows her little freedom. Through this moving combination of historical viewpoints, Engle creates dramatic tension among the characters, especially in the story of Elena, who makes a surprising sacrifice. — Hazel Rochman REVIEW. First published December 15, 2009 (Booklist).
90 Miles to Havana
By Enrique Flores-Galbis
(2010) Grades 5-8.
Drawing on his own experience as a child refugee from Cuba, Flores-Galbis offers a gripping historical novel about children who were evacuated from Cuba to the U.S. during Operation Pedro Pan in 1961. Julian, a young Cuban boy, experiences the violent revolution and watches mobs throw out his family’s furniture and move into their home. For his safety, his parents send him to a refugee camp in Miami, but life there is no sweet haven. He tries to avoid the powerful camp bullies (“the big eat the small”) while he waits in anguish for his parents, and in a wrenching parting, his two older brothers are sent away to a harsh orphanage in Denver. The messages get heavy at times about the meaning of democracy, at odds with the political and the camp power games. But this is a seldom-told refugee story that will move readers with the first-person, present-tense rescue narrative, filled with betrayal, kindness, and waiting for what may never come.
— Hazel Rochman REVIEW. First published May 1, 2010 (Booklist).
2011 Illustrator Honor Books
By Carmen Tafolla
Illustrated Amy Cordova
This small, square book contains many mirthful moments as a cast of multicultural fiesta babies enjoy the excitement of a parade as well as more personal experiences, like listening to Grandpa’s favorite mariachi song. Using a simple rhyme scheme, the story gets most of its bang from Córdova’s naive-style artwork. Featuring toddlers with skin tones dark as chocolate or as light as peaches and cream and every shade in between, the pictures are full of joy as the children stumble and tumble through the neighborhood, singing, dancing, playing instruments—and eating salsa. In one particularly appropriate spread, readers learn that fiesta babies love fiestas, but they also don’t mind siestas. The Spanish words sprinkled throughout can be understood in context, but there is also a short glossary at book’s end. — Ilene Cooper REVIEW. First published February 15, 2010 (Booklist).
By Amy Novesky
Illustrated by David Diaz
(2010) Grades 1-3.
Vivid paintings illuminate this picture book portraying artist Frida Kahlo, newly married to Diego Rivera and living with him in San Francisco. Homesick for Mexico and alone while Rivera works on his mural project, Kahlo feels lost, insignificant, and restless until she finds joy in exploring the city on her own. Emboldened, she begins to paint. At a party one night, she steps out of her husband’s shadow and becomes the center of attention when she sings Mexican folk songs. Soon she exhibits a wedding portrait, Frida and Diego Rivera. The book’s topic is an odd one for a children’s picture book, but the writing is lucid, the emotions are universal, and the illustrations soar. Glowing with warm, vibrant colors, the charcoal and acrylic paintings create distinctive, statuesque people within imaginatively conceived landscapes, cityscapes, and interiors. The pink bird appearing in every scene is an element in the wedding portrait, which is photographically reproduced at the book’s end. — Carolyn Phelan REVIEW. First published November 1, 2010 (Booklist).
Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin Written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
(2010) Grades 1-3.
This spin on the traditional tale of a city mouse and a country mouse explores the lives of Charlie, in urban America, and his cousin Carlitos, who lives in Mexico’s countryside. As the two boys write snail-mail back and forth, they describe their respective homes (an apartment for Charlie, a farm for Carlitos), methods of transportation, favorite sports, food, and cultural traditions. The alternating letters are printed in distinct fonts, and Carlitos’ messages integrate Spanish words, which are then helpfully duplicated next to a corresponding image and included with pronunciations in the appended glossary. The digitally enhanced collage illustrations are based on traditional Mixtec art, and show the characters posed in profile in simply composed scenes. This useful method of comparing and contrasting can serve as a fine general introduction to contemporary rural life in Mexico, while it also demonstrates the fun of having a pen pal and reinforces the sense that kids around the world are more alike than different. — Andrew Medlar REVIEW. First published February 1, 2010 (Booklist).
The Pura Belpré award is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.
More resources can be found at your library:
A bibliography developed by the AAP Publishing Latino Voices in America Task Force and the ALSC Quicklists Consulting Committee.