Monday was a red-letter day for Latino children’s literature. The 2015 Pura Belpré Award winners were announced at the American Library Association’s midwinter conference in Chicago.
Named after the first Latina librarian in the New York Public Library, the award is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.
Chilean-born American writer Marjorie Agosín received the Pura Belpré Author Award for her novel, I Lived on Butterfly Hill. Based on true events in Chile, the story follows the life of eleven-year-old Celeste Marconi, whose family is caught up in the political turmoil that surrounded Pinochet’s catastrophic takeover of the country.
Author/illustrator Yuyi Morales received the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for her picture book Viva Frida, a tribute to the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
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Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes by Juan Felipe Herrera was named a Pura Belpré Author Honor Book. It honors 20 Hispanic and Latino American men and women who have made outstanding contributions to the arts, politics, science, humanitarianism, and athletics.
Three additional titles were recognized as Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Books, including Little Roja Riding Hood illustrated by Susan Guevara; Green Is a Chile Pepper illustrated by John Parra; and Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh.
The awards are coveted by Latino authors and illustrators like Tonatiuh, who says the recognition helps librarians, teachers, and readers find outstanding books that these authors and illustrators are making.
Illustrator John Parra, one of the Honor Book Award recipients says, “As a Latino artist/illustrator to be selected and win is a marvelous feeling of elation and joy. It is also incredibly humbling to be included on a list that is amazingly talented and creative.”
Morales’ book also received an honorable mention from the prestigious Caldecott Award, and Tonatiuh’s Separate Is Never Equal also received an honorable mention from the Sibert Award.
“Hopefully in future years we will see more and more diversity in these mainstream awards,” says Tonatiuh.