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Pura Belpre Awards

on April 1, 2014

pura belpre medalThe Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented 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. The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. As a children’s librarian, storyteller, and author, she enriched the lives of Puerto Rican children in the U.S.A. through her pioneering work of preserving and disseminating Puerto Rican folklore. The award is now given annually. It was given as a biennial award from 1996 through 2008.

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2014 winners

For narrative: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg MedinaYaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away?

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For illustration: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales15953630

Señoras y Señores, put your hands together for the fantastic, spectacular, one of a kind . . . Niño!

Fwap! Slish! Bloop! Krunch! He takes down his competition in a single move!

No opponent is too big a challenge for the cunning skills of Niño—popsicle eater, toy lover, somersault expert, and world champion lucha libre competitor!

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2013 winners

For narrative: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire SaenzAristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe

Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before.

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For illustration: Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert illustrated by David Diaz, written by Gary D. Schmidt12993825

As the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a former slave, Martin de Porres was born into extreme poverty. Even so, his mother begged the church fathers to allow him into the priesthood. Instead, Martin was accepted as a servant boy. But soon, the young man was performing miracles. Rumors began to fly around the city of a strange mulatto boy with healing hands, who gave first to the people of the barrios. Martin continued to serve in the church, until he was finally received by the Dominican Order, no longer called the worthless son of a slave, but rather a saint and the rose in the desert.

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2012 winners

For narrative: Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall 

Under the mesquite

Throughout her high school years, as her mother battles cancer, Lupita takes on more responsibility for her house and seven younger siblings, while finding refuge in acting and writing poetry. 

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For illustration:  Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, by Duncan Tonatiuh

Diego Rivera : his world and ours

Tells the story of Diego as a young, mischievous boy who demonstrated a clear passion for art and then went on to become one of the most famous painters in the world.

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2011 winners

For narrative: The Dreamer, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated  by Peter Sís

The dreamerA fictionalized biography of the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who grew up a painfully shy child, ridiculed by his overbearing father, but who became one of the most widely-read poets in the world. Includes author’s note about the poet.

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For illustration: Grandma’s Gift, illustrated and written by Eric Velasquez8561672

This prequel to Eric Velasquez’s biographical picture book Grandma’s Records is the story of a Christmas holiday that young Eric spends with his grandmother. After they prepare their traditional Puerto Rican celebration, Eric and Grandma visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a school project, where he sees a painting by Diego Velasquez and realizes for the first time that he could be an artist when he grows up. Grandma witnesses his fascination, and presents Eric with the perfect Christmas gift—a sketchbook and colored pencils—to use in his first steps toward becoming an artist.

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2010 Winners

For narrative: Julia Alvarez. Return to Sender3236586

After Tyler’s father is injured in a tractor accident, his family is forced to hire migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Tyler isn’t sure what to make of these workers. Are they undocumented? And what about the three daughters, particularly Mari, the oldest, who is proud of her Mexican heritage but also increasingly connected her American life. Her family lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico. Can Tyler and Mari find a way to be friends despite their differences?

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For illustration: Rafael López. Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day; Celebremos El día de los niños/El día de los libros. Written by Pat Mora.

Book fiesta! : celebrate Children's Day/book day = Celebremos el día de los niños/el día de los libros

Children read aloud in various settings to celebrate of El día de los niños, or Children’s Day, in this bilingual story. Includes facts about Mexico’s annual celebration of children and the book fiestas that are often included.

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2009 Winners

For narrative: Margarita Engle. The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom

The surrender tree : poems of Cuba's struggle for freedom

Cuba has fought three wars for independence, and still she is not free. This history in verse creates a lyrical portrait of Cuba.

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For illustratio: Yuyi Morales. Just In Case2880444

Yuyi Morales takes us on a new journey with Señor Calvera, the skeleton from Day of the Dead celebrations. Señor Calvera is worried. He can’t figure out what to give Grandma Beetle for her birthday. Misunderstanding the advice of Zelmiro the Ghost, Señor Calvera decides not to get her one gift, but instead one gift for every letter of the alphabet, just in case. Una Acordéon: An accordion for her to dance to. Bigotes: A mustache because she has none. Cosquillas: Tickles to make her laugh…only to find out at the end of the alphabet that the best gift of all is seeing her friends. 

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2008 Winners

For narrative: Margarita Engle. The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. Illustrated by Sean Qualls

The poet-slave of Cuba : a biography of Juan Francisco Manzano

Born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797, Juan Francisco Manzano spent his early years by the side of a woman who made him call her Mama, even though he had a mama of his own. Denied an education, young Juan still showed an exceptional talent for poetry. His verses reflect the beauty of his world, but they also expose its hideous cruelty. Powerful, haunting poems and breathtaking illustrations create a portrait of a life in which even the pain of slavery could not extinguish the capacity for hope.

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For illustration: Yuyi Morales. Los Gatos Black on Halloween. Written by Marisa MontesLos gatos black on Halloween

Easy to read, rhyming text about Halloween night incorporates Spanish words, from las brujas riding their broomsticks to los monstruos whose monstrous ball is interrupted by a true horror.

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2006 Winners

For narrative: Viola Canales.  The Tequila Worm

The tequila worm

Sofia comes from a family of storytellers. Here are her tales of growing up in the barrio in McAllen, Texas, full of the magic and mystery of family traditions: making Easter cascarones, celebrating el Dia de los Muertos, preparing for quinceañera, rejoicing in the Christmas nacimiento, and curing homesickness by eating the tequila worm. When Sofia is singled out to receive a scholarship to boarding school, she longs to explore life beyond the barrio, even though it means leaving her family to navigate a strange world of rich, privileged kids. It’s a different mundo, but one where Sofia’s traditions take on new meaning and illuminate her path. 

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For illustration: Raul Colón. Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart. Written by Pat Mora.172758

Doña Flor is a giant woman who lives in a puebla with lots of families. She loves her neighbors–she lets the children use her flowers for trumpets, and the families use her leftover tortillas for rafts. So when a huge puma is terrifying the village, of course Flor is the one to investigate. 

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2004 Winners

For narrative: Julia Alvarez.  Before We Were Free.

Before we were free

In the early 1960s in the Dominican Republic, twelve-year-old Anita learns that her family is involved in the underground movement to end the bloody rule of the dictator, General Trujillo.

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For Illustration: Yuyi Morales. Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book

Just a minute : a trickster tale and counting book

In this version of a traditional tale, Senor Calavera arrives at Grandma Beetle’s door, ready to take her to the next life, but after helping her count, in English and Spanish, as she makes her birthday preparations, he changes his mind.

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2002 Winners

For Narrative: Pam Munoz Ryan. Esperanza Rising

Esperanza rising

Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.

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For Illustration: Susan Guevara, Illustrator. Written by Gary Soto. Chato and the Party Animals.854821

Chato, the coolest cat in el barrio, loves to party–but not his best buddy, Novio Boy. Birthday parties always make him blue. “I’m from the pound,” he tells Chato. “I don’t know when I was born. I never knew my mami. I never even had a birthday party, or nothing.” So Chato plans the coolest surprise party for Novio Boy, inviting all of el barrio, and cooking up a storm. But he forgets the most important thing–inviting Novio Boy! Luckily, just as everyone starts remembering all the things they used to love about their long-lost friend, the birthday boy arrives with his own surprise–himself! 

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2000 Winners

For narrative: Alma Flor Ada. Under the Royal Palms: A Childhood in Cuba.252922

In this companion volume to Alma Flor Ada’s Where the Flame Trees Bloom, the author offers young readers another inspiring collection of stories and reminiscences drawn from her childhood on the island of Cuba. Through those stories we see how the many events and relationships she enjoyed helped shape who she is today.  We learn of a deep friendship with a beloved dance teacher that helped sustain young Alma Flor through a miserable year in school. We meet relatives, like her mysterious Uncle Manolo, whose secret, she later learns, is that he dedicated his life to healing lepers. We share the tragedy of another uncle whose spirited personality leads to his love of flying…and the crash that takes his life.  Heartwarming, poignant, and often humorous, this collection encourages children to discover the stories in their our own lives — stories that can help inform their own values and celebrate the joys and struggles we all share no matter where or when we grew up.

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For Illustration: Carmen Lomas Garza. Magic Windows.2902388

A fascinating exploration of Mexican family life, community, and history through the traditional medium of papel picado (cut-paper art)

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1998 Winners

For narrative: Martinez, Victor. Parrot in the Oven: mi vida.19454393

Perico, or parrot, was what Dad called me sometimes. It was from a Mexican saying about a parrot that complains how hot it is in the shade, while all along he’s sitting inside an oven and doesn’t know it…. For Manuel Hernandez, the year leading up to his test of courage, his initiation into a gang, is a time filled with the pain and tension, awkwardness and excitement of growing up in a crazy world. His dad spends most of his time and money at the local pool hall; his brother flips through jobs like a thumb through a deck of cards; and his mom never stops cleaning the house, as though one day the rooms will be so spotless they’ll disappear into a sparkle, and she’ll be free. Manny’s dad is always saying that people are like money–there are million- and thousand- and hundred-dollar people out there, and to him, Manny is just a penny. But Manny wants to be more than a penny, smarter than the parrot in the oven. He wants to find out what it means to be a vato firme, a guy to respect.

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For illustration: Snapshots from the Wedding, illustrated by Stephanie Garcia. Text: Gary Soto170143

There’s nothing like a wedding, and this book about a wedding is not quite like any other….Maya, the flower girl, is the lens through which the action is seen. All of the fun of a wedding is here: the altar boy with the dirty sneakers under his gown, Maya putting pitted black olives on each of her fingers, the kids whacking each other with balloons… all told through three-dimensional artwork.

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1996 Winners

For narrative: Cofer, Judith Ortiz. An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio3539855

Twelve stories about young people caught between their Puerto Rican heritage and their American surroundings.

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884007For illustration: Guevara, Susan. Chato’s Kitchen written by Gary Soto

Chato, the coolest cat in East L.A., and his buddy, Novio Boy, prepare to serve up a special housewarming party for their new neighbors, a family of mice, in which their guests are also the main course, but the mice bring along their own guest, Chorizo, the toughest dog in the barrio.


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