Celebrating 25 Years of the Pura Belpré Award: A Conversation with Yuyi Morales and Donna Barba Higuera

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The Pura Belpré Award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latinx writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

We have been marking the award’s 25th anniversary in different ways on the blog. Today, Dr. Sonia Rodriguez and Cecilia Cackley talk with Yuyi Morales and Donna Barba Higuera.

YUYI MORALES is a Mexican author, illustrator, artist, and puppet maker. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Physical Education from the University of Xalapa, México and used to host her own Spanish-language radio program for children in San Francisco, California. She has won numerous awards for her children’s books, including the Caldecott Honor for Viva Frida and the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008). Yuyi has also won multiple Pura Belpré Author and Illustrator awards and honors:

  • Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004 illustrator award)
  • Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez (2004 illustrator honor)
  • Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008 illustrator award)
  • Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009 author honor)
  • Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009 illustrator award)
  • My Abuelita (2010 illustrator honor)
  • Niño Wrestles the World (2014 illustrator award)
  • Viva Frida (2015 illustrator award)
  • Dreamers (2019 illustrator award)

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DONNA BARBA HIGUERA grew up in central California surrounded by agricultural and oil fields. As a child, rather than dealing with the regular dust devils, she preferred spending recess squirreled away in the janitor’s closet with a good book. Her favorite hobbies were calling dial-a-story over and over again, and sneaking into a restricted cemetery to weave her own spooky tales using the crumbling headstones as inspiration. ​

Donna’s Middle Grade and Picture Books are about kids who find themselves in odd or scary situations.​ From language to cultural differences in being biracial, life can become…complicated. So. like Donna, characters tackle more than just the bizarre things that happen to them in their lives.

Donna likes to write about all things funny, but also sad, and creepy, and magical. If you like those things, she hopes you will read her books!

Donna lives in Washington State with her family, three dogs, and two frogs.

Donna’s novel, Lupe Wong Won’t Dance, won a 2021 Pura Belpré Honor Award.

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Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her academic research focuses on decolonial healing in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. Sonia is a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader.

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Cecilia Cackley is a Mexican-American playwright and puppeteer based in Washington, DC. A longtime bookseller, she is currently the Children’s/YA buyer and event coordinator for East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. Find out more about her art at www.ceciliacackley.com or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc

One comment on “Celebrating 25 Years of the Pura Belpré Award: A Conversation with Yuyi Morales and Donna Barba Higuera

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