By Shelley M. Diaz
While I didn’t correctly predict the top winners in last year’s Pura Belpré Awards, many of the titles mentioned received recognition at the American Library Association’s 2015 Youth Media Awards. I wonder how close I will get this year! We’ll see on January 11 as the children’s literary world waits with baited breath for the announcements of the recipients of the top kid lit awards presented by librarians in the United States.
Results of Mock Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Coretta Scott King, and Geisel lists have been tallied on the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) blog. An Oregon chapter of REFORMA (National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking) even posted their own Mock Pura Belpré. And the “Latinas 4 Latino Lit” blog posted their top picks in late November.
Before I get to my predictions, let’s recap the criteria for the Pura Belpré Medals:
First, here’s a short overview of the criteria that librarians on the committee (members of REFORMA and ALSC) will consider when naming the recipients of the 2015 awards (found in the Pura Belpré Award Manual).
- Two medals shall be awarded annually at the Annual Conference of the American Library Association, one to a Latino author of an outstanding children’s book and one to a Latino illustrator for creating an outstanding children’s picture book. Each of these must be an original work that portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience.
- The award-winning books must be published in the United States or Puerto Rico during the preceding year.
- Recipients of the Pura Belpré medal must be residents or citizens of the United States or Puerto Rico.
- Fiction and nonfiction books for children published in Spanish, English, or bilingual formats are eligible.
- A “children’s book” shall be a book for which children are a potential audience. The book must display respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.
- Particular attention will be paid to cultural authenticity.
- “Resident” specifies that author has established and maintained residence in the United States, or Puerto Rico, as distinct from being a casual or occasional visitor.
So without further ado, here are my picks for this year’s winners. If you click on the cover images or the title links, you will be taken to IndieBound for more information:
Pura Belpré 2016 Author Award
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle. illus. by Edel Rodriguez. S. & S./Atheneum.
Reasons why I think it will win: Already a YALSA Nonfiction Finalist, an SLJ Top Latino Book, and the recipient of multiple starred reviews, the latest work by the first Latina to receive a Newbery Honor is truly a tour de force. A memoir in verse detailing her struggles as young person caught between two worlds—Cuba and the U.S.—this title is as compelling and well-written as Engle’s previous Pura Belpré recognized titles. Plus, the Oregon Mock Pura chose this as its winner—and I’m in full agreement.
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks
Probably one of the most celebrated YA titles this year, this urban fantasy with an unapologetic but totally real Afro-Latina is a joy to read and heeds the call for diversity within the sci-fi/fantasy genres. Plus, the celebration of Latino culture is strong in this title, offering an often ignored aspect of our culture—anti-Blackness.
SLJ Q&A: Urban Fantasy Counter-Narrative: Daniel José Older on “Shadowshaper”
Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano. Scholastic.
Manzano is no stranger to the Pura Belpré Awards. Her Revolution of Evelyn Serrano took an Honor in 2013. And it’s no secret how much I enjoyed this memoir about her path to Sesame Street, where she played the iconic “Maria.” The lyrical text evokes both the childhood trauma and resilience that made her the role model and award-winning writer and actress she is today. Just try to keep a dry eye. Manzano’s holiday-themed picture book Miracle on 133rd Street could also take a medal this year. The Oregon Mock certainly thinks so.
SLJ Video: Daniel José Older Talks to Sonia Manzano, Sesame Street’s ‘Maria,’ About Her Memoir
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh. illus. by author. Abrams.
I don’t think it’s possible to have a year in which Tonatiuh doesn’t win a Pura recognition. It’s written in the bylaws, I think. (Just kidding. Sort of.)
Other possible contenders:
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Scholastic. Though only one section of past Author Medalist’s ambitious novel directly celebrates Latino culture, this book has lots of fans in the library world. It might get a nod on January 11.
Mango, Abuela and Me. Candlewick by past Author winner Meg Medina. There’s a parrot and an adorable abuela bridging cultural and linguistic divides. Sounds like a recipe for a winner to me.
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle. illus. by Rafael López. HMH. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Engle takes both the Award and an Honor? This picture book inspired by an Afro-Chinese-Cuban female musician who broke gender barriers is a true gem.
Salsa: Un Poema Para Cocinar/A Cooking Poem. by Jorge Argueta. Illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. Groundwood. This bilingual text, part of the “Cooking Poem” series is as delectable as the previous entries. Definitely a contender!
Since the committees tend to stay away from upper-end YA, I don’t know if Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not (SohoTeen) or Ashley Hope Pérez’s Out of Darkness (Lerner) will be recognized, but wouldn’t that be nice?
Pura Belpré 2016 Illustrator Award
Winner: Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle. illus. by Rafael López. HMH.
Reasons why I think it will win: Have you seen this book? It just screams “Caress Me!” The illustrations are majestic and vibrant and López isn’t a stranger to the Pura Belpré either. Once again, no surprise on how much I love it here. But, I’m not the only one! Already on several Best lists, it’s also been garnering some possible Caldecott buzz. The art elevates the already excellent text by incorporating the protagonists’ multicultural background, showcasing the diversity within the Latino people.
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh. illus. by author. Abrams. A New York Times Best Illustrated book of 2015, this informational book about the artist whose calaveras have become synonymous with Día de los muertos is as gorgeous as it is informative. Tonatiuh doesn’t disappoint—and I’m sure he won’t be disappointed on January 11.
The Great and Mighty Nikko by Xavier Garza, Cinco Puntos. While Garza was honored in 2012 for narrative, he might just garner some recognition this time around for his fabulous art in this concept book. Riffing off a similar Lucha Libre theme as his past books, this counting tale is just so eye-catching that it might surprise us.
Little Chanclas by José Lozano. illus. by author. Cinco Puntos. The stylized illustrations reminiscent of street art and the infectious and expressive heroine and her penchant for sandals just might charm the committee enough to win some praise.
Mango, Abuela and Me by Meg Medina. Illus. by Angela Dominguez. Candlewick. Dominguez received a nod for her irresistible art in 2014 Maria Had a Little Llama / María Tenía una Llamita and she’s certainly been busy this year with her contribution to the “Lola Levine” chapter books and her own Knight Together. This could certainly be her year!
So, those are my picks! What say you? Did I leave anything out?