Take Two!: SLJ’s Shelley Diaz Predicts 2016 Pura Belpré Award Winners

 

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).

  1. 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.
  2. The award-winning books must be published in the United States or Puerto Rico during the preceding year.
  3. Recipients of the Pura Belpré medal must be residents or citizens of the United States or Puerto Rico.
  4. Fiction and nonfiction books for children published in Spanish, English, or bilingual formats are eligible.

More specifics:

  1. 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.
  2. Particular attention will be paid to cultural authenticity.
  3. “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

23309551Enchanted 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.

Honors:

22295304Shadowshaper 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”

 

24612544Becoming 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

 

24795948Funny 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

22749711Winner: 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.

 

Honors:

 

24795948Funny 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.

 

 

23282198The 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.

 

Other contenders:

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?

The 2015 International Latino Book Awards Winners!

Below are the first place winners of the 17th Annual International Latino Book Awards in the children’s, youth, and young adult categories. If you click on the images, you will be taken to Indiebound, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble for more information. The Awards are produced by Latino Literacy Now, an organization co-founded by Edward James Olmos and Kirk Whisler, and co-presented by Las Comadres para las Americas and Reforma, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos. The Awards were announced this past weekend, in San Francisco as part of the ALA Conference. For the complete list, which includes adult fiction, nonfiction, and second place and honorable mention winners, click hereCONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OF THE WINNERS!!

Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book: English

18465502

Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book: Spanish or Bilingual

20640741

Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book: English

20759593  18106361

Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book: Bilingual

18654384

Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book: Spanish

22750429

Best Children’s Nonfiction Picture Book: English

18405521

Best Children’s Nonfiction Picture Book: Spanish or Bilingual

Best Educational Children’s Picture Book: English

18465502

Best Educational Children’s Picture Book: Bilingual

23173378

Best Educational Children’s Picture Book: Spanish

Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book: English

18465502

Most inspirational Children’s Picture Book: Spanish or Bilingual

23058499

Best Youth Latino Focused Chapter Book

21928995

Best Youth Chapter Fiction Book

18166935

Best Educational Youth Chapter Book

Most Inspirational Youth Chapter Book

 

Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book: English

IslandCover.png

Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book: Spanish or Bilingual

 Micaela, Adalucía, Cholita Prints and Publishing Company

Best Young Adult Fiction Book: English

18048909

Best Young Adult Fiction Book: Spanish or Bilingual

 Micaela, Adalucía, Cholita Prints and Publishing Company

Best Young Adult Nonfiction Book

Best Educational Young Adult Book

 Micaela, Adalucía, Cholita Prints and Publishing Company

Most Inspirational Young Adult Book

The Sparrow and The Frog

Best Book Written by a Youth

Best Children’s Picture Book Translation: Spanish to English

Best Children’s Picture Book Translation: English to Spanish

Best First Book: Children’s and Youth: English

22174131

Best First Book: Children’s and Youth: Spanish or Bilingual

The 2015 International Latino Book Awards Finalists!

Below are the 2015 finalists for the 17th Annual International Latino Book Awards in the children’s, youth, and young adult categories. If you click on the images, you will be taken to Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon for more information. The Awards are produced by Latino Literacy Now, an organization co-founded by Edward James Olmos and Kirk Whisler, and co-presented by Las Comadres para las Americas and Reforma, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos. The Awards themselves will be June 27 in San Francisco as part of the ALA Conference. Click here for the complete list, which includes adult fiction and nonfiction. Congratulations and good luck to all of the finalists!

Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book: English

cover-maria  18465502

Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book: Spanish or Bilingual

23242348  20640741  23058499

Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book: English

20759593    20262585  18106361  20763795  18209399

Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book: Bilingual

The Dance Recital by Jill Barletti

18654384  20837127  23218636  20763960

Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book: Spanish

22929028  25246378  22750429

Best Children’s Nonfiction Picture Book: English

boy Zorro for New Books  18405521  18465502

Best Children’s Nonfiction Picture Book: Spanish or Bilingual

    

Best Educational Children’s Picture Book: English

    18465502

Best Educational Children’s Picture Book

23218636  23173378  18009252

Best Educational Children’s Picture Book: Spanish or Bilingual

Esto es mio!    

Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book: English

18465502

Most inspirational Children’s Picture Book: Spanish or Bilingual

23058499  20837127  

Best Youth Latino Focused Chapter Book

21928995  

Best Youth Chapter Fiction Book

17571252  18166935  

Best Educational Youth Chapter Book

  

Most Inspirational Youth Chapter Book

 

Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book: English

IslandCover.png  22620580

Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book: Spanish or Bilingual

 Micaela, Adalucía, Cholita Prints and Publishing Company

Best Young Adult Fiction Book: English

18048909  22715444  18222731  22097606  13515320  18079898

Best Young Adult Fiction Book: Spanish or Bilingual

 Micaela, Adalucía, Cholita Prints and Publishing Company

Best Young Adult Nonfiction Book

Best Educational Young Adult Book

 Barrio Writers: Empowering Teens Through Creative Writing

 Micaela, Adalucía, Cholita Prints and Publishing Company

Most Inspirational Young Adult Book

Dream to Achieve: 15 Key Skills That Empower You to Succeed in Today's Challenging World  The Sparrow and The Frog

Best Book Written by a Youth

Best Children’s Picture Book Translation: Spanish to English

Best Children’s Picture Book Translation: English to Spanish

    

Best First Book: Children’s and Youth: English

  19505581  22174131  23756784

Best First Book: Children’s and Youth: Spanish or Bilingual

18832549  

A Frank Remembrance of My ALA Midwinter Experience

 By Sujei Lugo

SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL by Duncan Tonatiuh, Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book & Sibert Informational Honor Book

SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL by Duncan Tonatiuh, Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book & Sibert Informational Honor Book

Several days ago, I had the opportunity to attend the 2015 American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits Conference (#alamw15), held in Chicago. My main reasons for attending the conference were to meet with my dissertation committee, attend REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking) meetings and discuss and collaborate with fellow Reformistas about ongoing projects and events. My presence in Chicago and #alamw15 also drove me to participate in and attend events and engage in conversations with fellow bloggers, librarians, educators, authors, publishers, and supporters of children’s and young-adult literature.

In this post I want to share with you about the sessions and events that I took part in and some reflections on my overall experience at the conference.

On Friday, January 30, 2015, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), along with the Children’s Book Council (CBC) hosted Day of Diversity: Dialogue and Action in Children’s Literature and Library Programming. I was not able to attend because this was an invitation-only event, but I followed the conversation through tweets, then afterward in blog posts reflecting on that day. The purpose of the event was to “discuss strategies for ensuring that all children have access to diverse literature and library programming.” Although great remarks were given by the keynote speaker, former ALA and REFORMA president Dr. Camila Alire; Día founder, author, and storyteller Pat Mora; former ALA Offices for Literacy & Outreach Services Director Satia Orange; and Native authors and authors of color, the overall impression was that it felt like a Diversity 101 event. Based on social media commentaries and subsequent talks, the event lacked real discussions about systemic problems, White privilege and anti-racist approaches to children’s literature. These conversations are long overdue in children’s librarianship and the publishing industry, and it is a pity that events where these conversations should happen do not embrace that challenge. Great recaps and reflections were posted by Debbie Reese, Edith Campbell, Zetta Elliott, Sarah Park, Don Tate, Maya Christina Gonzalez and Jason Low.

The REFORMA meetings and events were a great experience to get to know fellow Latino/a and Chicano/a librarians, educators and authors, immerse myself in committee work and projects, and finally meet people whose work I have admired for years. These gatherings were among the most welcoming spaces I’ve attended in my professional career in the United States. They also are dealing with serious issues regarding not only Latino populations in the United States, but Latin American immigrants as well.

Maya Christina Gonzalez reading MY COLORS, MY WORLD/MIS COLORES, MI MUNDO during Noche de Cuentos

Maya Christina Gonzalez reading MY COLORS, MY WORLD/MIS COLORES, MI MUNDO during Noche de Cuentos

A great example of this is the Children in Crisis Project. With this project, REFORMA delivers blankets, books, and backpacks to children held in detention centers near the border. The children, many as young as two years old, are unaccompanied refugee minors crossing the border, mainly from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Their journey crossing the border, many to reunite with family in the U.S. and to escape state and local violence, must be seen as a humanitarian crisis, and care needs to be given to focus on the social, emotional, informational, and legal needs of these children. As the co-chair of REFORMA’s Children in Crisis Task Force, Oralia Garza de Cortés said, “this project is like an underground railroad of books to our most vulnerable children.” REFORMA is currently partnering with nonprofits to continue to enhance efforts to help and support our children. (Here is a link that informs about ways to help, collaborate with, and donate to the Children in Crisis Project.)

On Saturday night, REFORMA celebrated its traditional Noche de Cuentos, an evening filled with stories, people, and warmth. The night was enlivened by author, storyteller, and librarian Lucía González, and Latino children’s literature and literacy consultant Oralia Garza de Cortés. Both women have been great supporters of Latino children’s literature for decades and contributed immensely to diversity in children’s librarianship. Lucía is also the author of the bilingual picture book The Storyteller’s Candle, about the life and impact of Pura Belpré’s work in New York, its Puerto Rican community in 1920’s-30s, and bilingual children’s librarianship. Oralia is the co-founder of the Pura Belpré Award, named after the Puerto Rican author, folklorist, and first Latina librarian of the New York Public Library. In “Noche de Cuentos” they both showcased their talent for sincere and engrossing storytelling. It was proof of how important preserving and telling our stories are. “That’s how stories get around, you tell them,” said Lucía, after finishing the tale of Blanquita and Her Wild Ducks, giving us a powerful reminder of how the voices that are constantly silenced, marginalized, and misrepresented will always find ways to amplify and give strength to their communities through storytelling. This was affirmed many times during the night: Pat Mora read poems and brought us charm and joy, and Maya Christina González read her picture books and told us that “kids need to know we are part of nature, and we belong here.” More emphasis on the power of our stories came when Jasmin Cardenas, a local storyteller, told us that “if we tell stories, this would be a better place.” Claudia Guadalupe Martinez shared the importance of community building, as portrayed in her YA novel, Pig Park. With its focus on stories, people, marginalized voices, powerful voices, and community support for each other, Noche de Cuentos was a much-needed intergenerational event.

While #alamw15 focused more on meetings, the exhibit hall, and the Youth Media Awards, several additional sessions were offered. I attended the Ignite Session on Saturday and was looking forward to seeing the presentations of two fellow librarians, tweeps, and overall great supporters of diversity in children’s literature–Angie Manfredi and Edith Campbell. In her presentation, “20 Kids/Teens Titles to Diversify Your Collection Today,” Angie gave fast book talks about diverse children’s and young-adult books that librarians can add to their collection. From the Latino holiday picture book T’was Nochebuena to the middle grade all-black cast book The Zero Degree Zombie Zone, she gave her audience a glimpse of diverse titles that reflect an intersection of different identities and backgrounds. Her energy and enthusiasm encouraged people to not only state that “We Need Diverse Books,” but that we need to buy them and promote them in our libraries and bookstores. (You can see the slides to her presentation here.)

Slide of Edith Campbell's The Kids Are Not All White presentation

Slide of Edith Campbell’s The Kids Are Not All White presentation

The closing presentation of the Ignite Session was Edith’s “The Kids Are Not All White.” She started out by giving numbers and percentages demonstrating how children’s literature is not representative of our children’s population. She leaned toward a reflection and call to action to truly make efforts to be inclusive in our libraries. She challenged the view that diverse books are only for kids of color, and the status quo in books that shows us “who we were, but not who we can be.” Edith addressed language diversity, too, calling on us to include titles written in other languages in our collections, and titles that intersect income, gender, and race. She also emphasized the need to rethink views about self-publishing and technology, and how they are fertile spaces for those who are traditionally marginalized. Both presentations fit well within the different conversations about diversity and children’s literature that were happening at #alamw15. Because it was an Ignite session with a broad audience, they were “preaching” outside the usual crowd, to an audience that included academic and adult services librarians that may not have otherwise been aware of the attention being given to White privilege and diversity in publishing around the #kidlit world.

As we all know, the most talked about event of #alamw15 was the Youth Media Awards. This was my first time attending the awards, which I usually watch on my computer through a livestream. Early that morning, attendees, overwhelmingly White, started gathering and lining up to enter the room. Although I was, like them, excited to see who the winners and honorees of such a widely followed event in the world of U.S. children’s literature would be, I used the opportunity to engage in conversations, view people’s reactions, and note the racial/ethnic background of those deciding the award-worthy books of the year. As awards were presented to books by/about people of color and people with disabilities, the crowd kept clapping joyfully as a sign of approval that diverse titles were being recognized. (For a full list of winners visit: ALA Youth Media Award Winners and for a list of Latino/a authors and illustrators winners and honorees, here is our recap.)

As people were applauding and celebrating the diversity of winning titles, I was thinking how great it was to see those book covers on that big screen, and how those that had overlooked them during the year were now finally going to at least read about them and maybe even bring them to their libraries and classrooms. You see, the fact is that we’ve always been publishing great award-worthy titles, but they are continually neglected by the children’s literature world. While people were applauding, I was thinking about recent comments I’d heard that Brown Girl Dreaming shouldn’t win the Newbery, since she had already won the National Book Award. I wondered if similar things were said when a White author’s book had won the National Book Award. This, along with other observations and conversations, led me to question the celebratory spirit around me. Was the applause like that scene from The Boondocks’ “Garden Party” episode, where everything Huey says White people around him seem obligated to applaud and praise?

Silvia Cisneros, REFORMA president, presenting the Pura Belpré Award in English and Spanish

Silvia Cisneros, REFORMA president, presenting the Pura Belpré Award in English and Spanish

As I sat in the room, I heard some audience members complaining about the use of Spanish during the Pura Belpré Awards, an award that celebrates Latino children’s literature and is co-sponsored by REFORMA. As the morning unfolded, I watched the almost all-White committee members stand up, some wearing “Trust the Process” t-shirts. Toward the end of the awards, someone said that apparently there were finally good diverse titles this year, since they won awards. The implication was that the lack of award-winning diverse titles in years past was an indication that Latinos, Asians, Native, and Black people had never published GREAT books throughout those years.

When I finally exited the room, I approached Pat Mora (walking away by herself) to congratulate her for her work and her Mary Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award. While talking to her, I was surprised and angry that no other person approached her to congratulate her. This woman has been an influential force in children’s literature, and she had just won an award recognizing her marvelous work. That work includes being the founder of Día, an official annual celebration that has been sponsored and championed by ALA. I realized that most people there had no idea who she was. The same people that were applauding inside the room as her picture was displayed on the big screen, as soon as her award was announced? The same people that sometimes state their “concern” of how we need to bring more authors, illustrators, and librarians of color to these events and into our field?

I introduced myself to her (in Spanish), and as we started talking, the first thing she said to me was: “Nada ha cambiado” (Nothing has changed). Words that stayed in my mind as I reflected upon my experience walking through the exhibit halls.

Nada ha cambiado.

The exhibit hall is a place where publishers, authors, and library businesses display new products, highlight new titles, and give away promotional materials and advanced reader’s copies (ARCs). The layout of the exhibit hall speaks volumes about the power centers: the amount of floor space that the big publishing houses occupy tells us how much of the exhibit floor they own. This is obvious. Fees paid for space in the exhibit hall in any convention generate revenue for the organization that sets up the event. Simply put, the big publishers with their marketing budgets, will obviously have a higher visibility than small publishers, but it still feels uncomfortable that smaller publishers are marginalized on the floor of an event organized by/for librarians that work in libraries that serve a diverse society. As I walked through the exhibit hall, my approach was to find Latino children’s and young-adult books and children’s books in Spanish. Among the sea of book covers with bears, puppies, and White girls at the Scholastic booth, I saw, in the far back, one of my most anticipated YA books of 2015, Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older. I asked the publisher’s rep if she had a copy of it to give away. In the booth were stacks and stacks of other titles, prominently placed, evident that they were being heavily promoted by the publisher. As I strolled down those aisles I was surprised to see a large stack of ARCs of Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Echo. They were going fast as librarians took copies. Minutes later, I approached a big publisher’s representative and asked her what Latino children’s books they had. She replied that they only carry “good” books. The look on my face and the two Latino books I had in my hands, no doubt, pushed her to follow her response with: “You already have those. Those are the good ones.”

DRUM DREAM GIRL: HOW ONE GIRL'S COURAGE CHANGED MUSIC, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López

DRUM DREAM GIRL: HOW ONE GIRL’S COURAGE CHANGED MUSIC, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López

Despite that conversation (and it was only one of many), I can say that I found several Latino children’s books, but in a low percentage compared to books by White people, about White people, and bears. Was I able to find a couple of Latino/a books, because I was looking for them? Because I recognize and know the titles, covers, authors and illustrators? Could people who had no idea Latino/a writers and illustrators exist, see their books? Were they displayed in a way such that people who don’t know about them could see, browse, and then buy them?

Another thing that caught my attention was that indie presses that publish stories by Native authors and authors of color were not packed with people. At their book signings, there were no lines of people waiting to meet the authors. This called to mind René Saldaña’s post: Forgive Me My Bluntness: I’m a Writer of Color and I’m Right Here In Front of You: I’m the One Sitting Alone at the Table. I was honored to meet Erika T. Wurth, author of Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend (Debbie Reese’s review); Isabel Quintero, author of Gabi, a Girl in Pieces (our review by Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez); J.L. Powers, author of Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza; and Lee Byrd, co-founder of Cinco Puntos Press.

Wurth, Quintero, Powers, and Byrd are among the many people with whom I had great conversations. I am among a growing number of people who support their work. In my many interactions and conversations, we laid out common ground and talked about how White privilege and institutionalized racism in children’s literature and publishing have always been a systemic issue. Privilege and power go across the publishing industry, book reviewing, librarianship, education, and media. We need more than diverse books. We need opportunities at places like library conferences to create awareness about privilege and power. In our work as bloggers, we must review and promote books by writers who are of marginalized populations. We must point to their accurate reflections of those populations. But we must also call out stereotypical and racist content in children’s books overall, and we must name White privilege when we see it. Yep, there’s a hell of a lot to do.

Pan Dulce: Lee Byrd from Cinco Puntos Press interviews Claudia Guadalupe Martinez (author of PIG PARK) and Pat Mora (author of CANTA, CHICO BRAVO, CANTA) talking about their books, growing up in El Paso, Texas. Full interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-yf9v_WTME&feature=youtu.be

Pan Dulce: Lee Byrd from Cinco Puntos Press interviews Claudia Guadalupe Martinez (author of PIG PARK) and Pat Mora (author of CANTA, CHICO BRAVO, CANTA) talking about their books, growing up in El Paso, Texas.

Full interview: Pan Dulce #4

 

*Note:
The upcoming major event for REFORMA and Latino children’s literature is the Pura Belpré Award 20th Anniversary Celebración that’s going to be held in Orlando, Florida at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference. I attended the Task Force meeting; there are great plans ahead to celebrate past award winners and honorees, and a wide selection of Latino children’s books as well. More information to come! Check out how you can help and support this gran celebración.

With Isabel Quintero, author of GABI, A GIRL IN PIECES, winner of the William C. Morris Award (Young Adult Debut Award)

With Isabel Quintero, author of GABI, A GIRL IN PIECES, winner of the William C. Morris Award (Young Adult Debut Award)

With Pat Mora. Such an honor to finally meet her.

With Pat Mora. Such an honor to finally meet her.

 

Congratulations to the ALA Youth Media Awards Winners and Honorees

A huge CONGRATULATIONS to the Latin@ authors and  books that were recognized at this year’s ALA Youth Media Awards.

confetti-cannon-o

Here are the winners and honor books:

Pura Belpré Award (Illustrator) honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.

Winner:

20518948

Honor Books:

18296043 16667896 18405521

Pura Belpré Award (Author) honoring Latino authors whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience:

18048909

Honor Book:

18667844

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens:

20702546

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children. The Caldecott Honor Books included:

18967185 20518948

 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children. The Sibert Honor Books included:

18405521

2016 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children’s literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site.

Winner: Pat Mora: “Pioneering author and literacy advocate Pat Mora has written more than three dozen books for young people that represent the Mexican American experience.”

SLJ’s Shelley Diaz Predicts the 2015 Pura Belpré Medal Contenders

By Shelley M. Diaz

As we approach the Youth Media Awards announcements on February 2—deemed by many as the “Oscars of the Kid Lit World”—Mock Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and even Geisel lists abound. A longtime tradition, the creation of these compilations of possible contenders are often debated in libraries and schools and among children’s literature fans.

But what about the Pura Belpré Medal? I haven’t seen any mention of possible winners for the award that honors children’s books written/illustrated by Latino(a)s that celebrate the Latino cultural experience. In a year that brought the need for diverse titles to the forefront of the publishing world, this conversation has been sorely absent.

Established in 1996, the award has been presented annually since 2008 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. It is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library.

So with less than one month to go until the shiny medals are placed on stellar books for kids and teens, I’d love to open up that conversation now.

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).

  1. 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.
  2. The award-winning books must be published in the United States or Puerto Rico during the preceding year.
  3. Recipients of the Pura Belpré medal must be residents or citizens of the United States or Puerto Rico.
  4. Fiction and nonfiction books for children published in Spanish, English, or bilingual formats are eligible.

More specifics:

  1. 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.
  2. Particular attention will be paid to cultural authenticity.
  3. “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.

After perusing the Latinas 4 Latino Lit blog’s selections of Best Latino Children’s books and taking part in School Library Journal’s Top Latino Books of 2014 curation, here are some of the titles I think have huge Pura Belpré potential this year. Please feel free to disagree with me and add some of your own possible contenders.

Award for Narrative:

20702546Winner: Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero; published by Cinco Puntos Press.

Reasons why I think it will win: Never mind the starred reviews in SLJ, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and VOYA. Or the fact that it’s an SLJ and Kirkus Best Book of 2014. It’s also an SLJ Top Latino Book of 2014. And it has garnered the honor of being a finalist for the YALSA Morris Award, an award that recognizes outstanding debut YA novels.

Quintero’s book celebrates the multidimensionality of being a Latina. Never quite fitting in the mold of “American” or “Latina,” Gabi speaks to the generation of young women who have grown up speaking Spanglish, mostly poor, and inhabiting the in-between spaces of two cultures. The writing is stellar, honest, and lyrical.

It’s certainly at the brink of the age limit (14), but I’m hoping that the committee continues the trend of recognizing contemporary titles, such as Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. This work has obviously struck a chord with librarians, and I think all readers carry a piece of Gabi with them.  (I am unapologetically gushing.)

SLJ Interview with Isabel Quintero
My SLJ review of Gabi.
TLT Toolbox review of Gabi.

Honors:

18405521Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh; published by Abrams.

Reasons why I think it will be honored: Tonatiuh is a past honoree for his Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale, and his work continues to bring light to important issues in Latino culture in a kid-friendly, accessible way.  It’s an SLJ and Kirkus Best Book of 2014, an SLJ Top Latino Book of the year, and a JLG selection. Plus, Sylvia Mendez’s fight against desegregation is just as relevant to the current social justice issues occurring in our country as it was 50 years ago.

Fuse 8 Blog review of Separate Is Never Equal.

18667844Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes by Juan Felipe Herrera; published by Dial.

Reasons why I think it will be honored: It’s on the SLJ Top Latino of 2014 list and received an SLJ star. This collection of essays by the California Poet Laureate is lyrical, revelatory, and truly underrated. While it hasn’t garnered that much attention from the other trade journals, I do believe that these vignettes wonderfully shed light on many Hispanic historical figures that are not often celebrated. He’s also received an Honor in the past (for Laughing out Loud, I Fly in 2000), so he’s definitely not a stranger to the Pura Belpré.

Los Angeles Review of Books: Daniel Olivas interviews Juan Felipe Herrera
My review for SLJ

22107707Water Rolls, Water Rises: El agua rueda, el agua sube by Pat Mora; Children’s Book Press.

Reasons Why I think it might be honored: Mora isn’t a stranger to the Pura Belpré either. An influential Mexican American author, she’s also the founder of Día de los Niños, Día de los libros. She’s been honored in the past (for Doña Flor, in 2006), and I think she’s due for another this year. Her Water Rolls, Water Rises is a poetry text that truly rises to the top with its structure, message, and imagery-filled narrative. It’s a Kirkus Best Book and a 2014 Cybils Finalist. The work also received positive reviews in SLJ and PW.

Other Possible Contenders: These two books have flown a bit under the radar, but they both tell often overlooked sides of the immigration narrative. Who knows? Perhaps these underdogs might run off with a shiny sticker come Midwinter?

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín; published by S. & S./Atheneum.
Booklist star; positive reviews in SLJ, PW, Kirkus.

The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu; published by Running Press.
JLG selection, SLJ Top Latino of 2014; positive reviews from SLJ, Kirkus, VOYA, Booklist, BCCB, PW.

Award for Illustration:

20759593Winner: Draw! By Raúl Colón; published by S. & S/Paula Wiseman Bks.

Reasons why I think it will win: Probably one of the most celebrated—but equally underrated—titles of the year. How is it that not enough people are talking about this book? It’s my belief that Colón should win every year (or at least that he and Yuyi Morales should take turns).

The practically wordless picture book follows a boy who escapes the confines of his room (where he’s been resting because of a sickness) through the power of his imagination and a sketchbook. This beautifully illustrated autobiographical artist’s journey celebrates fancy and adventure, and Colón’s choice of two palettes to depict the before and after is ingenious.

New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2014
SLJ Best Book
SLJ Top Latino
Starred review from Booklist, SLJ, PW, Kirkus, Horn Book
SLJ Interview with Raul Colón

Honors:

18405521Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh

Reasons Why I think it might be honored: Tonatiuh has won a Pura Belpré recognition multiple times, in the narrative and illustration categories, and even both at once (just last year, actually). His unique art draws inspiration from the pre-Columbian codices, giving his work added significance to Latino culture. While questions of his eligibility have often been raised, he is a resident of Mexico AND the United States, so his books fair game. Especially relevant in Separate Is Never Equal, is his depiction of different “colored” Mexican American characters. Though Sylvia Mendez and her cousins were part of the same family, her lighter-skinned cousins were able to “pass” as white. This nuanced portrayal of history shines in Tonatiuh’s groundbreaking work. Robin Smith has an interesting discussion on his art on the Horn Book website that is worth reading.

20518948Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photos by Tim O’Meara; published by Roaring Brook Press/Neal Porter Bks.

Reasons why I think it might be honored: Stunning. Gorgeous. Ingenious. I’m marveled at how Morales’s work continues to grow and evolve. Last year’s Pura Belpré Medalist, her Niño Wrestles the World, was a winning, kid-friendly romp through Mexican American culture. Viva Frida is more contemplative and evocative, but no less charming and illuminating. The writing is spare in English and Spanish, and gives an almost dreamlike quality to this exploration of the iconic artist. There are countless works on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, but this title introduces not only the artist, but her work and joie de vivre. The detailed puppets and backdrops created by Morales showcase her overwhelming talent.  And if you’re not wowed yet, check out this video of the illustrator’s art process. Fascinating!

One quibble, though: Would O’Meara be considered a co-illustrator of this work? Would that then make it ineligible because he isn’t Latino?

“Illustrator may include co-illustrators. In the case where the co-illustrator is not of Latino heritage, the book is ineligible for consideration.”

That’s for the Committee to ultimately decide.

SLJ Best Book; SLJ Top Latino
Starred in SLJ, PW, Horn Book
Lolly Robinson points out what makes this title a Caldecott Contender

18654384Dalia’s Wondrous Hair/El cabello maravilloso de Dalia by Laura Lacámara; published by Arte Publico/Piñata Bks.

Reasons why I think it might be honored: This bilingual picture book might be a dark horse, but it has received several recognitions (SLJ Top Latino of 2014, starred Kirkus, positive review in PW) and boasts an all-female cast that is refreshing and culturally relevant. Hair plays a big role in Latino society and race issues, and it’s celebrated in this family-centered, whimsical tale. Lacámara’s illustrations take a life of their own and wondrously depict Cuban island life with authenticity and effervescence.

Possible Contender:

20980944Lowriders in Space illustrated by Raúl the Third, written by Cathy Camper; published by Chronicle.

Reasons why I think it might be honored: This fun, graphic novel pushes the boundaries of what is considered a “picture book,” but the Committee might be feeling adventurous.

“A ‘children’s picture book,’ as distinguished from other books with illustrations, is one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience. A picture book has a collective unity of story line, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures of which the book is comprised.”

A few have noted some irregularity in the text and the Spanish translation, but since the honor is for a book’s art, I’ll focus on Raúl Gonzalez’s comic book-style street art-type illustrations.  Gonzalez used black, blue, and red BIC pens to create the images, and he’s captured a facet of Latino life that is not often showcased in children’s books. His innovative take on visual storytelling is brave, honest, and much-needed.

Interview with Raúl the Third on “Good Comics 4 Kids”
New York Times review
Starred in Kirkus, PW

If only it were eligible:

18405509Migrant Illustrated by Javier Martínez Pedro, written by José Manuel Mateo; published by Abrams.
Kirkus-Best Picture Book that Celebrates Diversity
Starred review in PW, Kirkus

This breathtaking work about a Mexican boy’s journey to the United States with his family is complemented by one long, black-and-white illustration reminiscent of pre-Columbian codices, packaged as an accordion-style foldout frieze. The timely tale was originally published in Mexico, and so isn’t eligible for the Pura Belpré. If only!

“Children’s books ‘published in the United States or Puerto Rico,’ means that books originally published in other countries are not eligible.

The “Seven Impossible Things” blog has a peek at the full image, so please feel free to lament along with me.

So what do you think? Am I on target? Were there any of your favorites I missed?