Celebrating Pura Belpré Winners: Spotlight on Rafael López

 

PuraBelpreAwardThe Pura Belpré Awards turns 20 this year! The milestone will be marked on Sunday, June 26, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. during the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, FL. According to the award’s site, the celebration will feature speeches by the 2016 Pura Belpré award-winning authors and illustrators, book signings, light snacks, and entertainment. The event will also feature a silent auction of original artwork by Belpré award-winning illustrators, sales of the new commemorative book The Pura Belpré Award: Twenty Years of Outstanding Latino Children’s Literature, and a presentation by keynote speaker Carmen Agra Deedy.

hires-cover-fiesta  Drum Dream GirlLeading up to the event, we will be highlighting the winners of the narrative and illustration awards. Today’s spotlight is on Rafael López, the winner of the 2010 Pura Belpré Illustration Award for Book Fiesta! Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day, Celebremos El dia de lo niños/El día de los libros, written by Pat Mora, and the 2016 Pura Belpré Illustration Award for Drum Dream Girl, written by Margarita Engle. We featured Drum Dream Girl in a book talk and in a special report about a library event.

Tito book  Cazuela  Celia

Rafael also received a Pura Belpré Illustration Honor three times: In 2014, for Tito Puente: Mambo King/Rey de Mambo, written by Monica Brown; in 2012, for The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred, written by Samantha R. Vamos; in 2006, for My Name is Celia/Me Llamo Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/ La Vida de Celia Cruz, written by Monica Brown.

Book Fiesta!

Illustration Review by Lila Quintero Weaver

Book Fiesta! Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day/ Celebremos El día de los niños/El Día de los libros, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael López, is a gem of a picture book that offers its wonders in two languages, English and Spanish.

Book Fiesta! exuberantly proclaims the joys of reading and introduces the concept of Día, an annual celebration of literature for children, founded by Pat Mora in 1996, and observed through special events by many libraries nationwide.

What Mexican painter, muralist, and illustrator Rafael López brings to a picture book must be seen and not just read about. His mastery as an illustrator extends to every aspect of the art: a strong concept, dynamic design, brilliant execution, and irresistible charm. It’s no wonder that the Pura Belpré committee recognized his work. Let’s take a closer look.

BookFiests_03

Used by permission from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate López’s expert techniques, including his winning combination of hard-edged shapes and saturated colors, delivered through heavily textured paint and splashy accents, and supported by a golden undertone that unifies all of the spreads. In the pages above, a huge, friendly sun smiles down on the children, accompanied by a trotting elephant. Such charm!

BookFiests_06

Used by permission from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

López champions diversity in his illustrations. Here, a parade of children follows a Chinese dragon whose tail doubles as a banner, announcing Día to one and all. Note the diversity represented in the races of the children. One child pulls a wagon full of books bearing titles in English and Spanish.

BookFiests_08

Used by permission from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Outside the library, even the stone lion looks pleased to take part in Día. The children relaxing on the marble beast are immersed in their books. In the background, a boy in a wheelchair eagerly makes his way to the library—another evidence of the illustrator’s awareness of diverse representation.

BookFiests_15

Used by permission from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

López amplifies Pat Mora’s words through many inventive means. Here, in a depiction of the glorious adventures made possible by reading, a hot-air balloon floats over a mountainous backdrop, complete with a smoking volcano. The pilot is a giraffe in old-fashioned aviator goggles. Elsewhere, books transport children by other means: on an airplane, a train, an automobile, a rowboat, on the back of an elephant, and even in a submarine. Simply put, stories hold the power to magically ferry readers to far-away places and imaginary lands. López brings this virtual travel to life through an enthralling variety of presentations and an engaging level of detail.

Fiesta_25

Used by permission from HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Reading in bed—what better way is there to top off a busy day? In a color-drenched scene, López presents two children indulging in this lovely pastime. One child, floating on a bed of clouds, has already fallen asleep, while the other is midway through a yawn. Her bed is supported by the curve of a crescent moon. López’s trademark brushwork fills the sky with vivid sunset hues that transition to the deep violet of late evening. It’s all grounded by rolling hills, painted in shades of teal, a color appropriate to the dying light. In the distance, the windows of buildings twinkle with warmly lit interiors, while cutout stars punctuate the heavens. Dreamy.

The richness of each spread in Book Fiesta! invites long looks and repeated views that reward readers with the new discoveries. Every page turn reveals a refreshing surprise, backgrounded by a palette that spans the rainbow. Thanks to Pat Mora’s wonderful vision and Rafael López’s dynamic illustrations, this picture book offers a perennial delight to readers of all ages.

Book Fiesta! Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day; Celebremos el día de los niños/el día de lo libros. Text copyright ©2009 Pat Mora. Illustration copyright ©2009 Rafael López. Images used by permission of HarperCollins Children’s Books.

RafaelAbout the illustrator:

Raised in Mexico City, Rafael López makes his home part of the year in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, as well as in San Diego, California. He credits Mexican surrealism as a major artistic influence. Besides his Pura Belpré medals and honors, Rafael is also a double recipient of the Américas Award. For more about his work, including poster illustrations and a mural project in San Diego that is the subject of a new picture book, Maybe Something Beautiful, visit his official website.

TEACHING TIPS:

  • Lead children in an imagination exercise based on the reading spots depicted in Book Fiesta. What are some places that you can take a book to? What are some places that a book takes you to? Ask students to include real-life and imaginary destinations.
  •  Devise a book parade, featuring wagons loaded with books, masks or disguises based on favorite characters, and banners heralding Día, or another book-related holiday or theme.
  • Invite children to create illustrations based on López’s style. This can include painted backdrops and cutout figures, with an emphasis on strong shapes and bright colors.

Watch Rafael López’s thank you video for his most recent Pura Belpré medal, for Drum Dream Girl:

 

Guest Post: ¡Qué Vivan los Niños Luchadores!

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All images from Niño Wrestles the World come courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

By Lettycia Terrones

On a bright, 108º F. Las Vegas afternoon, inside the cavernous decadence of Caesars Palace, audience members attending the 2014 Pura Belpré Award Celebración were treated to a gem of a speech by this year’s Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner, Yuyi Morales. Recognized for her outstanding book, Niño Wrestles the World, Yuyi’s acceptance speech affirmed the resilient strength of children and their power of imagination. Her words served as a reminder to all educators of the important charge we have to provide our children with stories that accurately portray their worlds and strengths.

Since 1996, the Pura Belpré Award has annually recognized Latin@ writers and illustrators for excellence in children’s literature that “best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience.” This year’s winner for illustration, Niño Wrestles the World, does just this by capturing –through story, rhythm, and images— the intangible ingredients that come together to form a uniquely Chicano-Latino flavor that any child growing up in East Los Angeles or El Paso will immediately recognize.

LloronaCardChamucoCardWhat are these ingredients? La Llorna. El Chamuco. El Extraterrestre. La Cabeza Olmeca. Las Momias. These are the protagonists that star in countless cuentos told and re-told in Mexican and Chicano families. Yuyi presents a dynamic cuento of a boy-hero in a wrestling mask, un niño luchador, who through wit, humor, ganas, and family teamwork, outsmarts these terrifying figures of Mexican and Chicano cultural mythology. As Yuyi reminded us in her acceptance speech, children’s imaginative capacity is an empowering tool that enables them to confront life situations with positive resilience. In addition to her prepared remarks, Yuyi described her own imaginative process as a child, where she was able to transform the often scary and mysterious cultural myths of La Llorona and El Chamuco into figures she could contend with and, perhaps most importantly, learn to play with.

This transformative power demonstrates the enormous agency children have to make meaning in the world. It depicts what Dr. Tara Yosso points to in her seminal work on cultural wealth and social capital, which she calls Community Cultural Wealth. Community Cultural Wealth lists specific assets practiced and nurtured in communities of color, which serve as forms of resistance to the myriad social oppressions marginalized people contended with daily. Emerging from the cultural knowledge passed down in families and communities, these assets include “aspirational, navigational, social, linguistic, familial and resistant capital.”

NinoVChamuco
Yuyi’s book exemplifies Community Cultural Wealth at work. Its text and illustration display the wealth of linguistic storytelling traditions of cuentos handed down in our families. It also serves as a meta-narrative of resistance through its prominent use of Mexican and Chicano cultural images. Yuyi’s narrative and illustration authentically capture how, for instance, the myth of La Llorona is in continuous transformation as she is imagined by our children today. Instead of becoming clichéd tropes of Mexican and Chicano culture, El Chamuco, El Extraterrestre, La Cabeza Olmeca, and Las Momias, are represented authentically as living and changing stories. This truly is a marker of Yuyi’s outstanding mastery of the picture book. She brings to the world of children’s literature works that defy cultural stereotypes, and that champion children as creative, imaginative meaning-makers.

Photo by Lettycia Terrones, 2014

Photo by Lettycia Terrones, 2014

I thought a lot about the impact of Yuyi’s Niño Wrestles the World when I attended a Lucha Libre Night at the East Los Angeles Community Youth Center last spring. The family-run event brought in masked luchadores from Tijuana and Los Angeles to battle it out in the recreation center’s well-worn boxing ring. At the halftime marker, the ring became open for the many kids in attendance to frolic with abandon and take photos with the night’s Lucha Libre heroes. I thought about how for many children living in underserved communities, Yuyi’s story of the boy-hero, the niño luchador, is an actual and accurate depiction of their lives. I wondered how many of the kids in attendance that night had been exposed to Niño Wrestles the World in their classroom or public library. I wondered how this exposure would strengthen their sense of belonging and reflect back to them their self-efficacy.

Educators should remember the characters brought to life in Yuyi’s picture book are still very much alive today in the imaginations of Latino children. They are stories that form an essential cultural fabric of what it means to be Mexican and/or Chicano. Whether we call our people first-generation, second-generation, or if we are from generations that preceded the Treaty of Guadalupe, or are present-day refugee generations embarking on perilous journeys, climbing atop trains and traversing deserts, to seek our families and a promise of a better future in the United States. These stories are ours. They form an American story.

References

Pura Belpré Award

http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpremedal

Yosso*, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91.

Yuyi Morales, Illustrator Award Acceptance Speech, page 4 http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpre-14.pdf

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Lettycia Terrones, M.L.I.S., serves as the Education Librarian at the Pollak Library at California State University, Fullerton. Her research interests are in Chicana/o children’s literature and critical literacy. Lettycia is an American Library Association Spectrum Scholar and a member of REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.

Book Review: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

By Sujei Lugo

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Señoras y señores, put your hands together for the fantastic, spectacular, one of a kind…Niño! In a single move, he takes down his  competition! No opponent is a challenge for the cunning skills of Niño, world champion lucha libre competitor!

MY TWO CENTS: As soon as you take a glimpse of the book cover, you know that Yuyi Morales is presenting you with a treat of pint-sized lucha. The colorful and mixed-media artwork and its wrestling match layout, capture the energy and enthusiasm of the characters and lucha libre itself. Written in English with a dash of Spanish words and onomatopoeias, readers are exposed to an action-packed picture book filled with elements of Mexican and other Spanish-speaking cultures.

NiñoWrestlestheWorldCover“¡Niño! ¡Niño! ¡Niño!” It is through this chant that we are introduced to Niño, a paleta eater, toy-loving, and acrobatic boy. Once Niño puts on his luchador mask, contenders such as La Momia de Guanajuato, La Llorona and Cabeza Olmeca, line up to challenge him. With his playful lucha style, Niño challenges his opponents with puzzles, dolls, marbles, popsicles and tickles, showing how Morales playfully incorporates childhood glee into this wonderful homage to lucha libre. At the end of the story we also meet Niño’s toddler sisters, who are mischievous and loud and drive Niño crazy! This is where Yuyi Morales uses the opportunity to capture and address siblings’ relationships, while showcasing the “best move” to defeat sibling rivalry.

I could not deny that it crossed my mind that Niño Wrestles the World, plays as a homage and retelling of the legacy of Mexican lucha icon, El Santo. Like El Santo, once Niño puts on his luchador mask, he never takes it off. Like El Santo, in his movies, Niño challenges the mummy of Guanajuato, the llorona, and aliens. And you could say that when later in the book Niño joins his sisters and challenges new opponents, we are seeing a retelling of adventures where El Santo joins fellow luchadores Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras. Setting the wonderful El Santo references aside, in this picture book we have a fun and energetic story and lovable characters that will release the inner luchador or luchadora in kids and adults of all ages.

Niño Wrestles the World is the 2014 Pura Belpré Illustrator Winner and was named a highly commended title by the 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award. It was also included in a series of list such as A Fuse #8 Production 100 Magnificent Children’s Books 2013, School Library Journal Top 10 Latino-themed Books of 2013, Fanfare (Horn Book’s list of the best books for young people published in 2013), Center for the Study Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Multicultural Books of 2013 and Latinas for Latino Lit Remarkable Latino Children’s Literature of 2013.

TEACHING TIPS: While early readers and kids between the ages of 4-8 might enjoy reading this picture book, it is through the activity of reading aloud that its energy and humor really stands out. Adults and childrens’ librarians can read the book, while teaching new vocabulary and words in Spanish to kids.

Language Arts, Visual Arts, and Social Studies teachers (pre-school- 2nd grade) could also use Niño Wrestles the World with their students. The book is filled with fun onomatopoeias, adjectives and words in Spanish, which will attract students to the language learning process. Art teachers can collaborate with Language Arts teachers with the masks of the different characters of the story. Templates of different lucha masks are available on Yuyi Morales’ website, or you can be creative with your own mask!

The elements of Mexican culture exposed through Niño’s opponents, the trading-card-style information of each opponent (includes pronunciation), and Yuyi Morales’ illustrations provide the opportunity to incorporate them into Social Studies curricula. Educators should be provided with resources and materials that will serve as tools to bring multiethnic/multicultural exposure and discussion into the classroom. This is especially relevant now since Mexican American and Latin@ Studies curricula and books are constantly challenged in the U.S. public education system.

LEXILE: N/A

AUTHOR: 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 such as 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), the Pura Belpré Author Honor for Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009), the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (2004), Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book (2009) and Los Gatos Black on Halloween (2008), and Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor for My Abuelita (2010) and Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez (2004).

Morales divides her time between the San Francisco area and Veracruz, Mexico. Her lastest picture book Viva Frida! will be released in September 2014.

For more information about Niño Wrestles the World visit your local library or bookstore. Also check out Macmillan Publishers, Goodreads, Indiebound.org, WorldCat.org, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.  

Enjoy this video of Yuyi Morales reading Niño Wrestles the World!