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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.
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.
Dora M. Guzmán is a bilingual reading specialist for grades K-5 and also teaches college courses in Children’s Literature and Teaching Beginning Literacy. She is currently a doctoral student with a major in Reading, Language, and Literacy. When she is not sharing her love of reading with her students, you can find her in the nearest library, bookstore, or online, finding more great reads to add to her never-ending “to read” pile!
We are so excited to host a cover reveal for Lee & Low’s upcoming spring title from two of the biggest names in the Latinx children’s book community: Pat Mora and Raul Colón. Their new book, called Bookjoy, Wordjoyis the third collaboration between these two award-winning book creators. First, let’s take a quick look at their two previous collaborations. Click on the cover images for more information:
Now, here’s some information about their new book, which releases May 15, 2018:
Whether we are collecting words, reading favorite books in the library, celebrating holidays, writing poems, sharing secrets, or singing a jazzy duet, words and books can take us on wonderful adventures and bring us joy. Poet Pat Mora has brought together a collection of her poems that celebrates engaging with words and books in all these ways and more. Vivid illustrations by Raul Colón bring the poems to life and interpret the magic of the language with captivating images in a style influenced by Mexican muralists. Together the poems and illustrations are sure to inspire creative wordplay in readers of all ages.
We can read, you and I, see letters become words, and words become books . . . You and I read, round and round, bookjoy around the world.
Before we reveal the cover, the wonderful crew at Lee & Low have provided us with some insight on how Raul Colón created his illustrations. ARTISTS: This is for you! Insight from one of the greatest Latinx illustrators!
Raul Colón worked with watercolors on paper and Prismacolor pencils to complete these illustrations. He started the visuals with a light yellow watercolor wash on white paper. When it dries, he pencils in the full drawing, then continues with a watercolor that’s usually applied in sepias and golden brown tones. The next step is to etch a few lines onto the paper in the proper areas. Finally, the “real” and final colors are rendered with multiple layers of color pencils.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (From her website): 2018 promises to be a happy poetry year for Pat. Lee and Low Books is publishing her fourth poetry collection for young readers, Bookjoy, Wordjoy, illustrated by the talented Raúl Colón. The University of Arizona Press will publish her seventh adult poetry collection, Encantado: Desert Monologues. Pat’s other poetry collections for children are This Big Sky, Confetti, and Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! Pat also wrote two collections for young adults, Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love written in the voices of teens, and My Own True Name.
Pat’s honors include the Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and she delivered the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture. She’s a lifetime member of the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY), an honorary member of the American Library Association, received National Leadership (Kellogg Foundation) and Poetry Fellowships (NEA), and honorary doctorates from North Carolina State University and SUNY Buffalo.
With her daughter, Libby Martinez, Pat wrote I Pledge Allegiance and Bravo, Chico Canta! Bravo! A literacy advocate excited about sharing what she calls “bookjoy,” in 1996, she founded Children’s Day, Book Day, in Spanish, El día de los niños, El día de los libros, “Día.” Pat and her partners including the American Library Association and First Book nationally promote this year-long initiative of creatively linking all children and families to books and establishing annual April Children’s Day, Book Day celebrations. Pat’s Book Fiesta captures this bookjoy spirit. April 30, 2018 is the 22nd anniversary of this initiative.
Born in El Paso to a loving, bilingual family, Pat lives in Santa Fe. She’s grateful for her three children, her enthusiastic four-year-old granddaughter, her husband, anthropology professor Vern Scarborough, and her readers. A former teacher, university administrator, museum director, and consultant, Pat is a popular speaker about creativity, inclusivity and bookjoy. She is always working on new books.
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR (From The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature website): Colón was born in New York City in December of 1952 and moved with his parents in the 1960s to Caguas, Puerto Rico, where he studied commercial art. In 1978 Colón made Florida his home, working at an educational television center designing everything from puppets to short animated films. In 1988 the artist settled with his family in New City, New York and began a freelance career. Today, Colón continues to be a versatile and acclaimed illustrator whose work has appeared in important national publications.
An award-winning illustrator of over thirty books for children, Colón was chosen to illustrate Dr. Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops as well as Frank McCourt’s bestselling Angelaand theBaby Jesus, both from Paula Wiseman Books. The industry has recognized Colón with a Golden Kite Award, two Pura Belpré Award, a gold and silver medal from the Society of Illustrators, included twice in the NY Public Library’s 100 titles for Reading and Sharing; and been a two-time recipient of The Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Award.
Colón uses very unique techniques in his artwork to create texture and rich, deep colors. The illustrations are done on watercolor paper and combine watercolor washes, etching, and the use of colored pencils and litho pencils. Colón himself explained his technique for the illustrations in Angel and the Baby Jesus. “I began with textured watercolor paper. I added a wash of golden undertone watercolor. On top of that I drew the image – sketched it – and then added the middle tones. There are about 5 to 8 washes on top of each other. I then used colored pencils to make the texture of the paper come out. I also use a scratchboard instrument appropriately called a “scratcher” to draw down through the layers.”
Colón currently resides in New City, NY with his family.
The 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
DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Doña Flor is a giant lady who lives in a tiny village in the American Southwest. Popular with her neighbors, she lets the children use her flowers as trumpets and her leftover tortillas as rafts. Flor loves to read, too, and she can often be found reading aloud to the children.
One day, all the villagers hear a terrifying noise: it sounds like a huge animal bellowing just outside their village. Everyone is afraid, but not Flor. She wants to protect her beloved neighbors, so with the help of her animal friends, she sets off for the highest mesa to find the creature. Soon enough, though, the joke is on Flor and her friends, who come to rescue her, as she discovers the small secret behind that great big noise.
The creators of Tomás and the Library Lady, Pat Mora and Raul Colón, have once again joined together. This time they present a heartwarming and humorous original tall tale—peppered with Spanish words and phrases—about a giant lady with a great big heart.
MY TWO CENTS:Doña Flor, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raul Colón, tells the story of a giant woman that sleeps on clouds and makes piles of big tortillas. She protects her village from harm and she must do just that when the villagers inform her that a giant mountain lion threatens their safety. The biography of Raul Colón included on the dust jacket describes his illustrations as “an intriguing combination of watercolor washes, etching, and colored and litho pencils.”
When I look at Colón’s illustrations, the etchings remind me of fingerprints. The loops, the arches, the whorls, and all the lines that we might associate with fingerprints are visible in Colón’s illustrations. I am not familiar with techniques or the technicalities of etching and in saying that the illustrations remind me of fingerprints I do not mean to devalue the art in any way. My favorite illustration in this story is of Doña Flor using her thumb to carve out a riverbed in the village. Doña Flor is in a squatting position with her white skirt covering her thighs, and she has used her thumb to make a squiggly path for the water while the villagers look on. The riverbed has the details I associated with the fingerprints which, in this case, could be Doña Flor’s own prints.
Colón’s illustrations are beautiful, colorful, and magical. That I saw fingerprints when I looked closely at his illustrations speaks to the uniqueness of his art. While Doña Flor wears a blue shirt in most of the illustrations sometimes the shirt looks like it is embroidered and sometimes it looks like a plain T-shirt. The clouds on one page look round and fluffy and in the illustration where she’s made her bed of clouds it appears like she’s left her own fingerprints on the clouds she has gathered. Despite the uniqueness I see in his illustrations, there is certainly a sense of cohesion throughout the story. I’ve decided to focus on the etchings, the lines, and how much they appear like fingerprints because as I examined his illustrations, I also got the thought that our stories are as unique as our fingerprints. Colón’s illustrations in Doña Flor affirmed that for me. I couldn’t help but connect the details I saw in his art to the significance of the Pura Belpré award and the necessity for more Latinx children’s and young adult literature by and for Latinx.
For younger readers: Ask younger readers to pick their favorite illustration and to pick a part of the image they’d like to recreate. For example, in the illustration with Doña Flor making the river, students can attempt to recreate the river, the clouds, the trees and hills, etc. Ask students to outline their chosen part and to fill it in by dabbing their fingerprints. This will recreate the etching effect they see in the illustrations.
For middle grade readers: Discuss with students the effect and affect of etching. Does the etching force the reader to focus in a certain direction or a certain part of the page? How do the illustrations make you feel? For example, in the illustration where Doña Flor hugs the wind the lines of the etchings point in the same direction, making it appear like she is floating away with the wind.
For young adult readers: By the end of the story Doña Flor learns that the loud roaring frightening the village is coming from a small puma roaring into a hollow log. Discuss with students the importance of perceptions and misconceptions. How might we connect the villagers’ fear and the puma’s amplified roars to racial/ethnic stereotypes?
Dr. Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez’s research focuses on the various roles that healing plays in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. She currently teaches composition and literature at a community college in Chicago. She also teaches poetry to 6th graders and drama to 2nd graders as a teaching artist through a local arts organization. She is working on her middle grade book. Follow Sonia on Instagram @latinxkidlit
The year 2014 brought us three outstanding Latino children’s books celebrating art. Each book represents a distinct format: Draw! by Raúl Colón, is a wordless picture book; Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales, is a poetic tribute to a beloved artist of worldwide importance; and Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, by Catherine Reef, is a work of non-fiction geared toward upper-level grades. These releases came in a year already brimming with strong Latino titles in children’s publishing, along with the We Need Diverse Books campaign, which challenges publishers and others in the book industry to question their views and roles regarding literature by and about people of color.
And guess what? Latin@s create art, too, so why shouldn’t they be celebrated in art-related books?
Children’s books that extol visual art serve to influence readers in significant ways. Through them, children can learn to appreciate art’s life-enriching power. They can also begin to see themselves as potential creators of art. Up to a certain age, most children freely produce drawings, collages, finger paintings, and other forms of artistic expression. But as kids reach the middle elementary years, inhibition seems to set in. Often, these kids stop making art because they have begun to see themselves as incapable. In fact, many great artists owe their success to a rediscovery of childlike abandon, to a time when the internal critic wasn’t peering over their shoulder. Also, Latin@ children are exposed to fewer artistic role models from within the community. What if good art books transmitted the opposite message–that anyone, from any culture, can create art? Great Latin@ artists already exist and kids need to become familiar with them. The following books make an ideal way to start delivering that message.
Draw! by Raúl Colón
In this lovely picture book based on Colón’s childhood, readers are transported through a flight of fancy to golden views of the African savanna, where an adventurous drawing session takes place. Initially, we see a boy drawing in his bedroom. His focus is on animals of the African grasslands. Three pages later, the boy is on the ground, somewhere on the African continent, among his subjects, observing them at close range, and capturing their likenesses with deft pencil strokes. Colón achieves this flight of imagination without the aid of words. The paintings in this book display a tender vintage feel in keeping with much of Colón’s acclaimed work in illustration. In every sense, Colón demonstrates a masterful command. His compositions are striking. He nails the anatomy of both human and wild animal subjects, as well as a wide array of studio techniques. These include the use of expressive, swirling textures and a tawny palette of hues, fitting for the story’s era and setting. This gem of a book landed on quite a few “best of” lists for 2014, including:
Viva Frida is Yuyi Morales’s love letter to Frida Kahlo. The depth of Morales’s admiration for the groundbreaking Mexican surrealist painter comes through in every expertly prepared page spread. Morales incorporates acrylic painting, stop-motion puppetry and other three-dimensional elements into a series of dioramas, photographed by her collaborator, Tim O’Meara. The result is eye-popping. Each spread bursts with jewel-like colors and captivating details, including Mexican textiles, bits of jewelry and animal fur. Clay figures representing Frida, her husband, Diego, and their animal friends are central to each diorama. Readers familiar with Kahlo’s work will recognize iconic elements in the injured fawn, the monkey, Frida’s famous eyebrows, her hand-shaped earrings and much more. A simple and brief poetic text in Spanish and English complements each page’s visual design. Viva Frida is a stunner that understandably caught the attention of important list-makers.
Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, by Catherine Reef, is a complex and satisfying portrayal of two giants of twentieth-century art and the development of their storied careers. The book relies on primary sources and seldom-seen photographs to describe the individual lives and work of each artist, as well as their combined lives. Reef weaves into this dual biography fascinating views of the political and social history of Mexico. Readers learn about Frida Kahlo’s medical odyssey. A childhood diagnosis of polio left her with an atrophied leg. As a young woman, she also suffered a debilitating accident that resulted in many surgeries and long periods of painful convalescence. Reef includes details of the couple’s complicated and often troubled marital life. These are not gratuitous digressions, however, since Frida’s body of work is in many ways a reflection of her physical and emotional suffering. Diego Rivera’s work as a muralist captures the era of upheaval that he lived in and reveals much about his devotion to socialist causes. The book includes behind-the-scenes stories of murals he painted in U.S. cities, which often became entangled in political controversy and resulted in conflict between Rivera and his patrons.
These three books come from different perspectives, but their approaches overlap as they magnify works of art and what it takes to produce them. In his picture book, Raúl Colón uses imagination to portray the skills of a budding artist. Yuyi Morales’s tribute to Kahlo reflects the inner world of a powerfully emotional artist. Catherine Reef’s biography informs the reader of the complexity and suffering that composed Khalo’s internal make-up and that of her marital partner.
Draw! by Raúl Colón
Picture book, K-4
This picture book can be integrated into art and language-arts curricula. Teachers and librarians can use this book to encourage children to compose or tell their own illustrated stories. Art teachers will find a useful example of sound artistic practice in how Colón closely observes his subjects.
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
Picture book, K-3
Bilingual and ESL instructors can incorporate this book into their classroom to teach new vocabulary in English and Spanish. The text is brief and focuses on verbs. Teachers of language arts can employ the book’s model of short poetic sentences to suggest a story. In the art classroom, Viva Frida can inspire the creation of dioramas, costumed puppets and other three-dimensional works.
Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life by Catherine Reef
Non-fiction, grades 9-12
This book holds rich possibilities as a classroom text for Mexican American studies, art history, and social studies. One of the key lessons is the importance in an artist’s life of historical context. Students of social studies can create a timeline of historical events, paralleled by notable developments in Frida’s and Diego’s life. The book includes a brief selection of reproductions for each artist and a list of resources for further study, which teachers can use as a basis for assignments. Art history classes may want to explore the work of other muralists and female painters of the twentieth century or of Mexican artists throughout the ages.
For further information on the creators, see the following: