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Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre

by Anika Aldamuy Denise

School Library Journal K-Gr 3-A picture book biography of one of the most significant and inspiring figures in library history. Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City, initially arrived in Manhattan to attend her sister's wedding. Intrigued perhaps by the "hustle and bustle" of this "new island," she decided to stay, finding temporary work as a seamstress. Belpré truly found her calling when she took a position as a bilingual assistant (the text notes that was she was, in fact, trilingual) at a neighborhood library, and went on to transform library services through culturally diverse storytelling, published books, and targeted outreach. Denise sprinkles her lyrical verse with Spanish, and emphasizes Belpré's love of stories, plucking the title of the book from her desire "to be like Johnny Appleseed...plant my story seeds across the land." Escobar's warm illustrations enliven the subject and carry the motif by depicting Belpré in impeccably stylish outfits and accessories detailed with floral patterns. Because of the composition style, readers are given only brief depictions of significant moments in Belpré's personal and professional life, but Denise provides a detailed author's note, summarizing Belpré's lasting impact, and includes a great amount of back matter. VERDICT An appealing tribute and successful remedy to the lack of titles about the groundbreaking librarian. This book pairs nicely with Lucia Gonzalez's The -Storyteller's Candle, and is a must-have for all libraries.-Jessica Agudelo, New York Public Library © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Readers may know Pura BelprAc as the name of an award given to books about the Latin American cultural experience. But who was BelprAc herself? Denise (Starring Carmen!) celebrates the first Latina New York City librarian, born in 1899, who seeds the folktales of her native Puerto Rico in her new home. As a library assistant, BelprAc makes puppets to enhance her storytelling performances, which introduce the elegant cockroach Martina, the dashing mouse PAcrez, and other beloved characters from Puerto Rican folklore, then goes on to publish the tales for wider distribution. Colombian illustrator Escobar represents the biography's central image of "planting" story seeds in detailed, retro-style spreads with flowers that float around Belpre as she weaves her tales ("Her eyes dance! Her voice sings!"). Sepia tones contribute a feeling of age and a sense of warmth. Denise plants an idea of her own-that telling stories is a crucial activity for keeping culture alive. Ages 4-8. Author's agent: Emily van Beek, Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list Denise and Escobar pay tribute to the legacy of librarian Pura Belpré in this vibrant picture-book biography. Adults familiar with Belpré's story will immediately compare this book to The Storyteller's Candle (2008), by Lucía González, but this version adds a contemporary feel through the brilliantly detailed, brightly colored, whimsical illustrations and smoothly integrated linguistic code-switching. Here readers watch as Pura arrives in New York in 1921, just for a visit, filled with the stories her abuela told her in Puerto Rico. She stays, however, and finds work as a seamstress but yearns to do something else. As luck would have it, her chance comes when the public library needs a bilingual assistant. Thus begins Pura Belpré's career as the storyteller with puppets and a candle, around whose feet children sat listening to stories of Puerto Rico, including ones Pura writes herself. Planting Stories is a glossy immigration tale of dreams coming true, and the lyrical language lends itself to being read aloud.--Amina Chaudhri Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus A warm introduction to Pura Belpr, the first Puerto Rican librarian in the New York Public Library.In 1921, Belpr left her island home of Puerto Rico for New York City. There, she started work as a bilingual assistant in the public library. But where were the stories of her native land? "How lucky for the library that Pura has story seeds ready to plant and grow." Eventually, not only did Belpr hold a popular bilingual story program, but also, finding there were no books available for children in Spanish, she wrote them. Traveling "from branch to branch, classroom to classroom, to churches and community centers," Belpr planted "her story seeds in the hearts and minds of children new to this island who wish to remember la lengua y los colores of home." Belpr's story is told in rhythmic language with a good dose of (unitalicized) Spanish sprinkled throughout. Escobar's vibrant illustrations are filled with details that help bring to life the story of this remarkable librarian. Belpr is portrayed with light brown skin. A closing note explains that today, the American Library Association honors her by presenting an annual award that bears her name to a Latinx writer and illustrator whose works celebrate the Latino cultural experience. Read together with The Storyteller's Candle / La velita de los cuentos, by Luca Gonzlez and illustrated by Lulu Delacre (2008).In Belpr, children will find an affirmation of the importance of seeing their own culture in books. (bibliography, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 4-9) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Horn Book As a bilingual assistant at Nueva York's public library in 1921, Pura Belpri retells the folk stories of her native Puerto Rico at storytimes and eventually writes them down for publication. Descriptive language moves between English and Spanish seamlessly. Both text and expressive, warm illustrations carry the metaphor of planting seeds, so that readers see the seeds of Belpri's stories bloom as the biographical details unfold. Also available in Spanish. Reading list. Bib. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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