Friday, January 25, 2008

Book Awards

The American Librarian’s Association’s* children’s wing (ALSC) and Reforma have announced the winners of the 2008 Pura Belpre Award. I’ll let them tell you what it’s about

The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth

Both the winner and one of the honor books are Cuban-themed. Both are the work of members of the Cuban Diaspora, although they may very well have different perspectives.

First the book that received honors for its storyline, because if you have anyone in your household under the age of 10, you should buy it. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale is not your mother’s La Cucarachita Martina. Carmen Deedy, whose marvelous The Library Dragon is one of my favorites, has revamped and enhanced the traditional children’s story. In this version, Martina subjects each of her suitors to an unconventional test suggested by her Abuelita. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give it away. Let’s just say the ending is something of a surprise and left me misty-eyed. The illustrations are lavish and somewhat dark, yet strangely dovetail with the mood of the story.
Margarita Engel, the author of the 2008 medal winner The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano presents the story in verse- as pieced together from Manzano’s poems and such writings as exist- through the eyes of multiple narrators. The poems are deceptively simple, as well as lyrical and moving, at the same time that they depict not only life events but also the corrosive effects of slavery on the participants. The graphic nature of Manzano’s hardships is a sure winner with the middle school crowd.

*By the way, this is the same ALA that to my knowledge has failed to recognize the plight of independent librarians in Cuba.

(Cross-posted at Babalubog)

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