What is the Pura Belpre Award and Who Won?

What does it have to do with Latino / Latina authors and illustrators?

Viva Frida - 2015 Pura Belpre Illustrator Award Winner
2015 Pura Belpre Illustrator Medal winner. Roaring Brook Press

All About the Pura Belpré Award

The Pura Belpré Award is a children’s book award that honors Latino and Latina authors and illustrators of books for young people that are not only outstanding but also most effectively  "portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience."  (Pura Belpré Award site).

Another requirement is that the book for which the author or illustrator is being recognized have been originally published in the United States or Puerto Rico, and as of 2009, published during the preceding year.

The award was established in 1996 and presented every other year from then until 2009 when the Pura Belpré Award became an annual award.

The co-sponsors of the Pura Belpré Award are the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, (Reforma) an ALA affiliate. The Pura Belpré Award is named after the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. To learn more about Pura Belpré, see my review of The Storyteller's Candle, a children's picture book about the librarian.

Frequently Honored Authors and Illustrators

In looking over the list of Latino and Latina authors and illustrators, there are a number of names that appear frequently.

Yuyi Morales
Artist and writer Yuyi Morales has won multiple Pura Belpré Medals. They include the 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Medal for Viva Frida, the 2014 Belpré Illustrator Medal for Niño Wrestles the World, which Morales also wrote; the 2009 Pura Belpré Illustrator Medal for Just in Case, which Morales wrote and which was also named a 2009 Belpré Narrative Honor Book; the 2008 Belpré Illustrator Medal for Los Gatos Black on Halloween, which was written by Marisa Montes, and the 2004 Belpré  Illlustrator Medal for Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book.

In addition, several other children’s books by Yuyi Morales have been named Pura Belpré Honor Books for Illustration: My Abuelita by Tony Johnston (2010) and Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull (2004). 

Duncan Tonatiuh
by Duncan Tonatiuh was recognized as a 2015 Belpré Honor Book for both illustration and narrative.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh was honored in 2014 as a Belpré Honor Book for both narrative and illustration. Tonatiuh won the 2012 Pura Belpré Illustrator Medal for Diego Rivera: His World and Ours. Tonatiuh is also the author of the picture book. Duncan Tonatiuh's Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin, which he also wrote and illustrated, was a 2011 Pura Belpré Award Honor Book for illustration.

Pam Muñoz Ryan
Pam Muñoz Ryan won the 2011 Pura Belpré Narrative Medal for , her middle grade book based on the life of poet Pablo Neruda; she won the 2002 Pura Belpré Narrative Medal for her novel Esperanza Rising and her novel Becoming Naomi León was a 2006 Pura Belpré Honor Book.

Other multiple Pura Belpré Award honorees include: Raúl Colón, who illustrated ; Rafael López, illustrator of Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children's Day/Book Day; Celebremos El día de los niños/El día de los libros; Margarita Engle, author of The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, author Julia Alvarez and illustrator David Diaz.

To learn more about recent Belpré Award winners and Honor books, see the following:

  • The 2015 Pura Belpré Award Winners and Honor Books