Pura’s Cuentos: How Pura Belpré Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories

Abrams. Sept. 2021. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419749414.
PreS-Gr 1–Pura Belpré grew listening to stories in Puerto Rico, especially those told by her grandmother. Later, when she moved to Harlem in New York and started working at a branch library, she felt drawn to follow the path of the librarians, who were reading stories from books to the kids. Pura took charge of story times, but she realized something was missing: The stories that were not told by books, and thus, she broke the rules and began to tell her grandma’s stories. This loosely biographical picture book depicts a brave and determined woman whose bilingual English and Spanish story times broke the status quo to spread the power of storytelling. Her advocacy brought many people of color to the library, people who felt newly welcome there. Pimentel offers a storyline for young audiences that radiates hope and accomplishment. The English language narrative, set to a medium size black-and-white font, is lyrical and whimsical, employing occasional Spanish language terms. Morales’s illustrations, visualized with a touch of cubism and curb lines, express the plot through magnificent detail and layers of green, blue, brown, and purple. The full-spread and digitally made illustrations will connect with readers while expressing the written narrative and installing a sense of joy. The back matter, set in pink background and black font, contains a selected bibliography of books written by Belpré and those she translated into Spanish. The author’s notes also offer some biographical information.
VERDICT A brief book whose dreamlike illustrations will enhance young readers’ imagination.

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