It’s always a delight when you encounter something wonderful for the first time, so I was thrilled when I discovered the Pura Belpré Award:
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. It is co-sponsored by 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 award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at
the New York Public Library. As a children’s librarian, storyteller, and
author, she enriched the lives of Puerto Rican children in the U.S.A.
through her pioneering work of preserving and disseminating Puerto Rican
You can learn more about the award and Pura Belpré over here.
Today, I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the young adult
books that either won the award or were honor books in the last few
years. Which of these titles have you read?
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
Candlewick Press || Review
One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui
Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who
Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that
Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and
isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. Is
there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or
running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a
sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.
The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle
HMH Books for Young Readers
“I find it so easy to forget / that I’m just a girl who is expected / to live / without thoughts.”
Opposing slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century was dangerous. The
most daring abolitionists were poets who veiled their work in metaphor.
Of these, the boldest was Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed
Tula. In passionate, accessible verses of her own, Engle evokes the
voice of this book-loving feminist and abolitionist who bravely resisted
an arranged marriage at the age of fourteen, and was ultimately
courageous enough to fight against injustice. Historical notes,
excerpts, and source notes round out this exceptional tribute.
The Living by Matt de la Peña
Delacorte Books for Young Readers || Review
Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a
luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom
and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free
food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers,
But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at
sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits
California, and his life is forever changed.
The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers || Review
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a
know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two
meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as
the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a
special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime.
And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most
important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to
The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
There are two secrets Evelyn Serrano is keeping from her Mami and
Papo? her true feelings about growing up in her Spanish Harlem
neighborhood, and her attitude about Abuela, her sassy grandmother who’s
come from Puerto Rico to live with them. Then, like an urgent ticking
clock, events erupt that change everything. The Young Lords, a Puerto
Rican activist group, dump garbage in the street and set it on fire,
igniting a powerful protest. When Abuela steps in to take charge, Evelyn
is thrust into the action. Tempers flare, loyalties are tested. Through
it all, Evelyn learns important truths about her Latino heritage and
the history makers who shaped a nation. Infused with actual news
accounts from the time period, Sonia Manzano has crafted a gripping work
of fiction based on her own life growing up during a fiery,
unforgettable time in America, when young Latinos took control of their
Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Lee & Low Books
When Lupita discovers Mami has been diagnosed with cancer, she is
terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of their
close-knit Mexican American family.
In the midst of juggling high school classes, finding her voice as an
actress, and dealing with friends who don’t always understand, Lupita
desperately wants to support her mother by doing anything she can to
help. While Papi is preoccupied with caring for Mami, Lupita takes
charge of her seven younger siblings. Struggling in her new roles and
overwhelmed by change, Lupita escapes the chaos of home by writing in
the shade of a mesquite tree, seeking refuge in the healing power of
Told in evocative free verse, Lupita’s journey is both
heart-wrenching and hopeful. Under the Mesquite is an empowering story
about the testing of family bonds, the strength of a teenage girl
navigating pain and hardship, and the kind of love that cannot be