Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Planting Stories by Anika Aldamuy Denise

Once in a while, I come across a children's picture book that needs to be shared. This time, my friend, Donna, shared a copy of Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré. Author Anika Aldamuy Denise's flowing language goes hand-in-hand with the beautiful illustrations by Paola Escobar. This is the gorgeous story of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City, a storyteller, and the woman for whom the Pura Belpré Award was named, an award given to Latinx authors and illustrators. It's a story that made me cry.

In 1921, Pura Belpré came to New York City to attend her sister's wedding. She brought her own ideas of "story seeds", stories to plant. Pura stayed in New York after the wedding, first working in a garment factory. But, then, she saw an ad for a library assistant. The public library hired her because she spoke English, Spanish, and French, and they needed a bilingual assistant. Pura's role at the library grew when she discovered there were no books in Spanish. She told stories she brought from Puerto Rico, eventually made puppets for those stories, and, finally wrote a book to fit the needs of the children and the library.

Pura Belpré's story is a love story. It's about her love for stories, her language, children, the man she married. It's about her travels as an ambassador for stories. It's about her return to the New York Public Library, where others had taken up her role. But, she remained an ambassador, and the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Library Association.

Why did I cry? The author and illustrator together created a book that imparts the message of stories and love, the importance of what Pura Belpré did. I'll admit, many readers may not appreciate the message or this book as much as I did. If the message of a librarian's role doesn't touch your heart, perhaps Paola Escobar's illustrations will. Planting Stories is a book for my heart.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise. Illustrations by Paola Escobar. Harper. 2019. ISBN 9780062748683 (hardcover).

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.


Gram said...

What a wonderful story. I put it on my library list and notice that we also have a Spanish edition.

Lesa said...

What I failed to mention, Gram, is that the author skillfully intersperses a Spanish phrase or two in this book. I hope you enjoy it!

Netteanne said...

Sounds fabulous and I just put it on hold. Thank you so much for all of your wonderful suggestions on so many books.

Lesa said...

Oh, Netteanne! Thank you for your feedback! I appreciate it!