For immediate release | February 12, 2018

Juana Martinez-Neal, Ruth Behar win Pura Belpré Awards

DENVER —Juana Martinez-Neal, illustrator of “La Princesa and the Pea,” and Ruth Behar, author of “Lucky Broken Girl,” are the 2018 winners of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award and Author Award, honoring Latino/a authors and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino/a cultural experience in children’s books. The awards were announced today by the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking (REFORMA), an affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA), and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of ALA, during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits held Feb. 9–13, in Denver. The awards are administered by ALSC and REFORMA.

Illustrator Award

“La Princesa and the Pea” is a tale set amid guinea pigs, stone arches, and fuzzy indigenous Peruvian textiles. Juana Martinez-Neal’s mischievous characters play out the classic princess-and-the-pea tale—with a twist. Cultural elements inspired by the Peruvian village of Huilloc and the Colca Canyon add vibrancy and playfulness in Martinez-Neal’s acrylic and colored pencil illustrations. The book was written by Susan Middleton Elya and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

“Martinez-Neal’s masterful character and setting design, along with her incorporation of Peruvian cultural elements, make this book exquisite and unmatched,” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Alicia K. Long.

Juana Martinez-Neal was born and raised in Lima, Peru. She attended the School of Fine Arts at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru and won the SCBWI LA Conference Portfolio Showcase Grand Prize in 2012. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Belpré Committee selected two Honor Books for illustration.

“All Around Us,” illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia, written by Xelena González and published by Cinco Puntos Press.

The cycle of life is explored through the eyes of a grandfather and his granddaughter, in the Mestizo tradition. Vivid digital images use colorful contours and vibrant color to depict visible and invisible circles in everyday life.

“Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos,” illustrated by John Parra, written by Monica Brown and published by NorthSouth Books, Inc., an imprint of NordSüd Verlag AG.

The connections between Frida Kahlo and her xoloitzcuintles, monkeys, turkeys, and other pets are palpable in John Parra’s warm, expressive acrylic illustrations. Details of Mexican folk art ground the story as facial and body expressions from Frida and animalitos reinforce their relationship, showing how Frida was comforted and inspired by her pets and how her personality was shaped by and reflected in them.

Author Award

In “Lucky Broken Girl,” fifth-grader Ruthie Mizrahi, newly arrived to the United States from Cuba in the 1960’s, is confined to a full-body cast after a life-changing accident. Surrounded by her Cuban-Jewish family and a diverse group of neighbors, Ruthie finds strength and courage to heal and grow. The book was published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

“Ruth Behar draws from her childhood experience to tell a story that celebrates Latino/a experience while affirming the resilience of children facing both universal and specific challenges,” said Long.

Ruth Behar is a professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She was born in Havana, Cuba, to a Jewish-Cuban family, and has written extensively about her Jewish-Cuban identity. The first Latina to have been awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Behar developed a passion for reading and writing while confined to a body cast for a year in childhood. She is known for her poetry, essays and writings on feminism and anthropology.

The Belpré Committee selected two Honor Books for narration.

“The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora,” written by Pablo Cartaya, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

In “The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora,” Arturo spends the summer working at his beloved Abuela’s Cuban restaurant in a Miami neighborhood. When Arturo learns of a greedy land developer’s plans to tear down the building, he enlists the help of his friends to save the restaurant. This humorous coming-of-age tale celebrates family, music and poetry, and embraces failure as a springboard to growth.

“The First Rule of Punk,” written by Celia C. Pérez, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

12-year-old Malú O’Neill-Morales is biracial, Latino/a, and punk. Tasked with being a “señorita,” she instead follows the first rule of punk: “Be Yourself.” Malú creates zines about her inner thoughts while navigating a new school where she’s not seen as Latino/a enough, starting a punk band along the way.

Members of the 2018 Pura Belpré Award Selection Committee are: Chair Alicia K. Long, State College of Florida, Bradenton, Fla.; Emily Rose Aguiló-Pérez, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pa.; Stefanie Isabel Bailey, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District; Amy C. Martin, Oakland (Calif.) Public Library; Susan H. Polos, Bedford Central School District, Mount Kisco, N.Y.; Patty Gonzales Ramirez, Dallas Public Library, White Rock Hills Branch Library; and Edwin Rodarte, Los Angeles Public Library.

For information on the Pura Belpré Award and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit

About the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is driven by more than 4,000 members dedicated to the support and enrichment of library service to children. Our members include youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty. ALSC supports its members in engaging communities to build healthy, successful futures for all children. To learn more about ALSC and how to join, please visit our website at


Founded in 1971, REFORMA is committed to promoting the development of library collections that include Spanish language and Latino oriented collections; advocating for library services and programs that meet the needs of the Latino community; educating the Latino population of the availability of library resources; and the recruitment of bilingual and bicultural library professionals and support staff. For more information on REFORMA, visit



Macey Morales

Deputy Director

American Library Association

Public Awareness Office