Guevara, Muñoz Ryan win Pura Belpré Awards

Contact: Paige Wasson


For Immediate Release

January 21, 2002

Guevara, Muñoz Ryan win Pura Belpré Awards

Susan Guevara, illustrator of "Chato and the Party Animals," written by Gary Soto and published by G.P. Putnam's Sons and Pam Muñoz Ryan, author of "Esperanza Rising," published by Scholastic Press, are the 2002 winners of the Pura Belpré Awards, honoring Latino authors and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in a children's book. The awards were announced January 21 during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in New Orleans.

The awards are administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of ALA, and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.

Susan Guevara's larger than life, mural-like images translate and extend Soto's barrio story with vitality, color and social commentary. Discovering that his best friend, Novio Boy, has never had a birthday party, Chato the Cat plans a surprise pachanga. Everything is set except that Chato forgets to invite the guest of honor. Sly humor and Latino symbolism abound in these innovative, acrylic-on-scratchboard illustrations.

According to committee chair Dr. Eliza T. Dresang, Guevara's vivacious, distinctive artistic style creates a culturally authentic picture book with immense child appeal.

Native Californian Susan Guevara has studied painting at the San Francisco Art Academy and the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Belgium. Her first book about Chato the Cat, "Chato's Kitchen," was a Pura Belpré winner for illustration (1996), a Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award winner and an ALA Notable Children's Book.

"Esperanza Rising" brings to young readers beautifully executed literature, simple but eloquent and rich in historical details, powerful imagery, and symbolism. "Vivid descriptions of the social and economic hardships of the Mexican migrant workers create compelling realism for contemporary readers," says Dresang.

Pampered thirteen-year-old Esperanza and her mother are forced to flee Mexico following her father's sudden death and his brothers' takeover of their land. In a California migrant-worker camp, they encounter poverty and racism that are mitigated by the support of family and friends. Esperanza's response to the fall from a privileged life into a 1930s, immigrant experience transforms her from a spoiled child into a strong adolescent.

Born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California, Pam Muñoz Ryan is of Mexican heritage. A former teacher, she is now a fulltime author. Ryan received the 2001 Jane Addams Children's Book Award for "Esperanza Rising." Her writing for youth has been recognized with numerous other state and national awards.

The Committee selected one Honor Book for Illustration: "Juan Bobo Goes to Work," illustrated by Joe Cepeda, retold by Marisa Montes and published by HarperCollins Publishers.

"Juan Bobo Goes to Work" carries on Pura Belpré's tradition of retelling traditional Puerto Rican folktales. Cepeda humorously depicts Juan Bobo's determined but disastrous antics through bold brush strokes, expert use of varied perspectives, and vibrant Caribbean colors.

Joe Cepeda, who grew up in East Los Angeles and lives in Southern California, is a best-selling illustrator of numerous children's books.

Two Author Award Honor Books were named: "Iguanas in the Snow," by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez, published by Children's Book Press; and "Breaking Through" by Francisco Jiménez, published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

"Iguanas in the Snow," a collection of seventeen bilingual poems depicting winter in San Francisco and nearby mountains, surprise and delight like peppermint candy on the tongue. Alarcón's rich verbal imagery peppers the pages with Latino children's experiences in a multicultural setting.

Alarcón, who lives and teaches at the University of California at Davis, is an award-winning poet and educator. Two previous seasonal poetry books by Alarcón, "Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems/Jitomates Risueños y otros poemas de primavera" (1997) and

"From the Bellybutton of the Moon/Del ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano" (1998) have won Pura Belpré Honor Awards for the author. Alarcón grew up in Mexico and the United States and thus considers himself "bi-national."

Jiménez's compelling autobiographical stories in "Breaking Through," sequel to "The Circuit," combine dramatic social issues of poverty and prejudice in the 1950s with timeless adolescent experiences of family tension, school, and romance. Powerful images of a teenager overcoming crushing poverty and personal challenges while maintaining hope encourage readers to "break through" their own barriers with tenacity and courage.

As a child, Francisco Jiménez emigrated with his family from Tlaquepaque, Mexico, to California, where he worked in the fields. Jiménez received both his master's degree and his Ph.D from Columbia University and is now professor at Santa Clara (CA) University.

Members of the ALSC/REFORMA Belpré Committee are: Eliza T. Dresang, Florida State University, Tallahassee; Miguel García Colón, Chicago Public Library; Jean Hatfield, Johnson County Library, Shawnee Mission (Kan.); Bethe Marie Lehman, L.O. Donald Elementary School, Dallas; Maria C. Mena, Leon County Public Library System, Tallahassee (Fla.); Meb Norton, Metairie Park Country Day School, New Orleans; Nissa Montoya-Perez, East Los Angeles Library.