Yuyi Morales, Margarita Engle win Pura Belpré Awards

Contacts: Macey Morales/Jennifer Petersen

ALA Media Relations


For Immediate Release

January 14, 2008

en Español]

Yuyi Morales, Margarita Engle win Pura Belpré Awards

PHILADELPHIA - Yuyi Morales, illustrator of “Los Gatos Black on Halloween,” and Margarita Engle, author of “The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano,” are the 2008 winners of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award and Author Award respectively, honoring Latino authors and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in children's books. The awards were announced January 14 during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia, January 11 - 16.

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.

“A rhyming text describes spooky monsters of many types gathering for a ball in 'Los Gatos Black on Halloween.' However, the rollicking fun is interrupted by the scariest creatures of all in a surprise ending that will delight readers of all ages. Morales' eerily glowing illustrations capture the blend of traditional Halloween and Día de los Muertos symbols, matching the humorous interplay of Spanish and English in the text. Historical allusions and whimsical figures delight the eye in this timeless story,” said Award Committee Chair Jean Hatfield. The book was written by Marisa Montes and published by Holt.

Yuyi Morales was born in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. She is an author, artist, puppet maker, Brazilian folkdancer and former host of a Spanish-language storytelling radio show. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

The Belpré committee selected two Honor Books for illustration: “My Name Is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez/Me llamo Gabito: la vida de Gabriel García Márquez,” illustrated by Raúl Colón, written by Monica Brown and published by Luna Rising and “My Colors, My World/Mis colores, mi mundo,” written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez and published by Children's Book Press.

Raúl Colón's evocative, tropical illustrations pull the eye into Gabriel García Márquez's imaginative world, introducing children to the early life of this celebrated Colombian author in “My Name is Gabito.” Raised in Puerto Rico, Colón now lives in New York.

“My Colors, My World/Mis colores, mi mundo,” invites children to a visual feast of vibrant colors and magical realism as they follow young Maya on her journey from sand-covered surroundings to a world overflowing with rich violet and pink hues. Mayan culture and Kahlo-esque influences add electricity to the bold illustrations. A renowned artist who creates vivid images of strong Latinas, Gonzalez lives and plays in San Francisco.

“The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano,” a collection of haunting poems, uses multiple voices to illuminate the daily terror and hypocrisy of the slave system. Celebrating Manzano's irrepressible spirit and creativity, this book is based on Manzano's autobiographical notes and poems. After witnessing young Manzano's harsh punishments for reading and writing, readers will marvel at his enduring strength and persistence to attain freedom. The book is illustrated by Sean Qualls and published by Holt.

“'The Poet Slave of Cuba' is a heartbreaking, memorable story of love, determination and hope. The stark language and vivid imagery provide a sensory experience that allows the reader to enter another time and place,” said Hatfield.

Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American poet, novelist and journalist who has published works in many countries. She currently lives in Northern California.

Three Author Honor Books were named: “Frida: ¡Viva la vida! Long Live Life!” by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand and published by Marshall Cavendish; “Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale,” retold by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Michael Austin and published by Peachtree; and “Los Gatos Black on Halloween,” written by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Yuyi Morales and published by Holt.

Carmen T. Bernier-Grand's “Frida: ¡Viva la vida! Long Live Life!” uses lyrical free-verse poems which comprise the heart of a well rounded biographical work for older children. The poems, written in impassioned first-person voice, follow the arc of Frida Kahlo's life from birth to death. The opening birth poem and the closing death poem set a tone of self-determination firmly placing her in history, in her family and in her country. Bernier-Grand lives in Portland, Ore.

In “Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale,” Martina is 21 days old and ready to give her leg in marriage. With the help of her Abuela's shocking advice, she interviews a cast of unlikely suitors to find her true love. Deedy's lively and humorous retelling of this classic Latino folktale sparkles with wit as well as aspects of the Cuban culture. Born in Havana, Deedy currently lives in Georgia.

From brujas on broomsticks to clattering esqueletos the rhyming text of “Los Gatos Black on Halloween,” captures a spooky mix of English and Spanish in this humorous tale. The story integrates the traditions of two cultures into a lively tale with a surprise twist that begs to be read aloud and shared with audiences of all ages and cultures. Montes was born in Puerto Rico and currently lives in California.

Members of the ALSC/REFORMA Pura Belpré Committee are: Chair, Jean Hatfield, Alford Regional Branch, Wichita Public Library, Kan.; Adrián Barrientos, San José Public Library Biblioteca Latinoamericana Branch, San José, Calif.; Hope Crandall, Washington Elementary School, Woodburn School District, Woodburn, Ore.; Judith V. Lechner, Auburn University, Ala.; Lisa Lintner-Sizemore, Louisville Free Public Library, Louisville, Ky. And Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Ph.D, University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science, Columbia, S.C.

More information about the Pura Belpré Award can be found at