Yuyi Morales, Margarita Engle win Pura Belpré Awards

Contacts: Macey Morales/Jennifer Petersen

ALA Media Relations


For Immediate Release

January 26, 2009

DENVER – Yuyi Morales, illustrator of “Just in Case,” and Margarita Engle
, author of “The Surrender Tree,” are the 2009 winners of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award and Author Award, which honor Latino authors and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in children’s books. The awards were announced Jan. 26 during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting taking place in Denver, Jan. 23 – 28.

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

In “Just in Case,” a Neal Porter Book published by Roaring Brook Press, Morales’ vibrant, shimmering jewel-tone colors masterfully capture the exuberant and playful story of Señor Calavera’s quest to find the perfect birthday gift for Grandma Beetle. Part ghost story, part trickster tale, the book features motifs from Mexican culture that represent each letter of the Spanish alphabet.

“Morales infuses humor with a bold and rich palette of color in this delightful, imaginative story to whimsically bring this intergenerational story to life,” said Pura Belpré Committee Chair Claudette McLinn.

Yuyi Morales, born in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, is an author, artist, puppet maker and folk dancer. Other books she has written and/or illustrated include “Just a Minute” and “Los Gatos Black on Halloween,” both of which received the Pura Belpré Award. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

The Belpré committee selected three Honor Books for illustration: Rudy Gutierrez for “Papá and Me,” written by Arthur Dorros and published by Rayo, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; Lulu Delacre for “The Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos,” written by Lucía González and published by Children’s Book Press; and Amy Córdova for “What Can You Do With a Rebozo?” written by Carmen Tafolla and published by Tricycle Press, an imprint of Ten Speed Press.

In “The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom,” published by Henry Holt, Engle’s hauntingly beautiful free verse prose breaths life into this finely crafted story that illuminates Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain in the 1800’s. Told from the perspective of four distinct voices, Engle intricately weaves a harrowing, heart wrenching story of enslavement, survival, determination and heroism.

“Engle’s prose breathes life into each character, and her rich use of language catapults the reader into the jungles of Cuba. The engaging story keeps the reader racing through the pages of history,” said McLinn.

Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American poet, novelist and journalist whose work has been published in many countries. Her books include the critically acclaimed “The Poet Slave of Cuba,” winner of the 2007 Pura Belpré Award, among other honors. She lives with her husband in Northern California.

The committee selected three Honor Books for narration: Yuyi Morales for “Just in Case,” a Neal Porter Book published by Roaring Brook Press; Francisco Jiménez for “Reaching Out,” published by Houghton Mifflin Company; and Lucía González for “Storyteller’s Candle / La Velita de los Cuentos,” illustrated by Lulu Delacre and published by Children’s Book Press.

Members of the 2009 ALSC Pura Belpré Committee are: Chair Claudette McLinn, Los Angeles Unified School District; Loretta Dowell, San Francisco Public Library; Elva Garza, Austin (Texas) Public Library; Oralia Garza de Cortes, Latino Children’s Literature Consultant, Pasadena, Calif.; Debra Gold, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Parma Heights, Ohio; Charmette Kuhn-Kendrick, Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library System, Columbus, Ga.; and Yolanda Valentin, Birmingham (Ala.) Public Library.

ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. With a network of more than 4,200 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty, ALSC is committed to creating a better future for children through libraries. To learn more about ALSC, visit their Web site 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

For information on the Pura Belpré Award and other ALA literary awards, please visit