For immediate release | January 10, 2011

Eric Velasquez, Pam Muñoz Ryan win Pura Belpré Awards

SAN DIEGO – Eric Velasquez, illustrator of “Grandma’s Gift,” and Pam Muñoz Ryan, author of “The Dreamer” are the 2011 winners of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award and Author Award, honoring Latino authors and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in children’s books. The awards were announced today by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), during the ALA Midwinter Meeting held Jan. 7 – 11 in San Diego.

The awards are administered by the ALSC and the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, REFORMA.
Grandma’s Gift is a personal tale based on Velasquez’s special relationship with his abuela who influenced his dream of becoming an artist. Velasquez’s penchant for details and use of oil on watercolor papers complements his amazing use of color and light to reflect the mood of the characters.
The book was also authored by Eric Velasquez, and published by Walker Publishing Company, Inc., a division of Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.
“The committee felt strongly about Velasquez’s accurate, realistic portrayal of the times, the intimate relationship between child and grandmother, and life in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) as seen through his illustrations,” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Martha M. Walke.
Eric Velasquez is the son of Afro-Puerto Rican parents. He was born in Spanish Harlem, and grew up in Harlem. Eric attended the High School of Art and Design, earning his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1983. Eric currently lives and works in Hartsdale, N.Y.
The Belpré Committee selected three Honor Books for illustration.
Amy Córdova, illustrator for “Fiesta Babies,” written by Carmen Tafolla, and published by Tricycle Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
“Fiesta Babies,” told in a simple rhyme scheme, is embellished with illustrations done in bold colors and brushstrokes. Pictured is a parade of multicultural babies and toddlers in vibrantly colored costumes singing, dancing and celebrating at a local fiesta.
David Diaz, illustrator of “Me, Frida,” written by Amy Novesky, and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Abrams.
“Me, Frida” tells the story of newly married Frida Kahlo and her husband, Mexican painter Diego Rivera, and their time spent in San Francisco in 1930. Diaz’s paintings resemble Kahlo’s folkloric style. The charcoal and acrylic paintings created in warm vibrant colors picture detailed cityscapes, landscapes, and building interiors as well as Frida and other figures.
Duncan Tonatiuh, illustrator and author of “Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin,” published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Abrams.
“Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin” by Duncan Tonatiuh, depicts the lives of two cousins who live in the U.S. and Mexico. Tonatiuh’s mixed-media illustrations, influenced by ancient Mixtec art, show the universality of childhood experiences across borders.
“The Dreamer” by Pam Muñoz Ryan, author medal winner, masterfully imagines the magic-filled youth of Chilean Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. Through her skillful use of language inspired by Neruda’s work, Muñoz Ryan weaves this stunning tale of a young boy’s discovery of self and the development of his ideologies and artistic voice.
“The Dreamer” was illustrated by Peter Sís and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
“The committee felt Muñoz Ryan’s combining of lyrical, minimalistic text with poems in Neruda’s style to reconstruct his life, made for an emotional, joyous, inspiring book,” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Martha M. Walke.
Pam Muñoz Ryan was born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Pam received her BA and Master’s degrees from San Diego State University, and currently lives in North San Diego County.
The Belpré Committee selected three Honor Books for narration.
George Ancona for “¡Olé! Flamenco,”with photographs by the author, and published by Lee & Low Books Inc.
¡Olé! Flamenco offers a well-written, non-fiction introductory book on the Spanish art of flamenco, including its history as an expressive art form. Ancona describes flamenco in easy and understandable language for those not familiar with the art form.
Margarita Engle for “The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba,” published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
“The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba” introduces Fredrika Bremer. This audacious Swedish woman visited Cuba in 1851 and met Cecilia, an African-born slave. Engle blends fact and fiction, creating Elena, a plantation owner’s daughter, who conspires with Bremer to secure Cecilia’s freedom.
Enrique Flores-Galbis for “90 Miles to Havana,” published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing.
“90 Miles to Havana” is based on the author’s experience as one of 14,000 children in Operation Pedro Pan. Moving from Cuba to the refugee camp in Miami, Flores-Galbis’ writing is engaging, fast paced, and colorful with well-developed characters drawn from his personal experiences.
Members of the 2011 Pura Belpré Award Selection Committee are: Chair Martha M. Walke, Children’s Literature New England, South Strafford, Vt.; Floyd C. Dickman, Ostrander, Ohio; Sally L. Miculek, Austin (Texas) Public Library; Alma Ramos-McDermott, Pollard Middle School, Needham, Mass.; Stan F. Steiner, Boise State University, Idaho; and Ruth Tobar, Grand Rapids, Mich.
ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. With a network of more than 4,000 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 Youth Media Awards, please visit


Macey Morales

Media Relations Manager

American Library Association