For immediate release | January 23, 2017

Raúl Gonzalez, Juana Medina win Pura Belpré Awards

ATLANTA – Raúl Gonzalez, illustrator of “Lowriders to the Center of the Earth,” and Juana Medina, author of “Juana & Lucas,” are the 2017 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 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 Jan. 20 – 24, in Atlanta, Georgia. The awards are administered by the ALSC and REFORMA.

“Lowriders to the Center of the Earth” follows Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack and Elirio Malaria, as they lowride into an epic quest to the realm of Mictlantecuhtli, Aztec god of the Underworld. The ballpoint pen art creates a fantastical borderlands odyssey, packed with subversively playful cultural references that affirm a vibrant Chicanx cultura.

The book was written by Cathy Camper and published by Chronicle Books LLC.

“Raúl Gonzalez’s energetic ballpoint pen drawings portray a complex mash-up of cultures with humor and verve,” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Eva Mitnick.

Growing up in the border town of El Paso, Texas, Raúl Gonzalez (Raúl the Third) spent hours copying comic images onto paper scraps with his dad’s BIC pens. Today, he exhibits his artwork in museums and galleries across the U.S. and teaches classes on drawing to kids.

The Belpré Committee selected two Honor Books for illustration.

“Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound Artist,” illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh, written by Susan Wood and published by Charlesbridge.

Duncan Tonatiuh creates a sense of sound and movement through energetic, textured collage illustrations that celebrate the life of innovative Mexican musician and composer Juan García Esquivel. Incorporating funky fonts and far-out fashions, Tonatiuh’s unique artistic style harkens back to indigenous codex art and lends cultural authenticity to this pulsating picture-book biography.

“The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes,” illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh, written by Duncan Tonatiuh and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS.

The legend of Mexico’s mythic volcanoes, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, unfolds in this exquisite version of an ancient love story. The stylized codex-inspired art renews and reinterprets the tradition of Aztec flor y canto using a palette of earth tones and celestial blues to illuminate this artistic retelling.

“Juana & Lucas” presents with breezy humor the day-to-day reflections and experiences universal to childhood—school, family and friendships—through the eyes of the invincible Juana, growing up in Bogotá with her beloved dog, Lucas. This charmingly designed book for young readers portrays the advantages—and challenges—of learning a second language.

The book was illustrated by Juana Medina and published by Candlewick Press.

“Juana’s transformation from frustrated learner to enthusiastic speaker of ‘the English’ is portrayed with authenticity and plenty of appeal,” said Mitnick.

Juana Medina was born in Bogotá, Colombia and lives in Washington, D.C. where she teaches at George Washington University. The characters in this quasi-autobiographical early chapter book are inspired by her childhood adventures in her beloved Bogotá.

The Belpré Committee selected one Honor Book for narration.

“The Only Road,” written by Alexandra Diaz and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/A Paula Wiseman Book.

Jaime and his cousin Ángela undertake the arduous journey to the North after a gang in Guatemala threatens their family. Diaz portrays with empathy the dangers, decisions and regrets faced by unaccompanied minors as they migrate in search of refuge.

Members of the 2017 Pura Belpré Award Selection Committee are: Chair Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library; Marissa Alcorta, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, Ariz.; Laura Duncan, Oxnard Public Library, Oxnard, Calif.; Cyndi Giorgis, University of Texas at El Paso; Linda M. Pavonetti, Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.; Lettycia Terrones, Los Angeles Public Library; and Junko Yokota, Center for Teaching through Children's Books, Skokie, Ill.

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 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

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


Macey Morales

Deputy Director

American Library Association