Raúl Gonzalez, Ernesto Cisneros and Yamile Saied Méndez win Pura Belpré Awards

For Immediate Release
Mon, 01/25/2021


Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations



CHICAGO – Raúl Gonzalez, illustrator of “¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat,” Ernesto Cisneros, author of “Efrén Divided,” and Yamile Saied Méndez, author of “Furia,” are the 2021 recipients of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, Children’s Author Award and Young Adult Author Award, honoring Latinx authors and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in children’s books. The awards were announced today by REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking, an affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA), and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), divisions of ALA, during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, held virtually Jan. 22 - 26.  The awards are administered by ALSC, YALSA and REFORMA. The 2021 Pura Belpré Award marks the first award given for the new Young Adult Author Category.

“¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat” follows Little Lobo and his pet sidekick Bernabé on a savory adventure, fetching lunch for Toro y sus amigos ahead of the Lucha Libre 5000. Each food truck stop highlights diverse and delectable cuisine and is flavored with cultural references and a vibrant community of food vendors. The book was written and illustrated by Raúl Gonzalez and published by Versify, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Raúl the Third’s ink illustrations burst off the page with color and lively detail, making Little Lobo’s delectable mission irresistible,” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Jessica Agudelo.

Raúl Gonzalez, known by his artistic moniker, Raúl the Third, is an award-winning illustrator and author. His distinct artistic style celebrates the Mexican-American experience. Gonzalez currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts with his family. 

The Belpré Committee selected one Honor Book for illustration.

“Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello,” illustrated by Elisa Chavarri, written by Monica Brown and published by Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books Inc.

This bilingual biography traces the life of Julio C. Tello, from a young curious boy nicknamed “Sharuko” in Quechua, to his career as an accomplished archaeologist who elevated Peru’s indigenous history. Elements of Peruvian culture and landscape are captured in Chavarri’s splendid watercolor and gouache illustrations.

“Efrén Divided” brings us the story of 12-year-old Efrén, whose world flips when his mother is deported to Mexico, but whose determination to reunite his family never wavers. Ernesto Cisneros’s debut novel adeptly balances hope and heart break in this timely story of undocumented individuals working to build a better life. The book was written by Ernesto Cisneros and published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

“The story of Efrén Nava is Ernesto Cisneros’s enduring ode to children of immigrant parents, whose quiet strength and resilience is laudable and inspiring,” said Agudelo.

Ernesto Cisneros was born and raised in Santa Ana, California, where he currently teaches reading and writing to middle schoolers. He holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from National University. “Efrén Divided” is his debut middle grade novel.

The Belpré Committee selected two Honor Books for Children’s narration.

“The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez,” written by Adrianna Cuevas and published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group.

Army kid Nestor Lopez knows the drill: new deployment, new town, don't settle in, no real friends. But his new posting has a mystery: animals are disappearing and afraid (they told him themselves), and  Abuela is acting suspicious. To rescue the town, Nestor may have to break his own rules. 

“Lupe Wong Won’t Dance,” written by Donna Barba Higuera and published by Levine Querido.

Lupe Wong never imagined a goofy dance could hamstring her chance to meet her pitching idol and fellow Mexinese/Chinacan, Fu Li Hernandez. But taking up the cause against square dancing in gym class proves to be more challenging, and enlightening, than this opinionated dreamer expected.

“Furia” brings us a story about Camila “La Furia” Hassan, a young Argentine girl and fútbol player with monumental talent. Living in a household that considers fútbol a boys’ sport and a society fighting for gender equality, Camila goes against all odds to follow her dreams and her heart. The book was written by Yamile Saied Méndez and published by Algonquin Young Readers, an imprint of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

“Yamile Saied Méndez’s irrepressible protagonist, Camila, is empowered by her passion for fútbol and inspired by the resilience and strength in the women around her,” said Agudelo.

Yamile Saied Méndez is an Argentine American writer and an inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient. She is a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Writing for Children and Young Adults program. “Furia” is her first young adult novel.  

The Belpré Committee selected two Honor Books for Young Adult narration.

“Never Look Back,” written by Lilliam Rivera and published by Bloomsbury YA.

In “Never Look Back,” Lilliam Rivera depicts the diverse culture of the Bronx and its people through the nascent romance of Eury and Pheus. This retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice evokes the smooth sounds of bachata, joys of Caribbean heritage, and the trauma caused by grief and loss.

“We Are Not from Here,” written by Jenny Torres Sanchez and published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

“We Are Not from Here” is a compelling and realistic story of teenage friends, Pulga, Pequeña and Chico, forced to leave their homes in Guatemala and embark upon a dangerous and uncertain journey to the U.S. hoping for safety. An eye-opening and timely read. 

Members of the 2021 Committee: Chair Jessica Agudelo, New York Public Library, Queens, New York; Martín Blasco, Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Hillsboro, Oregon; Mara Cota, San Diego State University, San Diego, California; Priscilla K. Delgado, TeachingBooks.net, San Marcos, Texas; Rosa Diaz, Rochester City School District, Rochester, New York; Elisa Anais Garcia, New York Public Library, Bronx, New York; Rebecca M. King, Arlington Heights Memorial Library, Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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 members are committed to engaging communities to build healthy, successful futures for all children. To learn more about ALSC, visit their website at www.ala.org/alsc.

For more than 50 years, YALSA has worked to build the capacity of libraries and librarians to engage, serve and empower teens. For more information about YALSA or to access national guidelines and other resources go to www.ala.org/yalsa, or contact the YALSA office by phone, (800) 545-2433, ext. 4390, or email, yalsa@ala.org.

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 www.reforma.org.

For information on the Pura Belpré Award and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit www.ala.org/yma.