Raúl Gonzalez, Donna Barba Higuera and Raquel Vasquez Gilliland win Pura Belpré Awards

For Immediate Release
Mon, 01/24/2022


Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations



CHICAGO – Raúl Gonzalez, illustrator of “¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge,” Donna Barba Higuera author of “The Last Cuentista,” and Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, author of “How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe,” are the 2022 recipients of the Pura Belpré Youth Illustrator Award, Children’s Author Award, and Young Adult 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 during LibLearnX, held virtually January 21 - 24. The awards are administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), divisions of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate. 

“¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge” is a story about pals Little Lobo, Bernabé, La Oink Oink and El Toro getting stuck on a bridge between sister cities in two different countries and making a party out of a difficult situation. The book was written by Raúl Gonzalez and published by Versify, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

“Gonzalez’s vibrant and electric art is jam-packed with iconic Mexican American touchstones that make every page feel like a gift to be unwrapped by readers,” said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Shelley Marie Diaz.

Raúl Gonzalez is the Pura Belpré Award-winning author-illustrator of the “World of ¡Vamos!” and “Lowriders'' series. He was born in El Paso, Texas, and grew up going back and forth between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, México.

The Belpré Committee selected four Honor Books for illustration. 

“Boogie Boogie, Y’all,” illustrated by C.G. Esperanza, written by C.G. Esperanza and published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

“Boogie Boogie, Y'all” is a feast for the senses, with arresting illustrations that pop with color and imagination. The adults may not notice the amazing world around them, but the children do---and they’re determined to get the rest of their city to see the wonder around them too.

“Bright Star,” illustrated by Yuyi Morales, written by Yuyi Morales and published by Neal Porter Books, Holiday House.

Following the migratory journey of a young white tail deer, “Bright Star” is a visually breathtaking love song for all of the living beings, from cacti to butterflies to humans, who confront both physical and proverbial walls in navigating the Sonoran Desert in pursuit of food, water, health and safety. These creatures are stand-ins for the many children migrating across borders to safety.

“De aquí como el coquí,” illustrated by Nomar Perez, written by Nomar Perez, translated by Farah Perez and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.

“De aquí como el coquí” tells the story of Miguel, who moves from Puerto Rico to New York, and his pet coquí, a small arboreal frog native to Puerto Rico and a national icon. This beautifully illustrated book brings alive the urban and rural life of Puerto Rico and the vibrancy of New York City. The bright, joyous artwork is present throughout and becomes a throughline for a little boy trying to find a home in a new place. 

“May Your Life Be Deliciosa,” illustrated by Loris Lora, written by Michael Genhart and published by Cameron Kids, an imprint of Cameron + Company, a division of ABRAMS.

Rosie’s Abuela doesn’t need a recipe, because she truly cooks “by heart.” Rosie compares the steps of making tamales to the wishes she has for her family. Lora’s warm, lush illustrations harken back to previous generations and work with Genhart’s text to honor tradition, family, memories and culture.

“The Last Cuentista” brings us a story where a deadly comet forces Petra’s family to journey to a new planet. After hundreds of years of suspended animation, Petra finds the ship’s inhabitants programmed to serve a sinister Collective. Her connection to her beloved Abuelita’s cuentos may be the only hope for both Petra and humanity. The book was written by Donna Barba Higuera and published by Levine Querido. 

“Higuera’s powerful storytelling in this intricately plotted novel explores the importance of relationships, community, and stories, while also keeping Mexican folklore and legends alive in a new world,” said Diaz.

Donna Barba Higuera’s debut novel “Lupe Wong Won’t Dance” was a 2021 Pura Belpré Honor Book. Donna lives in Washington State with her family, three dogs and two frogs.

The Belpré Committee selected three Children’s Author Honor Books.

 “Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna,” written by Alda P. Dobbs and published by Sourcebooks Young Readers, an imprint of Sourcebooks Kids.

This is the story of 12-year-old Petra Luna and her family during the Mexican Revolution. Petra is forced to embark in a treacherous journey across the desert where she navigates challenges including hunger and family separation. It is a story of hope and belief in one's own abilities no matter the odds. 

“Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua,” written by Gloria Amescua, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS. 

In this biography of a little-known Indigenous (Nahua) woman who helped preserve and impart knowledge of her language and culture to scholars, artists and future generations, Amescua lyrically weaves the story of Luz Jiménez’s quiet strength and perseverance with Aztec myths, true stories and dramatic episodes in Jiménez’s life.

“De aquí como el coquí,” written by Nomar Perez, illustrated by Nomar Perez, translated by Farah Perez and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.

“De aquí como el coquí” tells the story of Miguel, who moves from Puerto Rico to New York, and his pet coquí, a small arboreal frog native to Puerto Rico and a national icon. This lyrical Spanish text captures the bittersweet migration between a beloved home and an exciting journey to a new home. The urban and rural life of Puerto Rico and the vibrancy of New York City are fully realized in this tribute to both islands.. 

“How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe” features a Mexican American teen who has grown up feeling unwanted and ugly, while her sister is the gorgeous, favored one who’s all about religious purity culture. Over a life-affirming summer, Moon learns to accept and love herself and see her “curse” as one of her gifts.  The book was written by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland and published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.

“Vasquez Gilliland’s writing is mesmerizing. Purity culture, family curses, prejudice, fatphobia, spirituality, and parental abuse are all masterfully woven seamlessly with nuance in this coming-of-age story with a touch of magical realism,”  said Diaz.

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is a Mexican American novelist, painter and plantswoman. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Alaska, Anchorage in 2017.  

The Belpré Committee selected three Young Adult Author Honor Books.

“Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun,” written by Jonny Garza Villa and published by Skyscape. 

Written as a first-person narrative, this nourishing and hopeful debut novel chronicles Julián Luna’s senior year at a Catholic high school in Texas in which he embraces his sexual orientation, experiences his first love, navigates trauma and pursues his dream of moving 1500 miles away to be his authentic self. 

“Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet,” written by Laekan Zea Kemp and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group.

Narrated in two voices, this teen novel features Penelope, who wants to run her family’s restaurant despite their wishes for her to go to college. Xander is undocumented and in search of his father and a place to call home. Strong themes include positive Latinx representation, community, family and belonging.

“Where I Belong,” written by Marcia Argueta Mickelson and published by Carolrhoda Lab, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group.

Milagros “Millie” Vargas, a high school senior, is transformed into an activist for her community and family by an act beyond her control. This stunning narrative tells a story that is uniquely Millie’s that will also resonate with many young people who share her struggle. 

Members of the 2022 Committee: Chair Shelley Marie Diaz, School Library Journal, East Brunswick, New Jersey; Denise Davila, University of Texas at Austin, Texas; Erica Dean Glenn, Berkeley Public Library, California; Louise D. Dimick, Addison Public Library, Illinois; Diane Marie Olivo-Posner, Los Angeles Public Library; Carolina Saldivar, Hadley Branch Library, Denver, Colorado; and Ruth Tobar, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is driven by more than 4,000 members dedicated to the support and enrichment of library service to children. Our members include youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty. ALSC supports its members in engaging communities to build healthy, successful futures for all children. To learn more about ALSC and how to join, please visit our 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