Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, written by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian 
and Storyteller Pura Belpré
illustrated by Paola Escobar
Purchased from Bound to Stay Bound with Library Funding
With the poetic flair of a storyteller, Denise tells the life story of Pura Belpré in way that makes her relevant to young readers (or even better, listeners). Her words pair perfectly with Escobar's detail filled illustrations. The title and theme of planting and growing, seeds and stories, works perfectly with Belpré's life - both professionally and personally. Turning the last page of Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, readers will understand exactly why the American Library Association created an award for authors and illustrators of children's books in her name.
Arriving in New York City from San Juan, Puerto Rico for her sister's wedding in 1921, Pura ended up staying, the seeds of cuentos she carried with her ripe for planting. Plans to attend university and become a teacher shift to work as a bilingual assistant at the library! Speaking Spanish, English and French, Pura is perfect for the job. But she is also shocked to find there is not one one folktale from Puerto Rico on the shelves! The Author's Note reveals that, working at the 135th Street branch in Harlem, it was Pura's job was to, "find books and create programs that would appeal to the neighborhood's growing Spanish-speaking community." 
Yet, there were no "actual Spanish books in the library"! Planting Seeds focuses on Pura's work with children, from lighting the story hour candle to making puppets to tell the folktales she learned as a child, told to her by her grandmother. In the children's room of the library, Pura's words would, "paint a picture," her eyes dance and her voice sing as she told the story of, "El ratoncito Peréz y la cucarachita Martina." Wanting to reach even more children, Pura writes one of the folktales she would tell classmates, gathered "under the shade of the tamarind tree," in her hometown of Cidra, sending it off to Frederic Warne, Beatrix Potter's publisher. With Peréz y Martina a published book, Pura travels, "from branch to branch, classroom to classroom, to churches and community centers . . . planting her story seeds in the hearts and minds of children new to this island who wish to remember la lengua y los colores of home."
Pura married musician Clarence Cameron White in 1943 and spend the next two decades away from the library, traveling with her husband and writing. When her husband died in 1961, Pura returned to the library where, "The seeds she has planted, the roots that grew shoots into the open air of possibility, have become a lush landscape into which she steps, as though she never left." This gorgeous imagery, the richness of the metaphor, makes for the phenomenal final two-page spread, above. As the Author's Note tells us, Pura spent the next two decades before her death in 1981 traversing the city once again, sharing her stories and puppetry with children. 

The marvelous back matter includes a detailed Author's Note, a selected bibliography, archival collections, articles and films, further reading and, best of all, brief descriptions of the stories by Pura Belpré mentioned in this book. 

The absolutely adorably amazing endpapers...
Pura Belpré's Books!

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