This picture book celebrates the life of Pura Belpré, librarian and storyteller. From a young age, Pura loved stories, particularly those that her Abuela told her. As an adult she moved from Puerto Rico to New York, where she first dreams of being a librarian. Soon Pura is hired at the library and works as the storyteller. But she is bound by rules such as only sharing stories written in books. But the stories she grew up hearing were not written down in English. Pura shows the how storytelling can be more than is in books, and gets permission to tell her stories in her own way. Pura also finds ways to bring in children who had not been coming into the library, children who spoke different languages and were new to America. Finally, Pura manages to put her stories into a book, one that reminds her of the taste of home.
Through lyrical prose, this picture book shows the power of stories as they cross borders. It also shows the impact of one woman, determined not to lose her stories and how she changed public libraries and their services to children permanently. It is beautiful to see a biography for young children that captures the elements of Pura’s stories and her own personality of determination but also one of joy and playfulness.
The illustrations are filled with that spirit of play. They capture the spark of storytelling, the dance of movement, and the wonder of children entering the library for the first time. Done in the colors of citrus, papaya, guava and mango, they suit Pura’s stories and herself.
An inspiring biography of the librarian who changed the rules for generations to come. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Dream Street by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9780525581109)
Dream Street is a very special street where there is a strong sense of community even though everyone is different and has their own special dreams. Yusef waits for his brother while thinking of his ancestors who were kings and queens. Mr. Sidney sits on the stoop all dressed up every day, even though he’s just reading the newspaper. Belle wants to be a scientist who studies butterflies. Azaria is great at jumping rope and dreams of winning a trophy. Ms. Sarah has lived on Dream Street longer than anyone, her soft voice will tell you stories. Zion loves to spend time at the library. Ede collects odds and ends that others toss away while her cousin writes down what she hears. Dessa Rae has a gorgeous garden where she and her grandbaby sometimes sleep. Ms. Paula dances. Little Benjamin counts the stars. All of children on Dream Street can become whatever they want, cared for by a strong Black community.
Walker based Dream Street on the street that she grew up on. The individual stories of each person on the street stand alone and also form a tapestry of what people’s dreams look like both as a child and also as an adult. It is those critical adult stories amongst the children’s that show what a good life that followed dreams looks like and demonstrates that potential for all of the younger ones as well. The writing here is poetic and lovely, stringing the stories together into a whole that shows how one street, one community can be positive and strong.
Holmes’ illustrations are collages made from papers, fabric and acrylic paint. Filled with vibrant color, patterns, and textures, each image is a portrait of the person being described in that story. They are filled with beautiful Black faces and people, each with their own personality and style.
A book that shows how support from a community help dreams come true. Appropriate for ages 4-8.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Anne Schwartz Books.