Review: Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise

planting stories the life of librarian and storyteller pura belpre by anika aldamuy denise

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar (9780062748683)

The deep impact and life of librarian Pura Belpre is shown in this picture book biography. The first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City, Pura entered the job with a deep understanding of her native folklore and the power of storytelling with children. But the shelves of the library did not have any of the Puerto Rican tales. So Pura sets off to fix that as well as demonstrating ways to tell stories using puppets. Soon her first book is published and she can use it when she travels to different library branches to share her stories. Pura gets married to a musician and the two of them travel to different cities to perform his music and her stories. When her husband dies, Pura returns to New York City to discover that the stories she planted years ago have germinated something bigger.

Denise writes with a tone of wonder as she tells of this librarian who created her own way to tell the stories she loved. The text is infused with Spanish in a way that allows for comprehension and also clearly ties this book to its Puerto Rican subject. The text reads like poetry, gamboling across the page filled with activity and Pura’s own decisiveness.

The illustrations are rich and vibrant. They depict the library, Pura’s storytelling with children, and the subject matter of her stories. Filled with textures and deep colors, the illustrations pay close attention to the time period of the book and yet have a playful lightness to them as well.

A strong picture book biography of a remarkable librarian. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown


Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra

Inspired by a true story, this picture book shows the power of books and reading.  Ana is a small girl who lives in Colombia and adores books.  Her village is very remote though, so there is no library to go to.  Ana has just one book, given to her by her teacher, and she has read it over and over again.  Ana makes up her own stories that she tells her little brother at bedtime.  Then one day a man with two burros comes to their village.  The burros carry a library of books and he invites all of the children to select books to keep until he returns.  As she waits for the librarian to return, Ana creates her own book about him, his burros and his books.

Brown has created a book that is gentle and beautifully written.  Ana’s life is shown as loving and filled with blessings.  It will contrast vividly for American children with their own lifestyle.  Brown also focuses clearly on books and the power of reading and stories.  The story here is told clearly and warmly with sprinklings of Spanish throughout.

Parra’s illustrations have a lovely folk art feel to them.  Done in acrylics on board, they have a texture adds another dimension to the book.  The colors are bright, the storytelling portions filled with wild and amazing creatures, and the entire work makes a complete and unified package.

The entire book sings, revealing a different culture and the power of words (and librarians.)  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Tricycle Press.

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Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I Don’t)

Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley

Miss Brooks is a librarian who loves books.  She tries to share her enthusiasm for books with the children, but Missy is having none of it.  Then comes Book Week!  And Missy is asked to wear a costume and tell the class why she loves her favorite book.  Missy is certain that she will never fall in love with a book, but Miss Brooks remains sure that she will.  Book Week arrives and Missy has yet to find a book she likes.  They are either too flowery, too yippity, or too furry.  Miss Brooks sends more and more books home with her but she complains about them all.  Her mother tells her she is as stubborn as a wart.  Wart?  And Missy is off to find a book about warts where she finds and falls for Shrek!

Yes, this book does my librarian heart good, but it is also told with a great sense of humor.  Missy while dismissive and grumpy is also written with just the right tone.  Readers will wonder if there really is a book for this kid!  The book reads aloud well, and I can see librarians using it and then asking for a chance to find each kid the right book for them.  What a great way to sell our services!

Emberley’s art is a hoot.  I adored all of the costumes of Miss Brooks as she tries to get kids excited about books.  I particularly love the way that Missy is depicted with her overalls, woolly hat and glasses.  She is purely an individual and it shows. 

Recommended for any librarian to read and glow about, this book is also just right for kids who don’t think books are cool.  They just might love this one!  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.