7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #623: Featuring Paola Escobar

h1 January 27th, 2019 by jules

“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 has never left.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


In honor of tomorrow morning’s ALA Youth Media Awards, during which the winners of the Pura Belpré Award will be announced, I’m sharing some spreads today from Anika Aldamuy Denise’s Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré (HarperCollins, January 2019), illustrated by Paola Escobar.

The Pura Belpré Award — established in 1996 and named for Belpré, who was a librarian, puppeteer, and storyteller — is presented to a Latino or Latina writer and illustrator, whose work best portrays the Latino cultural experience in children’s and YA lit. Denise’s picture book biography tells the story of Belpré’s adult life, beginning in 1921 when she left her home in San Juan for what was supposed to be a one-time visit to New York for her sister’s wedding. “Words travel with her,” writes Denise, “stories her abuela taught her. Cuentos folklóricos Pura retold in the shade of a tamarind tree, in Puerto Rico.” Belpré ends up staying and working at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant. Finding no stories on the shelves that are from Puerto Rico, she tells them herself during story hour (where she lit a “story hour candle”) and also creates her own puppets to make the stories come alive in the library. “Spanish-speaking immigrants who once thought the library wasn’t for them,” the author writes in a closing note accentuating Belpré’s legacy, “now felt at home.”


“It is 1921. Pura Teresa Belpré leaves her home in San Juan for a visit to Nueva York. …”
(Click to enlarge spread and read text in its entirety)


Sharing these stories isn’t quite enough for Belpré, so she writes one to submit for publication. Pérez y Martina is published and is eventually followed by other books. As noted in the closing note, they became the first mainstream Latinx children’s books published in the U.S. Planting Stories also covers Belpré’s marriage to African-American composer and violinist Clarence Cameron White, as well as her work in cities across the country to tell stories. Belpré’s story is wrapped up in 1961 when she returns to the library after her husband’s death and sees other librarians at work — using puppets, sharing her books, and making story time come alive, as she did in her career.

It’s a reverent tribute to a groundbreaking librarian (and I love how the Spanish words incorporated into the text are not italicized). The illustrations are from Paola Escobar, who previously has been published overseas, as I understand it. She currently lives in Bogotá, Colombia. Here are a couple more spreads:


“In the children’s room, she lights the story hour candle … and begins …”
(Click to enlarge spread and read text in its entirety)


“… Now a published author and storyteller, Pura travels from branch to branch. …”
(Click to enlarge spread and read text in its entirety)



PLANTING STORIES: THE LIFE OF LIBRARIAN AND STORYTELLER PURA BELPRÉ. Text copyright © 2019 by Anika Aldamuy Denise. Illustrations © 2019 by Paola Escobar. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Librarians who light story hour candles!

2) I’m excited to hear the ALA Youth Media Awards tomorrow.

3) I’m about to finish Kelly Yang’s Front Desk, which is so good. I know it’s gotten some Newbery buzz and figured, for that reason, I’d have it done before tomorrow’s awards announcements. (I’ve done a pretty-okay job this year of having read a lot of other great novels that also happen to be getting Newbery buzz, but I’d not read this one.) I like Front Desk so much I think I’ll read it again — but this time out loud to my daughters.



4) Eisha and her boyfriend visited this week! (Eisha co-founded this blog with me — back in the day.)

5) I am, of course, 100% behind this article.

6) My daughter sewed her own Catbus (from the movie My Neighbor Totoro).

7) Gillian Anderson in Sex Education.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

6 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #623: Featuring Paola Escobar”

  1. Hooray for the ALA Book Awards tomorrow. I kind of wish I had gone to Seattle for it. I’m looking forward to the book about PURA BELPRÉ.
    My kicks:
    1. Bringing groceries to a former student who’s in college. Her boyfirend’s mother passed away and they had unforseen expenses to get to the funeral.
    2. A gift from my niece and family, Faeries by Alan Lee and Brian Froud.
    3. Searching for eagles in the gorge.
    4. Playing with a humongus camera lens (rented).
    5. Spooky foginess.
    6. Roses.
    7. Reading Beautiful Boy.
    Have a great week.

  2. Oh, Jules, I am so happy you highlighted Planting Stories! I love everything about this book, the words and artwork. I had to talk about it this week on my blog. I can hardly wait for the ALA YMA tomorrow. I know we are all cheering for our favorites. I have a feeling this is going to be a year of surprises.

    The word roses brings to mind wonderful summer days Jone. Thank you for that.

    1. Inter-library loan
    2. A Mock Caldecott Skype with students in Illinois
    3. Finishing and re-reading The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise
    4. Frozen pipes finally thawed and did not burst
    5. Heat
    6. Found someone to plow my driveway
    7. Being outside with Mulan; she loves the snow and makes me laugh

    Wishing everyone a super week!

  3. Good afternoon, Imps! Congrats to those nominated for the awards. Hello, Paolo!

    Here’s to planting the seeds of ideas and inspiration, for yourself and others!

    Jules: I hope your daughters enjoy the book, too! Hi Eisha!! Hello, Catbus! Did you see the news, that Gillian Anderson will be in The Crown season 4?

    Jone: That is so kind of you. My thoughts with her and her family.

    Margie: Sending you warmth!

    My kicks:
    1) Chocolate
    2) Colors
    3) Shades
    4) Distinctions
    5) Laughter
    6) Sharing
    7) Sound

  4. I LOVE this book. I’m so glad you featured it. Pura Belpre is such an inspiration.
    I love your kicks, too, Jules.
    My kicks:
    1. just a few hours (14 hours 39 minutes – but who’s counting!?) til the ALA announcements
    2. I spent the weekend reading a bunch of books getting Newbery attention. So good.
    3. post-rain green in drought-ridden LA

  5. What a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing this true story & the warm & lively illustrations by Paola Escobar. My recent visit to the NYPL reinforces my feeling of all the history contained in that beautiful building.

    Jules – hooray for candle lighting librarians who light fires within new readers. Your daughter is so talented with all of her sewn creations! Big fan of Gillian Andersen so I will have to put Sex Education in my TBW queue.Yay for getting to see Eisha, hi Eisha!

    Jone – yay for spotting eagles in the gorge. What a lovely kindness you did for your former student, & how nice that you still have that connection. That fog was pretty spooky.

    Margie – so glad the frozen pipes thawed & did not burst. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise sounds like a book I need to read. (It put me in mind of my favorite coyote – Charlie, of The Daily Coyote, by Shreve Stockton.) Hi to Mulan, hope the two of you enjoy more fun playing in the snow.

    LW – Chocolate & Laughter are my favorites of yours this week. That, and Sharing.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Taking a car load of things to Goodwill today. I feel lighter already.
    2) Cooking shrimp & asparagus slathered in garlic butter for dinner earlier this week.
    3) Fire in the fireplace Saturday night.
    4) Watched Roma, clearly a movie filmed with love.
    5) Daisy being silly & a good snuggler.
    6) Making progress on a project.
    7) Having a quiet night at home after a busy week – always a very nice thing.
    7.5) Seeing the super wolf blood moon, even if only in glimpses.

    Have a wonderful week everyone!

  6. Jone, I love your first kick. Also, I thought that said “spooky forgiveness,” and I had to think about that for a moment.

    Margie: I will go look up your post! … I am always jealous of your beautiful snow pictures. We MIGHT get, like, under an inch tonight, which is thrilling for everyone. Good news about your pipes, though I thought it says “pies.” I really need to not respond to kicks in the MORNING before I’ve had coffee.

    Little Willow: Yes, I’d heard that about Gillian Anderson, but I haven’t watched that show. Do you recommend it? … I like your free-verse poem kicks!

    Allison: What are you rooting for re the Newbery? I’m ready and waiting right now for the awards. I figured I’d TRY to work beforehand, but who am I kidding? I’m excited.

    Rachel, I reeeeally want to see Roma. And I love how cozy your kicks are.

    Have a good week, you all!

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