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Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

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Follow la vida y legado of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. When she came to America in 1921, Pura carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular stories into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have g Follow la vida y legado of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. When she came to America in 1921, Pura carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular stories into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and cuentistas continue to share her stories and celebrate Pura’s legacy. This portrait of the influential librarian, author, and puppeteer reminds us of the power of storytelling and the extraordinary woman who opened doors and championed bilingual literature.


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Follow la vida y legado of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. When she came to America in 1921, Pura carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular stories into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have g Follow la vida y legado of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. When she came to America in 1921, Pura carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular stories into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and cuentistas continue to share her stories and celebrate Pura’s legacy. This portrait of the influential librarian, author, and puppeteer reminds us of the power of storytelling and the extraordinary woman who opened doors and championed bilingual literature.

30 review for Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This is a truly delightful book celebrating the first Puerto Rican librarian who sowed "story seeds" in New York Public Library. Indeed, Pura Belpré authored and created a collection of Latinx storybooks for the Library, the first of their kind in America. I loved the language and the incorporation of some Spanish phrases and the pictures truly absorbed my interest.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Laura Harrison

    The last few years have produced the most remarkable and exquisite children's literature biographies. Planting Stories is probably my favorite. Above all of the titles I have purchased and reviewed through the years. I haven't been this excited about a picture book since Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. Not only is the subject, Pura Belpre (heck-there is an important children's literature award named after her), incredibly important, the illustrations are some of the most detailed and beautiful that I The last few years have produced the most remarkable and exquisite children's literature biographies. Planting Stories is probably my favorite. Above all of the titles I have purchased and reviewed through the years. I haven't been this excited about a picture book since Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. Not only is the subject, Pura Belpre (heck-there is an important children's literature award named after her), incredibly important, the illustrations are some of the most detailed and beautiful that I have ever seen in children's literature. It is only January but Planting Seeds may be one of the best books of 2019.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Castle Spooktacular

    LOVED IT! I am such a sucker for stories about people who have paved the way for literacy, learning, and librarianship. This was a great account of a woman who helped diversify children's literature by publishing stories, curating puppetshows, and planting seeds of change during the 1920s and beyond. Best of all, the illustrations were absolutely dreamy, detailed, and downright gorgeous.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Abigail

    Author Anika Aldamuy Denise and illustrator Paola Escobar explore the life of celebrated storyteller, librarian and author Pura Belpré in this lovely new picture-book biography. The first Puerto Rican to work at the New York Public Library, Belpré hosted storytelling sessions in which she shared the folklore of her native island with young children, eventually going on to publish many of those tales. The Pura Belpré Award, which is given by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), Author Anika Aldamuy Denise and illustrator Paola Escobar explore the life of celebrated storyteller, librarian and author Pura Belpré in this lovely new picture-book biography. The first Puerto Rican to work at the New York Public Library, Belpré hosted storytelling sessions in which she shared the folklore of her native island with young children, eventually going on to publish many of those tales. The Pura Belpré Award, which is given by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and which recognizes outstanding children's books depicting the Latino cultural experience in the United States, is named in her honor... As a long time admirer of Pura Belpré, one who has read almost all of her work, I was delighted when Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré came in to work. I recognized the author as the creator of Starring Carmen and its sequels, which I have enjoyed, and I found the cover-art appealing. The narrative here was engaging and informative - I particularly liked the mention of Perez and Martina ! - and the illustrations simply gorgeous. Paola Escobar utilizes a lovely color palette, and has a charming style. There is an author's note, and a list of sources and reading ideas at the rear. All in all, an educational and entertaining work of picture-book biography, one I would recommend to fellow Pura Belpré fans, and to young book and story lovers.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karina

    Rating: 5 Stars: ★★★★★ Planting Stories is a beautiful & heartwarming picture book that follows Pura Belpré when she moves from Puerto Rico to New York & continues to spread her love of stories! 📚✨ Not only is the art detailed and magnificent, but it also brings Belpré's story to life! Belpré is an avid storyteller who grew up sharing the tales her abuela told her! So, now in New York, she finds her love of stories taking her on a journey to become a librarian (the 1st bilingual assistant) Rating: 5 Stars: ★★★★★ Planting Stories is a beautiful & heartwarming picture book that follows Pura Belpré when she moves from Puerto Rico to New York & continues to spread her love of stories! 📚✨ Not only is the art detailed and magnificent, but it also brings Belpré's story to life! Belpré is an avid storyteller who grew up sharing the tales her abuela told her! So, now in New York, she finds her love of stories taking her on a journey to become a librarian (the 1st bilingual assistant), bring more latinx folktales & stories to the NYC Public Library, spark a love for stories/storytelling, even become an author herself to bring her tales from Puerto Rico to many more readers! This is a delightful picture book and easily one of my favorites of the year! Highly recommend this wonderful book that shares the story of Pura Belpré!!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chance Lee

    A wonderful story about a woman important to libraries, children's literature, and the art of storytelling. And my god the illustrations are electrifyingly good.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lesa

    Once in a while, I come across a children's picture book that needs to be shared. This time, my friend, Donna, shared a copy of Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré. Author Anika Aldamuy Denise's flowing language goes hand-in-hand with the beautiful illustrations by Paola Escobar. This is the gorgeous story of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City, a storyteller, and the woman for whom the Pura Belpré Award was named, an award given to Lati Once in a while, I come across a children's picture book that needs to be shared. This time, my friend, Donna, shared a copy of Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré. Author Anika Aldamuy Denise's flowing language goes hand-in-hand with the beautiful illustrations by Paola Escobar. This is the gorgeous story of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City, a storyteller, and the woman for whom the Pura Belpré Award was named, an award given to Latinx authors and illustrators. It's a story that made me cry. In 1921, Pura Belpré came to New York City to attend her sister's wedding. She brought her own ideas of "story seeds", stories to plant. Pura stayed in New York after the wedding, first working in a garment factory. But, then, she saw an ad for a library assistant. The public library hired her because she spoke English, Spanish, and French, and they needed a bilingual assistant. Pura's role at the library grew when she discovered there were no books in Spanish. She told stories she brought from Puerto Rico, eventually made puppets for those stories, and, finally wrote a book to fit the needs of the children and the library. Pura Belpré's story is a love story. It's about her love for stories, her language, children, the man she married. It's about her travels as an ambassador for stories. It's about her return to the New York Public Library, where others had taken up her role. But, she remained an ambassador, and the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Library Association. Why did I cry? The author and illustrator together created a book that imparts the message of stories and love, the importance of what Pura Belpré did. I'll admit, many readers may not appreciate the message or this book as much as I did. If the message of a librarian's role doesn't touch your heart, perhaps Paola Escobar's illustrations will. Planting Stories is a book for my heart.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Margie

    More times than readers can count, they find answers in books to questions they haven't yet asked. Several years ago, in attendance at a storytelling class, it was suggested to begin and close a storytelling event with a candle or lamp. When the lamp is lit, the magic of storytelling starts. After the final tale is told, the flame is extinguished. Listeners are asked to make three wishes; one for someone anywhere in the world who needs it, one for someone they love (including pets) and the final More times than readers can count, they find answers in books to questions they haven't yet asked. Several years ago, in attendance at a storytelling class, it was suggested to begin and close a storytelling event with a candle or lamp. When the lamp is lit, the magic of storytelling starts. After the final tale is told, the flame is extinguished. Listeners are asked to make three wishes; one for someone anywhere in the world who needs it, one for someone they love (including pets) and the final wish for themselves. They are, after all, very important people. As the flame is blown out, the wishes travel out in the world. Decades ago a wonderful parent gave me my storytelling lamp with a wick to light as it coils in oil in the body. It wasn't until reading a new release yesterday, the possible origin of lighting a storytelling flame was presented to me. Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 15, 2018) written by Anika Aldamuy Denise with illustrations by Paola Escobar depicts a marvelous portrait of a woman whose star will remain shining. Story was her gift. It still grows. My full recommendation: https://librariansquest.blogspot.com/...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jillian Heise

    A beautiful book with a beautiful story from about the life of Pura Belpre.

  10. 5 out of 5

    KC

    The fantastic story behind the wonderful and talented Puerto Rican native storyteller and librarian, Pura Belpré

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    (3.5) I loved learning about Pura Belpré and her passion for sharing Puerto Rican stories with her community, and while the illustrations were lovely, they seemed a little flat to me on the page.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amy Layton

    This book was recommended to me by a fellow librarian, and given that it was just published, our academic library didn't yet have it.  And, considering our academic library serves a large community of library science students, I figured that we could get away with purchasing more resources about librarians.  So we did!   Planting Stories is a beautiful, biographical tale about Pura Belpre who made space for herself and her culture in her library.  The focus is more on her work as a librarian rath This book was recommended to me by a fellow librarian, and given that it was just published, our academic library didn't yet have it.  And, considering our academic library serves a large community of library science students, I figured that we could get away with purchasing more resources about librarians.  So we did!   Planting Stories is a beautiful, biographical tale about Pura Belpre who made space for herself and her culture in her library.  The focus is more on her work as a librarian rather than her as a wife or parent, which was just...incredible.  Finally, a biography about a specific aspect of a person's life that doesn't completely shift focus into her home life!   Not only that, but the illustrations are absolutely beautiful--they're colorful, evocative, bright, joyful.  I'm going to definitely keep an eye on this book as the year continues.  I think this book will make its way into award committee meetings, either for its nonfiction genre or for its illustrations.  I mean, maybe it's my own bias of absolute love for this book, but I also think that this book, if more widely recognized, will take the literary world by storm.  I'm excited to see where it goes! Review cross-listed here!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie Lawrence

    This was just wonderful! A perfect book to read at the beginning of a Belpré unit but also a wonderful biography about using your strengths, storytelling, culture and language to make a difference in your community. I loved the illustrations and learning about Pura Belpré. Made me proud to be a part of the profession!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alex (not a dude) Baugh

    After hearing Anika Aldamuy Denise speak about one of her heroes, Pura Belpré, at the Bank Street Latinx Mini-Conference last week, I knew I had to read her book. And what better place to do that than the place where Pura Belpré had such an immense impact - the NYPL. Pura Belpré first arrived in New York in 1921, leaving her native Puerto Rico for what she thought would be a to visit to celebrate her sister's wedding, but she decided to stay. Her first job was in the garment factory, but she left After hearing Anika Aldamuy Denise speak about one of her heroes, Pura Belpré, at the Bank Street Latinx Mini-Conference last week, I knew I had to read her book. And what better place to do that than the place where Pura Belpré had such an immense impact - the NYPL. Pura Belpré first arrived in New York in 1921, leaving her native Puerto Rico for what she thought would be a to visit to celebrate her sister's wedding, but she decided to stay. Her first job was in the garment factory, but she left that to work in the library. When Pura came to NY, she brought all the stories her abuela taught her, stories that she loved so much from her homeland. At the library, she discovered there were no stories from Puerto Rico, and decided it was time to change that. Pretty soon, Pura was telling her stories to the kids visiting the library, stories about Martina, the beautiful cockroach and Pérez, a gallant mouse. Later, she made puppets for help bring her stories to life, and soon, more and more people came to hear the wonderful tales Pura had brought with her from Puerto Rico. She began writing down her stories and Pérez y Martina became a book. This is a beautifully written book about a woman who made such a difference to the children of New York as she told her stories, visiting not only different library branches, but also churches, classrooms, and community centers "planting her story seed in the hearts and minds of children new to this island who wish to remember la lengua y los colores of home." The idea of planting stories is consistently carried throughout Anika Aldamuy Denise's lyrical text and Paola Escobar's brightly colored folk art style illustrations, with flowers floating over the each of the pages. Scattered throughout the book are Spanish words and phrases, all of which are easy to understand even if you don't speak Spanish. And although this is a biography of Pura Belpré, there is an important subtext at work at well. That subtext reminds us that we don't have to leave our culture behind when we settle in another country, but that we can plant what we bring with us and it will once again thrive. Back matter consists of an Author's Note (be sure to read that), a Selected Bibliography, the location of the Archival Collections for both Pura and her husband, musician Clarence Cameron White, Articles and Films, suggestions for Further Reading, and the Stories by Pura Belpré Mentioned in This Book. This book is recommended for readers age 4+ This book was borrowed from the NYPL

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    This is the kind of picture book biography that belongs on any librarian’s shelves, not only because the illustrations (and endpapers!) are absolutely gorgeous, but because the story of Pura Belpre’s lasting impact on children’s librarianship and the Latinx community is both a wonder and an inspiration. My favorite picture book bio featuring a librarian to date!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This is genuinely everything I wanted from a picture book about Pura Belpre. The illustrations are breathtaking, the story is engaging, and it's a really great introduction to the life of an incredible woman, as well as an incredible introduction to the magical world of libraries and storytelling. Highly recommended!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Warm, evocative photos and a well-told text of Belpre's life make this a picture book to delight youngsters, caregivers, and library staff alike! Great for a longer read-to story (older preschool through first or second grade) or a read-alone for second graders.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Mcbroom

    Story of Pura Belpre who came from Puerto Rico to New York City and starts out at New York Public Library. Hence there she realizes there are no Puerto Rican stories so she becomes one of the top storytellers. Illustrations are colorful and bright!

  19. 5 out of 5

    J.D. Spero

    By keeping alive the stories of her homeland, Pura Belpre touched the lives of so many. Well researched and from the heart, Denise plants seeds of her own with this inspiring story of an immigrant's gift to America's canon of multicultural storytelling. Escobar’s illustrations are elegant and as lush and vibrant as the language they bring to life. An important addition to ALL libraries—in town, in school, and at home.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    I didn't know there were biographies about librarians, much less (or specifically) the first Puerto Rican librarian! This book meant a lot to me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Adriana

    gorgeous illustrations beautiful story

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannahlily

    The art is phenomenal. Wish the text weren't quite so vague.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    I LOVED THIS BOOK!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emma (Miss Print)

    Very good. Very beautifully illustrated. But a bit text heavy if I'm being honest.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Strong

    This makes me want to be a librarian so bad!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Terrific pb bio of a storyteller, librarian, and puppeteer who brought Puerto Rican stories to the U.S. Lovely illustrations (and those endpapers!) and storytelling with a movement and cadence that brings Pura Belpre to life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tj Shay

    Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre is the rare biography-ish book that is so extremely interesting and packs enough facts intermixed with ideas that expand your thoughts about the person. Thinking of the amazing Pura as planting stories for future generations is a revelation.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aliza Werner

    Lush illustrations bring the warmth of Puerto Rico to the pages of this story of Pura Belpré, the first NYPL librarian from PR. The author and illustrator are both Latina #OwnVoices. One feature I loved most was all of the Spanish words sprinkled throughout the text. Using context clues, readers can figure out what those words translate to in English.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    Loved the story and the infusion of Spanish without explanation

  30. 5 out of 5

    Angie Quantrell

    Gorgeous! Bold, explosive illustrations paired with vivid text make this a must read.

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