The Storyteller's Candle

Overview

During the early days of the Great Depression, New York City's first Puerto Rican librarian, Pura Belprâe, introduces the public library to immigrants living in El Barrio and hosts the neighborhood's first Three Kings' Day fiesta.
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Overview

During the early days of the Great Depression, New York City's first Puerto Rican librarian, Pura Belprâe, introduces the public library to immigrants living in El Barrio and hosts the neighborhood's first Three Kings' Day fiesta.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Introducing Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian hired by the New York Public Library system, this warmhearted Spanish/English bilingual story adopts the perspectives of two children who are inspired by Belpré to enter a library for the very first time. During a cold, Depression-era winter, Belpré organizes the community to hold a Three Kings' Day festival at the library. In telling the story, González livens the English text with a sprinkling of Spanish words, and chooses facts of interest to children, but streamlines biographical details so that she can focus on the characters. Delacre's inviting oil and collage illustrations cleverly incorporate sepia-toned clippings from a January 6, 1930, New York Times, turning them into architectural elements, books, furniture, etc. With this simple and affectionate story, González and Delacre (both winners of the ALA's Pura Belpré Honor Medal) broadcast Belpré's welcome message to new generations of immigrants-"Remember, the library belongs to you all," Belpré says. "We'll blow out the storyteller's candle, and your wish will come true." Ages 4-8. (Apr.)

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Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
The story of Hildamar and her cousin Santiago, immigrants from Puerto Rico awaiting their first Christmas in 1929 in icy New York, introduces Pura Belpre, the librarian for whom the award for Latino writers and illustrators is named. Belpre, New York City's first Latina librarian, made Spanish-speaking children feel welcome in the public library. She lights the storyteller's candle then tells the children a story in Spanish. They plan a fiesta for the traditional Three Kings' Day there with the help of friends and neighbors. Delacre's oil wash scenes spill over the gutters to incorporate the English and Spanish texts. There is an honest, almost folk-like quality to the detailed scenes, projecting images of the time. She also incorporates bits of newspaper clippings of the period, using them to simulate books, benches, office buildings, even the edges of sidewalks. There is relevant information, like the shipping news, as the story describes the children's voyage from Puerto Rico. Also included are introductory notes, additional information about Belpre, a glossary, and notes about the artwork. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

Gr 1-4- Two Pura Belpré Honor Award winners have created a moving portrait of New York City's first Puerto Rican librarian, a woman whose work has inspired generations of young people in the communities she served. It's 1929, and Hildamar, who arrived in northern Manhattan only a few months before, misses the warmth and holiday celebrations of Puerto Rico. At school, she meets Pura Belpré, who tells her class stories in Spanish and English, explains that the library belongs to everyone, and invites them to visit during winter vacation. Hildamar comes to hear Ms. Belpré's tales, see her puppets, and make wishes as she blows out the storyteller's candle. When she announces plans for a Three Kings' Day fiesta, the members of northern Manhattan's El Barrio help prepare for the event and discover at the library the comfort of their own language and memories of Puerto Rico. On January 6, 1930, the holiday is observed with sweets, music, and a play about a Spanish cockroach named Martina. The well-written text is presented in both Spanish and English. The illustrations were created with layers of oil washes and collage. Tantalizing bits of the New York Times from that date are embedded in the artwork, giving hints of the larger world-steamship arrivals, theater reviews, and even an account of Three Kings' Day in San Juan. Sepia tones evoke the time period and the setting. A lovely offering about the role of librarians in the lives of children.-Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN

Kirkus Reviews
The first Puerto Rican librarian hired by the New York Public Library was Pura Belpre, still renowned for her storytelling and her books of folktales. Set in 1929, this bilingual story follows two Puerto Rican children who live in Manhattan's El Barrio and discover their local branch library. Their immigrant parents can't believe that the library cares about its Spanish-speaking community, but Hildamar and her cousin Santiago lead the way after an outreach visit to their school by the Puerto Rican-born librarian. They join in happily as Belpre organizes a special Three Kings' Day event, complete with a play based on her famous story Perez and Martina (published in book form in 1932). The evening ends with the blowing out of "the storyteller's candle," a New York Public Library tradition. Gonzalez is a librarian, a bilingual storyteller and author, and the English and Spanish texts both read smoothly. The collage illustrations incorporate a sepia-toned oil-wash technique to give the pictures an older look. (author's notes, glossary) (Picture book. 6-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892392223
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2008
  • Edition description: Bilingual
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2010

    Beautiful Connections

    What a wonderful book! The delightful duet of author Lucia Gonzalez and illustrator Lulu Delacre presents us with a story of Pura Belpre, the namesake of the Pura Belpre Medal for children's books that best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino culture. During the years of the depression, families from Puerto Rico journeyed to New York to live a better financial life; however, this left many Latino children with a lack of a connection to their culture. Being the first Latina librarian in New York, Ms. Belpre brought the warmth of Puerto Rico to the homesick children of El Barrio with her great talent of storytelling during the cold of winter. Together, Gonzalez and Delacre tell us of how one woman influenced and introduced an entire neighborhood of children to the wonders of the public library which offered books in Spanish. It is no wonder why Lucia Gonzalez and Lulu Delacre won the prestigious honor of the Pura Belpre Medal. The book is written in both English and Spanish with a glossary of Spanish terms for Anglo children (Anglo women as well: me). Delacre's beautiful and unique illustrations are works of a masterpiece!
    I really want this book for my future classroom. I highly recommend this work to everyone. Please read it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2009

    Warm, winning introduction to the work of the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York, Pura Belpré

    Beautiful writing and captivating illustrations bring the library's warmth to readers while injecting the scenes with a flavor of the era. Gonzalez's prose conveys the closeness and cultural pride of immigrants longing for their old lives as they learn to embrace the new.
    This is a special book that I recommend for the holidays as well as for any other time of the year. Great historical fiction for lower elementary grades.

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