The Storyteller's Candle (La velita de los cuentos; Children's Book Press, 2008) may be technically fiction, but it's a wonderful way to introduce children to Pura Belpre, the New York Public Library's first Puerto Rican librarian; and particularly appropriate today, on the eve of Three Kings' Day. In Lucia Gonzalez's story, it's the winter of 1929, and cousins Hildamar and Santiago, newly arrived in New York City from Puerto Rico, wonder if the Three Kings can travel that far. But then Pura Belpre welcomes them and their families to the library and organizes a Three Kings' Day celebration featuring a performance of the Perez y Martina folktale. You can read more about Belpre and her work as a storyteller, puppeteer and writer as well as a librarian in a biographical note at the back of the book, which has been published in a bilingual edition.
Lulu Delacre's warm and lovely illustrations also merit a note here and at the back of the book. They include bits of an original copy of the New York times from January 6, 1930 (that would be Three Kings' Day) that relate to the part of the story on that page. For local folks: Lulu Delacre will be at Aladdin's Lamp in Arlington on Sunday, January 11 at 1:30 to read from and sign The Storyteller's Candle. We'll try to be there, too!
[The 2009 Pura Belpre Award winners will be announced along with the other ALA award winners (like the Newbery and Caldecott) on January 26; perhaps The Storyteller's Candle will be among them. The Heartland Chapter of REFORMA held a mock Belpre session on Saturday; see the list of books under consideration here. Any opinions on the Belpre? Please share them here!]