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Publishers’ Preview: Picture Books: Five Questions for Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the November/December 2018 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Picture Books, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

Sponsored byHarperCollins

Before the award, there was a Great Lady, and in Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, author Anika Aldamuy Denise and illustrator Paola Escobar celebrate her contributions.

Photo of Anika Aldamuy Denise (L): Chris Denise. Photo of Paola Escobar: Alejandro Mesa.

1. Anika, did Pura Belpré really meet her husband at an ALA convention?

AAD: Yes, she did, in Cincinnati! Dr. Clarence Cameron White, an internationally known violinist and composer, was in town conducting the June Festival of Music. Belpré hosted a storytelling performance of Pérez y Martina, and Dr. White was in the audience. He told her he thought the folktale would make a fine ballet and promised to pursue the idea. A few years later, they were married. How’s that for a meet-cute?

2. What do you think is the most important quality for a children’s librarian to possess?

AAD: An understanding that access to a diverse array of stories opens minds, encourages empathy, gives voice to the marginalized, creates community, and helps kids feel more connected — less alone. They’re allies and advocates who provide safe harbor in a bumpy world.

3. Paola, were you a library user in childhood?

PE: During the hour of rest at my school in Colombia, I used to like to go to the library and pass the time reading novels and picture books. I loved to look at the illustrations and to imagine how the artists constructed the images, colors, textures, and shapes. It was one of my favorite pastimes when I was a girl, and I still do it!

4. Do you know New York?

PE: I don’t, personally, but in order to illustrate Pura’s world, I read and researched a great deal about New York’s history, architecture, and culture. I looked at many photographs and videos to be able to capture the city’s essence. I am now absolutely in love with New York, and I hope that someday I can get to know the city as Pura did.

5. What one question would you ask Pura Belpré?

PE: “What does happiness mean to you?” Then I would give her a hug and tell her that I admire her a lot!

AAD: “What do you wish we were doing better in continuing the work you began?” And then I’d listen well. And thank her for lighting the way.

Sponsored byHarperCollins

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