Reviews of the 2017 Belpré Illustrator Award winners


camper_lowriders to the center of the earthLowriders to the Center of the Earth [Lowriders]
by Cathy Camper; illus. by Raúl the Third
Intermediate     Chronicle     128 pp.
7/16     978-1-4521-2343-1     $22.99

To win a competition, animal friends Lupe Impala, Elirio Malaria, and Flapjack Octopus build a rocket-powered lowrider out of space materials collected as they drive through the galaxy. The unique ballpoint-pen illustrations explode with energy as the hip, witty text drops occasional Spanish slang. An afterword explaining the history of lowrider cars puts the graphic novel into cultural context. Glos.


Honor Books:

Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound ArtistEsquivel!: Space-Age Sound Artist
by Susan Wood; illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh
Primary, Intermediate    Charlesbridge    32 pp.
9/16    978-1-58089-673-3    $17.95
e-book ed.  978-1-60734-825-2    $9.99

Growing up in Mexico, Juan Garcia Esquivel got an earful of mariachi, but he wanted to create his own sound. Self-taught and persistent, he was playing piano at a radio station at fourteen and leading an orchestra for a radio comedy show at seventeen. His sound was so infectious that word traveled to the United States; a record company invited him to New York, which led to international success. Esquivel’s rewardingly strange instrumentals and his innovations in stereo sound would come to define mid-twentieth-century lounge music. There’s not much personal information here — one must turn to the author’s note to learn that Esquivel died in 2002 — but the story of his professional rise is told with pep and a keen awareness of how to best explain Esquivel’s skills to young readers (“When the radio comedian needed music for a skit about, say, a stout man walking his tiny poodle down a busy city street, Juan had to imagine what that might sound like”). Illustrator Tonatiuh (The Princess and the Warrior, rev. 9/16), once again working within the tradition of the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Mixtec codex, takes a fittingly offbeat approach to portraying the very modern Esquivel, whose music, as Wood puts it, “sounded like a crazy rocket ride zigzagging through outer space.” Appended with source notes and lists of assorted resources. NELL BERAM

From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


tonatiuh_princess-and-the-warriorstar2 The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes
by Duncan Tonatiuh; 
illus. by the author
Primary    Abrams    40 pp.
10/16    978-1-4197-2130-4    $16.95

After a string of award-winning picture-book biographies (Separate Is Never Equal, rev. 7/14; Funny Bones, rev. 11/15), Tonatiuh turns to folklore for this adapted pourquoi story that explains the origins of two volcanoes in Mexico: Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl. Izta is a kind and beautiful princess; “suitors traveled from distant lands to woo her.” But despite promises of a life of luxury from several royal admirers, it’s the honest young warrior Popoca who captures her heart. Izta’s father, the 
emperor, sends Popoca off to fight and 
defeat rival ruler Jaguar Claw, at which point Popoca will earn Izta’s hand in marriage. But a tragic turn of events leads Izta to drink a powerful sleeping potion. Upon returning from battle and 
finding his love in a deep sleep from which she will not wake, Popoca takes her to the top of a mountain, hoping to revive her, but to no avail. Soon, “where once there was a princess with her true love by her side, two volcanoes emerged.” The style of Tonatiuh’s mixed-media art, an homage to the Mixtec codices, is instantly recognizable. The textured backgrounds are boldly colored, and the compositions convey a feeling of great motion throughout, but especially in battle scenes. Tonatiuh’s storytelling grows more assured with each title; this 
may be his best yet. Included in the excellent back matter are an author’s note, a glossary of the Nahuatl terms found sprinkled throughout the text, and a bibliography. SAM BLOOM

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

For more, click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2017.


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