Reviews of the 2023 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Winners


Where Wonder Grows
by Xelena González; illus. by Adriana M. Garcia
Primary    Cinco Puntos/Lee & Low    40 pp.
10/22    9781947627468    $17.95
e-book ed  9781947627475    $17.95




Honor Books

Phenomenal AOC: The Roots and Rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
by Anika Aldamuy Denise; illus. by Loris Lora
Primary    Harper/HarperCollins    40 pp.
9/22    9780063113749    $18.99






Srta. Quinces
by Kat Fajardo; illus. by the author; color by Mariana Azzi
Intermediate, Middle School    Graphix/Scholastic    256 pp.    g
5/22    978-1-338-53558-7    $24.99
Paper ed.  978-1-338-53559-4    $12.99
Spanish ed.  978-1-338-53565-5    $12.99

All Sue (Suyapa Yisel to her family) Gutiérrez wants to do this summer is hang out with her Comics Club buddies at Camp Willow. But her overprotective mom has planned a family trip to Honduras to see Abuelita Rita and celebrate Sue’s quinceañera — a party she never asked for and would rather skip. Feeling doomed to a boring and uninspiring summer, Sue finds that spending time with her abuelita, an artist herself, is anything but dull. Rita’s consejos — advice, wisdom, and family stories — help Sue gain a new closeness to her family and learn to cherish cultural traditions. With the coming-of-age ceremony, she resolves to “be braver and embrace [her] true colors,” adapting the longstanding tradition in a way that lets it remain relevant to her own life. Fajardo’s deft graphic-novel paneling and expressive use of line and Azzi’s color palette of cool blues and pinks convey the complexity and full range of Sue’s feelings, both in important moments and in more mundane ones. An author’s note, additional information about quinceañeras, and photographs are appended. LETTYCIA TERRONES

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The Coquíes Still SingThe Coquíes Still Sing
by Karina Nicole González; illus. by Krystal Quiles
Primary    Roaring Brook    40 pp.    g
8/22    978-1-250-78718-7    $18.99
Spanish ed.  978-1-250-78858-0    $18.99

González’s debut picture book follows Elena and her family in Puerto Rico before, during, and after Hurricane María, which devastated the archipelago in 2017. Elena loves picking ripe mangoes from her family’s tree and singing along with the coquíes, Puerto Rico’s beloved tree frogs, in the evening. When the hurricane strikes, Elena and her family take shelter in a closet and remain safe even after the roof is torn off their house. After the storm, Elena is heartbroken by the now-bare mango tree and the silence of the coquíes. She is comforted by her family and community members; Papi assures her that both the coquíes and their neighborhood will “come back.” A hopeful yellow permeates Quiles’s textured gouache and acrylic, digitally finished illustrations, visible in the flesh of a mango, candlelight during the storm, glowing seeds of “gold,” and finally the returning coquíes. González’s sensory text captures Elena’s complex feelings, the lingering damage in the aftermath of the hurricane, and the ways she finds optimism and strength in her community and nature. A glossary, information about coquíes and rebuilding efforts post-María, and personal notes from the author and illustrator are appended. Concurrently published in Spanish as Los coquíes aún cantan. MONICA DE LOS REYES

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Still Dreaming / Seguimos soñandoStill Dreaming / Seguimos soñando
by Claudia Guadalupe Martínez; illus. by Magdalena Mora; trans. into Spanish by Luis Humberto Crosthwaite
Primary    Children’s/Lee & Low    40 pp.    g
10/22    978-0-89239-434-0    $20.95
e-book ed.  978-0-89239-477-7    $20.95

This book’s bilingual text tells the story of a young child and his parents as they leave the United States for Mexico during the repatriation process in the 1930s — an overlooked part of U.S. history. The child’s family — mother and son were born in the United States; Papá was born in Mexico — harvests pecans in Texas until new immigration policies and the threat of deportation force them to move to Mexico to keep their family together. Martínez’s straightforward prose centers the boy’s feelings of sadness, uncertainty, and hope as he leaves his home behind for a place he and Mamá only know about from Papá’s stories. The cool colors of Mora’s dreamlike gouache, ink, and digital illustrations offer reassurance as the family drives toward their future. An appended author’s note details a difficult history of forced migration shared by many, while the story emphasizes the importance of family and ultimately feels optimistic. Butterflies — a contemporary symbol of the immigrants’ rights movement — are included on most pages. This motif and the author’s note contextualize the historically set narrative within the continued struggle for immigrants’ rights. MONICA DE LOS REYES

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Magic: Once Upon a Faraway Land
by Mirelle Ortega; illus. by the author
Primary    Cameron/Abrams    40 pp.
9/22    9781951836573    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781647007935    $15.54




A Land of Books: Dreams of Young Mexihcah Word Painters
by Duncan Tonatiuh; illus. by the author
Primary    Abrams    48 pp.
11/22    9781419749421    $19.99
e-book ed.  9781647008550    $15.54

With his signature illustrations that draw from Mesoamerican codex pictographic aesthetics, Tonatiuh introduces a picture-book audience to the role that bookmaking played in ancient Mexihcah culture and cosmology. “Our parents are ­tlahcuilohqueh, painters of words,” explains the young narrator to her brother. She describes their bookmaking process, and a series of double-page spreads shows how organic materials — such as “the bark of the amacuahuitl tree” for the amatl (paper) and “plants, animals, and rocks” for dyes and ­drawings — are used to create the amoxtin, or ­wood-covered and decorated accordion-style books made of “long strips of paper with multiple page folds.” Mastery in painting and sculpture, as well as philosophical, scientific, humanistic, and spiritual understandings of the world and life upon it, were also required; and Tonatiuh makes clear connections to illustrate how Mesoamerica was an amoxtlalpan, meaning “land of books.” The girl also explains to her brother that “noblemen, priests, and wise elders” played important roles in interpreting the complex images, symbols, and designs of the amoxtin, which they would sing and perform for others to “hear the words and admire the images.” An author’s note provides historical context, centering the importance of preserving Indigenous art (“Sadly, of the thousands — perhaps hundreds of thousands — of books that were made in Mesoamerica before the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, only fifteen survive”), storytelling, and knowledge. A helpful pronunciation guide/glossary for the Nahuatl words used in the text and a robust bibliography are appended. LETTYCIA TERRONES

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Read reviews of the 2023 Pura Belpré Author Awards here and of the 2023 Pura Belpré YA Awards here. For more, click on the tag ALA LibLearnX 2023.

Horn Book
Horn Book

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.