The Américas Awards honor authors, illustrators, and publishers for quality children's and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the US. Both primary and secondary reading levels are chosen. This award was founded in 1993. Click here for more about the Américas Award, including the most recent winners. A list of all previous winners can be found here.
This post shares my reviews of some wonderful picture books that have won an Américas Award. Follow-up posts will cover honorable mention and commended picture books as well as winning novels. (To see a compilation of many diverse book awards, please read Spotlight on Diverse Book Awards or click on the Award-Winning Books tag.)
Américas Award-Winning Picture Books
2015: Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation [a Pura Belpré Honor book and a Siebert Honor book]. This is an important book that sheds light on a lesser known side of the Civil Rights Movement: the segregation of children of Mexican and Hispanic descent, especially on the West Coast. I think it is critical for kids today to understand that discrimination is not just a white/black issue and that many groups have been treated differently for many "reasons." (Click on Part 1 or Part 2 to read more about other books written and/or illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.)
2012: Pablo Neruda: poet of the people (2011) by Monica Brown and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. This biography of Pablo Neruda provides a look at his life and how they influenced his poems. The amazing illustrations complement and extend the text, as they are also overflowing with English and Spanish words. This book sparked some interesting conversations with my students, particularly around the idea that Pablo Neruda had to leave his home country of Chile but was not a criminal.
2011: Clemente! (2010) by Willie Perdomo and illustrated by Bryan Collier. Rather than simply a biography of the famous baseball player, Clemente! is more of a spoken-word ode, told through the eyes of a young boy who was named after him. This format allows the book to highlight both the accomplishments and the impact that Clemente had on his fans and fellow Puerto Ricans. Backmatter includes a timeline about Clemente's life and a note from both the author and illustrator.
2010: What Can You Do with a Paleta? (2009) by Carmen Tafolla and illustrated by Magaly Morales. This poetic ode to the paleta introduces the joy of hearing the bell of the paleta man, choosing a favorite flavor, and enjoying the opportunities created. (Intrigued? I also stumbled across this in my Amazon search for this book: Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas.) And in keeping with the food theme ...
2008: Yum! MmMm! Qué rico! America's Sproutings by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael Lopez. This bright and delightful book has so many wonderful things going for it. As a former anthropologist, I love the theme, celebrating the indigenous plants and foods of the Americas. The bright color palate and style also works really well to set off the haiku and the informative text boxes for each two-page spread. (Read more in Poetry Friday: Indigenous Food Haiku.)
2006: Josias, Hold the Book (2005) by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren and illustrated by Nicole Tadgell. Josias cannot go to school with his friends, as he has a lot of work tending his family's gardens. But as his beans struggle to grow, he begins to understand that books might hold the answers he is seeking. The Author's Note explains some of the difficulties children in Haiti face in trying to get an education.
[An aside, the only qualifications listed about the author are that she has "sponsored children" who live in Haiti, which makes me wonder about the depth of her cultural knowledge in writing this book, although it was chosen for this award. For more, see my post on How to Find High-Quality Diverse Literature.]
2004: My name is Celia: the life of Celia Cruz / Me llamo Celia: la vida de Celia Cruz (2004) by Monica Brown and illustrated by Rafael Lopez. More than a decade before Drum Dream Girl, Rafael Lopez brought his artistic flair for colors to this biography of Cuban-born singer Celia Cruz. Told in first-person, the text is informative but a little flat - something about the first-person narration here makes some of the proclamations seem more like bragging than information. There is also a detailed author's note with more details about Celia's life and impact. Bilingual English / Spanish.
2003: Just a Minute: a trickster tale and counting book (2003) by Yuyi Morales (also a Pura Belpré Award winner). In this inventive trickster tale, Grandma Beetle is surprised to find the skeleton Señor Calavera beckoning her to follow. Imposing on his politeness, Grandma Beetle continues with an escalating list of tasks (with numbers in both English and Spanish). Kids will delight in this outrageous outsmarting of Death.
Need more? Click here to read about more Award-Winning Books or check out honorable mention and commended books here or award-winning novels here.
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