Books at Bedtime: The Storyteller’s Candle

The Storyteller's Candle/ La velita de los cusentos by Lucía González, illustrated by Lulu Delacre (Children's Book Press, 2008)The Storyteller’s Candle/ La velita de los cuentos Children’s Book Press, 2008) is one of the books selected for inclusion in the 2010 Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set, which is part of the Spirit of PaperTigers Project launched yesterday on our website. Set during the early years of the Great Depression (1929-1935), it tells the story of two children, cousins Hildamar and Santiago, who have moved with their families from Puerto Rico to New York and how their lives are transformed by coming into contact with librarian Pura Belpré, whose pioneering work revolutionised the roles of libraries within their communities.

This telling of Pura Belpré’s work through the eyes of children, written by Lucía Gonzalez, makes a very special readaloud, both to a group of children and cosily at home. As the whole Puerto Rican community of El Barrio joins together to put on a play at the library to celebrate el Día de los Reyes, Three Kings’ Day on the 6th January, the cold outside is forgotten and the library is filled with the warmth not only from the roaring fire, but also from people’s hearts. Then, at the end,

“Ms. Belpré concluded the show in her usual way. “Close your eyes and make a wish,” she whispered as she held the storyteller’s candle.

Lulu Delacre’s gorgeous illustrations (and you can see some of them in her PaperTigers Gallery) are particularly special because she has added collage details to every page using a newspaper from 6th January 1930. I think my favorite, wittily accompanying this illustration of the audience at the library, is a column of thank yous to theatre critics for rave reviews…

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Of course, Pura Belpré’s work continues to be commemorated by grown-ups with the awarding of the Pura Belpré medal, whose 2010 winners were announced in January. The Storyteller’s Candle means that children can share in her wonderful story too – and enjoy her legacy of libraries as hubs in their communities.

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