THE STORIES I READ TO THE CHILDREN
The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré, The Legendary Storyteller, Children’s Author and New York Public Librarian
By Pura Belpré, Selected, edited, and biographical introduction by Lisa Sánchez González
286 pages; notes, works cited, index; 6 x 9
ISBN: 978-1-878483-80-5 (paperback)
About this book
The Stories I Read to the Children documents, for the very first time, Pura Belpré’s contributions to North American, Caribbean, and Latin American literary and library history. Thoroughly researched but clearly written, this study is scholarship that is also accessible to general readers, students, and teachers.
Pura Belpré (1899-1982) is one of the most important public intellectuals in the history of the Puerto Rican diaspora. A children’s librarian, author, folklorist, translator, storyteller, and puppeteer who began her career during the Harlem Renaissance and the formative decades of the New York Public Library, Belpré is also the earliest known Afro-Caribeña contributor to American literature.
In The Stories I Read to the Children, Lisa Sánchez González has collected, edited, and annotated over 40 of Belpré’s stories and essays, most of which have never been published. Her introduction to the volume is the most extensive study to date of Belpré’s life and writing.
Table of Contents
Pura Belpré (1899–1982): Her Life and Writing
The Legacy of Pura Belpré
Pura Belpré’s Early Life, Education, and Migration to New York City (1899–1921)
Pura Belpré and The NYPL’s “Storybook Jesuits” (1921–1944)
Pura Belpré’s Contributions to American Children’s Literature and Puerto Rican Folklore (1932–1982)
A Career Interlude: Pura Belpré’s Marriage to Clarence Cameron White (1943–1961)
Pura Belpré’s Significance to American (the Americas’) Literary History Notes on the Selected Writing
Pura Belpré: Her Life in Pictures
Section I: Pura Belpré’s Published Stories: A Selection
Perez and Martina
Casi Lampu’a Lentemué
The Albahaca Plant
Juan Bobo and the Queen’s Necklace
The Cat, the Mountain Goat, and the Fox
The Rainbow-Colored Horse
The Three Magi
The Three Figs
Yuisa and Pedro Mexias
The Legend of the Hummingbird
The Parrot Who Wouldn’t Say “Cataño”
The Stone Dog
Section II: Pura Belpré’s Unpublished Stories: A Selection
Anita and Guasimindo Yacumbé
The Curious Cobbler
The Prince and the Devil’s Ear
The Fisherman and His Sons
The Village Mango Tree
The Three Brothers
Simple John (Juan Bobo)
The Little Chick
The Parrot Who Liked to Eat Spanish Sausages
The King’s Cow: A Nonsense Story
Section III: Pura Belpré’s Essays: A Selection
The Folklore of the Puerto Rican Child
The Art of Writing for Children
Writing a Story
Writing for Bilingual Children
Bilingual Group Work with Parents
Work With Bilingual Children.
My Work in the Children’s Room
The Reluctant Reader: What Makes Him?
I Wished to Be Like Johnny Appleseed
Fragment on Racism and Children’s Fiction
Chronology of Pura Belpré’s Published Monograph
Glossary of Spanish Words and Phrases
About the Author
Pura Belpré was the legendary storyteller, librarian and children’s book author.
Lisa Sánchez González lives in an enchanted forest, where she has recently finished writing a collection of short stories entitled Puerto Rican Folktales/ Cuentos folclóricos puertorriqueños. She is also the author of Boricua Literature: A Literary History of the Puerto Rican Diaspora (NYU Press, 2001) and a myriad of essays on American and Caribbean literary history. Sánchez studied Comparative Literature at UCLA (PhD 1995) and has taught at universities in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Brazil. She now works at the University of Connecticut, where she is Associate Professor of English.
This book, a collection of Belpré's stories and essays, introduced by a biography, seeks to fill that gap and draw attention to this important historical figure. Sánchez González provides a brief biographical sketch of Belpré, drawing from relatively unexplored archival sources and accessibly situating Belpré's life and work within larger contexts of the history of Puerto Rican diaspora, the genesis of children's librarianship as a profession, feminist folklore studies, and the development of an ethnically conscious Latina/o literature, suggesting directions for further research. She also has carefully selected thirty-two of Belpré's Puerto Rican folktales, seventeen previously published (though, to date, out of print) and fifteen never-before published, all of which are wondrous in their simple magic and showcase the Spanish, Indigenous, and African roots of Puerto Rican oral culture, as well as Belpré's phenomenal talent as a storyteller… Folklore enthusiasts and storytellers are sure to find this collection of tales and history useful as a resource for a fairly untapped folkloric tradition, and teachers, librarians, and scholars with interests in fields as diverse as ethnic studies, library and information science, literary history, and performance studies. Thaddeus Andraki, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books More...
For too long, Belpré has been regarded as a “quiet pioneer” and I cannot think of a better way of bringing to light and celebrating her life and achievements than publishing, for the first time, a comprehensive volume that includes an insightful introduction and a selection of her essays and published and unpublished stories. Edna Acosta-Belén, University at Albany, SUNY
The Stories I Read to the Children provides a new way of reading children's literature through a gendered and cultural lens… Sánchez González provides the keys for reading and understanding the significance of Pura Belpré’s contributions to American literature and librarianship. She brings to life the passion that Belpré had for inspiring a love of reading in children. Richard Chabran, University of Arizona
Simply stated, The Stories I Read to Children is the most comprehensive work on the life and legacy of Pura Belpré to date… [T]he book captures Belpré’s dedication to preserving the precious gift of heritage, rich cultural traditions of the Puerto Rican people, and the empowerment of story books in educating children. Belpré’s creative magic shines through the published and unpublished folktales included in this volume. These transport the reader into a child’s world of wonder where anything can happen and usually does. Virginia Sánchez Korrol, Brooklyn College, CUNY