Wednesday, January 25, 2017

‘Lowriders’ wins Pura Belpré Award for illustrator

Cover image: Lowriders to the Center of the Earth. The story's three man characters travel in a lowrider automobile through a cavern.
Each January, I await announcement of the American Library Assoication’s Youth Media Awards, representing the top books, video and audiobooks for children. And it’s gratifying when a book that I’ve read and enjoyed receives its due acknowledgement.

The Pura Belpré Awards honor a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience, and for 2017, the Illustrator Award went to Lowriders to the Center of the Earth (Chronicle Books, July 2016).

Illustrated by Raúl the Third and written by Cathy Camper, Lowriders to the Center of the Earth is the second book in a series. The first book, Lowriders in Space (Chronicle Books, 2014), introduced the three main characters: Lupe Impala, Elirio Malaria and El Chavo Flapjack Octopus.

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth tells the story of the three protagonists’ journey in search of their missing cat. The book combines a storyline that that many children can relate to — searching for a missing pet — with Aztec mythology and geological science. (The cat, Genie is being held prisoner by the Lord of the Underworld and as our heroes travel ever deeper toward the center of the earth, El Chavo Flapjack Octopus humorously scrambles the names for layers of rock.)

The Lowriders series has appealed to the graphic artist in me since I read an interview with illustrator Raúl the Third. He illustrated the book with Bic pens to inspire future artists.

“Becoming an artist can feel daunting when all that one sees are finished and polished works of art created with expensive hard to get a hold of materials,” Raúl the Third told School Library Journal. Raúl the Third wanted would-be artists to understand that they “don’t need anything other than their dreams and hard work.”

I later read a Book Doctors interview with author Cathy Camper, and her background as a librarian also resonated with me — especially her emphasis on children being able to “see themselves” in books.

“We need this book primarily so kids of color see themselves in books, but also so white culture isn’t always primary. If a book is about a generic kid, why is that kid always white? It’s important that white readers see kids of color too.”

Both books appealed to me on a variety of levels and, given their cultural emphasis, I was gratified that Lowriders to the Center of the Earth received the Pura Belpré Award.

Disclosure of Material Connection: In 2016, I received and read a review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinion expressed is my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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