Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré
Written by Anika Denise, Illustrated by Paola Escobar

Publisher’s Summary:
An illustrated biography of the life of Pura Belpré the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City.

Primary Source Pairing:
Pura Belpré loved sharing stories. How fitting that this beautiful picture book biography shares her story through words that come alive off the page and illustrations that are frame-on-the-wall worthy. For this primary source pairing, invite students to study a photograph of Pura Belpré with two puppets. When nonfiction books are illustrated, I always think it is important to show a photograph or another primary source that supports the text to give students the opportunity to make a visual connection.

The artwork created by Paola Escobar is truly fantastic. The details added to the illustrations from the signs on the storefronts to the delicate flowers in the patterns on Pura’s dresses to the intricate-inked books on the shelves of the library, provide a warm welcome to the setting of Pura’s life. Depending on your learning environment, use the book itself as a visual literacy experience for students. If in person, try to get as many copies as possible to allow students to look at the book by themselves. If you are able, use a document camera to project the book onto a large screen and allow students to immerse themselves into the illustrations. If you are in a virtual setting, use a document camera or share your screen with the ebook. Invite students to turn off their cameras and choose Active Speaker view in their video call and allow adequate time for visual exploration.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • How does this photograph connect with the image of Pura Belpré in your head?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Pura Belpré photograph: via