La velita de los cuentos

The storyteller's candle childrens book by lulu delacre


The winter of 1929 feels especially cold to cousins Hildamar and Santiago—they arrived in New York City from sunny Puerto Rico only months before. Their island home feels very far away indeed, especially with Three Kings’ Day rapidly approaching.

But then a magical thing happened. A visitor appears in their class, a gifted storyteller and librarian by the name of Pura Belpré. She opens the children’s eyes to the public library and its potential to be the living, breathing heart of the community. The library, after all, belongs to everyone—whether you speak Spanish, English, or both.

The award-winning team of Lucía González and Lulu Delacre have crafted an homage to Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Latina librarian. Through her vision and dedication, the warmth of Puerto Rico came to the island of Manhattan in a most unexpected way.


The PRocess



The story was written by Lucía González, an award-winning author, storyteller and children’s librarian. Born in Cuba, Lucía is a dynamic bilingual performer celebrated for her storytelling technique. Lucía performs string stories, puppetry and anecdotes about growing up in Cuba and coming to America, and about the legends of various Latino cultures. A recipient of the Pura Belpré Honor Medal, Lucía lives in Miami, Florida with her family, friends, and two cats.



The first thing I did to figure out how best to illustrate the book was to meet with Lucía González. Lucía had done extensive research on Pura Belpré and gladly shared it with me. I read all of it before I set to work. I wanted to know who was Pura. I wanted to know what was like the time period Pura lived in and the neighborhood she served. I wanted for the art to place the reader right in the midst of Pura’s time.

I researched the clothing, cars, artifacts, architecture, and room interiors of the times. Still, I wanted more. Since the story happens in Spanish Harlem in 1930; I thought of gluing bits of a local newspaper of that year to my illustrations. I contacted a rare newspaper store and was able to purchase an original issue of The New York Times dated 6th of January of 1930! I was thrilled to find articles that expanded the text and gave a definite sense of place and time to my art. Sometimes I used the newspaper as a color and others to help place the story in its historical context.

The careful reader will find references to the US president, transportation, art, and employment of the times. There is even a reference of Christmas traditions in Puerto Rico! After I had collaged newspaper bits here and there; I painted first with a sepia wash giving the illustration an old-photo look. Then, I used washes of other colors to make “the old pictures come to life.”



reviews + AWARDS

Jane Addams Children's Book Award
Pura Belpré Author Award Honor
Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Honor

ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, Finalist
International Latino Book Awards, Honorable Mention
Skipping Stones Magazine Honor Award

★ “With this simple and affectionate story, González and Delacre. . . broadcast Belpré’s welcome message to new generations of immigrants: ‘Remember, the library belongs to you all.’” ––Publishers Weekly, starred review