The 2014 Américas Award winners are here!
I think most of our wonderful readers are familiar with the Américas Award, but, as my grandpa always said, it’s best to start at the beginning. Allow me to delve into the background of the award before I get into the details of the amazing books that were recognized in 2014.
Each year, the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) supports the Américas Award, a literary honor given in recognition of U.S. published works of fiction, poetry, folklore, or selected non-fiction (from picture books to works for young adults) that authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States. By linking the Americas, the intent is to reach beyond geographic borders, as well as multicultural-international boundaries, focusing instead upon cultural heritages within the hemisphere.
CLASP founded the Américas Award in 1993 to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States, and to provide teachers with recommendations for classroom use. The annual award process is coordinated by representatives from Tulane University and Vanderbilt University. Additional support for the award is provided by Florida International University, The Ohio State University, University of Florida, University of New Mexico (UNM), Stanford University, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
A national review committee judges titles according to four criteria: 1) distinctive literary quality; 2) cultural contextualization; 3) exceptional integration of text, illustration and design; and 4) potential for classroom use. Parrots Over Puerto Rico was deemed exceptional across the board. In 2014, I gladly served the second of my three-year-term as a member of the review committee. I was joined by Barbara D’Ambruoso (Chair) in Orange, CT; Aaron Forbes of Morris Jeff Community School in New Orleans, LA; Lucia Acosta of Princeton Public Library in Princeton, NJ; and Robin Fogle Kurz of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA.
In 2014, the committee recognized one winning title; two honorable mentions; and seven commended titles. All were exemplary in their own way.
In 2014, the winning title is Parrots Over Puerto Rico, illustrated by Susan Roth and co-authored by Susan Roth and Cindy Trombore, and published by Lee & Low Books. Parrots Over Puerto Rico tells the narrative of how the “Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore recount the efforts of the scientists of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the parrots and ensure their future. Woven into the parrots’ story is a brief history of Puerto Rico itself, from before the first human settlers to the present day.” With striking collage illustrations, a unique format, and engaging storytelling, Parrots Over Puerto Rico invites readers to witness the amazing recovery efforts that have enabled Puerto Rican parrots to fly over their island once again.(Lee and Low Books). With this publication, Lee and Low Books once again demonstrates an exceptional dedication to publishing stories which, as they say, “children of color can identify with and that all children can enjoy.” Their titles repeatedly garner awards, with over 20 books previously recognized as Américas Award award winners, honorable mentions, and commended titles.
Two titles were recognized as Honorable Mentions: Diego Rivera: An Artist for the People (Abrams Books for Young Readers) written by Susan Goldman Rubin, and Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale (Abrams Books for Young Readers) illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh.
Last but most certainly not least, seven books were identified as Commended Titles: Enrique’s Journey (Random House) by Sonia Nazario; Lightning Dreamer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Margarita Engle; María tenía una llamita (Henry Holt) by Angela Dominguez; Round is a Tortilla (Chronicle Books) illustrated by John Parra and written by Roseanne Thong; Serafina’s Promise (Scholastic Press) by Ann E. Burg; Tito Puente: Mambo King (Harper Collins) illustrated by Rafael López and written by Monica Brown; and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Candlewick Press) by Meg Medina.
This was a year of remarkable submissions. I candidly admit that it was a difficult job to serve on the review committee and narrow the titles down to so few. In the end, these wonderful books stood out for their writing and illustration, and for best meeting the criteria which define the award. I recommend them all to you!