Planting Stories Literature Guide
In “Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre`," Anika Aldamuy Denise tells the true story of the famed Latinx author and librarian Pura Belpre’. When Belpre` left Puerto Rico for New York in 1921, she brought her family stories with her, but she didn't find stories about her culture in libraries. She shared her culture through the power of storytelling, like planting seeds. Her writing and travels raised awareness of the importance of seeing oneself represented in stories.
Literature Guide by Maureen Klein
Ask: Have you ever had to move or spend time away from your home? How did that make you feel? In the book, Planting Stories, Pura Belpre` left her home in Puerto Rico to come to New York. As you read the story, look for ways she sought to bring her culture with her to her new home.
Show: Look at the front cover of the book. Where are the flowers growing from? What do you think it might mean to “plant stories”?
Connect: This story is a biography about the librarian Pura Belpre`. What do you know about librarians and what they do?
Ask: Pause on the first page. Talk about the meanings of the Spanish words abuela (grandmother) and cuentos folkloricos (folk tales). Spanish is a native language of Puerto Rico, and the author wove Spanish throughout the story. Why do you think it is important to use Spanish words in a story about someone from Puerto Rico?
Show: Look at the image of the library with stacks of books. She found "not one book from Puerto Rico." There are probably many other cultures missing in the library. Why is it importatnt for a library to represent all cultures?
Connect: Does your library have books representing your culture?
Ask: What gift did Pura Belpre` give to the world that lasts today? How can the stories of your family and culture make the world a better place?
Show: Look at the pictures throughout the book and talk about clues that tell about the time and place.
Connect: Pura acted with perseverance and courage when she decided to write and share her stories from Puerto Rico. Describe a time when you did something that required you to persevere and act with courage.
As a celebration of the legacy of Pura Belpre`, a children’s book award is named in her honor. Learn more about the Pura Belpre` Award here. Read one of the award winning books.
Throughout the book, the author used the metaphor of planting seeds to illustrate the impact of Pura Belpre`’s work. Compare this story with Seeds of Change, a story about the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Mathaai. In what ways do these women inspire others in their communities to make a difference in the world?
Pura Belpre` was a wonderful storyteller, and she generously brought people together in community through her stories. As an act of service, choose a book that celebrates generosity or community and read it to someone in your life.
Make up your own story using puppets. Share a story from your family or use your imagination to create a tale of your own. Try one of these ideas to make the puppets to go along with your story.
Who is represented in the books that you have in your own library? Use this simple tool to evaluate your library. Who is represented in your books? Who is not? Read a book that tells a story about people from a culture or background that is not in your library.