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Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre

1 Jul

Planting Seeds by author, Anika Aldamuy Denise, and illustrator, Paola Escobar, vividly brings to life the story of New York’s first Puerto Rican librarian, Pura Belpre. Pura earned a degree from the University of Puerto Rico, with the intention of becoming a school teacher. In 1921, Pura took a trip to New York for her sister’s wedding, not realizing at the time that this trip would alter the course of her career. It was during this visit, that she decided to stay in New York, perhaps inspired by all of the opportunities the city provided. It took some time for Pura to find her new career path but as fate would have it, the New York Public Library System was looking to hire a bilingual assistant. Pura, who spoke Spanish, English and French, was excited for this new opportunity. As she settled in her new job, she noticed the library did not have any books with stories like the ones she heard as a child from her Abuela (Grandmother). To quote the book, “How lucky for the library that Pura has story seeds, ready to plant and grow”. And that is exactly what she did. She started having story time in the Children’s room at the library, where she shared the folktales of her childhood. Wanting perhaps to create a more immersive experience for the children, she soon began to make her own puppets, which she would use while telling stories in both English and Spanish. Many families came to hear these beautiful stories. Through this love of storytelling, Pura became determined to have these stories published for all to experience. Eventually her book was published and Pura traveled to different library branches and schools planting the seeds of these stories along the way and bringing back memories for those who missed the Island and grew up hearing the same tales.   

Pura would continue to work in New York’s public library system for decades. Her outreach to libraries, schools and churches, helped to usher in Spanish speaking people to libraries in the boroughs of New York, who were hesitant before due to the fact that some of them did not speak English. In 1996, the Pura Belpre award was established and is awarded annually to writers and illustrators whose works best portray and celebrate the Latino cultural experience. This year, the author of this book was chosen as an honor recipient. 

As a child, I grew up hearing some of the folktales Pura read and had published. I still have memories of my Grandmother recalling the story of Juan Bobo and Perez and Martina. It is easy to see why the author, Anika Aldamuy Denise chose to write about Pura, who’s lyrical words along with Paola Escobar’s illustrations help tell the story of Pura’s life and many contributions. Pura’s determination to have the stories of her childhood published helped to ensure that they would continue to be told and enjoyed for generations to come. To paraphrase something she once said in an interview, “reading these stories has been the golden key to opening doors for me everywhere.” With her genuine love of storytelling, puppetry, years of library service and published works, I hope she knew how she helped to open doors for so many others. 

Children and teens can join us reading all summer long with our Summer Reading Program! We also have a Summer Reading Program just for Adults!

Written by:
Melissa Medina
Children’s Library Assistant

Check out these Fun, Entertaining and Educational Videos, Books, Tutoring and More Available Online for Kids

16 Mar

If you are looking for something to keep your little one entertained while schools are closed than we have a variety of books, media, and more that you can enjoy without leaving your home.

HelpNow: Online Tutoring
help now

Need help with school work while your child is home?  BrainFuse’s HelpNow is a suite of services designed to assist with a range of homework needs, including live, one-to-one homework help between 2 PM-11 PM each day, live New Jersey-aligned skills building (includes Common Core where appropriate), test preparation, and comprehensive writing assistance.  Students can draw or type their question in the online classroom and receive live assistance from a tutor.  Students have access to an extensive library of Brainfuse-created lessons, video tutorials, and practice tests including those for the SAT, ACT, GED, GRE, and more.  Users can archive documents, class notes, and other materials in their personal CloudPack and share these items with tutors during a live session.  As a mom, as well as a librarian, I know how valuable this resource can be.  Adults can get assistance too with skill building and test preparation for exams like the GED in The Adult Learning Center.  Brainfuse even has an online meeting space.

Books by JK Rowling, Dr. Seuss, and new favorite eBooks from eLibraryNJ and eBCCLS

Whether your child loves to read to themselves on an iPad or is looking for an audiobook to listen to you can find a variety of classics and new favorites for all ages available from eLibraryNJ and eBCCLS such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, A Wrinkle in Time, and Fox in Socks.  You can check up to five books at a time from each of the services and with the Libby App it is easy to return them instantly to check out more.  Not sure what to read, a great resource for print and ebook suggestions, provided by the New Jersey State Library that is available to Hoboken and other NJ residents is Novelist for adults and kids in k-8.  You can find lists of suggested books for different interest as well as read alike suggestions.

Wild Kratts and more from Kanopy Kids

We told you recently about some of the amazing foreign films you can stream from Kanopy (10 checkouts per month for Hoboken Resident Cardholders), but it isn’t just great adult entertainment available; you can check out unlimited amounts of cartoons, book adaptations, and more fun and high quality entertainment for children.  My son loves science and is fascinated by nature.  If you have a future zoologist in your household then checkout these clever cartoons based on real brothers (and NJ born), Chris and Martin Kratt who get animated in this series to protect endangered animals.  This funny show will have your kid giggling while they learn more about science and wildlife.

Is your child fascinated by other countries?  For your little globe trotter check out Muzzy.  Newly added at the beginning of the year, patrons now have access to English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, and Korean for children through Muzzy’s Online Learning Resource.  The service provides videos, listening, writing activities, games, and even printable lessons.  The fun animated videos featuring Muzzy and friends along with activities that make learning seem like a game will have your child learning a new language in no time.  You can access it in the main branch of the library while using our Wi-Fi without a card, but it can also be accessed with a Hoboken Resident Library Card from home.  We also continue to have Mango and Rosetta Stone available for Adults who are interested in learning another language or ESL.  You can also stream Muzzy and Little Pim videos from Kanopy Kids.

Music Playlists from Freegal

Looking for a lullaby to help them get to sleep at night?  Freegal has a variety of music for children including classics like Rock-a-Bye-Baby from New Born Lullabies or A Whole New World on Disney Lullabies.  Besides albums, Freegal also has curated playlists you can check out such as Lullaby Songs for Baby Rockers which includes lullaby versions of popular songs from Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box to Guns N’ Roses Sweet Child O’ Mine.  If they’re feeling in dancing mood, they might enjoy some hits from the Children’s Chart-Toppers Play List.  Or you can even pick out songs to create your own streaming playlist.  Hoboken resident cardholders get to stream three hours of music per day.  And if they find a song they really love, you can download up to 5 songs per week that are yours to keep.

Need help with any of our online resources; email reference @

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

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