The Storyteller's Candle

by Lucía González

Ashley Boothe
Block B, Dr. Curtis


"The Storyteller's Candle" written by Lucía González and illustrated by Lulu Delacre is a bilingual children's book about love and acceptance. It appropriately won the Pura Belpré Children's Literature Honor Metal in 2008, the third book book written by González that has won a prestigious award. In the touching story, Ms. Belpré shows Hildamar and Santiago that the library is for everyone, no matter what language you speak. This public librarian brings the "warmth and beauty of Puerto Rico to New York" in a beautiful story children and adults will enjoy reading.

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Author and Illustrator

Lucía González was born in Cuba in 1959 and at the age of 12, she came to America. She attended the University of California where she obtained her Bachelors of Science in History and her Masters in Library Science from the University of South Florida. Today, she proudly can say she is the the author of three award-winning bilingual books, including "The Storyteller's Candle" which won the 2008 Pura Belpré Children's Literature Honor Metal. Through the years, González has been a children's librarian, bilingual storyteller, puppeteer and of course, author.

Her illustrator for "The Storyteller's Candle" is Lulu Delacre who was born in Puerto Rico and an award-winning illustrator. In this book, she primed bristol paper with clear gesso and used layers of oil washes and paper collage. She began with sepia tones and used an original copy of the New York Times from January 6th, 1930 for the collage elements. The reader is able to look at these pieces of the newspaper and often see a connection between the article and something in the story. Together, Lucía González and Lulu Delacre create a beautiful bilingual children's book.

On the photo below, you can see the bits of the newspaper behind Hildamar and Santiago. This is a timetable of new arrivals into Manhattan by steamship and it spans over both the English and Spanish side of text. Lulu Delacre portrayed the cousins in just the way that the text describes them-they are cold and reminiscing about Puerto Rico.

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Multicultural Book

-Cultural character and setting: The characters are from Puerto Rico and have moved to New York, their new home. The name so these characters accurate to being common Latino names. Ms. Belpré is a real person, being the first Puerto Rican librarian in the New York Public Library system. The viewpoints of the children as well as their family are shown and every member reminisces about their life back in Puerto Rico. After they are able to celebrate El Dia de los Reyes and know that they are welcome into the library, everyone feels more comfortable and happy living in America. This is true to history. During the early part of the Great Depression, many Puerto Ricans left their island to find work in New York. Winter was harsh for the people, who were used to more mild weather.

-Cultural Language: Not only is the book a bilingual text with English on one side and Spanish on the other, but even on the English side there are several Spanish words included. The definitions to these words are listed on the last page of the book. When reading the text aloud, one gets a feeling of the way they speak.

Use this in Your Classroom!

It is so important for students to understand that every person comes from a different culture and that students recognize and appreciate the different background their peers have experienced. This beautiful book shows how people coming over from Puerto Rico to places like New York, were just wanting to fit in and make a new life. It is well done in how the viewpoints of the children as well as their families are shown, which is a perfect way to approach the text. With the activity mentioned below, the students are able to make a personal connection with the text.

It is often difficult for students to take what they've read from a story and pull a theme from it, but this skill is so important to learn. Student need this skill when taking state assessments, when they are in future literature classes and in their life after school with finding the theme among employees in a job situation that could lead to a broader outlook, for instance. By using this beautiful text, they not only are exposed to a text that allows them to have a better understanding about the feelings of people who came over from Puerto Rico to places like New York.


The fourth grade ELA-Literacy Standard RL.4.2 says: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize a text. This standard can be perfectly met by using "The Storyteller's Candle."

Objective: The student will be able to offer an appropriate theme of "The Storyteller's Candle."

After reading the story to the class, I will engage them in a discussion about not having the holiday of Halloween. You just moved to a city where you could not celebrate the holiday because it wasn't a tradition for those living in the city. That means no dressing up, no candy, and no school parties. Ask the students how would that make you feel? Write their responses on the board.

**A tradition of El Dia de los Reyes is where children place grass inside of a box and take the boxes to bed with them. In the middle of the night, the parents empty out the grass that was in the boxes and place a small gift inside. **

After reading the story, place a shoe box in the middle of every table group. Have a big ziploc full of grass in the middle of every table as well. They will put some grass inside of the box. On a piece of paper, the students will write two paragraphs with the first being the student describing the kind of anticipation and excitement they would have in celebrating the holiday. The second paragraph will be what it would feel like if someone else didn't respect your tradition, even if it is a holiday they love. They will place their papers inside of the box. Have a discussion about what the students wrote down. This activity will have helped them connect their lives with the Puerto Rico immigrants in the story. Their holiday was not celebrated in their new home but with the love and care of Pura Belpre were able to celebrate it!

Click here for an audio recording of the story!


González, L. (2008) The storyteller’s candle/ La velita de los cuentos. San Francisco, CA:

Children’s Book Press