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Belpré Award winner

An illustration from “I Lived on Butterfly Hill” by Marjorie Agosin.lee white

Belpré Award winner

Wellesley College professor Marjorie Agosín has been honored for her first middle-grade novel, “I Lived on Butterfly Hill” (Atheneum), a tale that draws on her childhood memories of her family’s flight from Chile.

Agosín’s family moved to the United States in the 1970s to escape the repressive regime of General Augusto Pinochet. In the novel, 11-year-old Celeste Marconi’s parents, considered subversives, go into hiding after a military coup in their native land, and she is sent to Maine.

Agosín is a winner of the Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996 to honor a Latino or Latina writer whose work of literature for children or young adults portrays and affirms the Latino cultural experience. Named after the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library, the award is co-sponsored by the American Library Association.


“With her poet’s eye, Marjorie Agosín gives this tale of exile and return an epic feel,” said Tim Wadham, chairman of the Pura Belpré Award committee, in a statement. “Though she is a refugee, Celeste learns she belongs anywhere there are things she loves.”

In the acknowledgements, Agosín pays tribute to the city of Valparaiso “which offered refuge to many members of my family during World War II and continues to offer refuge to me in my many returns to Chile.” Agosín is a professor of Latin American studies and Spanish at Wellesley College. The book is illustrated by Lee White and translated from the Spanish by E.M. O’Connor.

‘Evil Librarian’ honored

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is unique in having an annual award for humor. This year’s winner is “Evil Librarian” (Candlewick) by Michelle Knudsen, who will begin teaching at Lesley University in June. The young-adult novel, described by Publishers Weekly as a “self-aware supernatural dramedy” centers on a girl’s efforts to save her friend from the clutches of a new, cute, demonic librarian.


Two recognized for Ferguson activism

Two political organizers are being honored with PEN New England’s 2015 Howard Zinn Freedom to Write Award for their work as activists and citizen journalists in protesting the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last summer. Johnetta Elzie and DeRay McKesson jointly publish the This Is the Movement e-mail newsletter. McKesson, a school administrator in Minneapolis, drove to Ferguson after learning of the unrest that followed the shooting on Aug. 9. Elzie, who grew up in Ferguson and now lives in St. Louis, has said that seeing Brown’s blood on the road motivated her to join the protests.

Elzie and McKesson will be in conversation with Jabari Asim, editor in chief of The Crisis, the magazine published by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at 3 Church St., Cambridge. It is co-sponsored by the Cambridge Forum.

Coming out

 “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania” by Frank Bruni (Grand Central)

 “Host” by Robin Cook (Putnam)

 “The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and the Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom” by Blaine Harden (Viking)

Pick of the Week

Josh Christie of Sherman’s Books and Stationery in Portland, Maine recommends “Soil” by Jamie Kornegay (Simon & Schuster): “In this debut novel, Jay Mize, an idealistic farmer whose luck keeps breaking bad, discovers a corpse on his failing farm. Fearing he is being framed by his less progressive neighbors, the increasingly paranoid Jay hides the discovery rather than reporting it. With ‘Soil,’ Kornegay joins Wiley Cash and Tom Franklin as a strong voice in the world of Southern gothic fiction.”


Jan Gardner can be reached at