Kids’ Book Receives Award from the Texas Institute of Letters

Bilingual Picture Book Blasts Off!

HOUSTON, TX, March 3, 2020—Former astronaut José M. Hernández’s bilingual picture book for kids, The Boy Who Touched the Stars / El niño que alcanzó las estrellas, is the winner of The Texas Institute of Letters Best Children’s Picture Book.


The Texas Institute of Letters is a non-profit Honor Society founded in 1936 to celebrate Texas literature and recognize distinctive literary achievement. The TIL’s elected membership consists of the state’s most respected writers, including winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and MacArthur “Genius” Grants. Each year the organization awards more than $24,000 to recognize outstanding literary works in several categories including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s books and translations. Eligibility for the awards requires that entrants be born in Texas or have lived in Texas for at least two consecutive years.

With vibrant illustrations by Steven James Petruccio, this heartwarming book recounts José M. Hernández’s path to the stars, in spite of many obstacles. When he was a boy and saw the broadcast of man landing on the moon, José knew he wanted to be an astronaut. But he struggled in school because his family moved constantly and he didn’t speak English. His parents were migrant workers from Mexico; they followed the crops up and down the state of California. José was in second grade when his teacher convinced his parents to stop migrating and stay in the United States.

The Boy Who Touched the Stars / El niño que alcanzó las estrellas is also the recipient of the Northern Lights Book Award, and critics have unanimously praised it. In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews said, “This outstanding bilingual autobiography encapsulates the life-changing power of having a goal and the will to achieve it.” Booklist said, “Hernández’s story will inspire future astronauts as well as children of all ages who may feel that their dreams are unachievable.

JOSÉ M. HERNÁNDEZ obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees in Electrical Engineering, and in 2004 he was selected to be part of the 19th class of US Astronauts. He achieved his life-long dream in 2009 when he served as the flight engineer on the Space Shuttle Discovery on a fourteen-day mission to the International Space Station. He lives in Stockton, California, where he is president and CEO of an engineering firm.

STEVEN JAMES PETRUCCIO has been a professional artist for more than thirty years, illustrating over eighty picture books, including for the award-winning series, the Smithsonian Oceanic Collection. In 2012, Steven received the Rip Van Winkle Award from the School Library Media Specialists of Southeastern New York for his contributions to children’s literature.

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