Matt de la Peña Is the First Latino to Win the John Newberry Medal for His Children’s Book

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Today, the John Newberry Medal for literature and the Randolph Caldecott Medal for illustration – basically, the Oscars of the children’s literature world – were awarded. For the very first time, a Latino author won the Newberry Medal. NPR reports that Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street (illustrated by Christian Robinson), which tells the story of a little boy named CJ who rides the bus across town every Sunday with his grandmother.

One day, CJ questions why his family doesn’t own a car, why he doesn’t have an iPod, and why they live where they live. Through his grandmother’s positivity, CJ is able to learn to appreciate his world.

“I grew up in a very working-class neighborhood right down by the border in San Diego in a town called National City,” he said. “We never had quite enough, but we made it work. And I think my goal with everything I write – you know, picture books, novels – is to kind of show the grace and dignity on the, quote, unquote, wrong side of the tracks.”

De la Peña, who once said he practically failed second grade because he “couldn’t read,” regularly speaks to middle school students because his books are about multicultural, working-class characters.