Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer

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Notes | Newbery Medal Winner Speaks at University of Houston Library

Posted by Rebecca G. Aguilar, M.Ed. on March 30, 2016

Last Stop on Market Street

Last Stop on Market Street
By Matt de la Peña; Illustrated By Christian Robinson
ISBN-13: 9780399257742
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 1/8/2015
Pages: 32

An unlikely path to writing, being good at sports and becoming a reader were among the things Newbery winning author Matt de la Peña shared at the University of Houston on Monday. Before a receptive crowd of alumni, students, librarians and educators in MD Anderson Library’s Rockwell Pavilion, de la Peña also spoke about the early morning call in January from the 2016 Newbery Award Selection Committee.

“Should I tell you what actually happened or give you the official version?” recalled de la Peña, who had kept his cell phone on alert over rumors Last Stop on Market Street might be considered for a Caldecott at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Boston.

When the phone rang, the caller was not the chair of the Caldecott Award Selection Committee. Newbery winners in the past have been novels, not picture books, so the news struck de la Peña as “weird.” Assured his book had received the John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature, de la Peña offered to give each committee member a big kiss.

Illustrated by Christian Robinson and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, Last Stop on Market Street was also named a Caldecott Honor Book as well as a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book.

On Monday morning, students at the UH Charter School listened to de la Peña read from Last Stop on Market Street, the story of an African-American child and his grandmother on a Sunday bus trip after church.

He ducked under his nana’s umbrella, saying, “How come we gotta wait for the bus in all this wet?”

“Trees get thirsty, too,” his nana told him. “Don’t you see that big one drinking through a straw?”

CJ looked for a long time but never saw a straw. (p. 3)

The gorgeously illustrated book features diverse characters, code switched dialogue, graffiti-tagged buildings and eloquent moments CJ and his nana experience along their bus route. According to de la Peña, picture books are essentially poems, so he expressed exuberant pride and gratitude that the cover of Last Stop on Market Street will now don those shiny ALA stickers.

What kinds of books inspired this acclaimed writer? He admitted to readers in the Rockwell Pavilion audience that he read only one novel in high school: Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. Attending college on a basketball scholarship, de la Peña talks about transcending his status as a reluctant reader by ultimately earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at San Diego State University.

“I came to reading through writing,” de la Peña said of his progression from spoken-word to poems to novels. He longed for books with characters who spoke from experiences like his own. Their absence on book shelves made for a non-existent to-read list. By the time he debuted his YA novel Ball Don’t Lie (named a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults), he had developed a deep appreciation for authors like Alice Walker, Junot Díaz and Gabriel García Márquez and vowed to create diverse characters in stories that would connect with all readers.

Following the MD Anderson Library talk, Blue Willow Book Shop hosted a book sale and signing for Last Stop on Market Street as well as de la Peña’s MG Infinity Ring series and YA novels Mexican Whiteboy, I Will Save You and Ball Don’t Lie.

A Nation's Hope

Did you know that Newbery winner Matt de la Peña has also written nonfiction for children?

Known primarily for writing YA novels, de la Peña penned A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, the picture book biography was one of Booklist Editor’s Choice Best Books of 2011 and School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2011.

Category: Matt de la Peña, Newbery Medal

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