In my recent post I discussed the ALA’s Youth Media Awards and some of the winners. Matt de la Pena had a big win, and a very talked about win. De la Pena’s picture book, Last Stop on Market Street took home the Newbery. Not only is de la Pena the first Hispanic author to take home Newbery gold, but his book is perhaps the second picture book to win this coveted award. Since the Newbery celebrates the story and not the pictures (which the Caldecott does), it’s nearly unprecedented for a picture book to receive this award.
I must say, I was shocked, and slightly disappointed to see a picture book take home the title, only because I work with 7th and 8th graders and was hoping to heavily promote a book that was for their age group. But, I have heard wonderful things about this book, and definitely plan to read it. As I start to read more and more interviews with Matt de la Pena on his Newbery win, I feel better with the decision. It always warms my heart to hear from the authors after they receive such a distinguishing award.
This book has been celebrated for many reasons, but one big reason is that de la Pena is able to discuss class issues in a unique way that makes sense to and can appeal to children. De la Pena has visited many schools facing high levels of poverty, and has said, “Those kids have such a feeling of unworthiness. Lots of times the older students will ask me, ‘Why would you come here?’ and it breaks my heart that they don’t think they deserve to have an author visit,” de la Pena quoted in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, and one thing he hopes Last Stop on Market Street does, “in a subtle way, is to show those kids that they are worthy of being the hero in my books.” I find that to be a beautiful statement. Every child deserves to feel like they can be a hero, no matter their class, race, gender, or sexual orientation.
If you would like to see read one of his interviews discussing the win, and finding out at 4:30 in the morning, follow this link: Publisher’s Weekly Interview with Matt de la Pena