The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus
across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend
Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they
always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an
encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their
routine and the world around them.
energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective
only grandparent and grandchild can share, and comes to life through Matt de la
Peña’s vibrant text and Christian Robinson’s radiant illustrations.
“I had never known, never even imagined for a heartbeat, that
there might be a place for people like us.”
This is the last line of Denis Johnson’s short story collection
Jesus’ Son, and it describes perfectly the way I felt way back in 2003 when
I was informed that my first novel, Ball Don’t Lie, was going to be
published by Random House. It describes the way I feel tonight, too, over a
decade later, as I stand here among you all.
All dressed up and a fresh haircut.
A seat at the table.
Growing up, I never could’ve imagined anything like this. Me and
books? Reading? Nah, man, I was a working-class kid. A half-Mexican hoop head.
I spent all my afterschool hours playing ball down at the local pickup spot off
Birmingham. I dreamed of pretty girls and finger rolls over outstretched hands.
But age has a way of giving a guy perspective.
Turns out I was wrong.
Turns out I’ve been a reader all along.
Maybe I didn’t have my nose in a novel, but I read my old man’s
long silences when the two of us sat in freeway traffic in his beat-up old VW
Bug. I read the way he pulled himself out of bed at 3:30 every morning to get
ready for work. How he never took a sick day. I read my mom’s endless worry
about the bills. About the empty fridge. But I also read the way she looked at
me and my two sisters. Like we were special. Like we could make something of
our lives. I read the pickup politics at Muni Gym in Balboa Park. How the best
players assumed a CEO-like power the second they laced up their kicks and
called out to the crowd, “Check ball.” And I read how these same men were
stripped of this power as soon as the games died down and they set foot outside
the gym, out of their domain and back into yours.
I didn’t read past page twenty-seven of The Catcher in the
Rye, but I read Basketball Digest cover to cover. Every single
month. I’d show up at my junior high library an hour before school, find an
empty table in back, and tuck the latest issue inside the covers of the most
high-brow book I could find — usually some Russian novel with a grip of names I
couldn’t pronounce. Mrs. Frank, the warm-smiling librarian, would occasionally
stroll past my table and say, “War and Peace, huh? How are you liking
that one so far?”
“Oh, it’s great, miss,” I’d tell her. “I really like all the
wars and stuff. And how it eventually turns peaceful.” She’d grin and nod and
move on to the next table. I’d grin, too, marveling at my own slick ways. But
then a few days later she’d confuse me by sliding the newest Basketball
Digest across the table to me with a wink.
then I never would’ve described myself as a reader, but Mrs. Frank knew better.
And the truth is, I wasn’t reading those magazines for stats or standings, I
was reading to find out what certain players had to overcome to get where they
were. I was in it for the narrative. And what I found in some of the better
articles wasn’t that inferior to what I would later discover when I read War
and Peace for real.