Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2016 Newberry Award Acceptance- Matt de la Peña

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.

This 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.

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To read the complete acceptance visit,

“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.
Back 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.

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