National City Native Wins Prestigious Newbery Medal
Matt de la Peña, a native of National City, has won the 2016 Newbery Medal, one of the most prestigious awards in children’s literature. De la Peña is also the first Latino author to win the award in its 94-year-history.
The San Diego State University graduate won for his book "Last Stop on Market Street." It’s about a little boy who takes the bus with his grandmother and wonders why they don’t have a car.
In an interview from February 2015, de la Peña told NPR his National City upbringing informs his work:
"I saw my dad get up every day at five in the morning. I saw my mom hustle, do every job she could to provide for us. We never had quite enough but we made it work," de la Peña said. "And my goal with everything I write is to show the grace and dignity on the — quote — wrong side of the tracks."
In addition to picture books, de la Peña writes young adult novels. His 2008 novel "Mexican WhiteBoy," about a young half-Mexican, baseball-loving boy in San Diego, was critically acclaimed, and then banned in public high schools in Tucson, Ariz., in 2012. That's when a state law passed banning Mexican-American studies curricula perceived as anti-white.
De la Peña also writes and speaks publicly about diversity and literacy.
"Last Stop on Market Street" was illustrated by Christian Robinson, who grew up riding the bus with his grandmother in Los Angeles.
The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children's book published the previous year. It was the first children's book award in the world.
National City is also the birthplace of singer Tom Waits and world-famous visual artist John Baldessari.