The most prestigious prizes in American children’s books were given out this morning: the John Newbery Medal for literature and the Randolph Caldecott Medal for illustration.
Matt de la Peña becomes the first Hispanic author to win the Newbery, for his book Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson. It’s the story of a young boy riding the city bus with his grandmother, and wondering why their family doesn’t have a car.
“I grew up in a very working-class neighborhood right down by the border in San Diego in a town called National City,” de la Peña told Morning Edition in February. “We never had quite enough, but we made it work. And I think my goal with everything I write — you know, picture books, novels — is to kind of show the grace and dignity on the, quote, unquote, wrong side of the tracks.
“I wanted to write a book featuring diverse characters,” he added, “but the book isn’t about diversity. It could be any characters, but they’re just on this bus. But that’s very important to me. I don’t think every book has to be about the Underground Railroad for it to be an African-American title.”
The Caldecott went to illustrator Sophie Blackall for Finding Winnie. Written by Lindsay Mattick, it’s the real-life story of a Canadian veterinarian on his way to fight in World War I who rescues a little black bear at a train depot and names her Winnie for his hometown of Winnipeg. Winnie eventually ended up in the London Zoo, where she became a favorite of author A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin — and the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh.
Other winners today include Rita Williams-Garcia (a panelist for NPR’s Backseat 100 kids’ lit poll), who took home the Coretta Scott King author award for Gone Crazy in Alabama, the story of two sisters from Brooklyn who spend a life-changing summer in the South.