Matt de la Pena’s and Christian Robinson’s “Last Stop on Market Street” nearly made history twice this week.
The illustrated exploration of race and class through the eyes of a boy and his grandmother won the Newbery Medal for the best children’s book of 2015, making de la Pena the first Hispanic writer to receive the 94-year-old prize, one of the most cherished among children’s writers. It came close to another rare coup by finishing as a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal for the top illustrated book.
“I hope all the brilliant Hispanic writers of the past and present view this as a recognition of our diverse community and that it inspires young Hispanics coming up to read their way through the world and consider a path in the arts,” de la Pena said in a statement released through his publisher, Penguin Young Readers.
The winner of the Caldecott Medal was “Finding Winnie,” the story behind A.A. Milne’s famous literary creation Winnie the Pooh, illustrated by Sophie Blackall and written by Lindsay Mattick.
The Newbery and Caldecott awards were announced by the American Library Association, which has gathered in Boston for its annual midwinter meeting.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” winner last fall of the National Book Award, was among 10 recipients of the Alex prize for adult books that appeal to teen readers. Coates’ book is an open letter to his teenage son about racism and police violence. The association also handed out two lifetime achievement awards for a former Caldecott winner, the illustrator Jerry Pinckney. Another lifetime achievement honor was given to novelist David Levithan, who works as editorial director at Scholastic.
Rita Williams-Garcia won her second Coretta Scott King Award in three years for the best book by a black writer. Williams-Garcia was cited for “Gone Crazy in Alabama,” the third of a trilogy about the Gaither sisters. Laura Ruby’s “Bone Gap” won the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. The Belpre award for best Latino/Latina book was given to “Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir,” written by Margarita Engle. Rafael Lopez won the Belpre illustrator prize for “The Drum Dream Girl,” written by Margarita Engle.