“This is weird,” said Matt de la Peña, who spoke with PW via cell phone from St. Paul, where he was in between lectures as part of the faculty for the Low-Residency MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Hamline University. Well known for his realistic YA novels that explore class and racial identity, de la Peña became the first Hispanic author to receive the John Newbery Medal on Monday when his second picture book, Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson (Putnam), was announced as the 2016 winner.
When asked how the rest of her day was going to go, just-named Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall responded: “Champagne! And donuts. [There’s] another pot of coffee on, which is good because I never got to finish mine.” Blackall may have been a bit distracted from her coffee mug on Monday morning as she celebrated her win for Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear (Little, Brown). The book, written by Lindsay Mattick, tells the story of the original bear that inspired A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh series.
When Laura Ruby got the phone call from the Printz committee this past Sunday, informing her that she had won the 2016 award, she was attending a lecture at Hamline University in St. Paul, where she’s on the faculty of the school’s low-residency MFA program in writing for children and young adults. Sitting beside her was fellow instructor and soon-to-be winner of the Newbery Medal, Matt de la Peña. Gene Luen Yang, the newly minted National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, is also on staff at Hamline. One could almost understand if Minnesota decided to close its borders in an attempt to keep this kind of talent in-state.