If you read books as a child, you’re sure to have come across a Newbery Medal winner at least a few times. If you write children’s books, it’s likely that you at some point dreamt of winning the Newbery.

The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the American Library Association (ALA) to the most distinguished American children’s book published during the previous year. Each year the selection committee chooses one Medal winner and also recognizes other worthy books as Newbery Honor books. Named after the eighteenth-century English bookseller John Newbery, the award is the oldest children’s book award in the world.

This year’s Newbery Medal winner was awarded on the cold Monday morning of January 11 at the ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in Boston. The award went to Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. The book follows an African American boy and his grandmother on their trip on a bus and centers on their conversation about the beauty of urban life. The committee’s selection was received with surprise because Last Stop on Market Street was the first true picture book to receive the honor.

De la Peña also has the honor of being the first Latino author to win the Newbery Medal. The book garnered a lot of attention for its focus on diversity, along with its author’s background. However, de la Peña writes that it was not his aim to have diversity as the central focus. His current approach to writing, he says, is to feature diverse characters, but to place them in stories whose main focus is not diversity; Last Stop on Market Street was an example of this approach. Instead of having race and diversity be the sole focus of the discussion surrounding this strikingly colorful and vibrant book, he wants the readers to frame the story in different ways. His dream, he writes, is that kids of all races read the book.

Did You Know?

Multiple Newbery Medal winners over the years have been turned into movies. The first ever winner of the medal in 1922, The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon, is no exception. The book was turned into an eponymous movie in 1957, starring Hollywood celebrities such as Vincent Price and Dennis Hopper.

Photo Credit: Larry D. Moore