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Matt de la Peña

New York Times bestselling author of books for children and young adults

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  • About Matt de la Peña

    Matt de la Peña is one of the most prolific, versatile, and beloved writers for young readers working today. In family-favorite picture books including The Last Stop on Market Street and Love, de la Peña introduces young audiences to the joy of reading and sharing a story. A popular speaker for libraries, schools and educators, de la Peña discusses the art of writing for children and the complicated themes that resonate with young readers.

    de la Peña’s debut novel for young adults, Ball Don’t Lie, immediately marked him as a writer to watch and was later made into a feature film. He followed up this book with more stories that explore the lives of young men grappling with identity, race and friendship, including Mexican White Boy and I Will Save You.

    After years writing for young adults, de la Peña published the acclaimed picture book, Last Stop on Market Street, which garnered substantial praise and received accolades including the 2016 Newbery Medal and a Caldecott Honor. The story of a grandmother and her grandson’s journey home from church through a vibrant city neighborhood, Last Stop on Market Street has already established itself as a modern day classic in children’s literature.

    de la Peña is an outspoken advocate for the transformative powers of literature, literacy, and creativity in schools, and has worked on issues of censorship for authors and their books. He currently lives in San Diego, CA, where he teaches creative writing and regularly visits schools, colleges, and libraries to discuss his work and encourage creative storytelling for all young people.

  • Speaking Topics

    How a Reluctant Reader Became a Bestselling Author

    In this talk for all audiences, Matt de la Peña discusses the transformative power of literature. A self-professed "reluctant reader" as a child, de la Peña didn’t fall for books until he began attending college on a basketball scholarship. This defining moment started him on a remarkable path that would eventually have his stories reaching readers of all ages.

    Presentations for Elementary School Audiences

    Matt de la Peña's appeal to elementary audiences goes well beyond his beloved picture books. de la Peña brings the books to life: detailing the "stories behind the stories" and explaining the inspiration behind his beloved books. Drawing on his own working-class background, he encourages students to find the beauty in their everyday lives and explore timeless themes of wonder, gratitude, and love.

    Presentations and Workshops for Middle, High School, and College Students

    With a focus on his Young Adult novels and short stories, de la Peña deftly explores race, gender, and class, and showcases how real-world events have influenced his work. His fascination with the world around him and the literature that has inspired him, creates a unique presentation for older readers. This presentation is particularly effective as a creative writing workshop, which de la Peña has taught at NYU, Vermont College, Hamline University, and San Diego State University.

  • Video

  • Praise for Matt de la Peña

    Praise for Superman: Dawnbreaker

    As Clark learns the truth about his past and questions his identity, one thing remains true: Clark will always help those in need. This is a modern and relevant take on Clark Kent’s teenage years.

    School Library Journal

    Matt de la Peña’s Superman is the quintessential American alien. Despite being caught between two worlds, he’s everything we love about the Man of Steel: courageous, compassionate, and full of hope.

    Gene Luen Yang, author of New Super-Man and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

    In his brilliant take on Superman, de la Peña shows us that there’s a chance we’ll all need to step up like Clark Kent—with or without a cape.

    Jason Reynolds, New York Times bestselling author of Miles Morales: Spider-Man and Long Way Down

    A wonderful, bold interpretation of a DC icon that aspires to embrace all readers, new and old.

    Kirkus Reviews

    Praise for Carmela Full of Wishes

    [A] beautiful book about the love of siblings and community. . . . A must read for everyone.

    School Library Connection (starred review)

    Carmela’s journey of wishing, waiting, and wanting resonates on many levels; an important addition to bookshelves everywhere.

    School Library Journal (starred review)

    Full of rich details, sharp and restrained writing, and acrylic paintings that look textured enough to rise off the page . . . Another near-perfect slice of life from a duo that has found a way to spotlight underrepresented children without forgetting that they are children first.

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    The award-winning team behind Last Stop on Market Street portrays Carmela’s Spanish-speaking community as a vibrant place of possibility, and Robinson’s acrylic-and-cutout spreads introduce readers to street vendors, workers in the fields, and sweeping views of the sea. Sensitively conceived and exuberantly executed, Carmela’s story shines.

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    Praise for Love

    Love – it’s an abstract emotion, right? Not even close. These pictures and words describe a zillion ways to think of love . . . For readers, this book is a lifelong challenge to ask: What is love? And how can we create more of it in what we think and do and say?

    Justine Kenin, producer, All Things Considered, in NPR’s Book Concierge Guide to 2018’s Great Reads

    This heartfelt and sensitively rendered picture book meditation begs to be shared and discussed with children . . . Spread the love.

    School Library Journal

    Newbery Award–winning De la Peña offers a lyrical ode to love in this stirring picture book. . . . In De la Peña’s lines, love becomes not just an emotion between people but a feeling suffusing the world.

    Booklist

    Everything that can be called love — from shared joy to comfort in the darkness — is gathered in the pages of this reassuring, refreshingly honest picture book.

    The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice / Staff Picks From the Book Review

    Lyrical and sensitive, Love is the sort of book likely to leave readers of all ages a little tremulous, and brimming with feeling.

    The Wall Street Journal

    De la Peña’s prose poem speaks right to young children. . . . People often talk to children about love; in these pages, they can see and feel what it’s like. And there’s plenty for everybody.

    Publishers Weekly, starred review

    [A] poetic reckoning of the importance of love in a child’s life . . . eloquent and moving.

    People

    Praise for Coco: Miguel and the Grand Harmony

    De la Peña wonderfully expresses the impact of music on the soul, and Ramírez’s bright, expressive watercolor illustrations underscore the poetic prose style perfectly. ¡Que viva La Música!

    Kirkus Reviews

    Steeped in Latino culture, this picture book affirms the importance of family, ethnic traditions, and immersive musical experiences. Ramírez’s lively, colorful, culturally rich illustrations will give young readers plenty to discover, while their retro appearance may remind adults of Little Golden Books and Disney cartoons from their own childhoods.

    Horn Book Magazine

    Praise for The Hunted

    Readers will be drawn to the raw and gritty setting, fast-moving plot, and diverse characters worth rooting for.

    School Library Journal

    Between [the] fast-paced plot and meaningful, diverse character development, this is a great crossover for fans of both thrillers and more character-driven novels.

    Booklist

    Praise for The Living

    De la Peña has created a rare thing: a plot-driven YA with characters worthy of a John Green novel.

    Entertainment Weekly

    Action is first and foremost. . . . De la Peña can uncork delicate but vivid scenes.

    The New York Times

    [The Living] is special because of its extraordinary protagonist, Shy, who I haven’t been able to shake from my mind in the weeks since I read the book.

    John Green, author of The Fault In Our Stars

    In Matt de la Peña’s compulsively readable thriller…the breakneck plot will draw readers in, but Shy’s personal discoveries about how the world is skewed toward those in power, and his decisions to do the right thing, will hold their attention.

    Shelf Awareness (starred)

    A disaster epic, a survival story, and a coming-of-age novel filled with the life of a young man who’s becoming aware of class, prejudice, and romance.

    NPR

    De la Peña delivers near-constant action, a high body count, and a compelling cast of characters in this socially aware thriller.

    Publishers Weekly

    Adventure survival enthusiasts will relish the vivid and raw descriptions of the sinking ship, blistering sun, and shark-infested waters. But most appealing is the empathetic teen, portrayed as a tough guy with a romantic side, who will appeal to both males and females, and is likely to appear in the upcoming sequel.

    School Library Journal

    A straight-up tour de force, a breathless, horrifying dash into the void…the fun of de la Peña’s latest is how unexpectedly he blends genres, making this, in a sense, four books in one: a finely observed social-class drama, an on-the-sea survival adventure, a global-disaster book, and a contagion thriller.

    Booklist

    Praise for Last Stop on Market Street

    With the precision of a poet, Matt de la Peña chronicles a boy’s heartwarming Sunday morning routine with his nana. Christian Robinson’s uplifting palette and culturally diverse cast brightens the rainy-day backdrop.

    Shelf Awareness (starred review)

    If Robinson doesn’t win this year’s Caldecott, then next year could be the one with his name on it. His remarkable Last Stop on Market Street (with Matt de la Peña), is an early favorite for the best picture book of 2015.

    Huffington Post Books

    It’s not often that you see class addressed in picture books in ways that are subtle and seamless, but Last Stop on Market Street, the affectionate story of a young boy and his grandmother, does just that…This ode to gratitude is 2015’s first must-read picture book.

    BookPage

    The urban setting is truly reflective, showing people with different skin colors, body types, abilities, ages, and classes in a natural and authentic manner… A lovely title.

    School Library Journal

    De la Peña and Robinson here are carrying on for Ezra Jack Keats in spirit and visual style. This quietly remarkable book will likely inspire questions… it will also have some adult readers reaching for a tissue.

    The Horn Book Review (starred review)

    Like still waters, de la Peña and Robinson’s story runs deep. It finds beauty in unexpected places, explores the difference between what’s fleeting and what lasts, acknowledges inequality, and testifies to the love shared by an African-American boy and his grandmother.

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force.

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    The sharp illustrations — in bold, and cheerful primaries — get CJ’s restless energy and curious postures exactly right. The voices of CJ and his grandmother carry the story along in subtle point and counterpoint so that at this book’s quiet close you feel like you’ve been listening to a song.

    The Boston Globe

    Matt de la Peña’s warmhearted story is musical in its cadences…Christian Robinson’s angular, bright illustrations are energetic and vibrant… [A] celebration of the joys of service, the gifts of grandmothers and the tenderness that the city can contain.

    The Washington Post

    That material poverty need not mean spiritual or imaginative poverty becomes beautifully clear in the quietly moving pages of Last Stop on Market Street, a picture book by Matt de la Peña filled with Christian Robinson’s vibrant naïf illustrations.

    The Wall Street Journal

    It’s also the warmth of their intergenerational relationship that will make this book so satisfying, for both young readers and the adults sharing it with them.

    The New York Times Book Review

    Praise for A Nation’s Hope: the Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis

    Stunning art and dramatic storytelling.

    School Library Journal (starred review)

    Spectacularly illustrated and smoothly cadanced.

    Booklist (starred review)

    Spare, evocative verse melds with the eloquent illustrations to create palpable energy around the fight and Louis’s struggle to the top.

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    Praise for I Will Save You

    De la Peña skillfully captures the slippery sides of a schizophrenic personality in this heartwarming, root-for-the-underdog novel.

    School Library Journal

    A taut psychological novel…[with] intriguing, well-developed characters…[that] will stay with readers.

    Booklist

    Praise for We Were Here

    A story of friendship that will appeal to teens and will engage the most reluctant readers.

    Kirkus Reviews

    A furiously paced and gripping novel.

    Publishers Weekly

    This gripping story about underprivileged teens is a rewarding read.

    Voya

    Fast, funny, smart, and heartbreaking…The contemporary survival adventure will keep readers hooked.

    Booklist

    Praise for Mexican White Boy

    De la Peña blends sports and street together in a satisfying search for personal identity.

    Kirkus Reviews

    The baseball scenes…sizzle like Danny’s fastball…Danny’s struggle to find his place will speak strongly to all teens, but especially to those of mixed race.

    Booklist

    [A] first-rate exploration of self-identity.

    School Library Journal

    Praise for Ball Don’t Lie

    Truly authentic in its examination of both the game I love and the invariable missteps toward manhood. You cannot fail to be moved by the eloquence and truth of this story.

    Rick Fox, former forward for the Los Angeles Lakers

    From the very first sentence, this book grabbed me and didn’t let go. The deeper I got into it, the more I felt like Sticky’s story was my story. His heart, his handle, the guys in the gym, his potential pitfalls, his dreams. All of it. In a weird sense, this is my life.

    Grayson Boucher (“The Professor”) of tha AND 1 Mix Tape Tour

    I have never before seen blacktop ball depicted so well. In this novel, you will find its flash, its power, and its elegance without chains. This is powerful stuff.

    Antawn Jamison, forward for the Los Angeles Clippers

    De la Peña does an excellent job of combining the streets with the sport. Gritty and mesmerizing.

    Kirkus Reviews

    Riveting…Teens will be strongly affected by the unforgettable, distinctly male voice; the thrilling, unusually detailed basketball action; and the questions about race, love, self-worth, and what it means to build a life without advantages.

    Booklist

    [An] inspiring story. Sticky is a true original, and de la Peña has skillfully brought him to life.

    School Library Journal (starred review)
  • Books by Matt de la Peña

  • Media About Matt de la Peña

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