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First Chapter Friday: Matt de la Peña reads

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First Chapter Friday

Welcome to the second episode from First Chapter Friday with the author spotlight series here at Spark Creativity!

In this series, you’ll hear from authors sharing their work directly into your classroom. Today we’re hearing from Matt de la Peña reading his short story “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium,” from the collection, Flying Lessons.

Stay tuned throughout the year to hear from many more wonderful authors, including Victor Pineiro, Payal Doshi, and Nancy Tandon. You can also check out the first episode in the collection, featuring Megan E. Freeman reading from her novel-in-verse, Alone.

Today we’re hearing from Matt de la Pena, reading from his short story “How to Transform an Everyday Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium,” from the collection Flying Lessons and other Stories.

Matt de la Peña is the New York Times-bestselling, Newberry Medal-winning author of seven young adult novels (including Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here and Superman: Dawnbreaker) and five picture books (including Last Stop on Market Street and Love).

Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full athletic scholarship for basketball.

My hope is that you’ll play this episode to your students on an upcoming Friday, sharing the guiding sketchnotes handout below with them so they can jot down their key takeaways as they listen. This short story is utterly fantastic, one of my favorites of all time to share with students!

You can play this episode for your class directly using the player below, project the episode on your wall with the Youtube version here, or  click here to play it on any podcast player.

What’s First Chapter Friday?

If you’re new to First Chapter Friday, you can read all about it here. But the quick version is this. On Friday, you share the first chapter of a book with your students. You can read it aloud, you can invite a guest, you can let an author read aloud through Youtube or a podcast, or you can play the first chapter (or any selection really) from an audiobook.

I think it really helps students pay attention if they can focus their energy as they listen on taking sketchnotes. The sketchnotes also come in handy later when kids are looking for their next book to read. If you have them keep all their FCF sketchnotes in one place, then they can quickly browse through for a title they’re interested in.

You can grab a free set of FCF sketchnotes templates to use with any read throughout the year right here if you’d like. Read on for the special one I’ve designed just for this episode!

First Chapter Friday

Sketchnotes for this First Chapter Friday Episode: Matt de la Peña reads from “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium”

In “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium,” we follow a talented eighth grade basketball player through the summer of the year before his first varsity season, as he sees what he can learn at a new basketball gym – from its players, from its rules, and from his father, who takes him there each day at dawn.

In this podcast episode, Matt reads from the beginning of the story.

Your students can use this book-specific sketchnotes sheet as they follow along with the reading, and you’ll find the text of the first 28 pages of the story available free on Overdrive.

First Chapter Friday

Learn more about Matt de la Peña

Matt de la Peña is the New York Times Bestselling, Newberry Medal-winning author of seven young adult novels and six picture books. Matt’s debut novel, Ball Don’t Lie, was published by Delacorte in 2005. The book was made into a major motion picture (released in the fall of 2011) starring Ludacris, Nick Cannon, Emelie de Ravin, Grayson Boucher, and Rosanna Arquette (Night and Day Pictures). The book was named as an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA-YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.

First Chapter Friday

Photo by Heather Waraksa

In 2008 de la Peña’s second novel, Mexican WhiteBoy, was released by Delacorte, and his short story “Last Red Light Before We’re There” appeared in the anthology Does This Book Make Me Look FatMexican WhiteBoy was a ALA-YALSA Best Books for Young Adults (Top Ten Pick), a 2009 Notable Book for a Global Society, a Junior Library Guild Selection and it made the 2008 Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Literature Blue Ribbon List.

Matt’s third novel, We Were Here, released by Delacorte in 2009, was an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, an ALA-YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, a Junior Library Guild Selection and was named to the 2010 NYC Public Library Stuff for the Teen Age list.

In 2010 Matt’s fourth novel, I Will Save You, was released by Delacorte and was named an ALA-YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, a Junior Library Guild Selection and was a finalist for the 2011 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award.

In January 2011 his first picture book, A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (Illustrated by Kadir Nelson) was released by Dial Press. His first middle grade story “Believing in Brooklyn” appeared in Guys Read: Thriller, edited by Jon Scieszka.

In 2013 Matt’s fifth young adult novel, The Living, was released by Delacorte. He also wrote two books in Scholastic’s popular Infinity Ring Series: Curse of the Ancients and Eternity.

In 2015 Matt’s second picture book, Last Stop on Market Street (illustrated by Christian Robinson), was released by Penguin and was awarded the 2016 Newbery Medal. His sixth YA novel, The Hunted (a sequel to The Living) was released by Delacorte.

In 2016 Matt was awarded the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award.

In 2017 Matt’s third picture book, Miguel and the Grand Harmony (illustrated by Ana Ramirez), was released by Disney in both English and Spanish. The book is a tie-in to the wildly popular Pixar movie COCO.

In January of 2018 Matt’s fourth picture book, Love (illustrated by Loren Long), was released by Penguin. His fifth picture book, Carmela Full of Wishes (illustrated by Christian Robinson), was released by Penguin in October 2018.

In 2019, Random House published Matt’s seventh YA novel, Superman: Dawnbreaker.

In 2021, Penguin published Matt’s third collaboration with Christian Robinson, Milo Imagines the World.

He has also published short fiction and essays in various newspapers and literary journals, including: Time Magazine, The New York Times, NPR.org, The Writer, Pacific Review, One Teen Story, The Vincent Brothers Review, Chiricú, George Mason Review, and Allegheny Literary Review.

Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full athletic scholarship for basketball. In 2019 Matt was awarded an honorary doctorate from UOP.

Matt de la Peña currently lives in Southern California. He teaches creative writing and visits schools and colleges all over the country.

Visit Matt’s Website here.

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