Last Stop on Market Street
Written by Matt De La Pena and Illustrated by Christian Robinson
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015
This year’s Newberry Medal, the highest honor in children’s literature, went to “Last Stop on Market Street,” a picture book. This was unusual because the award almost always goes to a novel. In addition, this is the first time a Latino author has won the award. The book is also a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book and 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book.
In “Last Stop on Market Street,” CJ and his nana, who are African American, ride a bus as they do every Sunday after church, but today CJ is not happy about it. He peppers Nana with questions: “How come we have to wait for the bus in all this wet?” “How come we don’t got a car?” Nana patiently answers his questions, pointing out things for CJ to appreciate around him. She is friendly to the other bus riders and makes CJ do the same.
When CJ is jealous of older boys with IPods, she points out the man across from them with a guitar. The man begins to play and CJ closes his eyes and enjoys the music. When they get off at the last stop on Market Street, CJ again complains about the dirty neighborhood. Nana tells him, “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.” Just then, a perfect rainbow arcs over the soup kitchen, their destination.
This is a gentle twist ending, as the reader learns CJ and his grandmother are on their way to help others who have even less. CJ spots familiar faces at the soup kitchen and he says, “I’m glad we came.”
The book has good messages about volunteerism, appreciating what you have, finding beauty even in poverty, and the love between a grandmother and her grandson. It is written with lyrical prose. Nana says, “Trees get thirsty, too,” and “Don’t you see that big one drinking through a straw?” The bus “sighed and sagged.” When CJ listens to the guitar playing, he “saw sunset colors swirling over crashing waves.” The illustrations are beautiful too, colorful, flat, blocky in style, and well composed.
About the Author and Illustrator:
Matt De La Pena is the author of five critically acclaimed young adult novels: “Balls Don’t Lie,” “Mexican WhiteBoy,” “We Were Here,” “I Will Save You,” and “The Living.” He’s also the author of the award-winning picture book, “A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (illustrated by Kadir Nelson). Matt teaches creative writing and visits schools and colleges throughout the country. Matt lives in Brooklyn, New York. His website is www.mattdelapena.com.
Christian Robinson grew up riding the bus with his nana – just like CJ He would often daydream during commutes through the city and make up stories as he watched people go about their busy days. Today Christian is very happy telling stories with pictures as an illustrator living and working in San Francisco. His website is www.theartoffun.com.