January 26, 2016
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt de la Peña
illustrated by Christian Robinson
G. P. Putnams Sons
Every week after church CJ and Nana take the bus down to the soup kitchen where they volunteer. Nine Sundays out of ten, that might be fine but today CJ just isn’t in the mood.
He wants to know why they have to wait in the wet for the bus. Why don’t his friends have to do this? Why don’t he and Nana have a car? The list goes on and on.
Nana never tires of the litany but her answers are never 100% direct. Instead of telling him that they help because they are blessed, she points out what is positive and the beauty in the world around them. The best part about Nana? Her attitude isn’t she and CJ against the world. As the story goes on she draws other passengers into what is wonderful.
This book recently won the Newbery award (see my post here). This is the award given by the American Library Association for an inspirational and exceptionally crafted story. My joy at this was two-fold. First things first, it was amazing to see the award go to a picture book. Sometimes it feels like we forget that in a picture book the story needs to be as awesome as the art.
The other reason I was thrilled about this award? Some time ago, I got to hear the author speak. Wow. It was easy to see why his books are such a hit with young readers. He is just so real. That said, his reality may thrill young readers but it will put off some adults. As I read about this book online, not surprisingly, I saw some criticisms. Some people didn’t like that the book is grammatically incorrect. The problem with this phrase is that it sets up a dichotomy. Incorrect vs correct. While that may not seem like a problem, it is not only a judgement about the grammar itself but also the people who speak that way. We are kind and accepting and love you just the way you are as long as you sound just . . . like . . . us.
No, this book wouldn’t work as a grammar text but that’s not the point. The grammar is part of the voice of the story. Change the grammar and you change the voice and you make it less real.
I would definitely recommend picking this book up and sharing it with your young readers. It is both overtly and covertly a marvelous story of inclusion and acceptance.