Last Stop on Market Street

last stop on market street book cover

Written by: Matt de la Pena

 

Illustrated by: Christian Robinson

 

Age Range: 3 and up

 

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons (part of Penguin Books)

 

ISBN: 0399257748

 

Awards: John Newberry Medal, Caldecott Medal

Rundown

CJ and his nana head on their weekly adventure after church one Sunday morning. During a rainstorm, CJ wonders why they have to walk through the rain. Nana helps CJ see that the rain is not a detriment to their journey, but a gift to the trees.

CJ sees his friend Colby get in a car and wonders why his nana doesn’t have a car. The duo board a bus and CJ learns from a blind man that not everyone sees the world with their eyes, but with their other senses. He tests this out while listening to a guitarist play a song on the bus.

When CJ and nana arrive at their destination, to serve at a soup kitchen, CJ starts to understand how to see and experience true beauty in the world around him.

Critique

I loved that CJ and his grandmother were headed to help at a soup kitchen the whole time. They were going to give their time, and CJ witnessed beauty and kindness multiple times before arriving at their end destination.

The generational relationship between young CJ and his nana was a joy to watch. Nana continually offers CJ a new perspective in which to see the world and others in it. Compassion is learned, and this book demonstrates it beautifully.

Nana challenges CJ to see the world differently numerous times. A great example of this is when it was raining and CJ became disgruntled by it. Nana helped him see that the rain wasn’t here to ruin their morning, but rather a gift for thirsty trees. On the bus, nana explains that a blind man sees the world with his ears and other senses. I really loved it when nana asks CJ “Boy, what do you know about seeing?”

Many different people with different talents and gifts are represented in this book. CJ seems to learn something from each person he speaks with or observes.

The book took on challenging issues like social injustice, poverty, and socio economic issues but doesn’t force you to teach a lesson about it with your kids in that moment. I think this book will foster more dialogue and questions around these cultural issues with my kids as they continue to grow.

The illustrations are simplistic and fit perfectly for the story being told. They portray life as it happens. It’s a little rough around the edges, but simple and relatable.

I had a really hard time with this one, which is a testament for how good this book is. CJ doesn’t use correct grammar all the time, but it doesn’t bother me a ton as it’s representing how CJ would legitimately ask a question at his age.

If you hear your own kids mirroring how CJ is speaking in the book and use incorrect grammar, it may create an opportunity to have some dialogue about it.

Re-read Value

This is an important metric for all parents reading to their kids. I have come up with a way to rate books based on this factor.

Here’s how it works: When your child asks to read a book 3 or more nights in a row (and they absolutely will), how likely are you to feel like jumping head first through a wall than reading the book again?

My kids and I both really enjoy this story. The book didn’t get tired or old after repeat readings. The story reinforces many wonderful concepts, which makes me glad to read it multiple days in a row.

Final Thoughts

This book is so full of perspective and ways to consider how you interact with the world around you. I like that this book challenges what our culture defines as “beautiful” today. “CJ wondered how his nana always found beautiful where he never even thought to look.” Not instagram selfies, but watching someone do something kind for someone else.

I love this book. I could not recommend it any higher. Read it to your kids. You might just learn something for yourself along the way.

You can find more children’s book reviews and some of my own short stories here as well. Enjoy!