BooksForKidsBlog

Monday, March 21, 2016

At the End of the Line: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena

C. J. STEPPED THROUGH THE CHURCH DOOR, SKIPPING DOWN THE STEPS.

THE OUTSIDE SMELLED LIKE FREEDOM.

It's Sunday, and church is finally over, but C. J. is not happy. For one thing, it's raining. For another, he sees his friends heading home in their nice dry cars to play for the rest of the day.

"HOW COME I GOTTA WAIT FOR THE BUS IN ALL THIS WET?" HE GRUMBLES.

"TREES GET THIRSTY, TOO," SAID NANA.

"HOW COME WE DON'T HAVE A CAR?" CONTINUES C.J.

But Nana's got an answer for that one, too. She points out that he's got a bus that breathes fire like a dragon, with Mr. Dennis the driver who can magically pull coins from his ears. C. J. pockets the coin, but he is still not mollified. Across the aisle from his seat he sees a boy listening to his iPod, and grumbles aloud that he sure wishes he had his own music.

"WHAT FOR?" SAYS NANA. "YOU GOT THE REAL THING SITTIN' ACROSS FROM YOU."

And the guy with the guitar sitting nearby obliges by serenading the passengers. C.J. closes his eyes to listen like the blind man behind him, and even the kids take out their earbuds to listen and feel that live music magic. Everyone, even Sunglass Man and Tattoo Guy, applauds.

Then they are there. The driver calls the last stop on the route.

C. J. and Nana get off and hurry through the rain and through a drab door where they find soggy homeless people waiting hopefully for them to serve dinner, and C. J. loses a little of his dark mood, seeing how grateful everyone is. Then it's time for the bus ride home.

Outside, Market Street is a sad sight, dingy gray walls, peeling paint. Still grumpy, C.J. wonders aloud ...
"HOW COME IT'S ALWAYS SO DIRTY OVER HERE?"

"SOMETIMES, WHEN YOU'RE SURROUNDED BY DIRT,  C. J." NANA SAYS, "YOU'RE A BETTER WITNESS FOR WHAT'S BEAUTIFUL."

And as if the sky heard Nana, C.J. looks up to see a bright rainbow over Market Street, in Matt De La Pena's 2016 Newbery Award-winning Last Stop on Market Street (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2015). From his grandmother's gentle premise that poor in the pocketbook is not the same as poor in spirit, C. J.'s eyes are opened to the good around him.

Christine Robinson's simple, stylized illustrations, a variety of human figures shown mostly in profile, are balanced by the myriad of shapes and colors in the urban scene surrounding them, De La Pena's book swept the awards for the year, being named a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, the 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, becoming a New York Times best seller, a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2015, and The Huffington Post's Best Overall Picture Book of 2015. And readers will agree with C.J as he says as he boards the bus, "I'm glad we came."

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