|Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson.|
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015.
A couple of weeks ago, while dropping the girls off at school, I heard an interview on NPR's Morning Edition. Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson were talking about their new picture book collaboration, Last Stop on Market Street. I came home and put a hold on it right away. I wasn't familiar with de la Peña, but Christian Robinson is on his way to becoming one of my very favorite modern illustrators. Last year, we checked out the book Gaston, and fell in love with his colorful, playful art. We have two more books checked out now (I'll cover one this Friday, the other I'm saving for Women's History Month), and the illustrations are so joyful in each one.
Which makes him the perfect illustrator for Last Stop on Market Place, a book about seeing the beauty in the world around you, even if you have less.
Litte CJ leaves church with his grandmother. It's raining. CJ does not like the rain, and begins to complain.
"How come we gotta wait for the best in all this wet?" "Trees get thirsty, too," his nana told him. "Don't you see that big one drinking through a straw?"
At the bus stop, CJ wonders why they don't have a car. His nana tell him, "We got a bus that breathes fire," and reminds him that the bus driver does magic tricks. Sure enough, when they board the bus, the driver pulls a coin from behind CJ's ear and places it in his palm.
The bus is full of diverse and colorful figures. Nana greets each person with a smile, reminding her grandson to do the same. CJ begins to grumbles about going anywhere, telling Nana that his friends don't go anywhere after church. She tells him it's a shame they never get a chance to meet the people they're going to see.
When a blind man and his dog board the bus, CJ gives up his seat, but asks Nana, "How come that man can't see?"
"Boy, what do you know about seeing?" From there, she and the blind man tell CJ about how the man "sees" with his ears and nose, and the blind man makes Nana laugh.
CJ wishes he had an MP3 player like two teenagers. His grandmother tells him he doesn't need any music device, because they're sitting by a man with a guitar! The man sings to the passengers, and the blind man teaches them about listening to the music with their eyes closed. For CJ, it's a beautiful, "eye-opening" experience. When the man finishes his song, Nana looks at CJ's coin from the bus driver. Without being asked, the boy drops the coin into the guitarist's hat.
Nana and CJ get off the bus at the last stop on Market Street. The landscape isn't pretty. It's a decaying urban setting, covered in graffiti. CJ's complaints begin again. He asks Nana why it's so dirty.
She smiled and pointed to the sky. "Sometimes when you're surrounded by dirt, CJ, you're a better witness for what's beautiful."
CJ sees a beautiful rainbow over the soup kitchen, which is where the two are headed. He wondered how his nana always found beautiful where he never even thought to look.
He smiles when he sees familiar faces in the window, telling his grandmother, "I'm glad we came." She pats him on the head and agrees.
The soup kitchen is filled with diverse faces, as bright and cheery as any other page in the book. Beauty is all around you, if you look for it. And while you may not have as much as some, it's a wonderful thing to share what you have with others.
You probably know this, but I'll state it anyway: I love this book. It's about appreciating what you have, and looking for the joy in life, even when circumstances knock you down. There's a great interview with de la Peña and Robinson over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, if you want to head over there.
We checked our copy out from the library, but I may need to invest in an at-home copy soon.
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