Last Stop on Market Street
words by Matt de la Peña
illustrations by Christian Robinson
Interests: grandparents, city life, buses, tolerance, helping others, poverty, gratitude
G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin: 2015
CJ rides the bus with his grandma every Sunday after church. This book tells about one such Sunday trip, and the little events and wonders that occur along the way. CJ is a normal, impatient, inquisitive boy, full of questions that his grandma answers in a measured, thoughtful way. He wonders why they don’t have a car to drive in, why do they have to take the bus? His grandma points out the little things that make a bus ride more interesting. He wishes he had earphones to listen to music like the big boys on the bus, but grandma points out they’ve got the real live thing sitting right across from them – a man with a guitar, who obliges them with a tune. When they reach Market Street, crowded with boarded up stores and graffiti, he wonders why it’s always so dirty here. Again, grandma points out the beauty that’s there, and CJ looks up to see rainbow in the sky.
They finally reach their destination, which turns out to be a soup kitchen, where they take their places ladling out soup, and CJ is glad they came. Nothing more is said, the illustrations complete the story.
A deceptively simple book, with a lyrical text that gently touches on issues of prosperity and poverty, tolerance, and seeing the beauty in everything. Grandma is a wonderful teacher, as she interacts kindly with everyone she meets, making friends at every turn. As the old saying goes, for her a stranger is just someone she hasn’t met yet. And Grandma and CJ obviously help out at the soup kitchen every week, as they are greeted with waves and smiles. The big city is effectively portrayed as a friendly place, not dangerous or scary at all, not even in the rough neighbourhood of Market Street. The city has its own gritty charm, which grandma is teaching CJ to appreciate.
Perfectly pitched for the young, this book paints a lovely picture of community, kindness and volunteerism … all without being preachy.