Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
I jumped up and down when this book was announced at the Youth Media Awards press conference — after the initial “WHAT? Really? A picture book text?” Then, it was, “YAY! Finally. A real picture book has won the Newbery!” Great job. Committee!
However, it was not until today, when I finally re-read the text, blocking out all the illustrations, just paying attention to the rhythm, the word choices, the imagery, the heart and soul of this seemingly simple text for the very young that I realized how marvelous a choice this book is for the award.
By recognizing the text, which allows for so much imagination and chances of deep discussions, especially literary ones, the Newbery Committee has affirmed the significant value of finely crafted text for young children. I can still recite many passages from Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book because I read that book to my daughter when she was still in her crib. Every night, for months, and no matter how many times I read it aloud, I found myself admiring the genius writing page after page. I am quite certain that the reason my daughter appreciates poetry and what she calls “good writing” in the adult books she reads now that she’s 16 is her wide exposure to excellent texts like The Important Book, So Said the Little Monkeys, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Madeline, and many others.
I am ordering copies of Last Stop on Market Street for my Middle School Library and will encourage middle grade teachers to use the book to inspire students to interpret the text as they envision in their mind. CJ could be anyone. Nana could be anyone’s grandma. The boys on the bus with something CJ envies do not have to share ear-buds on their iPod and the imagery of the large tree “drinking through a straw” was never depicted literally in the illustration anyway. The students in a language arts class will simply bask in the glory of the text like “The outside air smelled like freedom,” and “rain, which freckled CJ’s shirt” and have a rigorous mental workout to understand the implied interactions and emotions.
And ample discussion opportunities for the ending, when Nana does not give her usual deep laugh… now what is that all about?
De La Peña sure wrote a distinguished book!