BookPage Children's Top Pick, January 2015
It’s not often that you see class addressed in picture books in ways that are subtle and seamless, but Last Stop on Market Street, the affectionate story of a young boy and his grandmother, does just that.
CJ walks with his nana under an umbrella after leaving church. “The outside smelled like freedom” to the boy, who must have felt squirmy in the pews. They head for a bus stop, and CJ wonders why they always have to catch the bus, especially when he sees his friend zip by in a car with his dad. “Nana, how come we don’t got a car?” he asks. On the bus, he covets an older boy’s digital music player and earbuds. He also wonders why he and his nana always have to go where they’re going after church, a destination revealed at the book’s close.
His grandmother has a glass-half-full response for every query: Why, the bus breathes fire, and the bus driver always has a trick for CJ. There’s a man with a guitar right across from them on the bus, so who needs tiny music devices when you have “the real live thing” right there? The bus trip reveals a community of intriguing characters, and their destination promises the most colorful personalities. CJ and Nana even talk to a blind man, who tells CJ he can see the world with his ears and nose and shows CJ how to “feel the magic of music” by closing his eyes and letting go. When CJ and his nana step off the bus, readers discover that they’re heading to a soup kitchen. As they walk from the bus stop to the building, CJ wonders how Nana always witnesses beauty in surprising places.
With his crisp, uncluttered illustrations, Christian Robinson—the perfect illustrator for this story—captures the exuberance and wonder inherent in Matt de la Peña’s vivid, resonant text, giving abundant individuality to each community member we see. This ode to gratitude is 2015’s first must-read picture book.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.
Illustrations © 2015 by Christian Robinson. Reprinted with permission of Penguin.