Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
G.P. Putnam's Sons

Rating: 5 stars

Just a few minutes ago I was driving along and had to stop because two big ol' white geese were crossing the road. I stopped and watched them waddle past slowly, not caring how long it took them to get to the other side of the road. These two geese serve as some sort of proof that my kids don't know what it's like to grow up in a city, have a bus be their main (and perhaps only) form of transportation, or experience walking through a constant flow of humanity. The city life is just not my kids' experience.

But I want them to know that there are other experiences out there. I want them to step in other kids' shoes and see what other types of lives are like.

Thanks to Matt De La Peña's latest (and perhaps greatest) book Last Stop on Market Street, my kids can do just that. They can see what city life is like, and what a thoughtful, others-before-me day is like--all in one book.

A young boy named C.J. walks out onto the street, free from an hour of church, yet not yet totally free--this boy is not done with his Sunday routine. C.J. and his grandmother board a bus--Mr. Dennis' bus.  We're not sure where they're going just yet, but the ride gets off to a good start when Mr. Dennis pulls a coin from behind C.J.'s ear.

A scene you don't see often in picture books...
As all kids do, C.J. complains a bit about having to go on this errand when his friends are off playing. But, his grandmother reminds him, his friends "won't know the people he knows. And I'm sorry about that." As he looks around the bus, he sees a great sampling of our great, diverse nation. C.J. sees a tattooed man (he gets no mention, but I like that he exists, in this picture book, with all his tattoos). He talks with a blind man, who says you don't have to have eyes to see.

When C.J. envies two teenagers' iPod, his grandmother points out he's got the real, live version in a guitar-holding passenger across the aisle. She suggests he request a song, and the musician strikes up a diddy just for C.J. The performance earns the coin Mr. Dennis pulled from his ear.

Finally, they arrive to the last stop on Market Street: a soup kitchen.

"Why's it always so dirty here?" C.J. asks.

"Sometimes, when you're surrounded by dirt, C.J., you're a better witness for what is beautiful," his grandmother wisely and patiently replies.

The two greet the men and women at the soup kitchen and take their places to serve them.

I'd like my kids to walk in C.J.'s shoes in more ways than one. As a former volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity and the Peace Corps, I look forward to the days when my kids will take their places to serve others.

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