Last Stop on Market Street

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson (Puffin)

I am very fond of the picture books of the United States and France for different reasons. French picture books are visually stunning, There appears to be a greater appreciation of the craft of picture book making. The genre is not categorised as being suitable for young children within certain age bands, but is available randomly within children’s book areas. The papers, font and colours are beautiful, considered and subtle.

American picture books are cherished too. However, in my experience over many years, this is because of the themes which frequently seek to share information and values, sometimes none too subtly.

The winner of both a Newbery Medal and Caldecott Honor Awards of 2016 is ‘Last Stop on Market Street’ by Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson (Puffin). The Newbery and Caldecott awards are decided by a committee drawn from the American Library Association. American libraries are subsidised by state governments and philanthropists and valued by their communities. Past winners of the Newbery Honor Award have included, ‘Sounder’ by William H.Armstrong (Harper Collins), ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury, UK) and ‘The Graveyard Book’ by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury UK). Caldecott winners have included ‘This is Not My Hat’ by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press) and ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’ by Brian Selznick (Scholastic).

To recognise a picture book, for its individual parts of text and images is rare; ‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay (Walker Books) is one that springs to mind from recent years. The title has to truly merit such praise. ‘Last Stop on Market Street’ hits the spot with bells (bus bells).

CJ and his grandmother (who laughs ‘her deep laugh’) travel from church to serve food at a homeless shelter aboard a city bus that ‘sighed and sagged’ and ‘creaked to a stop.’ CJ complains about the mode of transport, the people, the view, the town and the purpose, comparing his lot to that of various friends. Fellow travellers tell him that ‘some people watch the world with their ears… their noses too.’ Throughout the route of the story, we, and CJ, are reminded to look and listen. Toward the end, CJ’s grandmother says, ‘Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.’

The storytelling, images and message are subtle, warm and relevant. It is a book to revisit and treasure with text that demands to be recited- ‘it smelled like freedom, but it also smelled like rain’- and pictures to talk about, e.g., a blind man and his guide dog, a passenger with many tattoos.

Last Stop on Market Street’ offers comparisons in geography, economics, beliefs and citizenship. It is a truly impressive, and deceptively profound book, that I hope other readers will discover and appreciate, as I have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *