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 available randomly within children’s book areas. Strict age bands do not define them. The papers, font and colours are beautiful, considered and subtle.
Picture books are cherished in North American children’s literature. However, in my experience, this is because of the themes. These seek to share information and values, sometimes none too subtly.
American picture books
The winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal and Caldecott Honor Awards is ‘Last Stop on Market Street’. Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson are the title’s creators. An American Library Association committee decides on the Newbery and Caldecott awards. State governments and philanthropists subsidise public libraries, which are valued by their communities. Past winners of the Newbery Honor Award have included, ‘Sounder’ by William H.Armstrong, ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury UK). Caldecott winners have included ‘This is Not My Hat’ by Jon Klassen and ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’ by Brian Selznick.
To recognise a picture book, for its individual parts of text and images is rare. .A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay is a recent winner. The title has to truly merit such praise. Last Stop on Market Street hits the spot with bells (bus bells).
Last Stop on Market Street
CJ and his grandmother (who laughs ‘her deep laugh’) travel from church to serve food at a homeless shelter. They ride 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. He compares his lot to that of various friends. Fellow travellers tell him that ‘some people watch the world with their ears… their noses too.’ The reader and CJ, are reminded to look and listen throughout the story’s journey. At the title’s conclusion, CJ’s grandmother says, ‘Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful‘ toward the story’s conclusion.’
The storytelling, images and message are subtle, warm and relevant. It is a book to revisit and treasure. There is text to recite- ‘it smelled like freedom, but it also smelled like rain’. There are 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. I hope other readers will discover and appreciate this beautiful book..