Today's picture book is very special indeed. It won the 2016 Newbery Award, which is very unusual because typically Newbery winners are novels. The story is so universal and powerful that I had to pause after reading it the first time to take in everything. Then I read it again.
Last Stop on Market Street
Matt De La Pena
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
For ages 5 and up
Penguin, 2015, 978-0-399-25774-2
Every Sunday, after church, CJ and his nana get on a bus and travel across town to Market Street. One Sunday CJ comes out of the church building and it is raining. He does not feel like going across town in the bus today. He resents the rain, he resents the fact that he and Nana cannot travel in a car, he resents the fact that they have to go to the same place after church every Sunday. In short, CJ is not happy with much of anything at the moment.
One would think that Nana would get annoyed by all of CJ’s complaining questions, but she doesn’t because that is not what Nana is like. Instead, she finds something good to appreciate in everything that CJ finds annoying. What would happen to the trees if they did not have rain to water them? If they had a car they would not get to meet Mr. Dennis the bus driver every Sunday, nor would they see the interesting characters on the bus. If they did not go to the same place every Sunday they would get to spend time with “Bobo or the Sunglass Man.”
Then a musician starts to play on the bus and CJ begins to experience the joy that Nana understands so well. He begins to understand that sometimes you need to look at what you do have instead of what you don’t.
This remarkable, award-winning title explores a simple idea through the eyes of a young child. Alongside CJ, on that battered bus, and in the dirty streets, we come to understand that there is beauty everywhere if you know how to look for it.