Title: Last Stop on Market Street
Author: Matt De La Pena
Illustrator: Christina Robinson
“CJ pushed through the church doors, skipped down the steps. The outside air smelled like freedom, but it also smelled like rain, which freckled CJ’s shirt and dripped down his nose.”
Publisher Summary: On Sundays, CJ and his nana ride the bus across town to their stop on Market Street. But today, CJ’s not happy about it. Today, he’s wondering out loud why they have to wait in the rain and why they don’t have a car like his other friends. But it’s Nana who opens young CJ’s eyes and shows him the real beauty in the world around them—the spirit of the bustling city, the music in everyday life, and the magic of their own overlooked neighbors.
This sweet book about a boy and his nana is sure to pull on the heart strings of readers—young and old. Nana is an amazing role model for CJ. She smiles and greets people while expecting him to do the same. Whenever CJ complains, she has a wise and positive answer in response. Being kind and compassionate, she sees the beauty in all people and situations. Her perspective influences her grandson as the story progresses. For instance, as they walk on “crumbling sidewalks” and by “boarded-up stores,” CJ begins to see beauty in places he never thought to look. Nana does not just tell her grandson how to act; she lives and models it.
Different races and types of people are depicted and interacted with, including a blind man and a wheel-chair bound person, providing opportunities to discuss diversity and acceptance. When CJ asks why the blind man can’t see, both Nana and the man teach him that seeing can be done with the ears and other senses.
A musician plays his guitar on the bus, allowing CJ to use his imagination. He sees “sunset colors swirling over crashing waves” and “butterflies dancing free in the light of the moon.” The music gives the people on the bus a sense of peace and interconnectedness.
Most importantly, CJ learns to be selfless. He drops his only coin in the hat of the musician as he leaves the bus. Seeing familiar faces at the soup kitchen, he tells Nana he is glad they came. The twosome join others and begin serving needy people.
Last Stop on Market Street is a fantastic book! It won the Newbery medal, the Caldecott Honor, and Coretta Scott King Honor. I highly recommend this book for home and classroom reading.
Extension Activity Ideas
- Bus Ride: If your family has never taken a city bus ride, together determine a place you want to go on the bus line. Park and ride. Afterwards, have children talk or journal about the experience. Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast with riding in a car.
- Manners: Whether on a bus ride or out running errands, practice smiling and greeting people as is appropriate. Encourage children to do the same. Educators can implement this practice in school by teaching children to greet/interact with other teachers and staff.
- Music: Play some instrumental music. Allow children to respond in an age appropriate way, such as drawing, painting, journaling, or dancing/movement.
- Volunteer: Identify a local organization (soup kitchen, humane society, or other non-profit). Volunteer as a class or family.
- Writing: Write about a memorable experience with a grandparent. Share it with the class or family.
- Social Studies: Discuss what it means to be hero. Compare/contrast Nana to the characteristics of one. Have children write about or draw a picture of someone who is their hero.
- Character Education: CJ learns to be grateful. Discuss this vital character quality. Metro Family has some ideas for how to teach children to be grateful.
There are so many outstanding activities and ideas for lesson plans on this book around the web. Check out the following websites: The Classroom Bookshelf, Reederama, and Carol Hurst.
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