Title: Last Stop on Market Street
Author: Matt De La Peña
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Audience: 3-5 years
Summary: CJ is getting tired of spending every Sunday afternoon helping at a soup kitchen with his nana. Where CJ experiences boredom, though, Nana feels possibility and joy. On their long bus ride to the end of Market Street, Nana and CJ meet all sorts of interesting people, and CJ ends the story taking his place behind the serving table with a happy heart.
Literary elements at work in the story: De La Peña develops the characters of Nana and CJ by letting the reader see how they react to a series of simple encounters on an afternoon after church. CJ grumbles that they don’t have a car like his friend Colby; Nana retorts that they get to ride a bus that breathes fire. CJ whines that his buddies never have to go anywhere after church; Nana responds that she feels sorry for the boys that don’t get to meet their special soup kitchen friends. CJ covets an iPod that he spies with a couple of teenagers; Nana points out the man with a guitar nearby: “You got the real live thing sitting across from you. Why don’t you ask the man if he’ll play us a song?” The story’s uncomplicated plot and the reader’s delight in Nana’s buoyant personality develop at the same easy pace.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? One of the points of this lovely story is that CJ and Nana are not rich in consumer goods. CJ yearns for a car, a bike, and digital devices. Nana, though, knows that they are wealthy in ways that count, including the treasure of interesting friends and the ability to share what they have. The book pictures people of all hues, shapes, ages and sizes.
Theological Conversation Partners: Nana is a woman who puts feet and hands and voice to her faith. Although she never once mentions the Lord by name, she leaves her church service on Sunday and heads directly into the world to serve those in need. And she doesn’t go alone. She completely embodies the injunction from Deuteronomy 11:19 to pass along the words and the ways of God to her grandson, “talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” Nana answers CJ’s string of grumblings about the things he doesn’t have and the things he’s not allowed to do with echoes of Paul’s admonition to the Philippians (4:8) to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely…” Fortunately, Nana does not take on the preaching tone that St. Paul so often affects, though; instead, she demonstrates with sassy and savvy skill how to look for joy and how to engage with everyone around her, from the tattooed skinhead to the old lady carrying a jar full of butterflies. Like Paul on the Road to Damascus, CJ has an epiphany on the way to Market Street, when he closes his eyes to listen to the music of a guitar player on the bus. In a double-page spread artist Robinson pictures CJ with arms flung wide, surrounded by the butterflies and birds evoked by the music. These symbols of the resurrected Jesus and of the Holy Spirit enrich this tale of a softening heart. This would be a great book to use in any church that serves in a soup kitchen, too.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Where were CJ and his nana going after church?
- What do you think they were going to do there? Why?
- Why did CJ complain about having to ride the bus?
- Who was your favorite character on the bus? What would you like to talk about with that person?
- At the end of the story, what do you think Nana meant when she said, “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful”?
- Why do you think that CJ was glad they came to the soup kitchen at the end of the story?
This review is written by Beth Lyon-Suhring
Last Stop on Market Street by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.