Hey friends! A lot has happened in the kidlit world since last I posted - namely, the Youth Media Awards (Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, etc.) given by the American Library Association. I've been crowing about it a lot on Twitter, but this year's awards were absolutely fantastic for the amount of diversity and kid appeal they included. So many great winners from so many diverse authors/illustrators! Check out the full list and make sure to buy or check out these and other diverse titles...as always, you can keep diverse books viable by purchasing them for your home, school or library.
It's shaping up to be an exciting spring for me personally and professionally. One of the highlights is that I get to attend the Children's Literature Conference at WWU, where guest speakers this year include Joyce Sidman, Kate diCamillo, Yuyi Morales and Matt de la Peña. Is that a lineup or what?? I'm super excited. I've been reading a lot of each author's backlist in preparation, and their new stuff as well of course, because WHY NOT? :)
Matt de la Peña is probably best known for his teen books, in particular The Living and Mexican WhiteBoy. Sometimes authors who write for older readers have trouble finding the right voice for the littles, but I'm happy to say that's not the case for de la Peña's new picture book, Last Stop on Market Street. This title is brimming with spirit and distinctiveness, in its depiction of a young boy, his nana, and the world of their city.
The story opens as CJ and his nana are leaving church. CJ is a curious guy, and he notices things - like why he and Nana take the bus when others drive cars, why he doesn't have an iPod when others do. Nana's got a simple response for everything, pointing out that what they have -- a bus with a cheerful driver, a fellow passenger with a guitar -- is plenty perfect. CJ visits with his fellow passengers, talking to a blind man about people "watching the world with their ears" and feeling the rhythm of the guitar player's song. Soon enough the pair is at their destination: the soup kitchen, in a rough part of town. CJ comments that the area is dirty; Nana responds "Sometimes when you're surrounded by dirt, CJ, you're a better witness for what's beautiful."
Last Stop on Market Street is a terrific book for sharing with kids of all colors and backgrounds, because of how deeply it makes you think. de la Peña makes his point without being preachy or didactic - that beauty is everywhere, that we can find it particularly in helping our fellow man. It's the calm certainty of CJ's nana that bowls me over. She looks around at what quite clearly could be depressing sights, and finds grace and warmth and color where others see ruin. That's a message I want Sprout to know with certainty, and it's delivered with inclusiveness through the text and the colorful, appealing illustrations done by Christian Robinson (an illustrator to watch, in my estimation!).
Pair Last Stop on Market Street with other city-centered tales of gracious acts, like City Green or A Bus Called Heaven. What de la Peña and Robinson have created is a fresh classic, a book that keeps giving with each subsequent read - and believe me, it's one you'll read time and time again.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons