Last week, I finally had the chance to share Last Stop on Market Street with my first grade classes.
We began by discussing all those shiny stickers on the cover--how unusual it was for a picture book to win the Newbery Medal, how special the pictures must be to win a Caldecott Honor, and that it must have a powerful message of peace and brotherhood to win a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.
The opening pages conveniently give us the main characters and setting. I read the story, stopping along the way to get students thinking. Do we know where Nana and CJ are going? How does CJ feel about the trip, and how do we know? What do we call smiling at others and wishing them a "good afternoon"? What did the blind man give Nana? Did CJ really leave the bus when he was listening to the music? How does the place where they get off the bus compare to the place where they got on?
When we find out that Nana and CJ are going to a soup kitchen, I had to stop and explain what a soup kitchen is--and then I asked the children why they thought Nana and CJ were going. The first answers are always related to being poor and hungry, but after pressing the students to think of a different answer, a few classes were able to guess that they might be going to give food.
I chose this book to read the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, because Nana is such a great example of being thankful for the good things that exist in our lives, instead of thinking that others always have it better. The ending message of service is powerful in this season of consumerism.
Author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson knocked it out of the park with this book. The students and I agreed that the story, pictures, and message were definitely worthy of the shiny stickers on the cover.