UPDATE: Matt de la Pena was awarded the 2016 Newbery Medal 2016, and Christian Robinson received a Caldecott Honor.
Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peកa, illustrated by Christian Robinson; Putnam Books, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 4-6. (January 2015)
CJ and his grandmother board the Market Street bus after church every Sunday, and spend the afternoon working in the soup kitchen of a homeless shelter. One day, the boy wonders aloud why his family doesn’t have a car or an MP3 player, and his wise and patient grandmother responds with encouragement, gentle humor and love by showing CJ that there is beauty even in the muddy and mundane city streets. Brooklyn-based author Matt de la Peកa (A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis) captures the child’s inquisitive spirit as well as the time-worn perspective of an older generation with short, snappy sentences that convey just enough detail about class inequality without weighing the story down. (When CJ and his grandmother board the bus, Peកa’s ‘They sat right up front" recalls Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement in one simple sentence, and it’s perfect. ) San-Francisco native Christian Robinson (Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade; Josephine) expertly captures the charm and vibrancy of the City by the Bay with illustrations done in bright acrylic paint and collage. This celebration of life’s simple gifts and reminds us that what matters most isn’t the acquisition of stuff, but the time we spend with each other.