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.
Go Shapes, GO! by Denise Fleming; Beach Lane Books, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 2-6.
Caldecott Honor medalist Denise Fleming (underGROUND) brings shapes to center stage in this sweet picture book for young readers. Circles, rectangles, ovals and arcs bounce from one page to the next alongside a speedy murine sidekick. Together, these arcs and ovals come together to create a friendly monkey – a feat that will likely inspire little readers to fashion their own animal creation out of cut paper shapes. Fleming’s bright and bold creations are all made with handmade paper, and the backgrounds were poured by the author herself. The result is a whimsical book full of surprising textures that play with color, light and lines. Children just learning the names of shapes will find this book a delight, and emerging readers can pick out the words for the shapes on each page written in all capital letters.