“Nana, how come we don’t got a car?”…So begins the story of Last Stop on Market Street, a book that captures the value of being content and having a deep appreciation for the life that you live. It is relatively easy to constantly compare oneself to others. Adults do it. Children do it. I have no doubt that dogs probably do it, too. In this story, author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson address the comparison game through the eyes of CJ, a young boy who, after leaving church one day, raises question to his nana about the differences between his life and others.
He begins asking why he must ride the bus, can’t have the same headphones as others, etc., and his nana explains to him that the fact that people have certain things does not mean that their life is any better than his. Rather than simply telling him to appreciate the things around him, she makes statements that allow him to notice what is special in his own life. She points out small elements of his environment, such as the music played by the musician on the bus, “the bus that breathes fire”, and all the other people who he only knows because they ride the bus after church every Sunday. It is obvious that nana sees beauty in the simple things in life, and throughout the book, she leads CJ to the point where he can be proud of where he comes from. The book ends with nana and CJ serving those who are less fortunate than them at a soup kitchen on Market Street.
De la Peña expresses the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings of city life through vivid, poetic language while Robinson’s illustrations create a wondrous setting filled with bright colors and diverse characters. Together with de la Peña’s text and Robinson’s illustrations, the book creates a story that draws the reader into nana and CJ’s lives. The readers begins seeing the beauty that the characters feel and may even take an introspective look at the things in their own lives that make it unique.