by Judy Newman
I want you to meet CJ and his Nana.
I can’t see you in person, visit your classroom, shake your hand, or give you a hug like I usually do—and will do again, I am confident—but what I can do right now is introduce you to CJ and Nana and everyone they meet on Market Street.
In this incredibly challenging time, children are looking to us—adults who also have to manage our own issues, fears, and anxieties—for help navigating this new world.
We are teachers and book publishers and parents and all kinds of “grown-ups” (and, let’s be honest, some days we barely have our own act together!), but we need to stay resourceful to help all kids make sense of the world around them and stay hopeful, creative, and physically and emotionally healthy. And we need to surround kids with wonderful books to choose from so that they can love reading and see themselves as readers. It’s a tall order.
We can all take inspiration and solace from Nana, with her grace and compassion and ability to help CJ find “beautiful where he never even thought to look.”
“This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
When CJ gripes about having to take the bus after his friends pull away from church in their comfortable car, Nana reminds CJ about the bus driver, “old Mr. Dennis, who always has a trick for you.”
When CJ, feeling sorry for himself, asks Nana why they have to go to the soup kitchen instead of going “nowhere” like his friends, Miguel and Colby, Nana says how sorry she feels for those boys: “They’ll never have the chance to meet Bobo or the Sunglass Man” or Trixie, who “got herself a brand-new hat.”
And when they reach their stop on Market Street (which Matt and Christian tell us could be Market Street in any child’s town), CJ asks Nana, “How come it’s always so dirty over here?” She points to a rainbow in the sky and says, “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”
It is Nana’s optimism, her empathy, her kindness and compassion, and how she shares that all with CJ—who, in turn, drinks it in—that makes Last Stop on Market Street so special.
At Scholastic Book Clubs, we speak with teachers every day—formally through surveys and in weekly focus groups, and informally through social media and lots of one-on-one conversations—and we are trying to stay as helpful as we can possibly be.
With all the issues of heading back to school in the current state of uncertainty, what teachers are telling us loud and clear is that they need affordable, enjoyable, relatable books that every child will love to read.
We know Last Stop on Market Street fits that bill perfectly.
As Matt de la Peña explains in the hugely entertaining and compelling video he recorded with Christian Robinson, he has a theory that kids understand more than we sometimes give them credit for, and so he never wants to write down to kids.
Matt thinks kids will experience Last Stop on Market Street at different levels—depending on what they can handle and where they are personally, and as readers. He believes some kids will read Last Stop on Market Street and see a boy on a bus and be most interested in what’s going on in the bus, while other kids will bring different observations to the table and wonder, for example, where CJ’s parents are and why CJ and Nana don’t have a car.
In that spirit, I urge you to take advantage of the Book of the Week for all kids of all ages in your life. It is simple and accessible, and like all great literature, timeless and relatable to all children. Oh yes, and it won the 2016 Newbery Medal, a Caldecott Honor, and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.
As you join CJ and Nana and find your own way onto the bus and into Last Stop on Market Street—at whatever level your students are ready for—please spend some time with the resources we’ve created to help you share this book with students. I urge you to invest 11 minutes to listen to this incredible side-by-side interview with Matt and Christian. I promise you, it’s worth every second!
As I was preparing for this week’s post, I thought about my own two nanas—Nana Rae, who was widowed at a young age with three small children and who made a living as a piano teacher; and Nana Min, mother to Linda, who was born with brain damage, and was determined her entire life to give her disabled daughter as full a life as possible. Like CJ’s nana, they both sought to see the beauty in everyday life and to appreciate and really see the people they met—talented and reluctant piano students and so many mental health professionals and social workers alike—whom they each engaged with in their own daily journeys through their individual versions of “Market Street.”
David Vozar, Scholastic Book Clubs’ Creative Director and my colleague and friend for decades, was also inspired by Last Stop on Market Street to reflect on his own grandmother:
As you read Last Stop on Market Street, please encourage your students to think about people in their lives who they learn from and love and respect.
This week, our Scholastic Book Clubs team put together some FREE downloadable resources for you to use—whether your class is learning in person or remotely from home—to help introduce you and young readers to Last Stop on Market Street:
• The Book Boys created a kid- and class-friendly video to share their feelings about Last Stop on Market Street. And, like CJ does in the story, the Book Boys close their eyes “to feel the magic of music.” Kids will love to join them in this activity.
• Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson recorded an incredible exclusive video interview and share a truly special Behind the Scenes look at their creative process and how Last Stop on Market Street was made. I urge you to watch this!
• Kindergarten teacher Barbara Garibaldi shows how she uses Last Stop on Market Street with her class as a read-aloud in an exclusive Book Talks teacher review video.
• Download a FREE write-and-draw activity to encourage kids to practice and engage their five senses in Cooked Up from a Book.
One hundred percent of the work we do at Scholastic Book Clubs is dedicated to helping you get great and affordable books into the hands of all children so that they can find books they will love to read and declare “I am a reader.”
Please feel free to reach out to me anytime (email@example.com) with any ideas for how we can best deliver on this promise for you.
In the meantime, on behalf of all of us at Scholastic Book Clubs, I send our very best wishes for a healthy and successful start to the new school year, filled with lots of wonderful books that can help all kids see themselves as readers and truly change the world.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs