Monday, February 1, 2016

Thoughts on Last Stop on Market Street

In 2008, librarians surprised everyone by choosing the 533-page, The Invention of Hugo Cabret as the winner of the Caldecott Medal honoring the "most distinguished American picture book for children."  This year, the award committees surprised us again with the choice of a picture book, Last Stop on Market Street, as the winner of the Newbery Medal, given to "to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." 

The short video below featuring author, Matt de la Peña, reading from his book will convince you that this is a wonderful book. 
My concern as a public librarian, however, is how best to share this book with kids.  The book is a little lengthy for my usual storytime crowd, and school-aged kids can seldom be convinced to check out a picture book.  It's in instances like these, that I envy school teachers and media specialists, who have such a wonderful opportunity to share great books with large numbers of kids.  This is perfect book for reading aloud in school.

But, how to share it in a public library setting?

Last week, I had a last-minute inspiration and it was a rewarding experience.  I have a small book club that meets every month. This month, I asked each of the kids to read Last Stop on Market Street - right then. In addition to positive comments about the book, I loved two of the observations that they reported:
  1. I never would have chosen this book if you didn't hand it to me.
  2. The people at the soup kitchen look like regular people.
We then discussed public transportation (none of the kids had ever been on a bus) and soup kitchens (none had ever been to one).  Working in a suburban library with poor public transportation, I can understand this. However, as a suburban parent, I can tell you that I made sure that my own children volunteered at the local food pantry and experienced public transportation (I made all of them ride the public bus with me to the mall even though it was more expensive than driving my minivan and took twice as long).  As a suburban librarian, I can't take kids on the public bus or to the soup kitchen, but at minimum, I've ensured that a few more children are now aware of the lives that others lead.This is one of the many things that makes my job worthwhile.

One of the missions of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks (TM) campaign is to make sure that "all children can see themselves in the pages of a book."  This is important, but also important is recognizing that all people are just "regular people."  We always have more in common than we think.


Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt de la Peña, Illustrated by Christian Robinson

Read it. Share it.

**Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal
**A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book
**A 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
A New York Times Bestseller
Four Starred Reviews
Finalist for the 2014 E.B. White Read-aloud Book Award
A Junior Library Guild Selection

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