In The Middle School Classroom: Talking About Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena


last stop on market street

So many of us were so happy to hear that Matt de la Peña won the Newbery Medal with Last Stop on Market Street though so many of us were quite surprised as well. Not surprised because the book didn’t deserve it, it did; surprised because it is a picture book winning the award for most distinguished piece of children’s literature. This means that the illustrations, which are phenomenal and also won a Caldecott Honors, could not be taken into consideration during the Newbery process. This left many people wondering how a picture book could beat out novels such as Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan and The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, two of the three honors books.

I was fascinated by all the conversations, and then I read a post on Facebook by my friend, Beth Shaum, sharing an activity she did in her classroom. She decided to let her student be the judge of the book and read Last Stop on Market Street aloud to her students without showing them the illustrations. She then asked them how it met the criteria of the Newbery. I loved it and decided to do it in mine as well. I didn’t plan on blogging about it, but the conversations that came with the activity and reading of Last Stop on Market Street with my middle school students was something that needed to be shared.

In my class, I read the whole picture book twice. The first time straight through. Then the second time I allowed for questions and we discussed it a bit. It was so wonderful to see how much inference needed to be done when the illustrations were excluded from the reading. When CJ says he wanted something a pair of teens had, students couldn’t see the photos to determine what it was. They also noticed the diversity of the book without seeing the photos because they pointed out that there was a blind man on the bus.

Finally, I asked my students to answer two questions. First, I asked them to tell me what made Last Stop on Market Street distinguished, and why do you think it won the Newbery. Then, after reading the book for a third time and showing the illustrations as well they had to tell me what the theme of the book was. (We are actually in a theme unit, so the text fit in perfectly.) Here are some answers I received:

What made Last Stop on Market Street distinguished? Why do you think it won the Newbery?

“This book won the Newbery award because it had so many positive things to teach kids. It shows many different things to think about.”

“Because of the author’s ability to use imagery, teach a valuable life lesson in a way where a child can understand, and it’s way of including racially diverse characters like the world we live in today. This book creates a story for children that let’s them think.”

“I think it won because the book teach you many lessons about homeless people and the different types of diversity that is in the world, also the book teach you that some people don’t have a lot of things and it is important to be thankful, the kid in the book was complaining about doesn’t have a car but some people don’t even have food.”

“This book is different from all the other winners for this award, but it still won maybe because the amount of detail in the story even without looking at the illustration.”

“I think this book won the Newbery prize because this shows us that deep down inside that little town it shines bright like the sun,so i think that this book won because it teaches life lessons for kids.”

“I think this won because the story was very well written. The setting and people in the setting were described very well. Even without the pictures I could imagine what the scene looked like. The one scene that really stood out was when CJ, his grandma, and the blind man, all closed their eyes and enjoyed the sound of the music the man with the guitar was playing. The author described this scene very well.”

“It won the Newberry medal because there was so much description in the characters and how the character talked about the setting how there was a arch of a rainbow, about the streetlamps, the graffiti, and even about the description of the characters were so much in detail, like this person was blind, and that the dog guided him around.”

“I think the Last Stop On Market Street won the Newbery Medal because of the way of the wording showed freedom, power, and beauty. It showed clever wording and hints that implied little things that made the world better and beautiful. It talked about how the world was ruined to some and looked wrong, but when you understood it, the world was beautiful. What made the book distinguished was how so little words meant so much and made you think about how the world was breathtaking, and what made it so special.”

“This book is distinguished because the characters are described well because it showed what they were doing and saying. The book also described freedom well and it showed the theme better because it said that his Nana found beautiful everywhere and he looks around after wondering that and it seems that he is appreciating the beauty of all the things around him. I think that this book won the Newbery because it (1) shows diversity, (2) it has an amazing message, and (3) the book doesn’t take place in a fancy school or luxurious house but on an old bus yet it still makes CJ’s time there seem great because he is enjoying the world around him and the people around him.”

“I think that the book won the Newberry because the characters are diverse, for example, the blind man with his dog on the bus. C.J and his Nana are also interesting characters, because Nana sees the beauty in a lot of things that C.J doesn’t see yet.”

“This book won the Newbery prize because it is very true and it gives people hope.”

What is the theme of Last Stop on Market Street?

“The theme is that whenever you are sad you have to keep positive and look at the good side.”

” Broken things still have their uses.”

“Don’t be jealous and want everything be happy that you are living the life you have. You don’t have to be like all the other people and be jealous. Who cares where you live and what you do or what you have. Like when the boy said he wanted a car instead of riding the bus. He wanted to go straight home instead of going to the homeless shelter. All those things he wanted but he should have been happy for what he has.”

“I think the theme of the Last Stop On Market Street was to appreciate the little things in the world that make it special, rather than looking on the outside and wanting what you think makes the world better for you, not including others who may have less, but respect more than what you think the world is made of.”

“I think that the theme of the story is that people should appreciate what they have in life because beauty is everywhere no matter where you are or what you are doing.”

“I think that the theme of this book is that there is beauty in everything. I say this because C.J’s Nana said that the bus breathes fire, that a tree’s trunk is a straw, she also said that some people see the world with their ears.”

Thank you to my students for their beautiful and thoughtful responses.

Kellee Signature

13 thoughts on “In The Middle School Classroom: Talking About Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena”

  1. I did pretty much the same thing with my 6th grade classes and it went wonderfully. It’s the only Newbery you can read in one sitting and have students analyze for distinguished reading. I’m so happy it won (though I love both of the honors too!

  2. I didn’t think to hold back the pictures for my middle schoolers, but we did read it and talk about why it might have been the winner. My 7th graders were on board with many similar responses to what you shared here, but my 8th graders, not so much. That’s either because 8th graders are terminally cynical, while 7th graders will still allow each other to be enthusiastic and appreciative, OR because I teach my 8th grade classes first and had my presentation down better by the time I saw my 7th graders.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this, Kellee! I loved that you shared the activity AND the kids’ responses. I did something similar with my 3rd and 5th grade G/T kids, but did show the pictures (I wish I had thought to read it to them without the pictures first!!). Their responses were like many of your students’– which just goes to show that the appeal and the themes are universal in terms of kids of different ages– and I have a large number of ELLs and minority students in my school, too.

  4. I had a similar discussion with my first and second graders. I started by telling them how I felt about a PB winning the Newbery (and I still don’t love it)but how my mind was opened to the idea after reading the book. My 6,7 & 8 year olds were extremely thoughtful on the subject. I read a lot of chapter books to them as well as PB, so they are familiar with the two genres. I’m so happy to see that middle school teachers are also using LSOMS. Matt de la Peña is an SDSU alumni like me. Aztecs for Life!

  5. Stopping in from the Kid Lit Blog Hop. This is a great way to discuss literature with kids. Sometimes we forget to give young people the credit they deserve for being thoughtful and insightful on topics.

  6. WOW! What a great way to draw the kids out and cause them to really see what their eyes cannot see, but their minds and hearts can. I love so many things that your children in class wrote about and why they thought the book won the Newbery. FINE teaching, you and your friend. Really fine!

  7. What a great discussion and thought processes your students had. I am going to have to put this one on my TBR pile.

    Thanks for sharing it at the KLBH.

    Naila Moon, Hostess, Kid Lit Blog Hop

  8. Before and after this book won medals, I have read many reviews about it. But, your post is an important one. It talks the minds of children about the book, the very target audience of this book. Thanks for sharing in KLBH.

  9. I’ve read this wonderful book and thought it was exceptional as a picture book. Your blog and the description of how you used it truly expanded my appreciation of the book’s brilliance. It also reminded me how much additional value I glean from a book when I discuss it with others. Great post. Great book.


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