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.