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Archive for January 7th, 2016

Last Stop 1
by Sam Juliano

Ma quando vien lo sgelo
il primo sole è mio
il primo bacio dell’aprile è mio!     

-Giacomo Puccini, La Boheme

It has long been asserted that those who appreciate sublimity the most have experienced the worst kind of squalor and impoverishment.  It has also been posed that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what is one person’s nightmare is another’s eternal joy.  In Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson’s Last Stop on Market Street, each one of these adages is applicable to the story of a young boy and his grandmother who have close to nothing, but come to find appreciation, indeed inspiration from everyday urban life.  The picture book is also a subtle repudiation of capitalist excess, and a call for a life of sensory immersion.  De la Pena implies there is light at the end of the tunnel, and happiness is almost never contingent upon geography.

Much of the drama in Last Stop on Market Street plays out in a bus that maintains a route that travels up and down the street of the title.  The title page pictures the two main characters, while the double page dedication spread street of cars, bicycle riders, dog walkers and people walking.  Between the house is a church with stain glass windows, that takes center stage in the next spread, where rain has begun.  CJ likes the freedom of leaving the church, though he now has to deal with the wet stuff.  The first of his many questions to his Nana throughout the book was in regard to why they needed to stand in the rain, albeit under an umbrella, waiting for a bus.  The Nana makes a funny quip about trees needing water, but that is her normal mindset – she is a mountain of good will and positive energy, and always looks at the bright side of even the most dire equations.  When the boy sees his friend climb into a spiffy blue car he asks her why they can’t own a car.  While the answer is painfully obvious Nana spins it as a clear case of better opportunity, pointing to the fire-breathing dragon on a side poster of the bus, and the trickster Mr. Dennis, who drives it.  After they board the bus, CJ hands over a coin to Mr. Dennis, while Nana voices her deep laugh.  They sit in the front near a marvelous cast of characters, including a man tuning a guitar, and a woman in curlers with a jar of butterflies.  They all exchanged greetings, even CJ at his Nan’s behest. (more…)

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