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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Matt de la Peña, LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But on today's ride, CJ is full of questions. Why don't they own a car like his friend? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see unexpected beauty and joy.


Written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (January 8, 2015)

What inspired you to write LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET? MDLP: "A lot of people think the book is about a grandmother teaching her grandson how to see the beauty of his city. But for me it's always been about a grandmother trying to teach her grandson how to see himself as beautiful. I really love the special relationship between a child and his/her grandparent. Christian is a genius. I'm so lucky that I get to give my simple, sometimes slightly melancholic texts to him. He transforms them into picture books by infusing joy and whimsy."

You've mentioned that with LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET, you set out to write a story featuring diverse characters and a storyline that wasn’t focused (at least overtly), on diversity. That's such a fine line to straddle. Are there any other picture books that you think do this especially well? "In America, it seems like race and class hover over everything we read and write. But writers can calibrate how close they want to get to the flame. There's definitely a time and place for books that are ABOUT race or class, but lately I've found myself gravitating to books that are a little less direct. Two diverse picture books that I'm currently obsessed with are: DRAWN TOGETHER by Minh Lê and Dan Santat (brilliant exploration of assimilation from the perspective of a boy who is spending the day with his immigrant grandfather) and ALMA AND HOW SHE GOT HER NAME by Juana Martinez-Neal (about a girl who is exhausted by all her middle names, until her father explains the significance of each one)."

What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "My all-time favorite picture book in the history of the world is EACH KINDNESS by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis. The books ends on regret. I still can't get over how brave it is to end a picture book on regret. And how powerful the experience is for young readers. This book taught me so much about what is possible in the medium."

What do you think the best picture books do? "I think the best picture books exist in the world of childhood. They honor child psychology. They take kids seriously, but they're also playful. They have heart. They are economical. And musical. They are both surprising and inevitable. They reflect the real world while also offering escape. They are complex and mysterious but also quite simple. They are humble. And most importantly, they understand that at their very best they are a vehicle to conversation. They are a reason for a child to be close to a parent and a parent to be close to a child."


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