There is so much beautiful, powerful children’s literature out there these days and it is such a gift. I am grateful beyond words to the authors and illustrators who are creating such art. Most of the time, I feel I don’t properly appreciate it. I like it, I enjoy it, I share it with kids, but I don’t always fully appreciate what is being given to us.
I am teaching two sections of a children’s literature course for undergraduates at a nearby university this fall. I’ve never done this before and it’s a serious undertaking and I am loving it. It is also helping me slow down and really bask in the books.
In our focus on contemporary realistic fiction, I read aloud Last Stop on Market Street and Carmella Full of Wishes, both written by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson. Last Stop on Market Street was one of those books I fell in love with the first time I read it. I had preordered it when I was teaching kindergartners. I read it to them countless times that year. Scholastic offered a 5 book set of it in paperback and I ordered that as well. When the Spanish text came out, I got that one too. I definitely still have at least one paperback copy, my original hardback, and the Spanish book. Several of the paperbacks have been loaned out, to kids or teachers, and not made their way back home. I’m fine with that. The more folks with access to this book, the better.
There is nothing quite like reading this book to undergraduates and having them drop thoughts in the chat throughout. The lines that strike me, also struck them.
“Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, C.J., you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful”
I read that line and the chat lit up. It was awesome.
The experience with Carmella Full of Wishes was similar. We are focusing on reading with a critical literacy lens and these books led to such amazing conversations. Both books have so many issues to discuss without smacking you in the face with them.
My students explored poverty, homelessness, immigration, siblings, class, and more.
We dug into big societal and structural issues and explored gorgeous writing and illustrations. How can one book do that? It astounds me. And I am grateful to Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson. Eternally.