This gratitude book for children shares a story of a grandmother helping her grandson see the world around him through new eyes and ears.
Last Stop on Market Street was written by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson. It is the winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal as well as being a 2016 Caldecott Honor book, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book.
CJ pushed through the church doors,
skipped down the steps.
The outside air smelled like freedom,
but it also smelled like rain,
which freckled CJ's shirt and dripped down his nose.
Like many children after being still in church, CJ rushes outside to freedom to wiggle. What he doesn't know yet is he is about to learn church goes beyond the building in an amazing way!
CJ complains to his grandmother about having to walk in the rain because they don't have a car. They ride on the bus and CJ complains about his friends not having to go where he goes every Sunday after church. He envies two boys listening to music as they enter the bus.
For every complaint CJ has, Nana has a different view...a better view. She demonstrates gratitude for what they do have. The rain waters the trees. The bus "breathes fire". And one of the men on the bus begins playing a guitar.
A blind man encourages CJ to close his eyes as he listens to the music. "And in the darkness, the rhythm lifted CJ out of the bus, out of the busy city." He begins thinking about the little blessings of life he had overlooked.
After leaving the bus, CJ is still complaining about how dirty the city is. Nana continues to give wisdom and says -
The last stop on market street ends up being a soup kitchen. Nana and CJ left the church building to become the church serving. Along the way, CJ learns a lesson on gratitude and appreciating all that's good around him.
This gratitude book brings a touching story for any age. It is short enough for preschoolers and profound enough for teens and adults.
This an especially great read for children being raised by their grandparents, foster parents or other guardian. We don't know if Nana is raising CJ, but we can tell she loves him and is pouring into his life. There is a lot to be shared in this gratitude book.
The illustrations in this gratitude book include a variety of people of various races, ages, social backgrounds and even handicaps. There is the blind man, others in wheel chairs, a homeless person pushing a cart and a man covered with tatoos.
List things that make each character special as they look at the illustrations.
Nana models kindness and politeness to others while CJ follows her actions.
Make a list of city workers such as bus drivers, police, firemen, sanitation workers, and others who help us each day. Purposefully tell these thank you as you see them or even write them a thank you note to hand them.
CJ saw things negatively. Once he changed the way he looked at the world, he learned to appreciate it and be grateful.
Take time to make a list of things for which they can be thankful. Hang this list somewhere it can be seen each day to make a point to give thanks for at least a few of them and remember the story of this little gratitude book.
This book offers a great opportunity to discuss this difference. We go to church to worship together and fellowship with other believers. Jesus went to the Temple often to worship.
Daily though He looked for people He could serve and love.
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28
Jesus set a beautiful example of love for us. Take time to think of people in your life and ways to serve them out of love. Be The Church. :)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Explore music with your eyes closed like CJ. Talk about the things the music brought to mind. What are other things we may hear around us that are beautiful?
Have one person say - "I am thankful for..." The next person repeats what others before them said and then add a new "I am thankful for..." See if they can make it to the last person and remember them all.
To make this more difficult for older children, have the first person say they are thankful for something that begins with the letter A, the next will use the letter B, etc.
Tear colored tissue paper into small pieces and place between two sheets of clear contact paper. Cut into different shapes and hang in a window. For each color, have kids think of something that color for which they are thankful. Let these be reminders to be thankful and not complain.