Remember when I first started this blog and I wrote two or three posts a week? Bahahahaha! Such is life. I’m adapting to working outside the house, but now I find my time inside the house is much more precious. I need to find that balance again. I mean, I know that’s a mouthful. Don’t we all? In so many areas. Just in general.
Since I last wrote, let’s see, what’s been going? My husband and I took our first trip sans kids since having them in the first place! We went to New York City (I know, I was just there with my girlfriend. This is one of the bonuses about moving back east.) The kids spent the weekend with my dad and stepmom and barely noticed we were gone. It was strange to realize when we were getting off the plane at LaGuardia that this was the first time we’d traveled, just the two of us, in just over eight years! We used to travel quite a lot, and longer trips, not just the weekend or two weeks here and there that we can pull off now. We’d put our noses to the grindstone and put everything into the bank for half a year then travel the next half and blow it all, coming home with barely $20 to our names. We went on one last trip when I was 7 or 8 months pregnant to Europe, complete with a doctor’s note, in late 2007. That was the last time we both flew without nursing on take off and landing, packing raisins, markers or dinosaurs, the last time without checking in carseats and pack and plays, or lifting little bums in tiny airplane bathrooms. Once again, it was just us having a bottle of wine and mussels together late night at a restaurant around the corner, slowly looking through record shops and trying on hats, waking up late and leisurely making our way to find a decent cup of coffee. (Oh, and also, the whole point of the trip- the book launch party for this gorgeous book I worked on and am very proud of! Please check it out here- Rebirth of the Cool!) But honestly, it’s not something I felt a desperate need for. The opportunity arose to go for a quick weekend trip and the grandparents were into it, so I’m really glad it worked out, but it’s not been an absence in my life, this idea of “getting away.” My kids are fun, man. I like traveling with them, too. And I think it’s really important for them to be exposed to the world, to listen to other languages and see a wide range of colors and cultures.
So today’s book: I just ordered this for the library, and I’m so glad I did. We live in a very small, homogenous (read: mostly white) town, lacking in racial diversity and far from any urban center. Our downtown, while quaint and bustling, consists of a few blocks. We have no public transportation, nor is there much of a need for it. Sure there’s a wide span of socioeconomic levels, but on the whole it’s pretty much a white-picket fence type of place. But we’re raising citizens of this world and sending them out on their own eventually. I’m so thankful that having grown up here, my parents were able to take me to cities, to other countries, to see other places and cultures as a kid. Because if I thought this Norman Rockwell-ian town was what the world was like, I’d have been mighty confused when I first set out on my own.
Children’s literature serves as both a mirror and a window to kids- stories reflect their experiences and also show them others that they’ve never known. There’s a movement afoot right now promoting more diversity in children’s books; it’s undeniable that there’s a major underrepresentation of people of color, of different abilities, in kid lit. There’s even a hashtag: #weneeddiversebooks. And so in stocking the shelves of our tiny public library, I want to be sure to include more than the status quo. And of course sometimes along comes a book that blows it all out of the water. A book where each character is illustrated in a different shade, each character given respect and life. A story that is both beautifully told and beautifully illustrated. This is it.Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson (of our favorite Gaston) and winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal, follows a young boy as he leaves church one Sunday morning with his grandmother. He laments that he doesn’t have a car like some of his friends do as he and his Nana wait for the bus. He wishes he didn’t have this Sunday morning routine with his grandmother. But Nana, strong, warm and kind, greets everyone on the bus as old friends: an elderly woman with a jar of butterflies, teenagers listening to ipods, a blind man and his guide dog, a man covered in tattoos. As they ride along together, they simply enjoy each other’s company, maybe learn a little bit about each other.The moving journey takes them to a gritty section of the city, and his grandmother helps him see the beauty in unexpected places as they enter the soup kitchen and get to work serving Sunday lunch.
There’s not really a gritty section of our town. There’s no bus other than a school bus. The upper grades in my children’s Montessori school do go to a local church to prepare lunch to serve those in need, but my son won’t go with them until he’s in third grade next year. But they can relate still to the feeling of being dragged along. To seeing different characters and finding out they’re fun. To recognizing the warmth of their Nana. To knowing that everyone can help others, even if they don’t have a lot themselves.
This really brings to mind another one of my favorites, Children Just Like Me. Each page is a profile of a child living somewhere else in this world, what they like to do, their favorite subjects in school, what they play with, who’s in their family. Sometimes that’s an apartment in Tokyo, sometimes it’s a small hut in Africa, sometimes a farm in France, but at the end of the day, that child isn’t so different from you. This child loves reading, that one has a little brother that she loves, or even that annoys her, this one over here has a race car toy, that one doesn’t always eat the lunch his mother packs.
Windows and mirrors alike.
These aren’t book reviews, per se, but more profiles of the really, really good ones. Recommendations, really, for which I am not compensated. If you’re looking to buy any of them, I’m afraid my Amazon store’s acting wonky right now, but click on the above link of the book title and it will take you to Powell’s, which I prefer actually. Or even better, walk on down to your local independent bookseller and support them. Or of course, your local library.
Also, I’m not sure what’s wrong with the spacing in this format. And I just don’t have it in me to spend all day figuring it out. It bugs me, too. Sorry about that.