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Last Stop on Market Street

by Matt de la Peña

Summary

Last Stop on Market Street is a story about appreciating differences, happiness, and inequity.

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his Nana take the bus to its last stop on Market Street. This Sunday, CJ begins to wonder why they have to wait in the rain, why they don’t have a car, why they always make this trip. Nana responds by giving him different ways of appreciating what they have, what their routine is, and the different people they meet. Nana shows CJ the value in differences and the joy in helping those that need it.

Read aloud video by Christian Robinson (the illustrator!)

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

Last Stop on Market Street is a book that raises questions about the diversity of people and their circumstances, the obligation of charity, and the role that helping other people plays in the good life. And finally, the book touches on the topic of inequity and what the proper response to it ought to be.

CJ is a curious boy. He notices the many ways he and his Nana are different from the people around them: they have a special routine, they don’t have a car, his Nana has a positive way of seeing and reacting to the world. CJ also notices differences between other people: there’s a blind man, a man with many tattoos, a lady carrying butterflies in a jar, a musician, and a jokester bus driver. He notices socioeconomic differences as well: when they get off the bus they are in a poorer part of town. So, first and foremost, the book offers an opportunity to discuss differences and the proper way to evaluate and embrace them. For example, in the first set of questions, children can be asked about how people are different (routines, abilities, visual differences, skills, money) and how are they the same, about whether some differences can make people’s lives better or worse, and whether some differences call for accommodation.

The next set of questions highlights Nana’s character and outlook: she is a very positive person, she’s committed to their routine after church, she is reflexively optimistic, seeing the goodness in tough situations. Children may be asked about the value of volunteering to help others, the role of charity in a happy life, what makes someone happy or unhappy, and the role of having things in a happy life.

The final set of questions introduces children to the concept of inequity. Some of the people CJ encounters have less than he has and possibly need help. For example, the blind man benefits from CJ giving up his seat and the people in the soup kitchen benefit from CJ and Nana’s work. Children may be asked about which things it is good for people to have equally, what are the most important things that people need, and what the difference is between necessity and mere want. For example, the people in the soup kitchen need food and CJ wants a music player like the older boys on the bus. Corresponding with the topic of inequity, children may be challenged to discuss moral and social responsibility and whether some people have greater responsibilities to help others.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Appreciating Differences

  1. The characters in the book are all different in different ways: some have cars, some are young, some are old, some are poor, some can see, some cannot see, some play instruments. Do some people’s lives in the book seem better than others to you?
  2. Pick any two people in the book. How are they different from each other? How are they the same?
  3. The characters in the book are all different in different ways. Are there some ways in which they are all the same?
  4. Can people just be different without one being better than the other?
  5. There is a special seat on the bus where Nana and the blind man sit. Is it good that this seat exists? Why?
  6. Do you think if the blind man could suddenly see he would be happier? Why or Why not?
  7. If you suddenly could no longer see would you be sad? Why or why not?
  8. When should we make things special for people who are different, for example, the special seat on the bus for Nana and the blind man? When shouldn’t we?
  9. CJ and his Nana do the same thing each week (a routine). Different families and different people have different routines. After church, CJ and his Nana go help at the soup kitchen. Do they have a good routine? What are some of your family’s routines?
  10. Do you always feel like doing your routines? What are good things about routines? Are some routines better than others?

Happiness and Goodness

  1. Why do you think Nana and CJ volunteer at the soup kitchen? Do they do it for the same reasons? Are some reasons for volunteering better than others?
  2. Do you think volunteering makes Nana and CJ happy? Why or why not?
  3. Is Nana a happy person? Why or Why not?
  4. Nana is a very a positive person, always seeing the bright side of a situation. Is it possible to choose to be a positive person? If so, why and how?
  5. Are there unhappy people in the book? What makes a person unhappy?
  6. In the book, some people have things that other people lack. Do we think people are usually happier if they have more things?
  7. What do we need in order to be happy? For example, do we need food, shelter, friends, a music player, the ability to see?
  8. What if volunteering made CJ unhappy but he did it anyway. Is he still doing something good? How?

Inequity

  1. When waiting on the bus CJ sees the two boys listening to the music player and wishes he had one. CJ also wishes that he and Nana had a car. Is it bad that the boys have a music player and CJ doesn’t? Is it bad that Nana and CJ don’t have a car but others do? Why or why not?
  2. When CJ and Nana reach the last stop on Market Street, they are headed to the soup kitchen where people are lining up to get food. Is it bad that some people have to go to a soup kitchen for food and others don’t? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think there is a difference between CJ not having a music player and Bobo, Sunglass Man, and Trixie not having food? Is having food more important than having a music player? Why or why not?
  4. There are some things you want and you cannot live without, for example, the air that you breathe. There are things you want and can live without, for example, a video game. Can you think of other examples for both? Which is more important than the other? Why?
  5. Do people have the responsibility to help others get the things that they need? Why or why not?
  6. Some people have a lot, meaning they have everything they need and more. Some people have very little. Do some people have more responsibility to help others? Why or why not?

 

Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our Resources page.

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Back to All Books Cover image for Last Stop on Market Street with an illustration of an older woman holding the hand of a young child at a bus stop. A bus has just pulled up and is filled with different sorts of people. Download & Print Email Book Module View en Español

About the Prindle Institute

As one of the largest collegiate ethics institutes in the country, the Prindle Institute for Ethics’ uniquely robust national outreach mission serves DePauw students, faculty and staff; academics and scholars throughout the United States and in the international community; life-long learners; and the Greencastle community in a variety of ways. In 2019, the Prindle Institute partrnered with Thomas Wartenberg and became the digital home of his Teaching Children Philosophy discussion guides.

Further Resources

Some of the books on this site may contain characterizations or illustrations that are culturally insensitive or inaccurate. We encourage educators to visit the Association for Library Service to Children’s resource guide for talking to children about issues of race and culture in literature. They also have a guide for navigating tough conversations.  PBS Kids’ set of resources for talking to young children about race and racism might also be useful for educators.

Philosophy often deals with big questions like the existence of a higher power or death. Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our resources page.

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