A look at “Last Stop on Market Street”

I am so grateful for our awesome Multnomah County Library. I love to pick up  “Lucky Day!” books – the most current, hot titles without waiting on hold forever. This week, my eyes were drawn to Last Stop on Market Street a picture book written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson.

I’m always on the lookout for good books for my preschooler, with sophisticated storytelling and beautiful art. And most especially, ones that feature people of color. Last Stop has it all!

The story follows CJ and his grandma as they ride the bus from church through their bustling city to regular post-church destination, revealed in the final pages. For me, three things make this book a cut above the average picture book:

  • The storytelling is rich and layered. It’s neither too simplistic or over-explanatory as some children’s books tend to be. It feels colorful, whimsical, playful. In one scene, as a man starts playing his guitar on the bus, a blind man who has befriended Nana and CJ teases, “To feel the magic of music, I like to close my eyes.” Nana, CJ and a friendly dog also close their eyes, too.
  • The “cast” of the book is extremely diverse, with the protagonists a black child with his black grandma. Throughout the pages are a wonderful palette of colors, ability, age, dress. But the story doesn’t have to talk about diversity or hit you over the head with it. It simply tells the story of a city, and shows all kinds of different people that you would actually see in a city. Hooray!
  • Spoiler alert. CJ and his grandma arrive at their destination at that last stop on Market Street: a soup kitchen. The story ends showing the two serving folks at the center. I love how this book gives you just enough story to be a conversation starter. There’s no judgement or lesson here. Just a sweet day-in-the-life depiction of an intergenerational relationship, a city, a community.

More about the book in this NPR interview with de la Peña and Robinson. De la Peña also wrote a sweet post on Brightly about the significance of diversity of characters for young children.

Want to buy Last Stop on Market Street and support this blog? As a Powell’s Books Partner, we’ll will receive a small portion of any sales that come directly from links on this page. Thanks!

Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt De La Pena
Powells.com
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Cover: Waterfalls by TLC feat. Tamlyn Tomita, Lynn Chen, & Phil Yu!

Fun DIY cover of the (now) classic TLC tune.

Conceived by musician Jane Liu, It features a bunch of her friends, rad indie Asian American creative types including Angry Asian Man Phil Yu (an old pal of mine), actors Lynn Chen and Tamlyn Tomita, musician Goh Nakamura and others.

Lui raised money for the video through a mini Kickstarter campaign (I didn’t know you could do mini Kickstarter campaigns!) basically made the thing in a day. It’s been getting some nice play from places like Huffington Post and Jezebel.

A big yeehah for delightful creative projects featuring talented people of color.

Pics from NASA on The Commons

Not feeling like writing a bunch of words, so I thought I’d poke around some photos on The Commons at Flickr. These are some neat ones from NASA:

Engineers Check Body Revolution Model

Engineers Check Body Revolution Model July 31, 1957

Gemini Launch Pad watercolor

Gemini Launch Pad Artist: James Wyeth, 1964 Media: Watercolor on paper

Apollo 11, 1969

Apollo 11, 1969

Skylab, 1973-1979

Skylab, 1973-1979

First Image of Saturn and Titan

First Image of Saturn and Titan
August 31, 1979

Sunrise Suit Up mixed media

Sunrise Suit Up
Artist: Martin Hoffman, 1988
Mixed media

Astronaut Mae Jemison Working in Spacelab-J

Astronaut Mae Jemison Working in Spacelab-J
October 22, 1992

Phoenix Mars Lander, 2007-2008

Phoenix Mars Lander, 2007-2008

Artmaking family-style

A family that plays together stays together, right? Check out the fabulous talents of these fine family acts.

DMK
This awesome video is making the rounds on my Facebook feed again and it’s so worth sharing. DMK is a Depeche Mode cover band. DMK members are Dicken Schrader and his adorable kids Milah and Korben (also members of the ‘cool name’ club). Here’s their creative cover of Depeche’s ‘Everything Counts’ played on awesome DIY musical instruments:

Queenie Liao and son Wengenn
Though little Wengenn is asleep in the fabulous photos, his dreaming body serves as inspiration for imaginative mama Queenie Liao. Check out her whole series of photos called ‘Wengenn in Wonderland’ here. I think they look best in their still photo form, but she also did make a video complete with Ken Burns effect and lullaby music:

Adam McKay and daughter Pearl
This one is close to Matt and my comedy nerd hearts. (Can you do a ‘cover’ of comedy skits? Because Lilli would bring a special something in this role.) Written and directed by daddy Adam, Pearl co-stars with Will Ferrell in this cautionary (and laugh-out-loud-hilarous) tale, ‘The Landlord:’

Awesomest Halloween candy infographic

With the hash tag #nerdsrule, my pal Kathleen posted this supremely awesome graph her rockstar eight-year-old Stella made. The graph tallies up Stella’s Halloween booty — Snickers reigns over Kit Kat (I think) by a hair. Nerds do rule, especially proud nerd moms who empower their beautiful, clever nerd daughter’s DIY infographics!!

Stella's awesome graph tallying up this year's Halloween booty.

Stella’s awesome graph tallying up this year’s Halloween booty.

Let’s do this

I’ve been meaning to get back to blogging for a while now. I have lots of very valid excuses… I’m mama to a toddler, I work full-time, I travel a lot… boring, true but not necessarily the biggest obstacle for writing.

under the hawthorne bridgeFor me, once I’ve been away from something for a while, it always feels deceptively daunting to come back. Yoga, improv theater, knitting have all suffered from this… fear, I guess. All I need to do is just do, right? Instead, I ponder, stress, worry. Instead of doing, I think too much and I feel a weight come over me – I should commit to committing.. I should come back whole-hog, full-force… I can’t just dabble away with a post here and a post there – Which is bunk. Just fear holding me back. Dabbling is titular here!

Months ago, I started drafting this big post. My deep, thoughtful re-emergence in honor of Lilli’s first birthday. It was going beautifully, but as is my weakness, I raised the stakes too high and then kept pushing it off because it wasn’t ever “complete.”

My new year’s resolution (I’ll take the Lunar New Year!) is to dabble as I can. Fleeting, fledging is a-ok. Trite, but true: it’s not about the process, not the product. Today, it is February 23, 2013, not a particularly significant or momentous day. Today, I blogged, goddamit.

Slings and Arrows, for the arts administrator

To ring in the new Gregorian year, I’d like to recommend this series…


I stumbled across Slings and Arrows somehow. Someone along the way recommended it to me (thank you, whoever you are!!) and I’ve finally finished the three seasons on DVD. A perfect show for those arts administrators amongst us, the delightful comedy extolls the foibles, earnestness, absurdity and glory of bringing arts to the people.

It follows the creative and administrative teams at the fictional “New Burbage Festival,” a Shakespeare festival, not unlike our fine state’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival (though I believe it’s really modeled after the Stratford Festival.) Complete with lots of great Shakespeare, star-crossed lovers, intrigue, ghosts and great accents – thank you Canadians for your most excellent comedy!

on creativity

Here’s a fascinating article by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman from Newsweek about the decline of creativity in the US:

The Creativity Crisis

The article uses reports from professor E. Paul Torrance’s creativity tests as a jumping off point about measuring creativity, how creativity manifests and why it’s important. Early on the author’s define creativity (not sure who has “accepted” the definition, as I might wordsmith it some myself):

“The accepted definition of creativity is production of something original and useful, and that’s what’s reflected in the tests. There is never one right answer. To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).”

On the one hand, the authors posit that “creativity should be taken out of the art room and put into homeroom.”

“The age-old belief that the arts have a special claim to creativity is unfounded. When scholars gave creativity tasks to both engineering majors and music majors, their scores laid down on an identical spectrum, with the same high averages and standard deviations. Inside their brains, the same thing was happening—ideas were being generated and evaluated on the fly.”

On the flip side, it does seem that artists do have a leg up in the creativity category. Using an example of a study done at University of Western Ontario neuroscientist Daniel Ansari and Harvard’s Aaron Berkowitz, the article highlights the value of right-brain/left-brain process in creativity:

“They put Dartmouth music majors and nonmusicians in an fMRI scanner, giving participants a one-handed fiber-optic keyboard to play melodies on. Sometimes melodies were rehearsed; other times they were creatively improvised. During improvisation, the highly trained music majors used their brains in a way the nonmusicians could not: they deactivated their right-temporoparietal junction. Normally, the r-TPJ reads incoming stimuli, sorting the stream for relevance. By turning that off, the musicians blocked out all distraction. They hit an extra gear of concentration, allowing them to work with the notes and create music spontaneously.”

The whole article left me pondering creativity vs. arts and really how we can provide opportunities for more, more, more. This means rethinking everything: arts education, education reform, community development – all of it. To me empowering creativity is empowering individuals to be critically engaged in our world and our environment.

Seth’s Quake

Here’s a short story I wrote a few years ago. I had developed this exercise inspired by some work Matt and I were doing at the time. “Oppstacles” we called them – opportunity-obstacles. I created four buckets to inspire some flash fiction – 1) Word/Object, 2) Place, 3) Relationship/Character, and 4) Song (lyrics). For this particular piece, my randomly chosen items from these oppstacle buckets were: quake, parking lot, obsessed, Bizarre Love Triangle.

Seth’s Quake
Seth was sick and tired of being the “bad” brother. Sure, Osi was righteous and all that, but geez can a brother get a break? Osi has a beautiful wife and a son, and what about Seth? Nothing. Torrents. Terror. Destruction. Again, he’s lonely sitting here at the Costco parking lot for the 100th day in a row. Why? To see if Isis will appear again. She doesn’t show herself often, but Seth knows that Isis can hardly resist the wholesale quantities like a crate of fresh strawberries or that 24 pack of toilet paper. Seth has loved his brother’s wife since third grade when her voice cut through the torrent of anger and humiliation he endured as Osi yet again found victory at the school spelling bee. Isis told Seth, “You spell fine, but your real talent is to move the earth with your heart.” And from that point on, Seth did just that. His first natural disaster was a landslide in Peru. 18,000 died. Another kicker was the monsoons in Thailand. 10,000 died. Seth felt great power and shame. Osi, meanwhile brought food to drought stricken Ethiopia. He clothed poor in China. He built houses for homeless in Guatemala. Seth and Osi were like two sides of the same coin. One couldn’t exist without the other. It’s just that Seth’s side got such a bad rap. How can being so good at something be so bad? Finally, in the 23rd hour of the 100th day of waiting, lovely Isis appeared with her perpetual baby boy in a sling. Seth slowly rose up from his waiting spot in parking space 301. Each movement from Seth snowballed into a thundering rumble and shaking of the ground, as he reached forth to his unrequited. Before he could reach her to tell her of his undying love, she fell through the cracks of the broken ground slowly floating, like a feather in the wind. She waved as she always did, the broken record of missed connection between one who loves and one who is loved.

Day 8 NaBloPoMo done. Quarter of the way there.

when in doubt, make a list

oy, i’ve been so busy that i’ve had little energy for blogging. so, what to do? time to make a list. here’s a list of places i’d like to see, based on recommendations or inspiration from trusted friends. domestic sites for today; i’ll go international another…

the boneyard: a part of the neon museum in las vegas, the boneyard is a a lot filled with non-restored signs of all kinds. seems pretty surreal, industrial, nostalgic.
(photo by angie1611 on flickr, creative commons license)

Neon Boneyard Vegas

grand canyon: what can i say, i’ve never been.

high desert test sites
: from their website – “The High Desert Test Sites are a series of experimental art sites located along a stretch of desert communities including Pioneer town, Yucca Valley, Joshua tree, 29 Palms and Wonder Valley. These sites provide alternative space for experimental works by both emerging and established artists.” andrea zittel is one of the artists who founded it. rad stuff.

sequoia national park: hamblog recently made the trip, and it inspires. big, old gorgeous trees in the amazing sierra nevadas.