Last week, it was announced that this book won the 2016 Newbery Medal. It is exceedingly rare for a picture book to win the Newbery, so clearly this must be an exceptional book.
This book was also a Caldecott Honor book for the artwork, and won several other prestigious prizes as well. It's a pretty big deal.
A little boy, CJ, takes a Sunday bus ride to a coup kitchen with his grandmother. As he rides along, he questions life. Why don't we have a car? Why does it have to rain on us? Why can't I have an iPod? Why do we have to get off in the dirty part of town?
CJ's grandmother has an optimistic view of life and wastes no time in setting CJ straight. Even in the dirty part of town there is a rainbow and hope. What does CJ want with an iPod when there is a man with a guitar sitting across from them?
My favorite line--
"Boy, what do we need a car for? We got a bus that breathes fire..."
That line has been popping into my head since I read it last week.
The endpaper is colored a delightful yellow. I like it when illustrators make the endpaper beautiful.
The pictures are straightforward primary colors. Or a lot of primary colors. I love bright colors.
One of my favorite illustrations. I can't help it. I like trees and grass.
Pretty much, I am a country person. I have never been able to see the charm in city life. I know in my head that there must be charm to be had in a city, but it is very difficult for me to see. Charm and joy and life are in the trees, the grass, and the open sky. I apologize to all you city dwellers.
Clearly CJ's grandmother needs to give me a talking to about the beauty of city life.
The bus that breathes fire.
Love the knitting and the babushka next to Mr. Tattoo.
Love that line--"Sometimes when you're surrounded by dirt, CJ, you're a better witness for what's beautiful."
At the soup kitchen, they help serve lunch, seeing all the familiar faces and catching up on all the news.
To me, this book is about the basic unfairness of life.We can let that unfairness get us down, or we can find the delight and joy to be had in our particular circumstances and revel in that. With the recent social unrest and the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, this book seems to be particularly apt at the moment. It isn't that CJ and his grandmother aren't trying to make the world a better place, maybe try to even up the unfairness a bit, but they are enjoying themselves while they do it. Life is unfair--there will always be people that have more of something we want than we have. And yet, there are still rainbows everyone can see. Still decent people for us to interact with. Still beauty sitting there all around us, free for the taking.
But that beauty and those rainbows and those people aren't going to force themselves on us. We have to be looking, we have to want to see the beauty, want to see the decency in those around us.
And that is what CJ's grandmother is teaching him to do.