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Results 1 - 25 of 53
1. Baby City: Lazy Little Loafers

Title: Lazy Little Loafers
Author: Susan Orlean
Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
32 Pages
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publ. Date: Oct. 1, 2008

The narrator of this book is really on to something. She wonders why babies aren't doing anything more productive than pushing strollers and elevator buttons (both activities which are are more likely to annoy than improve the  lives of those around them.) Babies, she declares are just moochers. Worst of all, they get to all the things she wants to do, except she is required to go to school instead!

Karas' illustrations of a girl walking through the city with her (very stylish) mom and baby sibling bring Orlean's story to life. [Orlean is the author of the grown-up book, The Orchid Thief, which was the inspiration for the very bizarre move, Adaptation.]  Our narrator sees babies everywhere, from billboards to the park and the City is the natural choice if you are looking for a location that can be easily and realistically packed full of infants. Indeed, the illustrations reminded me of the heavily tot-populated nabes of the Upper West Side and Park Slope in New York City. (A Central Park hot dog vendor in a park scene reveals that the location is NYC).

This is a cute book and would be a nice choice for older siblings who frequently whine about why they don't get to do what their younger counterparts get to do. (Not that I know anyone like that....) But be warned, the book doesn't answer that question!

Big Kid says: That is Central Park.
Little Kid says: What's a "loafer"?

Want More?
Read the backstory at Susan Orlean's website.
Watch a video of Orleans talking about the book on The Warren Report.
Visit G. Brian Karas' website.

3 Comments on Baby City: Lazy Little Loafers, last added: 1/31/2013
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2. Neighborly City: Laundry Day

Title: Laundry Day
Author/Illustrator: Maurie J. Manning
32 Pages
Publisher: Clarion Books (HMH)
Publ. Date: April, 17, 2012

Laundry Day is going on my list of favorite new urban picture books. Set in early 20th century New York City, a length of red fabric floats down and lands on young shoeshine boy. He looks up to see miles of laundry lines criss-crossing the tenement-lined alleyway. Determined to find the owner of the vibrant cloth, he hoists himself up on the fire escape. Making his way from apartment to apartment he encounters the friendly inhabitants from various cultural backgrounds, including a Chinese grandmother, four young Polish girls, a harried Irish mother, an African-American prospector, and others. Each neighbor expresses their admiration for the fabric, using a cultural reference (and new foreign word) but it is not until he reaches the roof, that the shoeshine finds its owner.

Although the action of Laundry Day takes place in a single, rather confined location, author-illustrator, Manning, has marvelously created an uplifting portrait of a diverse and densely populated city. It looks like a lovely place to live -- interesting neighbors, different cultures and friendly faces. Manning illustrates the books using a multi-panel (or storyboard) layout which both enhances the feeling of close-knit living as well as nicely accents the shoeshine as he adeptly climbs railings, slides and tightrope-walks across clotheslines and shimmies up pipes. In this book, the city is indeed a fun place to be.

Laundry Day is an excellent choice for your next family story time, whether you're an urban-dweller or not. I highly recommend it.

Little Kid says: He climbed to the top!
Big Kid says: That looks a little dangerous.

Want More?
Visit Maurie J. Manning's website.
Reviews at Perogies & GyozaBookalicious and Waking Brain Cells.

13 Comments on Neighborly City: Laundry Day, last added: 2/11/2013
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3. Holiday City: Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas

Title: Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas 
Author: Douglas Rees
Illustrator: Olivier Latyk
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publ. Date: October 5, 2010

Did you know that Santa has a daughter?


I'll just let that tidbit soak in for a bit.

Anyway. Her name is Jeannette and she is a little bit feisty and a very bit cute. One Christmas Eve when her dad has a cold, Jeannette insists on making the yearly round of gift deliveries to all the good little boys and girls. The team of very grumpy reindeer are none too happy about this and manage to strand her on a rooftop in the middle of the trip. Fortunately for Jeannette, this particular rooftop is in a big city where there lives an ample population of stray cats and dogs which she can rally around her. She harnesses a hodgepodge team of these domestic pets to her sleigh and together they lift off into the starry skies.

I admit the idea for this story is pretty cute, even though I can't list the book as among my favorite Christmas reads. (It also uses the word "stupid", which I really hate because it is a word I am constantly trying to get my kids to abandon.) It is rather unclear why the reindeer are so mean-spirited and the conflict with that team is left unresolved. Will the sleigh-team next year be cats and dogs or will Santa go back to the reindeer? It's probably not a detail that is particularly important, but it bothered me.

The city, however, is the crucial point of my reviews and in this book it is of course the only location where Jeannette could have assembled a new team so quickly. The digital illustrations are colorful, but rather uninspiring. In fairness, I did like their retro flavor and the perspective from the snowy rooftops with their water towers and fire escapes.

It might seem as if I don't recommend this book, but that is not the case. Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas is a fun story and both my boys enjoyed it and that is the material point. Pick up a copy at your local library.

Want More?
Visit the author's website.
View more of the illustrator's work. I really like this illustration of a colorful, snowy city.
Read a review at Miss Print.

0 Comments on Holiday City: Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas as of 12/1/2012 4:23:00 PM
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4. Rodent City: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

Title: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
Author/Illustrator: Helen Ward (from Aesop)
32 pages
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publ. Date: Sept. 11, 2012

Helen Ward's retelling of Aesop's fable is traditional in its approach. There are no surprises in the text. All ends as it always does: the town mouse still likes the town best and vice-versa. East-west, home is best, and all that jazz.

The reason I have decided to review  The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse here at Storied Cities is simply because Ward's illustrations are so lovely. The town is no "town" at all. It is New York City in the 1930s! At Christmas! What could be better? Not much, I tell you. At first the little country mouse is dazzled by "great towers of smooth stone and glass," electric elevators, sumptuous holiday feasts, and cozy Christmas trees that make great sleeping nooks. Unfortunately, the city also comes equipped with one highly menacing pug dog, who sends the country mouse scampering back to home-sweet-home. The town mouse, however, doesn't mind his canine pal and curls up for a good gorgonzola-induced nap.

There are only a few city scenes in this book but they are worth it, and country lovers will enjoy Ward's  illustrations of the more natural side of life. It's an excellent choice for some cozy holiday reading.

Want More?
Try a different variation on the country mouse-city mouse theme with Love, Mouserella, or the duo Brown Rabbit in the City/Moon Rabbit.
Read an article in The Guardian about Helen Ward.

4 Comments on Rodent City: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, last added: 12/13/2012
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5. Shopping City: Brownie & Pearl See the Sights

Christmas Book Brownie and PearlTitle: Brownie & Pearl See the Sights
Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrator: Brian Biggs
24 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Beach Lane Books)
Publ. Date: Oct. 5, 2010

Brownie & Pearl See the Sights is part of the Brownie & Pearl by powerhouse kid lit author Cynthia Rylant (seriously, it is amazing how many books she has written). In this installation, Brownie and her faithful feline friend, Pearl, head out to the city shops for a little retail therapy. Everything they try on is oversized until they get to the cupcake shop, where the products are a perfect fit. (Isn't that always the way?) When the sugar high turns into a sugar low, Brownie and Pearl head back home for a winter nap.

Biggs' illustrations are colorful and cheerful, loaded with oranges and pinks. When the shopping duo get to the city they are greeted with colorful shops and traffic, all decked out for the holidays. I love that there are even menorahs in apartment windows. A sprinkling of snow falls over the the grey city backdrop. The final note of the book tells the reader that being cozy at home is much more relaxing than seeing the sights and shopping in the city. However, they obviously had a good time on their outing and there is no sense that the city is a place to be avoided as sometimes happens in city v. country books.

My one complaint about the Brownie & Pearl series is that for short books they have a high price point. They are published in a hardback picture book format, but the $13.99 price tag is very high for an easy reader (I have the same complaint about the Elephant & Piggie books). However, I highly recommend finding this book and the rest of the series at your local library. As read alouds they are nice and short; as easy readers, they will lure in an audience with their jolly illustrations.

Want More?
Visit the illustrator's website.
Visit the author's website.

0 Comments on Shopping City: Brownie & Pearl See the Sights as of 12/11/2012 12:29:00 PM
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6. Brownstone City: The Beautiful Christmas Tree

Title: The Beautiful Christmas Tree
Author: Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrator: Ruth Robbins
32 pages
Publisher: Parnassus Press (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Publ. Date: 1972

When Mr. Crockett moves into a rundown brownstone on a fashionable block in a gentrified neighborhood, his neighbors are suspicious. After all, he engages in highly unusual activity such as cleaning his own windows and stoop! Surely he does not realize it is better to hire others to do this for you! He even has the Charlie Brown-esque audacity to purchase a spindly, sickly potted tree for Christmas instead of a lush, chopped-down evergreen. Mr. Crockett, however, subscribes to the outdated motto, "beauty is as beauty does," and he nurtures the little tree through the winter and in spring he plants it on the sidewalk. Needless to say, the little tree thrives under Mr Crockett's tender care. The tree catches the attention of the birds and children and the true meaning of Christmas is realized.

The references to fashionable neighborhoods at the start of the book reminded me of the battle over gentrification that is waging in cities like NYC. Neighbors object when someone doesn't conform (think: The Big Orange Splot) and are apt to miss the beauty right under their noses. Ruth Robbins' gentle illustrations are lovely and delicate. Her pastel brownstones stand in a neat row and oversized snowflakes cover sidewalks where kids pull their sleds. Mr. Crockett sits on his stoop, watching his more fashionable neighbors, but some of those neighbors like to watch out their upper floor windows. We only see one block (and one shop) of the whole city, but it is such an intimate story, that is all that is necessary.

This classic edition of Zolotow's story is no longer in print, but I recommend you try to obtain a copy (as opposed to the 2001 version -- see below) at your library or used bookstore. It's a longer picture book than most and a lovely story.

Want More?

1 Comments on Brownstone City: The Beautiful Christmas Tree, last added: 12/22/2012
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7. Turtle City: Melvin and the Boy

Melvin and the BoyI love Lauren Castillo's illustrations and follow her blog, so when I found out latest book Melvin and the Boy was available and not yet in the Brooklyn Library's Catalog, I boldly emailed the library to find out if they were planning on acquiring it. I was impressed that I received a response that very day to say "Yes!" and I was even able to put it on hold before it was even on the shelves.

Well, my very professional review is:

I love it! I love it! I love it!

"The Boy" in the title, narrates his own story, charmingly telling us about his desire for a pet. Unfortunately, his parents give him every excuse in the book (no pun intended): dogs are too big, monkeys are too much work, and birds are too noisy. The Boy, however, sees a lovely, fancy turtle in the park and decides he might be just the thing. He names the turtle Melvin, but by the end of the day, has decided that Melvin might not be happy as a pet. He returns Melvin to the pond, and his friends, knowing that he can still come back and visit whenever he likes.

The Boy of the story is delightfully sweet and appealing, his words expressed simply and honestly. Castillo's text and illustrative style are equally praiseworthy. The urban setting is smoothly integrated into the story. The end pages, which place the turtle in a green foreground against the gray cityscape begin a pattern for the rest of the book. When the Boy walks on the street or is in the park, building and cityscape backdrops rest in sepia or grays while people and pets pop out in a muted color palette.

An author's note about turtles will satisfy curious kids and adults.

Want More?
Castillo has consolidated the professional reviews in this post.
At Macmillan's website you can print out activity pages for the book (scroll down to the bottom for the link).
Read an interview with the author at Seven Impossible Things.
Read another one of my favorite Castillo-illustrated books, What Happens on Wednesday (written by Emily Jenkins).

Big Kid says: Our teacher has a turtle for a pet.
Little Kid says: That turtle's taking a bath.

8. Buzzing City: The Honeybee Man

The Honeybee ManLast year New York City finally made beekeeping legal, although there were already many "secret" hives on roofs scattered across the landscape. This may freak some people out, including my 6 year old, to whom I am constantly issuing the reminder, "the bees are interested in the flowers, not you." I, however, think rooftop beekeeping sounds wonderful. But, then again, I'm not allergic to bees.

Lela Nargi's The Honeybee Man celebrates the tradition of urban beekeeping. Fred, our Honeybee Man, is a balding older gentleman who wears blue house slippers and drinks tea on the rooftop. With his cat and dog, he reminds me a bit of Mr. Putter. On the roof of his Brooklyn brownstone he houses three beehives, for Queens Mab, Nefertiti and Boadicea. From his perch high above the city, he watches his bees work and imagines the places them might go. One day it is time to carefully harvest the honey, which he puts into jars and generously shares with his neighbors. The end pages give some additional and interesting information about bees.

I have a super soft spot for well-done collage illustrations and Kyrsten Brooker's shine. The color scheme, which makes the sky rather teal and the buildings a palette of browns, blues and purples is unexpected, but worked for me.

The city is a key player in The Honeybee Man and Brooker gives us multiple perspectives of the rooftop hives and the bees' journey around to the neighboring yards and plants. Nagi reminds us that the city offers a rich experience for our senses. The smells of maple leaves and gasoline, rivers and dust mingle together. Natural worlds come in large and small sizes and growling machine noises contrast with the gentle buzzing of bees. Nagi describes the intimate, tiny detailed world of the bees in the context of a larger city scape which buzzes with people. Brooker's cross section of Fred's home, divided into rectangle-shaped rooms reminds us later of the bees' homes of wood panels filled with tiny hexagonal wax rooms.

A sweet way to learn about beekeeping.

3 Comments on Buzzing City: The Honeybee Man, last added: 9/6/2011
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9. Duck City: Where Are You, Little Zack?

Where Are You, Little Zack?It seems like I am always writing about books set in New York City! That is not intentional, but there certainly are an abundance of them.

I'm quite surprised I have never come across Where Are You, Little Zack?before. Co-written by Judith Ross Engerle and Stephanie Gordon Tessler, Where Are You, Little Zack? is a classic tale of "lost in the city." The authors have added in a fun counting exercise, so while 3 ducks, Brick and Brack and Thackery Quack search for their brother, they are joined by 4 busy commuters, 5 taxi drivers... you get the idea. They are also joined by 80,000 Yankee fans, but don't worry, you don't have to count that high. Of course, the brothers are united in the end (after traveling on the number 9 train on the number 10 track) and all is well.

Around here, we are big fans of Brian Floca's illustrations, but I think it's interesting he does not list this book on his website. True, it's not as spectacular as his more recent books, such as Moonshot and  Ballet for Martha, but his artwork is still appealing. Even while the duck brothers are still searching, little eyes can locate Little Zack playing among the many landmarks of the city. The search also takes the reader to locations high and low, wet and dry, crowded and sparse, and fast and slow around New York. The reader will certainly understand that the city is a varied and interesting place!

This book is lots of fun, and judging by the lack of reviews on Amazon, I'm guessing it's not well-known, which I find surprising. I think it would be a lov

4 Comments on Duck City: Where Are You, Little Zack?, last added: 9/13/2011
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10. Thimble City: The Hinky Pink

The Hinky-Pink: An Old TaleIt's possible that with some of my selections I may be stretching the "decidedly urban" tagline of my blog just slightly. But you'll forgive me, right?

In Megan McDonald's The Hinky-Pink we travel to the Florence of Old Italy where Anabel (alas, not Anabella) dreams, not of being a princess, but of the day when she will make a dress for a princess. It's a sensible dream.

Fairy tale lovers will like this one, as will those who enjoy a good, unexpected twist on the more conventional tale. Anabel has been charged with making a dress for the Princess to wear to the Butterfly Ball. However, in order to do so, she must get a good night's sleep, something the Hinky Pink's pinches are preventing. Fortunately, Anabel is clever, as well as sensible, and outsmarts the Hinky Pink.

At the risk of sounding as if I codify books by gender (which I do not), I will say that until now I only knew the author through her "boy" book series about Judy Moody's younger brother, Stink. Likewise I was familiar with Brian Floca's illustrations from several brilliant books about transportation. So it was nice for me to read something a bit more "girly." Are you still with me?

Other than in the opening layout, the city of Florence, or Firenze, as it is labeled in the book, is firmly in the backdrop. Floca cleverly locates Anabel in the larger cityscape with a small word bubble coming from her room. In addition, her position in the tower during her employment as dressmaker-to-the-princess situates her as both of and removed from the city at large.

I'm pretty sure you'll like this one.

Want More?
Visit either the author's website or the illustrator's website.
If you want an in-depth review read Elizabeth Bird's (of the blog Fuse #8) review

1 Comments on Thimble City: The Hinky Pink, last added: 9/27/2011
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11. Festive City: Everett Anderson's Christmas Coming

Lucille Clifton's Everett Anderson's Everett Anderson's Christmas Coming is a gentle little book about a young boy who eagerly awaits Christmas by observing all that is happening around him. For five days before Christmas, he watches the snow fall on the apartments below his 14th story window, looks in store windows, decorates his tree and enjoys a party. Clifton's touching poetry takes us into the young boys' inner life full of wonder and anticipation.

There are a lot of little urban details in this lovely book that city dwellers will appreciate, although the story is easily enjoyed by everyone, no matter where they live. Everett's mom gives a party, which Everett subtly lets us know his downstairs neighbors did not appreciate. There is the careful activity of getting a tree into an elevator and playing in snow covered playgrounds. Jan Spivey Gilchrist's illustrations have a dreamy feel, which is well fitted to Clifton's poetry. Ultimately, however, this is not a book about the city, but about a wide-eyed, observant and well-loved boy.

I found Everett Anderson's Christmas Coming to be a special little book. Written in 1971 and republished in the 1990s, it's now out of print, but if it's in your library's catalog, I recommend checking it out.

Want More?
Read about Lucille Clifton.
Clifton wrote several other "Everett Anderson's" books you could search out.
When winter is done, read Clifton's The Boy Who Didn't Believe in Spring, which I reviewed here.

Big Kid says: When are we getting a tree?
Little Kid says: He wants that bicycle.

2 Comments on Festive City: Everett Anderson's Christmas Coming, last added: 1/8/2012
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12. Subway City: Friday's Journey

My kids have some sort of superhuman radar when it comes to locating books about trains. One of the books they insisted on bringing home from the library a while back was Friday's Journey. It just happened to be set in the city, too.

In Ken Rush's Friday's Journey, Chris' parents are divorced and his dad has come to pick him up for their Friday journey, which is a subway ride to Dad's place, where he spends the weekend. During the train ride, Chris imagines the places the train could take him: places he used to go with both his parents. In the end, he realizes he can still enjoy those places just with Dad.

The story fell a little short for me, but I imagine it has a place among the targeted audience. However, there are a number of specific subway experiences that my young listeners grabbed on to, which is why I'm including a review on this blog. For example: the distant lights of the subway in the tunnel, the experience of watching the tracks out the front window, the screeching noise of the train stopping in the station. The city is obviously New York City, but it is never mentioned by name and because of the book's theme of living with divorced parents this book will find an audience outside the local one.

Want More?
My favorite book about a dad and his sons riding the subway is the ingenious Subway by Christopher Niemann.

Little Kid says: Where is that train going?

3 Comments on Subway City: Friday's Journey, last added: 2/13/2012
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13. Green City: Central Park Serenade

I wonder in how many homes outside of New York City a book like Laura Godwin's Central Park Serenade finds itself? Do libraries in Phoenix or Dallas order a copy for their collections? By now this is a moot point, as the book is out of print. It must still find its way into the hands of many children around NYC, though, since I see the Brooklyn Library has 18 copies, several of which are currently checked out.

But, I babble.

Central Park Serenade is a serene book. Needless to say, it is a survey of the parks many features, from the horse-drawn carriages to the zoo to the sailing of toy boats. Barry Root's sunshine-filled illustrations (they made me want to start singing, "All in a golden afternoon...") follow a boy carrying his boat through the park as he passes many notable sites and activities, some grand, like the zoo, others small, like the ice cream carts. The text And the pigeons coo/And the big dogs bark/And the noises echo through the park is repeated throughout the rhyming text. There is a focus on the people and sounds of the park, rather than the inanimate sights: parents, drummers, baseball players, etc., which I appreciated -- after all the city park is what it is because of the people who bring it to life.

The end pages contain a map of the park. Maps are always a big hit with my boys. There are also many pictures with buses and taxis, also an important feature for my little guys. Personally, I was immediately struck by the fact that the protagonist of the narrative lives in an apartment in which his bedroom overlooks Central Park. That is some serious real estate. I wonder how many other New York parents notice the real estate in picture books. My own sons are still blissfully aware that their own view is not exactly going to bring in the big money.

I hope Central Park Serenade finds an audience outside of New York City as many of the experiences depicted are not limited to Central Park. Plus, I imagine kids in the country would enjoy seeing what a city park is like.

Want More?
Try the picture book The Pirate in Central Park.
Early Chapter Books about Pee-Wee and his squirrel friends having adventures in Central Park are quite delightful. I reviewed the series here.
Read a book about Pale Male in Central Park. I reviewed three of them.

Little Kid says: Read the bus page, again.

14. Familial City: Tar Beach

Summer is just around the corner and in cities everywhere, rooftops become outdoor gathering places for those in yard less apartments. Faith Ringgold's Caldecott Honor book Tar Beach is a magical story celebrating family, city life and a special bridge.

Much has already been written about this beautiful book (see Want More? section below) and there is every reason in the world to pick it up this summer and read it with your kids. The free-flowing story of Tar Beach was originally told via a quilt Ringgold crafted around the image of a family gathered around a late summer dinner on their rooftop. The term "tar beach" obviously refers to the blackness of the roof on which the narrator (a stand-in for a young Ringgold) relaxes and remembers her life in Harlem, New York City.

Our young protagonist, Cassie, alternates her narration between her imagined flights over the city and the George Washington Bridge (which she imagines wearing "like a giant diamond necklace") and a more realistic vision of her family's life in the city. There is her dad, who has a hard time finding construction work, her mom, full of laughter and tears, and her younger brother BeBe, who Cassie eventually takes with her on her nighttime flights.

It is hard to describe the beauty of this book. It is truly a love letter to the city and the freedom it offers. I hope you add it to your summer reading list.

Want More?
Visit the author's website.
Flying over the city is a popular motif in urban picture books: see any number of my bird book reviews, but also: Flying Over Brooklyn, Come Fly With Me, WingsThe Little Reindeer, The Tale of Hilda Louise and Abuela.
Enjoy another of my favorite rooftop books: At Night
Gathering Books has a blog post with links to educational resources about the book.
Watch this great Reading Rainbow episode, featuring New York City rooftops and a lovely reading of Tar Beach.  (If you search for Ringgold on You Tube, you will find several videos of her discussing her book and quilt.)

15. Feathered City: The Tale of Pale Male

The Tale of Pale Male: A True StoryAll of the picture books about Pale Male take a different approach. Of the three I am reviewing, Jeanette Winter's The Tale of Pale Male is the only one to begin with life for the Red-tailed hawk outside the city, pointing out that the hawks live in tall places such as trees, cliffs, or even cacti. She explains how the bird likes the high perch in order to spy tiny mice, but she then jumps a little too quickly to New York City's skyscrapers. After this somewhat awkward beginning, Winter successfully maneuvers her way through dual storyline -- on the one hand, the hawks' life in the city, and on the other hand, the reaction to the nest by New York's human residents.

Winter's depiction of the city is focused almost entirely on the height at which the birds live. We rarely see the street and in a few images, she uses a split-screen to represent the birdwatchers far below the buildings, emphasizing the height of the nest. I also found it interesting that she gave curtains only to the windows in the apartments directly below the nest,  drawing attention to the contrast between the human's high nest and the birds'. I  liked Winter's illustrations, even though the overriding colors are purples, pinks and aquas, but I found it odd that, until the final pages, the hawks always seemed to be wearing rather angry expressions.

Winter's text clips along and works nicely when read aloud.

Want More?
Visit Pale Male's website.
Watch a short clip from PBS' Nature episode in which the famous hawk mates on Woody Allen's balcony.
Read a short article about the author.

Big Kid says: It keeps talking about the mice!

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16. Feathered City: City Hawk, The Story of Pale Male

City Hawk: The Story of Pale MaleIt's hard not to be in love with a pair of hawks that are willing to become our neighbors in the city... and in her version of the Pale Male saga, City Hawk, The Story of Pale Male, Meghan McCarthy chooses to ignore the fact that some neighbors might not like a) birds pooping on their windows, or b) hundreds of binoculars focused daily in the direction of their living rooms.

McCarthy does explain the controversy, and many details about the hawks in an extensive Author's Note (there is also a separate author's note about Central Park), but her story is really about the excitement and joy of watching nature in the city. Whereas the other books start from the hawk's POV, McCarthy begins with the people, taking us from the noisy, crowded polluted streets, to the lush escape of Central Park. We then watch -- just like birdwatchers -- as the hawks explore the park, make their nest and start a family.

I admit that I am a little in love with the gigantic bug eyes McCarthy gives her characters (human and avian), her illustrations are cheerful and everyone looks to be enjoying themselves. She illustrates various city vistas, and although there are numerous views of the sky, she brings us back down to earth, where we humans live, quite often.

It certainly qualifies as an uplifting tale (no pun intended!).

Want More?
Visit the author's website.
Read all my reviews of Pale Male books.
Visit Central Park.
Gothamist posted a video of Pale Male's new mate.

Big Kid says: You know, lots of other birds also live on rooftops, like sparrows and finches.
Little Kids says: Park book, please.

3 Comments on Feathered City: City Hawk, The Story of Pale Male, last added: 5/27/2011
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17. Dancing City: I Am Dodo

I Am Dodo: Not a True StoryI really need to review the stacks of books I already have before I start checking out even more books from the library. I am becoming overwhelmed. However, before I get to the back stock, I must tell you about this new book I just found:  I am Dodo: Not a True Story.

The dodo bird holds a particular place in our collective imagination. I'm not a anthropologist/sociologist/ornithologist, so I won't try to answer why that is. Maybe it is just the silly name. Maybe it's because we don't want the dodo to be extinct. In Kae Nichimura's I am Dodo: Not a True Story, we can indulge in the fantasy that at least one dodo is still walking around.... in New York City. In the city, in the face of naysayers, a lone professor holds on the belief that a dodo still exists. Little does he know that the bird is on his way. In the heart of the busy city, Dodo and his biggest fan strike up a charming friendship based on freedom, dancing and games of hide-n-seek.

One again, the city plays backdrop to a more intimate relationship; that of the Professor and his Dodo (there's a phrase you are sure not to see again). The busy urban population is not interested in the Dodo, they mind their own business or deny the existence of something right under their noses. The park plays a prominent role in the development of the Dodo and Professor's friendship -- a place more isolated than the crowded city streets, although Central Park is, in reality, far more crowded, than Nichimura's wonderful illustrations would have us believe.

Giving much weight to the oft-used phrase, "only in New York," I am Dodo: Not a True Story 2 Comments on Dancing City: I Am Dodo, last added: 6/15/2011

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18. Dancing City: I Am Dodo

I Am Dodo: Not a True StoryI really need to review the stacks of books I already have before I start checking out even more books from the library. I am becoming overwhelmed. However, before I get to the back stock, I must tell you about this new book I just found:  I am Dodo: Not a True Story.

The dodo bird holds a particular place in our collective imagination. I'm not a anthropologist/sociologist/ornithologist, so I won't try to answer why that is. Maybe it is just the silly name. Maybe it's because we don't want the dodo to be extinct. In Kae Nichimura's I am Dodo: Not a True Story, we can indulge in the fantasy that at least one dodo is still walking around.... in New York City. In the city, in the face of naysayers, a lone professor holds on the belief that a dodo still exists. Little does he know that the bird is on his way. In the heart of the busy city, Dodo and his biggest fan strike up a charming friendship based on freedom, dancing and games of hide-n-seek.

One again, the city plays backdrop to a more intimate relationship; that of the Professor and his Dodo (there's a phrase you are sure not to see again). The busy urban population is not interested in the Dodo, they mind their own business or deny the existence of something right under their noses. The park plays a prominent role in the development of the Dodo and Professor's friendship -- a place more isolated than the crowded city streets, although Central Park is, in reality, far more crowded, than Nichimura's wonderful illustrations would have us believe.

Giving much weight to the oft-used phrase, "only in New York," I am Dodo: Not a True Story 0 Comments on Dancing City: I Am Dodo as of 1/1/1900

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19. Deli City: Stop That Pickle!

Stop That Pickle!We've had Stop That Pickle! for a few years, but I never noticed until last night that it is a city book! Chalk one up for observant parenting. It is currently on my 2 year old's favorites list, so I've read it about 50 times in the last 3 days.

Peter Armour's Stop That Pickle! is a take on the classic Gingerbread Man story but with a surprising twist at the end, which I won't give away.  The last pickle in a jar at the local deli jumps out and runs away, chased by various other food stuffs. It's one of the weirder books I've read, for sure, but lots of fun. Did you know, for example, that the PB&J is one of the slowest sandwiches out there?

The briny green runaway eludes his followers by weaving in and around street corners lined with multi-storied buildings. Illustrator Andrew Shachat's quirky renditions of people at the windows are quite strange. I didn't find them as appalling as the School Library Journal critic did, but they may not be to everyone's taste. Personally, I like a little weirdness in my picture books, especially those about edible runaways.

Want More?
Read another urban The Gingerbread Man picture book.
Read another deli-food themed picture book, Five Little Gefilte Fish.
Stop That Pickle was featured on an episode of Between the Lions.

Little Kid says: Stop that Pickle!

1 Comments on Deli City: Stop That Pickle!, last added: 6/30/2011
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20. Summer City: Around Our Way On Neighbor's Day

Around Our Way on Neighbors' Day
Yes, yes, short post, I know, but have you seen the heat index?

Tameka Fryer Brown's Around Our Way On Neighbor's Day is a summer tour around the block. Both Brown's poetry and Charlotte Riley-Webb's illustrations are high energy, taking us on a fast-paced tour of a neighborhood block in summer. Arguments in barbershops, lemonade stands, corner bodegas, outdoor art and chess, spontaneous potlucks and double dutch. These are some of the day's festive activities. Even in the evening, filled with laughter and music, the pace doesn't slow down much.

As both the author and illustrator live in the south, this is an urban neighborhood picture book, which is not inspired by New York City! How refreshing.

Want More?
Read an interview with the author at SLJ.
Read a conversation with the author at Cynsations.
Read a review and link round-up at Multiculturalism Rocks!
Watch the book trailer at YouTube.
Visit the author's website.
Visit the illustrator's website.

Big Kid says: What is "hooping?"

1 Comments on Summer City: Around Our Way On Neighbor's Day, last added: 7/12/2011
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21. Prairie Storms Giveaway on Good Reads

Note: Fiction Notes is on vacation until August 1. See you then!

Last year, I interviewed Joelle Anthony about her use of a GoodReads giveaway to promote her book. One of her biggest reasons to go with GoodReads is that she had 1348 people enter the giveaway.

Here are some other interesting statistics from GoodReadshere and here:

  • 21% of members have a book blog
  • 750-785 people enter the average giveaway.
  • 8% of those who enter will add the book to their to-read list.
  • 50 books added to user’s TO-READ shelf
  • 45% of the winners will review the book.
  • 8 reviews (1% of entrants & 42% of winners)

Wow, that sounds good to me. Let’s try it!


I’ll report back on the results of the giveaway after it closes on August 10.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Prairie Storms by Darcy Pattison

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22. Hot City: Cool Ali

Cool AliSorry I've been gone for so long. I think my brain melted in the heat wave. It's not quite re-solidified yet, but fortunately I have a few posts already drafted.

In the city, hot Summer weather brings neighbors out onto stoops and sidewalks. In Nancy Poydar's Cool Ali, Ali uses the power of sidewalk chalk to create an oasis for her neighbors. A beach umbrella here, a puddle to cool off some toes there, even a wind to bring some much needed breeze. When rain brings relief, Ali discovers the ephemeral nature of her drawings -- and that art can be made anywhere.

I enjoyed how this book depicted the neighborhood residents as a community, enjoying a summer day. The first half of the book focuses on the immediate sidewalk where Ali and her friends gather, but a nice illustration half-way through shows the residents within the larger city. And of course, what would summer be without sidewalk chalk?

Want More?
Visit the author's website.
Read some more summer themed books I've reviewed.

Big Kid: I need some new Sidewalk Chalk.

1 Comments on Hot City: Cool Ali, last added: 8/1/2011
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23. Silly City: How Do You Wokka-Wokka?

How Do You Wokka-Wokka?
Another short post... it's summer, you know.

In Elizabeth Bluemle's How Do You Wokka-Wokka?, neighborhood kids dance and shimmy past brownstones, skyscrapers and taxis. This book celebrates that crazy way kids move and play. You don't always need an open field to hop, skip rope, climb and hang out with your friends. Sometimes the sidewalk is just as inspiring, but it does help to have lots of silly, rhyming words. My kids really enjoyed the silly language and Randy Cecil's illustrations are wonderfully representative of the amazing ways kids seem to be able to move their bodies (unlike us old fogies). His pictures also capture the way living in such close proximity with your neighbors fosters a unique and wonderful camaraderie.

Want More?
Visit the author's website.
One teacher has an entire website dedicated to her Wokka-Wokka lesson plan.
Read a review at The Happy Nappy Bookseller.

Little Kid says: Wokka-Wokka!

0 Comments on Silly City: How Do You Wokka-Wokka? as of 1/1/1900
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24. Help Me Celebrate! PRAIRIE STORMS

Official Release Date: PRAIRIE STORMS

Celebrate with me the release of my new picture book, PRAIRIE STORMS.

Here’s a new book trailer, which has a chant about the weather in each month for kids to learn. This is an adaptation of an 18th century poem.

Prairie Storms: A Chant of Months
Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Whippy, Skippy, Nippy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.

If you can’t see the embedded video, click here to see the first trailer.

This is the second book trailer. Here’s the first.

If you can’t see the embedded video, click here to see the second trailer.

What do you think? Isn’t it exciting?

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25. Familial City: Me and You

Me and YouI have been wanting to read British author Anthony Browne's Me and You ever since I heard about it on the blogosphere when it was first published last year. However, inexplicably, it took our library a really long time to acquire it.

It was worth the wait.

Browne retells Goldilocks and the Three Bears fairy tale from both the point of view of Goldilocks and the Bears. On the left of each two page spread we see the sepia-toned urban world of Goldilocks, while on the right is the the sunny world of the Bears.  The narration is confined to the Bears, who have a single illustration in each spread, while Goldilocks' adventure is told with multiple small images. It might seem that this duality is meant to highlight a urban/rural dichotomy, with a predictable, colorless urban blight contrasted with the bright, cheerful natural world.

But that is only a superficial reading. There are many interesting and subtle details to be found, which add layer upon layer to the story. Look closely and you might notice the bears' home is more suburban than rural, and it's a bit too neat and tidy, with trees manicured to within a inch of their lives. the youngest bear peers out of the window at the beginning and end of the story. It's interesting to imagine what he is looking at, or for. Neither is the treeless city all that it first appears.  The animated, glowing gold locks of the heroine hint at life below a gritty urban surface. It's a life which we see fully manifested by the end of the story.

Browne's book is a layered, moving tale about family life and will only improve upon each retelling. One of my favorites.

Want More?
See the illustrator's studio in this article in The Guardian.
Read a lovely review at My Favourite Books.
Read an interview with the author.
Read about the author at the publisher's website.

Little Kid says: Bear story, again! Again!
Big Kid says: Look at her hair!

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