One of our favorite things to do as a family is take the train into the Big Apple. We like to get to the tracks early to watch the express trains whizz on by before hopping on a local to Grand Central Terminal. It's usual for us not to wander more than a block or two from the station before returning home. (Because that's a full day for young children. And for the parents who are managing the young children!)
In advance of our trip, we always revisit our treasured New York City books. Here are a few from our shelves:
Abuela by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Elisa Kleven
Abuela and her granddaughter start out on the city bus, but are quick to ditch regular transportation for flying. They experience the beauty of New York from a bird's eye perspective, taking in the Statue of Liberty, the family bodega, and Central Park. Spanish language is peppered throughout and is reinforced with responses in English for non-native speakers: "Mira," Abuela would say, pointing. And I'd look, as we soared over parks and streets, dogs and people. This book captures the magic of childhood and the feeling of holding a beloved grandparent's hand as you experience your world, together.
Next Stop Grand Central by Maira Kalman
Speaking of amazing grandparents, our Grammie brought over this book (a love song to Grand Central Terminal) and I must say I am equally amused and delighted by the words and pictures as my toddler.
Growing up along Metro North's New Haven line meant that a day-trip to New York City always began in Grand Central—a cathedral of sorts whose devotees are linked by one common purpose—travel. I may be biased but it's really no contest: this historic station is my preferred portal into the the Big Apple. (Apologies to the entire state of Jersey who should never get over this.)
And now it's my family in the suburbs. But this time, we're just up the Hudson line in a place where, according to Ms. Kalman, "you might do nothing at all." True, true.
This book is quintessential Maira—rhythmic, exuberant, amusing, and celebratory of the everyday. But best of all, she captures the magic of urban life—the characters, faces, personalities, and forces of the good people of the city. All rubbing shoulders. Each in their own singular pursuit.
Collectively they make New York, well, like no other place on earth.
New York: A 3D Keepsake Cityscape illustrated by Sarah McMenemy.
This is a sweet little pop-up book filled with beautiful watercolor illustrations. It can fit easily in a child’s hands (perfect for stashing in your bag!) or can be spread across the kitchen table for those of you with multiple youngsters that are interested in the same book at the same time. (“But we have a house full of books! Pick another one!” I plea.)
New York City by Paula Hannigan and Illustrated by Shannon Chandler
… is a cleverly designed book with openings on each page that allow for peeks into other neighborhoods. Similar to the 3D Keepsake Cityscape, both of these books are great to use as reference titles. For a younger child, making a connection to a place we have visited together and an illustration of the landmark later on is a very easy of signifying that the landmark is important or worth remarking on. Both of these books are great to pull out at the art table, too. Children will be inspired after their visit to a new place but don’t necessarily have the skills to recreate images from memory, so working from an existing illustration bridges this gap.
The author and photographer began this book by snapping photos of the material world of New York streets and sidewalks—all of the mundane and splendid things that she and her son would see on their walks in the city. Her toddler had a pile of C is for Cow picture books back at the apartment, which weren't the most relevant when Manhattan is your playground. Mmmm... B is for bagels...
Little Blue Truck Leads the Way by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Jill McElmurry
This book about a heroic truck in an unnamed city was recommended to Sophie's grandma by the fine people at the Bankstreet Bookstore (now 2 for 2). Your kids will never look at street sweepers or emergency vehicles in the same way again. Our copy is just slightly worn...
May your next visit to the Big Apple (or to your local library) be filled with brimming grocery trucks, splashy police cars, and Metro North rides... S is for Subway!