Lower Manhattan skyline; Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
Hustling, bustling New York City has long captured the imaginations of children’s book authors, inspiring the creation of some of the most beloved books we all grew up reading. From “Eloise” to “Fudge” to “Corduroy,” in New York City, you can step right into the setting of your favorite childhood story and make the book come alive.
Seattle’s own celebrity pooch, Larry, got lost in New York City when he lunged for a slice of pizza near the subway. (Can you blame him?) Co-author and illustrator John Skewes, who lives in Everett, launched Larry on his first adventure in 2007 with “Larry Gets Lost in Seattle.”
Even very young kids can make connections with books, Skewes says. One time, a friend with a 3-year-old daughter drove past the Space Needle. The child pointed out the window and said, “Larry!” “
I think something really important is going on with the books,” says Skewes. “They’re relating the books to the outside world.”
The series continued with “Larry Gets Lost in New York City,” and Skewes toured the city to work out the sketches. His favorite NYC landmarks, the Flatiron Building and the Chrysler Building, are both represented in the book.
What does he hope kids get out of his books?
“Honestly, I hope they enjoy reading,” says Skewes. “I just hope by seeing their world in Larry’s books, that it opens the world of books to them.”
Whether you’re an armchair traveler or lucky enough to be planning a Big Apple vacation, here are some timeless, classic titles set in New York City to rediscover with your little readers.
“Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume
The story: Peter Hatcher and his pesky little brother, Fudge, live with their parents in a two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side.
Where to go: Manhattan-residing kids use Central Park as their backyard. Central Park has 21 playgrounds! Just don’t try to fly off the jungle gym. Be sure to hit up Zabar’s, an Upper West Side institution, for bagels with lox and potato knishes.
“Eloise” by Kay Thompson
The story: Eloise is a spirited (some might say spoiled) girl who lives in the penthouse of The Plaza Hotel (theplazany.com) with her nanny, her dog and her turtle.
Where to go: There’s an Eloise shop in the lobby of The Plaza, where you can buy Eloise stuffies, outfits and, yes, books, too. For a very special splurge, you can even reserve the Eloise Suite, where everything is pink and white. Bonus points if you order room service.
“From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E. L. Konigsburg
The story: Claudia and her brother, Jamie, run away from home to live in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Where to go: It’s all here, in this 2 million-square-foot New York City gem. Walk through The Met and look for the antique bed the Caludia and Jamie sleep in, the fountain they bathe in and the vessels in which they stash their instrument cases and dirty laundry.
“The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats
The story: Peter explores the city after a big snowfall.
Where to go: “The Snowy Day” is The New York Public Library’s most borrowed book of all time. The library’s central branch is prettier than any palace, plus it’s free to go in and look around. On display is the original Winnie the Pooh stuffie, which belonged to author A. A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne.
“This Is New York” by Miroslav Šašek
The story: This vibrant nonfiction picture book takes you on an illustrated tour of New York City’s family-friendly landmarks, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Rockefeller Center.
Where to go: It’ll cost ya, but it’s not a trip to New York City without a trip up the Empire State Building for a bird’s-eye view of the city that never sleeps. For a budget-friendly alternative, the Staten Island Ferry gives you a scenic view of the Statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan skyline. Oh, did we mention it’s free?
“Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh
The story: Harriet gets into a world of trouble when her classmates find the notebook in which she records brutally honest observations about people in her Upper East Side neighborhood.
Where to go: Everywhere and anywhere in New York City is so, so good for people watching. This is one place where it’s okay to stare: for instance, at the spectacle of a huge dude with a perfect supermodel strut or a man spiraling down the sidewalk while standing on his bicycle seat.
“Corduroy” by Don Freeman
The story: A teddy bear named Corduroy goes looking for his missing button in a department store.
Where to go: FAO Schwarz isn’t an ordinary toy store — it’s the best toy store in the world. A living toy soldier greets visitors at the front door, and inside, you can dance on giant piano keys and watch a magician performing tricks. On the way into the store, a woman ahead of us warned her kids, “Okay, but we’re not buying anything!” Then she turned and laughed. Resistance is futile.
“The Cricket in Times Square” by George Selden
The story: Chester Cricket accidentally gets transplanted to Times Square, where he learns to chirp human songs, drawing crowds to the Bellini family’s newsstand.
Where to go: Visit the real Times Square, where you can still find a few newsstands selling magazines, candy and trinkets.
“Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” by Mo Willems
The story: Trixie’s favorite stuffie, Knuffle Bunny, gets left behind on a trip to the laundromat.
Where to go: Take a ride to Brooklyn, where Park Slope, with its beautiful brownstones, is Knuffle Bunny’s native habitat. There’s even a statue of Knuffle Bunny at Park Slope Library.