Jazzy City: Cool Daddy Rat

Cool Daddy RatMom says:
Another favorite jazz-themed book, peppered throughout with loads of scat and a bit of daddy love, is Kristyn Crow's Cool Daddy Rat, a tale of a Daddy Rat musician who heads to New York and finds his son has stowed away in his bass case. The son, following his dad around the city to various gigs, including one on a "schmooze cruise," finally demonstrates his own talents as a singer of scat. My sons  love to "wowie!" and "pow!" and "Doooooby Zoooooby Zat Zat!" along with the text, something they never do with Dr. Seuss.

Big Kid says:  Zip, zip zat!
Little Kid says: Zat!


Jazzy City: Be Bop Express

Bebop Express
Mom says:
Had enough of Dr. Seuss? It's blasphemous, I know, but if you find Seuss'  language as tiresome as I do, A great alternative is the funky, dynamic rhythm of jazz and be bop themed children's books. There is a lot of great kid lit out there with a jazzy theme and it just so happens that many of them are also great Urban Picture Books. Bebop Express by H.L. Panahi has another bonus: a train theme! Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher's clever illustrations reflect the jazzy rhythm of the text as the train travels from New York to New Orleans, passing through other jazz cities such as Chicago and Philly. At each stop the "jazziest train from the east to the west" picks up another instrument-playing passenger and when it reaches its final destination a full band has been formed which entertains people be-bopping in the street.

Big Kid says: That is a cool train!
Little Kid says: Train!


Fragile City: Wings

WingsMom says:
Ikarus Jackson is a boy with Wings. For this he is teased by children and adults alike. One girl, feeling isolated herself, is fascinated by Ikarus' beauty. Transformed by an appreciation for his individuality, she finds her voice and inner resiliency to speak up for her new friend. Christopher Myers has written a touching book about the unique spirit in each child. Look closely at the images and you will find his colorful collage style masterfully and magically depicts the topsy-turvy urban landscape and emotional complexity of its children.

A beautiful book.

Big Kid says: It would be cool to have wings, huh?


Walking City: Madlenka

MadlenkaMom says:
Madlenka arrived at the library for me yesterday and I loved it so much, I bumped off the post I had been planning to write so pardon my hastily written review. Peter Sis (whose Firetruck is not to be missed) has written and illustrated a delightful story. Madlenka looses her tooth and takes a trip around the world to tell all her friends: Mr. Ciao from Italy who gives her gelato, Ms. Grimm from Germany who tells her stories, Eduardo from Latin America..... and more. However, her trip around the world is actually a trip around a single New York City block full of vibrant immigrant neighbors. To complete her trip, Madlenka and a friend visit imaginary worlds in the courtyard of their building.

I love the die cut pages offering up views into each of the different worlds which are interspersed with views of Madlenka's block as she makes her progress. Sis' exquisite and detailed line drawings represent the magical reminisces of the immigrants and I especially enjoyed what I call his "reverse aerial perspective" of the city block.

You can see an animated excerpt from the book here.

Big Kid says: I love this book!


Feathered City: Fledgling

Mom says:
A tried and true tale of a young kestrel's first flight from the nest, Fledgling's charm lies in the sheer variety and beauty of its aerial views of the city coupled with the simplicity of its text. The youngster's flight takes us soaring over buildings, water, amusement rides and even through the subway system, creating visions of flight both dangerous and exhilarating. As you can guess, everything ends safely, reassuring little ones that leaving home is not as scary as it may at first appear.

Big Kid says: I'd like to fly like that.
Little Kid says: Bird!


Familial City: Bravo Maurice!

Bravo, Maurice!Mom says:
Maurice Duncan Marcela has many things in his favor: the love and support of a huge extended family and the varied and thrilling experience of living in the city. Through the eyes of a young boy, Rebecca Bond's Bravo Maurice! celebrates the different talents and skills that exist in the urban community.

By trailing his family members around and their various jobs of baker, writer, taxi driver, florist and more, Maurice learns to appreciate the sights and sounds of the city.  His family teaches him all about their jobs and hopes he will follow in their footsteps but ultimately Maurice is supported and praised for the gifts he has as a unique individual.

It appears to be out of print, but your library may have a copy. I hope you look for it.

Big Kid says: Bravo, Maurice!


Feline City: Black Cat

Black Cat (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Books)Mom says:
At first I didn't like Black Cat by Christopher Myers but then I realized that was only because it was not what I'd come to expect from a children's picture book. It is not a sunny book in look or feel because the cat -- whom we follow through the streets of the city -- likes to wander in the gritty parts: underground, on fire escapes, through concrete playgrounds, etc. The illustrations are a marvelous collage of photographs and paint and I hope that people who don't live in urban areas will give it a chance because it ultimately is about a creature who has the freedom to go anywhere he wants.

Big Kid says: That cat gets around!
Little Kid says: Meow!


Hidden City: City by Numbers

City by NumbersMom says:
My son is obsessed (that is actually a bit of an understatement) with numbers and this book is perfect for him. City by Numbers by Stephen T. Johnson is all about finding numbers hidden away in the everyday. Gorgeous images of the urban landscape and its details contain camouflaged numbers to discover. Have you ever seen the 4 in the Brooklyn Bridge? Some numbers are harder to see than others but the challenge spurs my son on. Next time you go outside windows will become 11s and branches will curve into 9s.

Big Kid says: I like the 4.
Little Kid says: 1...2....3...


Crowded City: One Monday Morning

One Monday MorningMom says:
Uri Shulevitz's One Monday Morning was one of my accidental finds in the library. Starting one Monday morning, a boy begins of week of daily adventure in the city. He visits the usual urban haunts: the laundromat, a bus stop in the rain, the grocery store pushing his "granny cart." (We have one of those! They're essential for shopping when you don't have a car.) While he is out, royalty tries to visit him at his apartment. As this happens to us quite frequently, I could so relate. The royal entourage grows larger and larger each day until finally, on Sunday, they all meet up for a game of cards. Kids will like the repetitive nature of the text which builds to a surprising and pictorial ending. Shulevitz's pictures and use of color are wonderful to look at. It's not for nothing that he won the Caldecott for another great book.

Big Kid says:  Whoa! That's a lot of people.
Little Kid says: Again!


Nurturing City: How to Heal a Broken Wing

How to Heal a Broken WingMom says:
A while ago, this book made it's rounds on the kid lit blogs since it won the Cyblis award for picture books. When I checked it out I found it was also a great urban picture book. How to Heal a Broken Wing by Australian author Bob Graham is a lovely book about a boy who finds an injured pigeon on a crowded and anonymous city street. The pigeon tumbles to the ground after mistaking the reflection of a shiny skyscraper for the sky. The young boy and his mom takes the bird home, where he and his parents carefully nurture it back to health, eventually setting it free. The story is told primarily in pictures in a film strip style layout. I especially love how the story demonstrates that individual actions in the city can make all the difference.

Big Kid says: That boy was so nice to the bird. I like pigeons.
Little Kid says: Bird!

Want more?
Activity/Lesson plan ideas (scroll down to click on left hand side image for the pdf)


Snowy City: Anna's Wish

Anna's WishMom says:
I am an unapologetic fan of snow. And so is Anna.

In Bruno Hachler's Anna's Wish, Anna's city has not seen snow for years. Patiently, the inhabitants prepare for snow activities each year, but each year the snow fails to fall. Anna loves to hear her mother describe the snow she herself has never seen, until one year when Anna makes a wish and... you can guess what happens next! I love the sweet illustrations -- set in a European city where people live above and next to bakeries and ancient and modern architecture blend together in the skyline (it was originally published in Switzerland).

For anyone who appreciates the beauty of a first snowfall, this is the book to read.

Big Kid says: We need snow, NOW!


Snowy City: The Snowflake Sisters

The Snowflake SistersMom says:
Hitching a ride on Santa's sleigh, two siblings in J. Patrick Lewis' The Snowflake Sisters abandon the 'burbs for the glory and beauty of Manhattan. Demonstrating the excellent taste you have come to expect from snowflakes, they choose to settle in Central Park, alighting on a snowman where they settle in to pass the rest of the winter.

Personally, I love scrap paper collage because there is always something fun to discover in the bits of paper used. Is that the library lion? Are those marathoners in the window? A subway map on the skyscraper? Cleverly, Times Square is made of paper adverts. Lisa Desimini's use of collage nicely contrasts the business and movement of urban landscapes with those in less densely populated environments.

Big Kid says: I can't WAIT for snow!
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