Books for a Family Trip to New York

Our next big family trip is only two and a half months away and I’m looking at ways to prepare the kids for a new and exiting destination. As I mentioned in a previous post, the fact that New York features so prominently in movies and television makes most travellers feel like they’ve been there before, but for the kids I’d prefer to prepare them with books. I’ve been making a list of New York related books to find and we already have a few in our collection and I thought I’d share it today. Most are for my kids’ age group (3-5 years) but there are a few titles that introduced me to New York from my own childhood that I plan to get for my kids when they get older. So here they are, in no particular order:

1) This is New York

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This is part of a beautiful series of books by Miroslav Sasek that includes Paris, London, San Francisco and many others. The artwork is fun and stylish and the books are interesting for adults as well as children. It shows all the major landmarks and is a great introduction to the city.

2) Museum ABC/ Museum 123/ Museum Shapes/ Museum Colors

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These books use the artwork of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to introduce counting, the alphabet and basic shapes. For example, the A is for Apple page highlights apples in artwork ranging from Renaissance masters to Japanese prints to modern works. I actually bought the set back when my daughter was born and we’ve almost worn the books out. There is now even a series of board books using the same concepts for even younger kids.

3) Eloise

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Eloise always reminds me of the one time I went into the Plaza Hotel in New York. I was living in Connecticut and had taken my dog into the city for the day and about half way through the day I realized that my usual plan of stopping into a coffee shop or fast food place to use the facilities was not going to work with a dog in tow. I really didn’t want to check out the public options, but then I realized that I was across the street from the Plaza Hotel. I figured that fancy hotels probably had lots of guests with dogs so I took hold of the leash and marched in with my pooch like I owned the place, right past the gilded lobby, bypassing the elegant tea room and down the hall to one of the fanciest restrooms in New York. I’m pretty sure that my kids will probably never get any further into the Plaza than I did (at least while I’m paying the bills) but they’ll still enjoy reading about the adventures of Eloise at the Plaza.

4) The Adventures of Taxi Dog

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Maxi the Taxi Dog travels the city with his taxi driver friend Joe in this cute, well illustrated picture book. Dog and owner share the sights and sounds of the city as they meet the wild and wacky characters that make New York their home.

5) Can You Find It? Series

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This is another series that is more about preparing kids for the art museums of New York than the city itself. Each book takes famous paintings and gives kids a list of items to find such as “Can you find four white birds? Can you find a man with a red hat?” etc. It’s a great way to get kids to look at famous painting in depth and I hope that we’ll be able to trigger at least a few moments of interest when we get to see the artworks in real life.

6) Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building

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This book is told from the perspective of a boy in the 1930’s who is watching the Empire State Building going up. It is a very appealing story for boys with a focus on the construction of the tower and the workers who built it. Hopefully it will get my kids excited about going up the Empire State Building themselves.

7) The Cricket in Times Square

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I remember my teacher reading this book to our class in about grade two or three and it was one of my first memories of learning about New York. It is the story of Chester Cricket, a country cricket who accidentally arrives in Times Square and is befriended by a streetwise cat and mouse. It was published in 1961 and paints a very different picture of Times Square than the flashy, touristy place you see today. The simple pen and ink illustrations are lovely as well.

8) From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

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This is another book for older kids that was a childhood favourite of mine. Looking back now, the idea of two children secretly living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is just preposterous, but when I was a kid it simply sounded like the most amazing adventure ever. Of course, this may have had something to do with the fact that I used to fantasize about getting accidentally locked in the public library at night and having all those wonderful books to myself for an entire night.

So there’s a very brief list of some of the many books out there to prepare young kids for a trip to New York. I’m sure I’ll find many more in the months ahead. If anyone else has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

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