I discovered the children’s book My New York when browsing the wares of the New York Public Library gift shop. The illustrations were what first attracted me to the book and this shouldn’t be much of a surprise since upon further research I learned that the book’s author and illustrator, Kathy Jakobsen, is one of America’s premier folk artists.
The book’s premise is incredibly endearing, especially since it is written from the perspective of a child. I think too often children’s books are written for children but still from the tone of an adult speaking to a child. A young girl who lives in New York City is writing to a friend who will be visiting the city soon. She writes to him about all of her favorite places, along with sumptuous images that would make both children and adults want to visit.
The book begins in the neighborhood of Chelsea, which ironically was a neighborhood I visited for the first time on my trip to New York City last month even though I’ve been traveling there for years. Although adults may regard subways as just another form of transportation to get around places, children no doubt are fascinated by this train that travels beneath the street. I would think they would also be amused by being asked to spot the smaller details in an illustration like in the one of life beneath the ground, and seeing things like an alligator swimming through a water main or a gaggle of rats on top of a pipe.
A few fold out illustrations are included in the book, my favorite one being the majestic Empire State Building. While nothing can prepare you for seeing a skyscraper for the very first time, a child will no doubt get a sense of understanding of the sheer magnitude of this awe inspiring man made structure. The line reads “when I stand at the bottom and look up, I feel like an ant, but when I’m at the top and looking down, it’s the people on the street below who look like ants.” I’m an adult and still share this mentality when seeing things from the top of a tall building or when on an airplane and looking down at the ground below.
When going through the pages of the book I was brought back to many memories of my own childhood trips to New York City, specifically visits to the famous toy store F.A.O. Schwartz and the iconic Plaza Hotel (Eloise anyone?) where at the age of 11 I went to a fancy brunch with my family. My memories of these things are from decades ago as was this book, published in 1992, and yet these kinds of experiences are timeless.
Although many children will undoubtedly remember the American Museum of Natural History from the popular Hollywood film Night at the Museum, I’m sure that if they saw the book’s illustrations of the famous dinosaurs some would immediately make the connection.
The book’s final pages are illustrations of the New York City skyline at night during the Fourth ofJuly fireworks. Since the book was written in 1992 the skyline, of course, features the Twin Towers. I suppose more than anything else the book could serve as a learning tool in the sense of showing a child the before and after of the skyline following the events of September 11, 2001.
It’s not a travel guidebook and yet I could just see a child telling his parents all the places he wants to visit when he goes to New York City.
A bonus is that at the end of the book, there is a guide to the places mentioned, which to adults would be a great travel planning tool.
Although it’s undoubtedly hard for parents to get a child excited about a trip that does not involve Disney World for instance, I would think that one look at Jakobsen’s beautiful illustrations will no doubt elicit wide anticipation from a child dying to visit.