5 NYC Children's Books to Inspire Fun, History-Filled Family Outings
With all of the amazing things there are to do with kids in NYC, it's no wonder that a slew of children's books are set right here in the Big Apple. We've written about a bunch of our favorites in the past, and even rounded up kids' books about NYC museums to help families get excited about visiting MoMA, the Met and the Guggenheim.
However, in honor of Children's Book Week (coming up May 12 to 18), we decided to write a new post featuring five history-filled NYC picture books that we hope will inspire enriching family outings. Three of these titles recount real-life NYC events. The other two, though fictional, give a peek at what life was like on the Lower East Side and Upper East Side circa 1900 and 1960, respectively. All are wonderful jumping off points to spark your own NYC adventures.
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins (written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Brian Selznick) is the fascinating true story of Waterhouse Hawkins, a 19th-century British sculptor who was commissioned by the Queen to build the first-ever life-size models of dinosaurs for an art and science museum in England. The NYC connection comes in the second half, when he's asked to create a new set for a proposed Manhattan museum, but ultimately the broken pieces of his smashed sculptures end up buried in Central Park (yes this really happened!). While the exact location of where the remnants were dumped remains a mystery, use this obscure NYC story as an excuse to explore some of the lesser-known attractions in Central Park as well as the tried-and-true American Museum of Natural History, where you'll find plenty of dinosaur models, though not one by Hawkins.
All-of-a-Kind Family is the first in a series of chapter books by Sydney Taylor. Best for tweens, the series chronicles the adventures of five sisters in a tight-knit Jewish family living on the Lower East Side at the turn of the last century. It's a great history lesson and a fun way to prep for a trip to the Museum at Eldridge Street located in a historic synagogue. The museum even occasionally hosts All-of-a-Kind Family-themed walking tours of the neighborhood. Afterward, eat the way the siblings did by getting knishes at Yonah Schimmel, which opened back in 1910!
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein) tells the real-life tale of Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist who walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers in 1974... without permission or a net! This adventure story is a page-turner that will keep children entertained and curious. The book also gently mentions that the buildings are no longer standing but leaves it to parents to expand on that information (or not) as they see fit. It's a lovely tribute to the Towers, which were such an important part of NYC's history for three decades, and a good read before a visit to the 9/11 Memorial or the about-to-open National September 11 Memorial Museum. That way the kids get a glimpse of their glory days before the tragedy.
They Came from the Bronx (written by Neil Waldman) explains how buffaloes were saved from extinction thanks to the Bronx Zoo. While the book is mostly set in Oklahoma, the zoo is the hero, and the insightful true story is a great lesson about wildlife conservation in action. Head to the Bronx Zoo to learn more about endangered animals and to take a peek at the bison living there now. Afterward, hit nearby Arthur Avenue for an amazing meal—just no bison burgers please.
The House on East 88th Street (written and illustrated by Bernard Waber) marked the first appearance of Lyle the Crocodile, who's found living in the bathtub of an old Victorian home on the Upper East Side in the '60s. His neighborhood adventures are a hoot and have even been adapted for TV. Walk this fictional kid-lit icon's real-life block to check out the Guggenheim Museum and the Yorkville Community School, which is being honored with a United for Libraries bronze literary landmark plaque on Wednesday, May 14 thanks to its location on Lyle's street. Afterward, explore all the things to do in the nabe with kids, like romping in the Ancient Playground located just a few blocks south on Fifth Avenue and 84th Street.
What are your favorite children's books set in NYC? Tell us in the comments.
Read all of our posts about cool children's books.