The best children’s books celebrating city life

Barbara Lehman Author Of Red Again
By Barbara Lehman

Who am I?

I especially love books for children that capture city life in a way that feels both unique and child scaled. I have set most of my books in cities because I love the story possibilities that exist in what are almost entirely human-made environments. Paradoxically, city settings make any kind of connection to the natural world or animals even more important. On this list are all books I feel show a particularly special aspect of city life for children.


I wrote...

Red Again

By Barbara Lehman,

Book cover of Red Again

What is my book about?

When a young boy discovers a forgotten book on a city street, it opens a window to another world just as real as his own. But what happens when the two worlds collide? This imaginative companion to the Caldecott Honor-winning The Red Book works in a continuous loop, showing us that stories never really end.  And that just maybe someone is waiting for a chance to visit us, through the magic of a book.

The books I picked & why

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Bolivar

By Sean Rubin,

Book cover of Bolivar

Why this book?

I love recognizing Central Park, The Met, The Museum of Natural History, the subway, Chinatown, and more in this story of Bolivar, a dinosaur on the loose In Manhattan. The author has a clear affection as well as a keenly observing eye for all details of a contemporary NYC setting, and the story is fun. Everything from rooftop elements to his depiction of subway mosaic tile is lovingly observed and rendered as a rich backdrop to the rollicking storyline.

Bolivar

By Sean Rubin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bolivar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Going extinct isn't for everyone. Sybil knows that there is something off about her next door neighbor, but she can't seem to get anyone to believe her. Everyone is so busy going about their days in the busy streets of New York City that they don't notice Bolivar. They don't notice his odd height, his tiny arms, or his long tail. No one but Sybil sees that Bolivar is a dinosaur. When an unlikely parking ticket pulls Bolivar into an adventure from City Hall to New York's Natural History Museum, he must finally make a choice: Bolivar can continue to…

The Little House

By Virginia Lee Burton,

Book cover of The Little House

Why this book?

I cannot stop loving this book, which graphically depicts a city growing up around a small farm country cottage. While the storyline concerns the fate of the tiny house, the thrill is watching the steady mushrooming growth of vehicles, electric lines, street cars, street lamps, apartment buildings, elevated and subway trains, and finally skyscrapers as they surround the home before it is able to make its satisfying escape back to the country. The art is warm and cozy, befitting a book that has a gutsy cottage as the main character.

The Little House

By Virginia Lee Burton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Little House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seventy-five years ago, Virginia Lee Burton created the Little House, and since then generations of readers have been enchanted by the story of this happy home and her journey from the pleasures of nature to the bustling city, and back again. In celebration of this beloved classic's seventy-fifth anniversary, this special edition features a beautiful set of window cling stickers - perfect for decorating your own "Little House" - and free downloadable audio (access code printed inside the book). AGES: 4 to 7 AUTHOR: Virginia Lee Burton (1909-1968) was the talented author and illustrator of some of the most enduring…

Who Needs Donuts?

By Mark Alan Stamaty,

Book cover of Who Needs Donuts?

Why this book?

This picture book is a maximalist masterpiece of hyper-detailed observation of 1970s New York City, but as seen through the wild kaleidoscope of the author’s singular visionary brain. I understand why it was brought back into print by popular demand: there is just simply nothing like it. Plus, donuts!

Who Needs Donuts?

By Mark Alan Stamaty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Who Needs Donuts? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sam’s love of donuts takes him to the Big City where he makes friends with Mr. Bikferd, a world class collector of donuts. But when Mr. Bikferd falls in love with Pretzel Annie, the prophecy of an old homeless woman comes true: “Who needs donuts when you’ve got love?” Mr. Bikferd bequeaths his donut collection to Sam, who uses it to save the old homeless woman from drowning in a basement flooded with coffee.

This is a reissue of Mark Alan Stamaty’s masterpiece of the absurd, first published 30 years ago and out of print nearly as long. With an…

Small in the City

By Sydney Smith,

Book cover of Small in the City

Why this book?

I love how this book captures a child’s perspective of city life and landscape, by using the child’s view of what they imagine would be the experience of a lost cat. The illustrations here are nothing short of beautiful, using a loose appearing style that captures an evocatively accurate impression of the colors and atmosphere of city life on a snowy winter day. The child narrator is captivating and the story is quietly poignant.

Small in the City

By Sydney Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Small in the City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

I know what it's like to be small in the city...
Being small can be overwhelming in a city. People don't see you. The loud sounds of the sirens and cyclists can be scary. And the streets are so busy it can make your brain feel like there's too much stuff in it. But if you know where to find good hiding places, warm dryer vents that blow out hot steam that smells like summer, music to listen to or friends to say hi to, there can be comfort in the city, too.
We follow our little protagonist, who knows…


Jenny's Birthday Book

By Esther Averill,

Book cover of Jenny's Birthday Book

Why this book?

This is an endearing book with soothingly simple charm. It is a tale of a shy cat celebrating her birthday with a gang of cat friends set in 1950s Greenwich Village. In this quiet book, the sublime high point of action is a double page spread of the cat celebrants earnestly dancing “The Sailor’s Hornpipe” in a moonlit Washington Square Park.

Jenny's Birthday Book

By Esther Averill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jenny's Birthday Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's a big day for Jenny Linsky, the shy little black cat of Greenwich Village, when her brothers, Checkers and Edward, take her out for her birthday. They pick up her notorious friends along the way, including the twins Romulus and Remus, who have brought a special present, and Pickles, the Fire Cat, who gathers everyone into his red fire truck to take them to the park. There they will invite friends and strangers to share a picnic supper and dance the night away. Join Jenny and her friends in their romp around town in this beautiful birthday story!

Ages…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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