City Life in Picture Books
I love city life. There is always so much going on. It seems at any hour of the day or night, you can find something interesting happening in the city.
First thing in the morning, it may be dark and quiet, but there are already city dwellers starting their days. In Good Morning, City the day starts with the people who are busy even before the sun comes up: bakers, newspaper carriers, ferry boat captains. As the sun rises, even more people are out and about: dog walkers, joggers, delivery truck drivers. Soon cars, trains, and pedestrians are bringing that familiar urban energy to the pages of this picture book. All this happens before most kids even have breakfast. Pascal Campion’s illustrations capture a sense of wonder and beauty in even the most mundane moments, like traffic and breakfast. This is a book sure to be appreciated by those who like the hustle and bustle of city life as much as I do, but educators will find much to like here too. The onomatopoeia throughout makes this book a fun read-aloud to share with a group or class talking about community helpers or urban communities. (9780374303464. Nov 2016. Gr. Ps-1)
Some people, of course, like to appreciate the wonders of the city in smaller doses. In Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure by Anna Walker, a chicken is swept away from her quiet life to the big city where she explores all that it has to offer from shopping to the theater and more. The muted illustrations depict beautiful urban scenes, and they also offer bits of humor at Peggy’s antics. In the end, Peggy returns to her quiet henhouse, but readers are assured that Peggy hasn’t forgotten the fun of the city. Next time she visits, she decides, she’ll take the train. This quiet adventure captures the chicken’s eye view of a trip to the city, which isn’t so different from a child’s eye view. (9780544259003. 2014. Gr. Ps-2)
One of the realities of living in the city is living in close proximity to our neighbors. As an apartment dweller myself, I was charmed by Paula Scher’s depiction of the challenges of urban apartment life in The Brownstone. Originally published in the 1970’s, this picture book had been out of print for some time, but I am delighted to report that it is available again in a new, slightly revised version that has the same warmth and humor of the original. The story begins as the bear family settles down to hibernate only to be bothered by their noisy neighbor, and the logic puzzle that follows as the neighbors move from one apartment to the next in search of the perfect home for them is silly in the best way. But it is more than just a silly story; it is also an opportunity to talk about compromise, problem solving, and neighborliness no matter where you live. (9781616894283. Dec 2015. Gr. Ps-3)
While city life may not be everyone’s preference, I think these books convey much of what there is to love about urban communities. It may be noisy and busy, but there are moments of beauty and peace if you take the time to look for them.
Blogger: Mindy R.