Big-city picture books

Visiting big cities can foster both excitement and anxiety. Whether young children are already well traveled or just curious about new places, these four picture books can provide them with excellent armchair tours of New York City and Europe.

jacobs count on the subway Big city picture booksA little girl traveling on the subway counts from one (“1 MetroCard”) to ten (“10 friends sway, boogie and bop…”) and back down again in Count on the Subway. Paul DuBois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender’s pleasantly rhyming text is full of the sights and sounds of a subway ride. Shout-outs to some New York City stations and train lines (“Find the 7 at Times Square”) give readers their bearings, but familiarity with the city isn’t a necessity. The clean page design encourages young children to participate in counting the objects and people mentioned in the text. Dan Yaccarino’s graphically dynamic illustrations pop with crisp lines and solid blocks of dazzling crayon-box colors. (Knopf, 3–5 years)

brown in new york Big city picture booksJoin a little boy and his father In New York, an enthusiastically busy story-book guide to New York City. Just about all of Manhattan’s child-pleasing sites get a place in Marc Brown’s stupendously detailed gouache and watercolor pictures, including the Empire State Building at sunset, Rockefeller Center at Christmas, the Statue of Liberty, the dinosaur gallery of the American Museum of Natural History, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The minimal text is inviting, the endpapers offer additional child-friendly vignettes and facts, and appended info includes phone numbers and websites for all the highlights. (Knopf, 4–7 years)

banks city cat Big city picture booksIn City Cat, a small smoky-gray cat follows a family on its trip through Europe, making herself supremely comfortable wherever she goes. Kate Banks’s text is confident and rhythmic, dotted with rhymes and half-rhymes that bounce off the tongue. “She sits on piers with perked-up ears / and gazes out to sea.” Lauren Castillo’s drawings capture both the grandeur of great cities and their human dynamism. In each picture, we look for the family, and the family looks for the cat. An appended spread, both child- and cat-oriented, identifies the cities and the sights, and a map lets us trace the family’s eight-city journey. (Foster /Farrar, 4–7 years)

rubbino walk in paris Big city picture booksSalvatore Rubbino (A Walk in New York, A Walk in London) showcases another iconic city in A Walk in Paris. This time, a small girl and her grandpa tour sites such as Notre-Dame and the Pompidou Center; a bistro and an outdoor market; and the Métro. Following streets medieval and modern, they finally arrive, with a foldout, at the Eiffel Tower, “fizzing with lights!” It’s an amiable amble, the child’s travelogue nicely extended with extra facts in discreetly tiny type (“book stalls have lined the river since the mid-sixteenth century”). Rubbino’s evocative mixed-media art is full of gentle tones enlivened with verdant greens and a pâtisserie’s inviting raspberry-reds. An endpaper map details the route, and major sites are indexed. (Candlewick, 4–7 years)

From the April 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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Cynthia K. Ritter About Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College.

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