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We got your Brooklyn booklist right here.

A quick and handy search on the Horn Book Guide Online (keyword search: “Brooklyn”) brings up 167 reviews of books published since 1989 that are about, in, or around Brooklyn. (Plus, we’ve heard a tree grows there.) Here’s a selection of favorites to consider while enjoying Stephen Savage’s article about the People in His (Brooklyn) Neighborhood.

 

Picture Books

cooney_hattie_and_the_wild_wavesCooney, Barbara Hattie and the Wild Waves
40 pp. Viking 1990 ISBN 0-670-83056-9
A portrait of an unconventional, questing child who quietly determines the course of her own future. Exquisite paintings reflect the solid comfort and cultivation of turn-of-the-century affluent life in Brooklyn.

water in the parkJenkins, Emily Water in the Park: A Book About Water & the Times of the Day
40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2013. ISBN 978-0-375-87002-6
LE ISBN 978-0-375-97002-3
Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. Just before six a.m., a city park starts to stir: dogs arrive, owners in tow, for an early-morning swim in the pond. Next, a few kids and their caretakers show up; at eight, the sprinklers are turned on, and by mid-morning the playground is mobbed. And so the day goes. Graegin’s pencil-and-ink-wash illustrations beautifully reflect the changing light and the shifting population.

nargi_honeybeeNargi, Lela The Honeybee Man
40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2011. ISBN 978-0-375-84980-0
LE ISBN 978-0-375-95695-9
Illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker. Beekeeper Fred’s busy daily round, beginning with a cozy cup of tea, makes an appealing frame for the main event: tending his “tiny city” of three hives on his Brooklyn roof to harvest enough honey to share with neighbors. Textured details in the collage illustrations — and a cheerfully upbeat main character — enhance the story. The accurately detailed text is nicely supplemented by clear endpaper diagrams.

pinkwater_Beautiful-YettaPinkwater, Daniel Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken
32 pp. Feiwel 2010. ISBN 978-0-312-55824-6
Illustrated by Jill Pinkwater. Beautiful blue-eyed chicken Yetta, being trucked to slaughter, escapes her fate and lands in Brooklyn. After saving a wild parrot, she’s adopted by its Spanish-speaking green-feathered colony. Jill Pinkwater’s hues squawk off the pages with riotous energy. In addition to straightforward lines of text, the narrative plays out with ballooned dialogue in English and Yiddish (later, English and Spanish), with phonetic pronunciations.

takabayashi_I live in brooklynTakabayashi, Mari I Live in Brooklyn
32 pp. Houghton 2004. ISBN 0-618-30899-7
Takabayashi (I Live in Tokyo) takes on Brooklyn in this pictorial tour led by six-year-old Michele. After describing her daily life at home and at school, she then provides a season-by-season description of her favorite activities. While the structure isn’t as tight as in Tokyo, the colorful, detailed scenes provide a lot to pore over.

willems_knuffle_bunnyWillems, Mo Knuffle Bunny
40 pp. Hyperion 2004. ISBN 0-7868-1870-0
When Little Trixie (too young to “even speak words”) leaves her beloved stuffed bunny at the Laundromat, she does her best to get Daddy to understand. Daddy is clueless until Mommy greets them at home with the obvious question: “Where’s Knuffle Bunny?” The playful retro-style illustrations, in which cartoon characters are digitally incorporated into sepia-toned photos, complement the simple, satisfying story.

 

Younger Fiction

Invisible InklingJenkins, Emily Invisible Inkling
156 pp. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray 2011. ISBN 978-0-06-180220-1
Illustrated by Harry Bliss. Fourth-grader Hank Wolowitz has a very special imaginary friend: an invisible, squash-loving, almost-extinct bandapat named Inkling, whose attempts to help Hank with a bully go spectacularly wrong. Children will find this cranky bandapat tale (enhanced with Harry Bliss’s droll illustrations) hilarious and heartwarming. It’s a perfect choice for an early school year read-aloud: straightforward, zippy plot, likable characters, and believable family.

sternberg_like-pickle-juice-on-a-cookie-222x300Sternberg, Julie Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
122 pp. Abrams/Amulet 2011. ISBN 978-0-8109-8424-0
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Eight-year-old Eleanor is bereft when her babysitter moves away; Eleanor’s new babysitter sensitively gives her room to grieve. Sternberg uses short sentences spaced on the pages in very short lines, like poetry, and keeps the twenty-seven chapters very brief. The first-person narration and the details of Eleanor’s emotional journey will draw readers in, while Cordell’s line drawings add humor.

 

Intermediate Fiction

gidwitz_grimmconclusionGidwitz, Adam The Grimm Conclusion
354 pp. Dutton 2013. ISBN 978-0-525-42615-8
From the beginning, when their wicked stepfather tricks Jorinda into thinking she has decapitated Joringal (A Tale Dark & Grimm; In a Glass Grimmly), this is gruesome, grisly fun. It’s not until the siblings visit the narrator in his Brooklyn classroom that they learn the importance of telling their stories. Despite the gleeful horror, this is ultimately a warm and empathetic novel.

giff_water+streetGiff, Patricia Reilly Water Street
164 pp. Random/Lamb 2006. ISBN 0-385-73068-3 LE ISBN 0-385-90097-X
The story begun in Nory Ryan’s Song continues: it’s now 1875, and Nory is a hardworking healer/midwife; her thirteen-year-old daughter Bird aspires to be just like her. The barely nascent Brooklyn Bridge serves as a metaphor for Bird’s coming of age — and for the fortunes of her family and friends. Though the plot in this optimistic novel is tidily symmetrical, Giff sidesteps predictable situations.

gratz_brooklyn-nineGratz, Alan The Brooklyn Nine: A Novel in Nine Innings
308 pp. Dial 2009. ISBN 978-0-8037-3224-7
Interlinked short stories set between 1845 and 2002 offer snapshots of nine generations of a New York City family of German Jewish immigrants and their involvement with America’s favorite pastime. With an impressively cohesive mix of sports, historical fiction, and family history, Gratz has crafted a wonderful baseball book that is more than the sum of its parts.

hess_brooklynbridgeHesse, Karen Brooklyn Bridge
232 pp. Feiwel 2008. ISBN 978-0-312-37886-8
In 1903 Brooklyn, fourteen-year-old Joe dreams of Coney Island. Interspersed throughout the story of Joe’s family (based on Russian Jews who created the first teddy bear) are third-person segments that poetically describe homeless children living under the Brooklyn Bridge. The narrative includes tightly interwoven elements of multiple genres — adventure, romance, comedy, drama, ghost story — without compromising authenticity of plot or character.

margolis_girlsbestfriendjpgMargolis, Leslie Girl’s Best Friend
261 pp. Bloomsbury 2010. ISBN 978-1-59990-525-9
Maggie Brooklyn Mystery series. When dogs start disappearing from her Park Slope neighborhood, Maggie Sinclair, seventh-grader and part-time dog walker extraordinaire, is on the case. Maggie aspires to be Nancy Drew (“old-fashioned” but “way gutsy”) and shrewdly puts together seemingly unrelated events. While the well-crafted mystery is foremost, it’s the relatable, witty protagonist dealing with everyday middle school tribulations that makes this novel stand out.

Liar & SpyStead, Rebecca Liar & Spy
185 pp. Random/Lamb 2012. ISBN 978-0-385-73743-2
LE ISBN 978-0-385-90665-4
Brooklyn seventh-grader Georges’s family has just moved, his best friend has ditched him, and he’s endlessly bullied. So when his new neighbor offers to train him as a spy, Georges figures, why not? Spare and elegant prose, wry humor, deft plotting, and the presentation of complex ideas in an accessible way make this novel much more than just a mystery-with-a-twist.

p.s. be elevenWilliams-Garcia, Rita P.S. Be Eleven
276 pp. HarperCollins/Amistad 2013. ISBN 978-0-06-193862-7
LE ISBN 978-0-06-193863-4
Delphine and her sisters have returned from their mother’s (One Crazy Summer), but home in Bedford-Stuyvesant has become tricky. Pa has a new “lady friend”; their uncle returns from Vietnam greatly changed; and Delphine’s sisters have learned to stand up for themselves. Williams-Garcia brilliantly gets to the very heart of Delphine and each of her family members, creating complex, engaging, and nuanced characters.

woodson_LocomotionWoodson, Jacqueline Locomotion
102 pp. Putnam 2003. ISBN 0-399-23115-3
Like Jack in Creech’s Love That Dog, fifth-grader Lonnie has a teacher who introduces him to poetry and makes him believe in his writing. Woodson, however, more ably convinces us that her protagonist really does have a gift. The sixty poems are skillfully and artfully composed — but still manage to sound fresh and spontaneous. The accessible form will attract readers; Woodson’s finely crafted story won’t let them go.

 

Young Adult Fiction

Brooklyn, BurningBrezenoff, Steve Brooklyn, Burning
202 pp. Carolrhoda Lab 2011. ISBN 978-0-7613-7526-5
Tossed out by a narrow-minded father, sensitive narrator Kid finds an alternate family with the street kids of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Kid falls hard for entrancing Felix, a junkie living in an abandoned warehouse. When fire destroys the building, Kid becomes an arson suspect. A moving, personal story of friendship, loss, and love, Brezenoff’s novel is also a tender tribute to all LGBTQ youth.

elliott_shipofsoulsElliott, Zetta Ship of Souls
121 pp. Amazon 2012. PE ISBN 978-1-61218-268-1
New foster child D rescues what he thinks is a bird in Prospect Park. It’s really a spirit who wants his help in gathering the restless dead of Manhattan’s African Burial Ground and taking them on to another realm. Elliott’s story is quick, clean, and briskly paced, and engages some interesting content.

lamarche_like no otherLaMarche, Una Like No Other
347 pp. Penguin/Razorbill 2014. ISBN 978-1-59514-674-8
Devorah and Jaxon meet in an elevator and come away with that love-at-first-sight feeling. It’s complicated; Devorah is a Hasidic Jew, Jaxon is black. Devorah, whether agonizing over her love life or sharing informative details about Hasidic daily life and religious philosophy, is believable and engaging. Her struggle between tradition and modernity, filial duty and personal fulfillment, is complex and realistic.

reynolds_when i was the greatestReynolds, Jason When I Was the Greatest
232 pp. Atheneum 2014. ISBN 978-1-4424-5947-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4424-5949-6
Affable narrator Ali, his best friend Noodles, and Noodles’s brother Needles live in Brooklyn’s tough Bed-Stuy neighborhood. Ali’s thing is boxing; Noodles’s is comic books; and Needles’s is…knitting, as a way to keep his Tourette syndrome under control. The book’s violent climax occurs at a party that the boys discover they’re too young for. Reynolds demonstrates a gift for conversational tone and sly humor.

williams-garcia_everytimearainbowWilliams-Garcia, Rita Every Time a Rainbow Dies
166 pp. HarperCollins 2001. ISBN 0-688-16245-2
LE ISBN 0-06-029202-4
Despite its gritty milieu and violent central motif, this is a love story. Sixteen-year-old Jamaican-born Thulani’s only friends are the pigeons on the roof of the Brooklyn brownstone he shares with his brother and sister-in-law. He witnesses a rape from the roof; after he intercedes on the victim’s behalf, he becomes obsessed with her. Well-observed and subtle, this novel artfully interplays harsh urban realities with adolescent innocence.

 

Nonfiction

curlee_brooklynbridgeCurlee, Lynn Brooklyn Bridge
40 pp. Atheneum 2001. ISBN 0-689-83183-8
(Gr. 4–6) The Brooklyn Bridge receives handsome tribute here as a great accomplishment of engineering and human labor. Full-page paintings provide impressive views of the underwater excavation of foundations, the construction of the anchoring towers, and the suspension of cables. While the text explains the technical aspects of construction, it also recounts the costly efforts of the Roebling family and the laborers. Bib.

lewin_stableLewin, Ted Stable
40 pp. Roaring Brook/Flash Point 2010. ISBN 978-1-59643-467-7
(Gr. K–3) Using firmly drafted paintings with saturated colors and muted edges, Lewin pictures first the historical roots and then the present-day incarnation of a riding stable in Brooklyn. In natural and unobtrusive narration, he describes the equine and human characters inhabiting the stable and the special circumstances of city-dwelling horses. A final question looks to the future of this community landmark.

mann_brooklynbridgeMann, Elizabeth and Witschonke, Alan The Brooklyn Bridge
48 pp. Mikaya 1996. ISBN 0-9650493-0-2
(Gr. 4–6) Wonders of the World series. This brief, informative history effectively conveys the human drama of the fourteen-year construction of the magnificent suspension bridge and provides lucid explanations of the technology and the building phases. The handsome pictorial format employs historical prints and photographs as well as original paintings and diagrams. Two fold-out diagrams and a concluding aerial view of the finished bridge emphasize the dimensions of the immense project.

Click on the Brooklyn tag for more from The Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She is a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.

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Comments

  1. Frankie Moore says:

    I love two of them. Ever since I read Lynn Curlee’s “Brooklyn Bridge” I have been fascinated by the bridge and felt overjoyed to walk across it a few summers ago for the first time.
    “Honeybee Man” inspired me to start teaching the second grade a unit on honeybees. Their social studies curriculum is community. My discovery of this book coincides with my husband starting to keep bees. What synchronicity. This is how my life works!

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