Review of City Under the City

City Under the CityCity Under the City
by Dan Yaccarino; illus. by the author
Primary    Minedition/Astra    64 pp.
11/22    9781662650895    $17.99
e-book ed.  9781662650901    $10.99

This unusual picture-book adventure stars one small girl who thwarts authority, starts a revolution, and saves the world. The futuristic tale plays out in three parts. The first introduces our hero, Bix, who lives with her family in a technologically advanced society where “the Eyes”—bright yellow spheres with one eye and a retractable arm—“help everyone.” ­Nonconformist Bix resents the ­interference—she can brush her own teeth, thank you—but no one else seems bothered. One fateful day, Bix evades the ever-present Eyes, follows a friendly creature, and falls down a hole. Yaccarino (The Longest Storm, rev. 11/21) steers part two in an unexpected direction with a dramatic gatefold spread revealing an abandoned “city under the city.” Where Bix’s controlled, impersonal world is cool light blue, purple, and white, this subterranean setting is strikingly different, featuring warm reds, black, and hints of green. More curious than afraid, Bix explores the city. She finds a “very interesting place” (a library) full of “strange-looking objects” (books) and immerses herself in learning about this ancient, pre-Eyes civilization. When she eventually returns home, she brings a contraband book to share with her family, which ends up sparking a fire in the hearts of the populace. Part three involves an uprising against the Eyes’ totalitarian regime. Younger readers may not pick up on the parallels to contemporary battles over freedom of thought and expression, but the straightforward, short lines of text are written for a picture-book audience—advancing the story, developing character, and touching on deeper meaning. A stirring and ­thought-provoking tribute to the power of books, reading, and human ­connection.

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kitty Flynn

Kitty Flynn is reviews editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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