I love New York. Despite the brutal real estate market and the byzantine public school bureaucracy, I love it. Where else in the world could you find a supermarket that sells live lobsters and yet also posts Shabbat candlelighting times?!?
William Low also loves New York and it shows in his books. Old Penn Station is an elegy to the magnificent train station that was demolished in 1963 and is still mourned by New Yorkers, myself included, even though I was born after its demise! (I believe there is some type of New York collective memory, as I am also outraged by the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn.) Although I am not sure I completely agree with the book's final line, that "buildings are not just concrete and steel. They are the heart and soul of all great cities," this book is nevertheless a wonderful springboard for talking about history, historic preservation, landmarks, zoning laws and the like. Last year my daughter's first grade class was lucky enough to have someone from the Landmarks Preservation Committee visit her class and teach them about architectural features and then take them on neighborhood walks several times to identify such features on actual buildings. This book would be a great companion to such a classroom unit. In addition, Low's paintings are stunning and give a real feel for the era and for the magnitude of both the building and the jobs of constructing and demolishing it.
In Chinatown the eponymous neighborhood is both setting and character. Low's bright, bold paintings convey the essence of this neighborhood. The narrator, a young boy,tells us about all the things he does in Chinatown with his grandmother, from buying live crabs to buying Chinese herbal medicine to practicing tai chi outdoors in the park (just go by Columbus Park one morning to see for yourself!) to, of course, celebrating Chinese New Year. Since this book was written, other Chinatowns in New York have grown, notably in Flushing, Queens, Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and recently, to a lesser degree, in East Harlem.
What do you love about New York? What books about or set in New York do you love?