Saturday, August 5, 2017
A CITY IS
Age Range: 5 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt; 1st edition (2004)
Author: Norman Rosten (Brooklyn’s First Poet Laureate)
New York Times
A CITY IS: Poems. By Norman Rosten. Collected and edited by Patricia Rosten Filan. Illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg. Holt. $16.95. (Ages 4 to 8) Several of these short, accessible poems about urban life make specific reference to New York City. The delightful illustrations range from Brooklyn rooftop views of Manhattan to the 72nd Street subway stop, and from Central Park to the Statue of Liberty.
The art rewards repeat visits, as Greenberg, in charactaristic folk-art style, follows a mother and child from their own busy Brooklyn street to South Ferry, Washington Square, Central and other parks, glimpsing along the way fire trucks, and fireworks, skyscrapers, and subway stations, playgrounds, bridges, and people at work or play. Visually, at leaast, the finest valentine to New York (or at least two of it's five Boroughs) since Kathy Jacobsen's 'My New York' (1993).
"While buildings sleep / the moon is drifting / like a toy balloon / over Brooklyn Bridge." True to American poetic tradition, these very simple poems by the late Rosten, the first poet laureate of Brooklyn, celebrate both the big picture and the close-up, tiny detail. The streets are crowded with traffic beneath the great towers of stone--and there's a red geranium on a windowsill. Greenberg's clear, collage-style gouache illustrations on watercolor paper show the city through the day and night and through the seasons, especially as they occur in New York. The park is busy with people playing ball and chess, and working out in Tai Chi groups, while a kite sails in the sky. The diversity of the neighborhood is part of the story, and children will enjoy the view of people they know in a busy, magical place in both sunshine and snow.
The free verse and artwork celebrate the essence of New York City. There is great child appeal here with red fire trucks, charging down a city street, a boat-filled harbor and a park full of children playing. The seasonal changes are representated too by a springtime kite flying (“Look, it just broke away! Hope it lands on a soft place/ l ike a pillow, or a cloud”); a sudden summer shower (“The birds sing while taking a bath in puddles and wet grass”); the squirrels gathering nuts in the autumn (“burying nuts against the frost/ closing storm windows wherever their secret houses are..); and snow falling in winter (“Snow makes the city very quiet/ you can even whisper and be heard..”). A child and his mother are pictured in many of the two page spreads, adding even more interest to each illustration. While it should be read for the pure enjoyment, this is also a great title to use in curriculum on city themes, rivers and bridges, mapmaking and seasons.
** Amazon Listmania, #1 Theme: NYC Books
** Bank Street College Children's Book Committee 2004