I will read any book set in New York City, and I credit children’s books for making me want to move from the West Coast for the East Coast nearly twenty years ago. Here are 100 must read children’s books set in New York City!
ABC NYC by Joanne Dugan
Presents all the excitement, movement, and diversity of the Big Apple to beginning readers via lively full-color photos, bright illustrations, and city-inspired items, such as “B” for Bagel and “C” for the Chrysler Building.
123 NYC by Joanne Dugan
Teaches young readers how to count from one to twenty through photographs of different places and objects in New York City, from one Empire State Building to twenty children.
Abuela by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Elisa Kleven
While riding on a bus with her grandmother, a little girl imagines that they are carried up into the sky and fly over the sights of New York City.
At Night by Jonathan Bean
On some nights, a snug bedroom is a hard place to fall asleep. On some nights, it’s better to get away from slumbering, snoring family members and curl up alone with one’s thoughts in the cool night air, under wide-open skies. In this charming bedtime fantasy, a sleepless city girl does just that, finding her surprising way to a serene rooftop version of a backyard campout.
B is for Brooklyn by Selina Alko
What do Prospect Park, Coney Island, and Atlantic Avenue have in common? They are all located in Brooklyn, New York, a magical place where you can listen to jazz music, eat bagels and lox, and sit on the stoop of a brownstone and daydream. Children will recognize aspects of their own neighborhoods in this celebration of urban culture and community.
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
Meet Tony Sarg, puppeteer extraordinaire! In brilliant collage illustrations, Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet tells the story of the puppeteer Tony Sarg, capturing his genius, his dedication, his zest for play, and his long-lasting gift to America—the inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy’s Parade.
Big Jimmy’s Kum Kau Chinese Take Out by Ted Lewin
Even before Kum Kau Chinese Take Out opens, there’s so much to do. The deliveryman arrives. The cooks clean the kitchen from top to bottom. Then chop, chop, chop, they slice and dice the fresh meat and vegetables. But when the customers arrive, Kum Kau really comes alive. Woks sizzle. Pots steam. The cooks whip up tantalizing dishes for hungry patrons.
Blackout by John Rocco
One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. The TV shuts off and a boy wails, “Mommm!” His sister can no longer use the phone, Mom can’t work on her computer, and Dad can’t finish cooking dinner. What’s a family to do? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights—in stars that can be seen for a change—and so many neighbors it’s like a block party in the sky!
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
When Clara arrived in America, she couldn’t speak English. She didn’t know that young women had to go to work, that they traded an education for long hours of labor, that she was expected to grow up fast. Clara never quit, and she never accepted that girls should be treated poorly and paid little. Fed up with the mistreatment of her fellow laborers, Clara led the largest walkout of women workers the country had seen.
Castle on Hester Street by Linda Heller, illustrated by Boris Kulikov
A flying goat, buttons the size of sleds, and a castle on Hester Street are some of the widely imaginative stories Julie’s grandpa tells her about his journey from Russia to New York many years ago. But Grandma’s no-nonsense memories are far different from Grandpa’s tall tales.
Chinatown by William Low
Chinatown. City within a city. Home to street cobblers and herbalists, tai chi masters and kung fu students, outdoor fish markets and lots and lots of restaurants. And best of all, when the Chinese New Year begins there’s a New Year’s Day parade, complete with a lion dance.
City Shapes by Diana Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier
From shimmering skyscrapers to fluttering kites to twinkling stars high in the sky, everyday scenes become extraordinary as a young girl walks through her neighborhood noticing exciting new shapes at every turn.
Come With Me by Holly McGhee, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre
When the news reports are flooded with tales of hatred and fear, a girl asks her papa what she can do to make the world a better place.
Corduroy by Don Freeman
This story of a small teddy bear waiting on a department store shelf for a child’s friendship has appealed to young readers generation after generation.
Firebird by Misty Copeland
Misty Copeland tells the story of a young girl—an every girl—whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl’s faith in herself and shows her exactly how, through hard work and dedication, she too can become Firebird.
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman
The John J. Harvey fireboat was the largest, fastest, shiniest fireboat of its time, but by 1995, the city didn’t need old fireboats anymore. So the Harvey retired, until a group of friends decided to save it from the scrap heap. Then, one sunny September day in 2001, something so horrible happened that the whole world shook. And a call came from the fire department, asking if the Harvey could battle the roaring flames.
Good-bye Havana! Hola New York! by Edie Colon, illustrated by Raúl Colón
When five year old Gabriella hears talk of Castro and something called revolution in her home in Cuba, she doesn’t understand. Then when her parents leave suddenly and she remains with her grandparents, life isn’t the same. Soon the day comes when she goes to live with her parents in a new place called the Bronx. What will it take for the Bronx to feel like home?
Harbor by Donald Crews
All the color and action of liners, tankers, tugs, barges, ferryboats, and fireboats in a harbor are presented in this exciting visual adventure.
Harlem by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers
Depicts the rich character of Harlem through poetry and illustrations in which the author and his son paint a picture that connects readers to the spirit of Harlem in music, art, literature, and everyday life.
Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by her fellow black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights.
Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon
Herman liked playing the oboe, the smell of hot dogs in the winter, and watching films about the ocean. Rosie liked pancakes, listening to old jazz records, and watching films about the ocean. They both loved the groovy rhythm of the city, but sometimes the bustling crowds and constant motion left them lonely, until one night…
How Little Lori Visited Times Square by Amos Vogel, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Poor little Lori. All he wants is to go see Times Square, but somehow he is thwarted every step of the way. First he takes a subway but gets out at South Ferry. Then he takes a bus but finds himself at 242nd Street. So he tries a taxi, and here’s what happens: The driver says, “Do you have enough money to pay me?” Lori answers, “What a silly question! I am much too little to have enough money for a taxi.” So the driver says, “Please get out then.” Will Lori ever get to Times Square? Maybe with a little help from a very…slow…moving…friend.
How Pizza Came to Queens by Dayal Kaur Khalsa
A pizza-less Queens is forever changed when Mrs. Pelligrino arrives from Italy for a visit, bringing a rolling pin and her culinary expertise.
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
The bakers in the night kitchen need more milk for their batter, but then Mickey falls into the cake! They decide to put him in the oven anyway, but Mickey has different plans. He escapes in a plane made of bread dough and helps the bakers find the milk at last.
I Stink by Kate McMullan, illustrated by Jim McMullan
With ten wide tires, one really big appetite, and an even bigger smell, this garbage truck’s got it all. His job? Eating your garbage and loving every stinky second of it! And you thought nighttime was just for sleeping.
Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Every morning, I play a game with my father.He goes knock knock on my doorand I pretend to be asleeptill he gets right next to the bed.And my papa, he tells me, “I love you.”But what happens when, one day, that “knock knock” doesn’t come?
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
Trixie, Daddy, and Knuffle Bunny take a trip to the neighborhood Laundromat. But the exciting adventure takes a dramatic turn when Trixie realizes somebunny was left behind.
Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning
A shoeshine boy is surprised when a piece of red silk falls from the sky. Trying to find its owner, he ventures up and down fire escapes, back and forth across clotheslines, and into the company of the colorfully
diverse people who live in the tenement.
Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato
Amid the hustle and bustle of the big city, the big crowds and bigger buildings, Little Elliot leads a quiet life. In spite of the challenges he faces, Elliot finds many wonderful things to enjoy—like cupcakes! And when his problems seem insurmountable, Elliot discovers something even sweeter—a friend.
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile by Bernard Waber
A cranky neighbor puts Lyle in the zoo but experiences a change of heart when the crocodile saves him from a fire.
New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
In the 1840s, there was a real volunteer firefighter named Mose Humphreys whose bravery was renown throughout New York City. Plays about him began being performed on Broadway in 1848 and over the years his strength and heroics took on larger-than-life proportions, much like those of Paul Bunyan.
Max Found Two Sticks by Brian Pinkney
Max picks up the sticks and begins tapping out the rhythms of everything he sees and hears around him…the sound of pigeons startled into flight, of rain against the windows, of distant church bells and the rumble of a subway. And then, when a marching band rounds Max’s corner, something wonderful happens.
Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
It’s Christmas Eve and Mami has bought a delicious roast for a Christmas feast. But, oh no! It’s too big to fit in the oven. Jose and Papa need to find an oven big enough to cook Mami’s roast. As they walk from door to door through their apartment building, no one seems to be in the Christmas spirit. So they head down the street to find someone willing to help, and only when they do, lo and behold, the scent—the itself magical smell—of dinner begins to spread, and holiday cheer manifests in ways most unexpected.
Peppe the Lamplighter by Elisa Bartone, illustrated by Ted Lewin
This is the story of Peppe, who becomes a lamplighter to help support his immigrant family in turn-of-the-century New York City, despite his papa’s disapproval. Peppe’s family is very poor, and though he is just a boy he needs to find work. Being a lamplighter is not the job his father had dreamed of for Peppe, but when Peppe’s job helps save his little sister, he earns the respect of his entire family.
Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares
Red and Lulu make their nest in a particularly beautiful evergreen tree. It shades them in the hot months and keeps them cozy in the cold months, and once a year the people who live nearby string lights on their tree and sing a special song: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree. But one day, something unthinkable happens, and Red and Lulu are separated. It will take a miracle for them to find each other again. Luckily, it’s just the season for miracles…
Sector 7 by David Wiesner
Only the person who gave us Tuesday could have devised this fantastic Caldecott Honor-winning tale, which begins with a school trip to the Empire State Building. There a boy makes friends with a mischievous little cloud, who whisks him away to the Cloud Dispatch Center for Sector 7 (the region that includes New York City). The clouds are bored with their everyday shapes, so the boy obligingly starts to sketch some new ones…
Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson
The unbeatable team of Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome present a riveting brick-by-brick account of how one of the most amazing accomplishments in American architecture came to be. Join a young boy as he watches the Empire State Building being constructed from scratch, then travels to the top to look down on all of New York City in 1931.
Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez
Before Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor took her seat in our nation’s highest court, she was just a little girl in the South Bronx. Justice Sotomayor didn’t have a lot growing up, but she had what she needed—her mother’s love, a will to learn, and her own determination. With bravery she became the person she wanted to be. With hard work she succeeded. With little sunlight and only a modest plot from which to grow, Justice Sotomayor bloomed for the whole world to see.
Stompin’ at the Savoy by Bebe Moore Campbell, illustrated by Richard Yarde
On the night before her big jazz dance recital, young Mindy has made up her mind not to go—she’s just too nervous. But when she finds herself transported to the Savoy Ballroom, she quickly changes her tune. Filled from wall to wall with legends of the swing era, the Savoy is a place where the dancers move like acrobats and the seats stay empty all night long. It’s an all-night party, and with all that fun going on around her, Mindy has no choice but to move her happy feet!
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
Ringgold recounts the dream adventure of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who flies above her apartment-building rooftop, the “tar beach” of the title, looking down on 1939 Harlem. Part autobiographical, part fictional, this allegorical tale sparkles with symbolic and historical references central to African-American culture.
Tell Me a Mitzi by Lore Segal, illustrated by Harriet Pincus
Blending fantasy and reality in a big-city setting, three unforgettable and wonderfully illustrated tales recount the adventures of Mitzi and her little brother as they attempt to visit their grandparents, recuperate from colds, and meet the president.
The Block by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Romare Bearden
Thirteen poems about the New York City neighborhood of Harlem are teamed with the collage painting, The Block, a celebration of the bustle of Harlem, from the corner grocery store to the local Baptist church.
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
One boy’s quest for a greener world…one garden at a time.
The House on East 88th Street by Bernard WAber
The first book in the Lyle series, this tells the story of how the Primms found Lyle the crocodile in the bathtub of their new home.
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein
In 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit threw a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and spent an hour walking, dancing, and performing high-wire tricks a quarter mile in the sky.
The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow, illustrated by James Ransome
In this original retelling, set in New York City during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, one little girl finds her voice as a musician thanks to her enchanting adventures with a magical toy.
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift
Lighting up readers’ hearts and imaginations since it was first published in 1942.
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Marc Simont
“It is almost Friday night. Outside, the dark is getting darker,” and here and there around the city ninety-two men and thirteen women are getting dressed to go to work. First they bathe and put on their underwear. Then they don special black-and-white apparel. Then when the one hundred and five people are completely ready, each takes a musical instrument and travels to midtown. There, at 8:30 tonight, they will work together: playing.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day.
The Steel Pan Man of Harlem by Colin Bootman
A mysterious man appears in Harlem and promises to rid the city of its rats by playing the steel pan drum, in a retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin set during the Harlem Renaissance.
The Tale of Pale Male by Jeanette Winter
Here is the incredible true story of a Red-tailed Hawk that makes himself at home in the most unlikely of places—atop a high-rise apartment building in New York City. Named Pale Male by his many fans, this majestic bird not only endures in this urban environment, he thrives. But when the residents have Pale Male’s nest removed from their building, a historic battle—and triumph—ensues, uniting bird lovers everywhere.
This is New York by Miroslav Sasek
With the same wit and perception that distinguished his stylish books on Paris, London, and Rome, M. Sasek pictures fabulous, big-hearted New York City in This Is New York, first published in 1960 and now updated for the 21st century.
Tito Puento, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo by Monica Brown, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Tito Puente loved banging pots and pans as a child, but what he really dreamed of was having his own band one day. From Spanish Harlem to the Grammy Awards—and all the beats in between—this is the true life story of a boy whose passion for music turned him into the “King of Mambo.”
Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince
Fireworks and top hats filled the air in celebration when the magnificent bridge opened in 1883. But some wondered just how much weight the new bridge could hold. Was it truly safe? One man seized the opportunity to show people in Brooklyn, New York and the world that the Brooklyn Bridge was in fact strong enough to hold even the heaviest of passengers. P.T. Barnum, creator of “The Greatest Show on Earth,” would present a show too big for the Big Top and too wondrous to forget.
Uptown by Bryan Collier
Uptown is a rich mix of flavors, colors, sounds, and cultures that come together to create a vibrant community like no other in the world. Seen through the eyes of one little boy who lives there, the details of life in Harlem are as joyous as a game of basketball on a summer’s afternoon and as personal as a trip to the barbershop where old-timers reminisce.
Up and Down New York by Tony Sarg
Originally published in 1926, Up & Down New York is an imaginative, charming, quirky, and delightful period piece-but it is also timeless. This facsimile edition of the nostalgic classic reproduces Sarg’s delightful illustrations of the dynamic and vibrant streets and famous places in New York. The surprise is in finding how much remains the same in many New York neighborhoods after 80 years.
What Happens on Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
A preschooler marks the progress of her day, not by the clock but by what happens after lunch, after nap, after swimming, after the library—and after Daddy comes home. She doesn’t map her neighborhood by street signs, either. Her morning walk to see dogs in the park takes her past the cat outside the deli, past her friend Errolyn’s building and the daycare where she used to go when she was little, and down the block to the bagel store.
When Blue Met Egg by Lindsay Ward
One cold winter day, Blue returns to her nest to find something wonderful: Egg! Or rather a snowball she mistakes for an egg. Blue puts Egg in a pail and sets off to look for Egg’s mother. But as the winter winds down and the temperature goes up, Blue is in for a sad surprise. Not to worry, though. In this sweet story of friendship, even snowmelt grows into something beautiful.
When the Beat Was Born by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
On a hot day at the end of summer in 1973 Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive Campbell, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaks—the musical interludes between verses—longer for dancing. He called himself DJ Kool Herc and this is When the Beat Was Born.
When You Meet a Bear on Broadway by Amy Hest, illustrated by Elivia Savadier
What do you do when you meet a bear on Broadway? Suck in your breath. Stick out your hand. And say, “Stop there, Little Bear!” If he cries and tells you that his mama is lost, you must help him find her.
Middle Grade Books
All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Together they share adventures that find them searching for hidden buttons while dusting Mama’s front parlor and visiting with the peddlers in Papa’s shop on rainy days. The girls enjoy doing everything together, especially when it involves holidays and surprises.
At Your Service by Jen Malone
Chloe Turner has pretty much the BEST life. She gets to live in the super fancy Hotel St. Michele. New York City is her hometown. And her dad, Mitchell Turner, concierge extraordinaire, is teaching her all the secrets of the business so she can follow in his footsteps. After helping him out with a particularly difficult kid client, Chloe is appointed the official junior concierge, tending to the hotel’s smallest, though sometimes most demanding, guests.
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.
brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.
Cat in the City by Julie Salamon, illustrated by Jill Weber
A city savvy stray cat named Pretty Boy has always managed to make it on his own. He’s as vain as they come, and he won’t admit to being dependent on anyone. But as he discovers the pleasures of friendship, he learns that home really is where the heart is. Or, at the very least, home is where his friends are. And with friends all around New York City, Pretty Boy will always have a place to call home.
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, illustrated by Garth Williams
Mario Bellini and his parents, Mama and Papa Bellini, own a newsstand in the Times Square subway station in New York City. One day, Mario hears a sound that is quite strange for New York: a cricket chirping. He tracks it down a finds a cricket in a pile of newspapers. Mario immediately cleans it off and makes it a bed out of a matchbox, then begs his parents to let him keep it as a pet. Mama grudgingly agrees, as long as he keeps it in the newsstand rather than taking it home.
Eleven by Tom Rogers
Alex Douglas always wanted to be a hero. But nothing heroic ever happened to Alex. Nothing, that is, until his eleventh birthday. When Alex rescues a stray dog as a birthday gift to himself, he doesn’t think his life can get much better. Radar, his new dog, pretty much feels the same way. But this day has bigger things in store for both of them.
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere—to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away…so she decided not to run FROM somewhere, but TO somewhere. And so, after some careful planning, she and her younger brother, Jamie, escape—right into a mystery that made headlines!
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Long ago, best friends Bridge, Emily, and Tab made a pact: no fighting. But it’s the start of seventh grade, and everything is changing. Emily’s new curves are attracting attention, and Tab is suddenly a member of the Human Rights Club. And then there’s Bridge. She’s started wearing cat ears and is the only one who’s still tempted to draw funny cartoons on her homework. It’s also the beginning of seventh grade for Sherm Russo. He wonders: what does it mean to fall for a girl—as a friend?
By the time Valentine’s Day approaches, the girls have begun to question the bonds—and the limits—of friendship. Can they grow up without growing apart?
Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt
The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together?
Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
In this fascinating and fun take on nonfiction, Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris investigate a seemingly small trait of America’s most emblematic statue. What they find is about more than history, more than art. What they find in the Statue of Liberty’s right foot is the powerful message of acceptance that is essential of an entire country’s creation.
Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill
In Greenwich Village an orphaned black cat lives happily with her master, a sea captain. Still, the gentle Jenny Linsky would like nothing more than to join the local Cat Club, whose members include Madame Butterfly, an elegant Persian, the high-stepping Macaroni, and stately, plump Mr. President. But can she overcome her fears and prove that she, too, has a special gift?
Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske
Kat Greene lives in New York City and attends fifth grade in the very progressive Village Humanity School. At the moment she has three major problems—dealing with her boy-crazy best friend, partnering with the overzealous Sam in the class production of Harriet the Spy, and coping with her mother’s preoccupation with cleanliness, a symptom of her worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
The first day Georges (the S is silent) moves into a new Brooklyn apartment, he sees a sign taped to a door in the basement: SPY CLUB MEETING—TODAY! That’s how he meets his twelve-year-old neighbor Safer. He and Georges quickly become allies—and fellow spies. Their assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer’s requests become more and more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: how far is too far to go for your only friend?
Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff
As in past years, Lily will spend the summer in Rockaway, in her family’s summer house by the Atlantic Ocean. But this summer of 1944, World War II has changed everyone’s life. Lily’s best friend, Margaret, has moved to a wartime factory town, and, much worse, Lily’s father is going overseas to the war.
Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
When Lonnie was seven years old, his parents died in a fire. Now he’s eleven, and he still misses them terribly. And he misses his little sister, Lili, who was put into a different foster home because “not a lot of people want boys—not foster boys that ain’t babies.” But Lonnie hasn’t given up. His foster mother, Miss Edna, is growing on him. She’s already raised two sons and she seems to know what makes them tick. And his teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper.
Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar
In this unforgettable multicultural coming-of-age narrative—based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s—a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. Ruthie’s plight will intrigue readers, and her powerful story of strength and resilience, full of color, light, and poignancy, will stay with them for a long time.
Masterpiece by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Marvin lives with his family under the kitchen sink in the Pompadays’ apartment. He is very much a beetle. James Pompaday lives with his family in New York City. He is very much an eleven-year-old boy. After James gets a pen-and-ink set for his birthday, Marvin surprises him by creating an elaborate miniature drawing. James gets all the credit for the picture and before these unlikely friends know it they are caught up in a staged art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that could help recover a famous drawing by Albrecht Dürer.
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Walter Dean Myers tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial. Presented as a screenplay of Steve’s own imagination, and peppered with journal entries, the book shows how one single decision can change our whole lives.
New York, New York! Baby-Sitters Club Super Special, No. 6 by Ann M. Martin
The girls’ starry-eyed fantasies about visiting the Big Apple come true when Stacey invites them to her hometown of New York City for a vacation.
Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day—until a plane struck the World Trade Center. But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. These four don’t know one another, but their lives are about to intersect in ways they never could have imagined.
One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes
In this collection of poetry, Nikki Grimes looks afresh at the poets of the Harlem Renaissance—including voices like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many more writers of importance and resonance from this era—by combining their work with her own original poetry. Using “The Golden Shovel” poetic method, Grimes has written a collection of poetry that is as gorgeous as it is thought-provoking.
PeeWee’s Tale by Johanna Hurwitz, illustrated by Patience Brewster
A guinea pig in Central Park? PeeWee, once a boy’s dear pet, has been secretly released into the wilds of Central Park. But instead of relishing his freedom, PeeWee is at first a stranger in a strange land—until he meets Lexi, a city-wise squirrel who gives his new stubby-tailed friend some tips as well as some confidence.
Stuart Little by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams
The book begins by telling the reader about how Stuart was born to a family in New York City. Stuart’s family members gradually adapt to the social and cultural changes that having such a small child brings about, along with have to change some of the physical aspects of their home to facilitate Stuart’s living there.
The Doorman’s Repose by Chris Raschka
Some of us look up at those craggy, mysterious apartment buildings found n the posher parts of New York City and wonder what goes on inside. The Doorman’s Repose collects ten stories about 777 Garden Avenue, one of the craggiest. The first story recounts the travails of the new doorman, who excels at all his tasks except perhaps the most important one—talking baseball. Others tell of a long-forgotten room, a cupid-like elevator, and the unlikely romance of a cerebral psychologist and a jazz musician, both of whom are mice. Because the animals talk and the machinery has feelings, these are children’s stories. Otherwise they are for anyone intrigued by what happens when many people, strangers or kin, live together under one roof.
The Fire Cat by Esther Averill
Pickles is a young cat with big paws who wishes to do big things with them! When he’s adopted by the local firehouse, Pickles works hard to be a good fire cat. He learns to jump on a fire truck. He learns to help put out a fire, and he even helps out in a rescue.
The Goat by Anne Fleming
When Kid accompanies her parents to New York City for a six-month stint of dog-sitting and home-schooling, she sees what looks like a tiny white cloud on top of their apartment building.Rumor says there’s a goat living on the roof, but how can that be?
The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg
Shelby Holmes is not your average sixth grader. She’s nine years old, barely four feet tall, and the best detective her Harlem neighborhood has ever seen—always using logic and a bit of pluck to solve the toughest crimes.
The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill
One wintry day a lonely stray cat wandered into the Royal Hotel. He chased mice so well that he was given the job of Hotel Cat. Tired of always spending time in the cellar Tom ventured upstairs and met the gentle Mrs. Wilkins, a longtime hotel resident who had the ability to communicate with cats. She encouraged Tom to keep an open mind about the hotel guests.
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There’s little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.
The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill, illustrated by Ronni Solbert
Not long ago the streets of New York City were smelly, smoggy, sooty, and loud. There were so many trucks making deliveries that it might take an hour for a car to travel a few blocks. People blamed the truck owners and the truck owners blamed the little wooden pushcarts that traveled the city selling everything from flowers to hot dogs. Behind closed doors the truck owners declared war on the pushcart peddlers
The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
Tired of wasting Saturdays doing nothing but wishing for larger allowances, the four Melendys jump at Randy’s idea to start the Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club (I.S.A.A.C.). If they pool their resources and take turns spending the whole amount, they can each have at least one memorable Saturday afternoon of their own. Before long, I.S.A.A.C. is in operation and every Saturday is definitely one to remember.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.
Towers Falling by Jewells Parker Rhodes
When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Dèja can’t help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means, and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers?
Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
When Theodora Tenpenny spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she discovers what seems to be an old Renaissance masterpiece underneath. That’s great news for Theo, who’s struggling to hang onto her family’s two-hundred-year-old townhouse and support her unstable mother on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. There’s just one problem: Theo’s grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she worries the painting may be stolen.
Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail
Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything—and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J. But it turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie’s beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J.’s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She’s had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best.
When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin
Ben Coffin has never been one for making friends. As a former foster kid, he knows people can up and leave without so much as a goodbye. Ben prefers to spend his time with the characters in his favorite sci-fi books…until he rescues an abandoned mutt from the alley next-door to the Coney Island Library. Scruffy little Flip leads Ben to befriend a fellow book-lover named Halley—yes, like the comet—a girl unlike anyone he has ever met.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
When Miranda starts receiving mysterious notes, she doesn’t know what to do. The notes tell her that she must write a letter, a true story, and that she can’t share her mission with anyone—not even her best friend, Sal. It would be easy to ignore the strange messages, except that whoever is leaving them has an uncanny ability to predict the future. If that’s the case, then Miranda has an even bigger problem—because the notes tell her that someone is going to die, and she might be too late to stop it.
York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby
It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.
And, if you’d like a bonus book, my middle grade book, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, is set in Harlem, NYC!
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