Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | New York City

Those Kennedys

Patrick and the PresidentAmer­i­ca has a fine tra­di­tion of elect­ed offi­cials who care deeply about the peo­ple, places, and poli­cies of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca. Two recent books high­light the good works of, and respect for, Jacque­line Bou­vi­er Kennedy Onas­sis and John Fitzger­ald Kennedy, the First Lady and Pres­i­dent from 1961 to 1963. Although Pres­i­dent Kennedy was assas­si­nat­ed just two short years into his term as Pres­i­dent, the First Lady con­tin­ued her work for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple through­out her life.

In Patrick and the Pres­i­dent, Ire­land’s Late Late Show host, Ryan Tubridy, has writ­ten his first chil­dren’s book about Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s vis­it to his ances­tral home­land, Ire­land. In June of 1963, Pres­i­dent Kennedy spent four days in var­i­ous cities, vis­it­ing sites and meet­ing peo­ple. This book shares one boy’s expe­ri­ence of meet­ing the Pres­i­dent.

Patrick Kennedy, John’s great-grand­fa­ther, left Ire­land in 1848 aboard a famine ship. Many peo­ple in Ire­land relied sole­ly on pota­toes as their food source, so when a blight affect­ed the pota­to crop, near­ly one mil­lion peo­ple starved to death and one mil­lion peo­ple emi­grat­ed to Amer­i­ca. The immi­grants retained a strong love for their orig­i­nal coun­try, which they passed along to their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. John F. Kennedy’s deci­sion to vis­it Ire­land was her­ald­ed by Irish peo­ple on both sides of the ocean.

The lan­guage of this sto­ry beau­ti­ful­ly por­trays the excite­ment the entire town felt as they wel­comed this world-famous Irish descen­dant back to the land of his roots. Patrick, the boy in the sto­ry, will be part of the chil­dren’s choir singing “The Boys of Wex­ford” when the Pres­i­dent vis­its … and his father nego­ti­ates a chance for Patrick to help serve tea to the Pres­i­dent when he vis­its the Ryans and Kennedys in New Ross. Emo­tions are high and expec­ta­tions are tense: who will get to talk with “Him­self”?

Tubridy is the author of a book writ­ten for adults: JFK in Ire­land: Four Days That Changed a Pres­i­dent. The infor­ma­tion here is dis­tilled in a way that feels per­son­al and imme­di­ate. Every child will iden­ti­fy with young Patrick, know­ing full well what it feels like to have high hopes for some­thing.

P.J. Lynch, cur­rent­ly the Chil­dren’s Lau­re­ate of Ire­land, con­tributes near­ly pho­to­graph­ic illus­tra­tions of Patrick, his fam­i­ly, the heli­copters, the Pres­i­dent, and the food.

There are two pages in the back mat­ter that list Kennedy’s itin­er­ary dur­ing his four-day vis­it, along with three sepia-toned pho­tos. Don’t miss read­ing this infor­ma­tion — it’s quite inter­est­ing.

The close­ups and focus on Patrick and his fam­i­ly bring a pal­pa­ble excite­ment to the book, which encour­ages read­ing through­out a some­what long but ulti­mate­ly sat­is­fy­ing text. This would make a good read-aloud for dis­cussing sev­er­al things in class. Who was Pres­i­dent Kennedy? What do fam­i­lies mean to us? From where did our fore­bears immi­grate? What do these con­nec­tions across oceans and time mean for our world?

Patrick and the Pres­i­dent
writ­ten by Ryan Tubridy, illus­trat­ed by P.J. Lynch
Can­dlewick Press, 2017
ISBN 978−0−7636−8949−0, $16.99

The inte­ri­or of Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion in New York City, © Char­lotte Leaper |

Natasha Wing wrote one of my favorite pic­ture book biogra­phies, An Eye for Col­or: the Sto­ry of Josef Albers, so I was excit­ed to learn that she has writ­ten a book about his­toric preser­va­tion, star­ring none oth­er than Jacque­line Kennedy Onas­sis.

When Jackie Saved Grand CentralAs First Lady of the Unit­ed States for two years, she cap­tured the atten­tion and imag­i­na­tion of every news­pa­per, mag­a­zine, and news­reel in the land. Women adopt­ed her fash­ion sense and hair­style. She did a great deal to restore the grandeur of the White House and would undoubt­ed­ly have done more had she been in res­i­dence there longer.

Return­ing to live in New York City, the city in which she grew up, Mrs. Kennedy learned that Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion was in dan­ger of being altered with a sky­scraper built on its roof!

Like a pow­er­ful loco­mo­tive, Jack­ie led the charge to pre­serve the land­mark she and New York City loved. She joined city lead­ers and found­ed the Com­mit­tee to Save Grand Cen­tral. She spoke at press con­fer­ences and made head­lines.

She inspired cit­i­zens to donate mon­ey. When peo­ple across the Unit­ed States saw their fash­ion­able for­mer First Lady cham­pi­oning her cause, New York City’s fight became Amer­i­ca’s fight.”

In oth­er words, only Jacque­line Kennedy could pro­mote a cause in a way that result­ed in the Nation­al His­toric Preser­va­tion Act of 1966, under which Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion could find the pro­tec­tion it need­ed to be restored to its for­mer grandeur. 

The text is writ­ten with such clar­i­ty and verve that the read­er will want to look for an his­toric build­ing of their own to save! An exten­sive author’s note pro­vides more infor­ma­tion that will prompt some chil­dren to adopt this as a cause of their own.

The illus­tra­tions by Alexan­dra Boiger are ener­getic and whim­si­cal, all the while using col­or to sub­tly empha­size parts of the sto­ry. In “A Note from the Illus­tra­tor,” you’ll find much to dis­cuss about the col­ors she uses while you pore back over the book to find exam­ples.

For a class­room, this is a ter­rif­ic way to begin talk­ing about the build­ings we see every day, why they are impor­tant to a com­mu­ni­ty, and what they mean for our future.

When Jack­ie Saved Grand Cen­tral:
The True Sto­ry of Jacque­line Kennedy’s Fight for an Amer­i­can Icon

writ­ten by Natasha Wing, illus­trat­ed by Alexan­dra Boiger
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2017


Skinny Dip with April Halprin Wayland

April Halprin WaylandToday we wel­come author and edu­ca­tor April Hal­prin Way­land to Bookol­o­gy. Her most recent pic­ture book, More Than Enough, is a sto­ry about Passover. April was one of nine Instruc­tors of the Year hon­ored by the UCLA Exten­sion Writ­ers’ Pro­gram, Cre­ative Writ­ing.

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

I would LOVE to have cof­fee (one-shot lat­te with extra soy, extra foam) with Crock­ett John­son, author/illustrator of Harold and the Pur­ple Cray­on but most notably for me, author/illustrator of Barn­a­by, a com­ic strip that ran dur­ing WWII (actu­al­ly 1942 – 1952). I think of it as the pre­de­ces­sor of Calvin and Hobbes. Barn­a­by stars five-year-old Barn­a­by Bax­ter and his fairy god­fa­ther Jac­k­een J. O’Mal­ley. Mr. O’Mal­ley con­tin­u­al­ly gets Bar­ney into trou­ble. It’s bril­liant.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

You’re jok­ing, right — one book? I’ll tell you right this very minute what books (plur­al) I rec­om­mend. But ask me in half an hour and my list will be com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent.

Favorite city to vis­it?

NYC! And Poipu, Kauai! And let’s not for­get Lon­don, for heav­en’s sake. And any­where my hus­band, my son, or my best two friends are.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

One August when I was nine or ten, I found a raft by the Feath­er Riv­er, which ran by our farm. I repaired it (I don’t remem­ber if an adult helped me or not), then climbed aboard and lay back. The next month, at the begin­ning of the school year, my teacher asked us to choose a word and define it by writ­ing about some­thing that hap­pened that sum­mer. I wrote about that hot sum­mer day on the riv­er. My word? Bliss.

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

Like my favorite books, this will change in the next half hour. For right this minute it would involve my hus­band, our lanky, knuck­le-brained dog, Eli, our son and his girl­friend, hik­ing, bik­ing, mead­ows, forests, and arriv­ing at a dif­fer­ent bed-and-break­fast each evening with farm-fresh, just-har­vest­ed food for din­ner, a down quilt each night, and a one-shot lat­te with extra soy, extra foam each morn­ing. 🙂

April Halprin Wayland in the classroom

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

I ask myself a cen­tral, touch­stone ques­tion: Will this action or thought help me to like myself?

So, for exam­ple, each day I might ask myself: Should I say yes to this invi­ta­tion to speak? Should I eat this whole bag of (fill in the blank)? Should I spend an extra half-hour with this per­son, even though I have a pile of work at home? Should I go to this polit­i­cal gath­er­ing? Should I vol­un­teer to help put on an event? Should I skip med­i­ta­tion (or exer­cise or walk­ing the dog) today? Should I pick up that piece of trash I just passed? Do I real­ly need to eat the whole jar? Should I floss my teeth? Should I work on this poem or this book? Should I go to a meet­ing tonight? Should I turn off the com­put­er and spend time with my hus­band, who just got home from work?

If I ask myself that ques­tion, the answer is always clear. I may not choose to act on the obvi­ous answer, but if I do, I feel more con­tent.


Mon­key and Eli read poet­ry togeth­er.

Your hope for the world?

That we will be kind to each oth­er.


Celebrating Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack KeatsJack­ie: This is the time of year when I read the Trav­el Sec­tion of the Sun­day paper. I just want to go away from grit­ty snow, brown yards and come back to Spring. Well, there are no tick­ets on the shelf this year so Phyl­lis and I are tak­ing a trip to the city cre­at­ed by Ezra Jack Keats. And why not? This month, this year marks his one-hun­dredth birth­day.

As our trav­el guide we’re tak­ing The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats (Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2011), writ­ten by Clau­dia Nah­sen to coin­cide with The Snowy Day’s 50th anniver­sary and the show­ing of many of his works at the Jew­ish Muse­um, New York

Last Stop on Market StreetI’ve been think­ing of Keats since I read Last Stop on Mar­ket Street, this year’s New­bery Award win­ner, writ­ten by Matt de la Peña and illus­trat­ed by Chris­t­ian Robin­son. Robinson’s won­der­ful depic­tions of the urban land­scape and the text’s sug­ges­tion that beau­ty is all around us, remind­ed me of Keats’s city scenes. Often they are set in his child­hood home in Depres­sion Era Brook­lyn but enhanced with Keats’s bril­liant col­lages, sketch­es, and jazzy palette.

A bit about his life, which I learned from Nahsen’s beau­ti­ful book: Jacob Ezra Katz was born in New York, on March 11, 1916. He was the youngest of three chil­dren born to immi­grant par­ents in a “love­less mar­riage.” He grew up in a fam­i­ly marked by strife and unhap­pi­ness. He felt invis­i­ble as a child and believed “’life was mea­sured by anguish.’” (Nahsen,p. 5). Art saved him. And in his art he gave life and valid­i­ty to the streets he remem­bered from his child­hood and to the kids, often invis­i­ble to soci­ety, who live on those streets.

The Snowy DayPhyl­lis: And up until pub­li­ca­tion of A Snowy Day, the first full-col­or pic­ture book to fea­ture an African Amer­i­can pro­tag­o­nist, those kids were vir­tu­al­ly invis­i­ble in pic­ture books as well. I espe­cial­ly love how Keats makes us see the city and the chil­dren and grown-ups who live in it with fresh eyes — his art includes graf­fi­ti, trash­cans, and the strug­gles and cel­e­bra­tions of child­hood. Nah­sen quotes Keats: “Every­thing in life is wait­ing to be seen!” While some peo­ple crit­i­cized Keats, a white writer, for writ­ing about black char­ac­ters in The Snowy Day, the poet Langston Hugh­es wished he had “grand­chil­dren to give it [the book] to.” Keats felt the crit­i­cisms deeply but con­tin­ued to tell and illus­trate the sto­ries in his world “wait­ing to be seen.”

LouieJack­ie: Keats wrote and illus­trat­ed twen­ty-two books in his career. The ones I know are just as fresh, just as in tune with the lives of chil­dren as they were when he wrote them. We all know Peter of A Snowy Day, Peter’s Chair, A Let­ter to Amy. But Keats’s Louie is not quite as famil­iar. Louie is a qui­et, kid who hard­ly ever speaks. But when he sees the pup­pet Gussie (Keats’s mother’s name) at Susie and Roberto’s pup­pet show, he stands up and yells “Hel­lo!, Hel­lo! Hel­lo!” Susie and Rober­to decide to have Gussie ask Louie to sit down so they can get on with the show. After the show they bring Gussie out so Louie can hold the pup­pet. Then the boy goes home, even­tu­al­ly sleeps and dreams he is falling and kids are laugh­ing at him. When he wakes up, his moth­er tells him some­one slipped a note under the door — “Go out­side and fol­low the long green string.” At the end of the green string is — Gussie! There is so much to love about this sto­ry — a sen­si­tive por­tray­al of a child who is some­how dif­fer­ent, gets laughed at, yelled at by some kids; two kids, Susie and Rober­to, who treat Louie with great kind­ness; and a hope­ful end­ing.

Nah­sen says: “…neglect­ed char­ac­ters, who had hith­er­to been liv­ing in the mar­gins of pic­ture books or had sim­ply been absent from children’s lit­er­a­ture take pride of place in Keats’s oeu­vre.” She quotes from his unpub­lished auto­bi­og­ra­phy: “When I did my first book about a black kid I want­ed black kids and white kids to know that he’s there.” So it is with Louie. Keats reminds read­ers that the qui­et kids, the kids who march to a dif­fer­ent drum, the kids who live behind the bro­ken doors, or on bro­ken-down bus­es and can only have a crick­et for a pet (Mag­gie and the Pirate) are there.

Maggie and the PiratePhyl­lis: Just as Keats por­trays the real lives of kids who live in bus­es or city apart­ments with­out “even any steps in front of the door to sit on,” he doesn’t shy away from the small and large griefs and trou­bles of child­hood. In Mag­gie and the Pirate, Maggie’s pet crick­et, tak­en by a boy who admires the cricket’s cage, acci­den­tal­ly drowns in a riv­er. Mag­gie and her friends hold a crick­et funer­al, and when the “pirate,” a boy who didn’t mean for the crick­et to die but want­ed the cage “real bad,” brings Mag­gie the cage with a new crick­et, the chil­dren

                “all sat down togeth­er.
                Nobody said any­thing.
                They lis­tened to the new crick­et singing.
                Crick­ets all around joined in.”

Tragedies and con­so­la­tion in the death of a crick­et — a world seen through children’s eyes.

The Trip, Louie's Search, Regards to the Man in the Moon

Jack­ie: Keats came back to Louie with three oth­er books and used this char­ac­ter to help him present some of the oth­er prob­lems of child­hood—The Trip (1978), Louie’s Search (1980), and Regards to the Man in the Moon (1981).

The Trip tells us that Louie and his Mom move to a new neigh­bor­hood. Louie’s Search takes place after Louie has moved to a new neigh­bor­hood. “’What kind of neigh­bor­hood is this?’ thought Louie. “Nobody notices a kid around here.” He puts on a paper sack hat and paints his nose red and goes out for a walk. Even­tu­al­ly he picks up an object which has fall­en off a junk wag­on and so encoun­ters the scary junkman Bar­ney. Bar­ney is huge and thinks Louie has stolen this object. “’Come back, you lit­tle crook,’ Bar­ney bel­lowed.” They go to Louie’s house where Bar­ney tells his Mom, “Your son’s a crook!’”

What Louie had found was a music box. When he holds it the box makes music. When he drops it, it stops. Bar­ney decides to give the music box to Louie and stays for tea with Louie and his mom. It’s the begin­ning of a won­der­ful rela­tion­ship that ends with a wed­ding and Louie find­ing the Dad he hoped for.

The Trip, Jennie's Hat, Dreams

Phyl­lis: Anoth­er thread through­out Keats’ work is the pow­er of imag­i­na­tion. Louie in The Trip imag­ines a plane fly­ing him to his old neigh­bor­hood. Jen­nie in Jennie’s Hat imag­ines a beau­ti­ful hat instead of the plain one her aunt has sent, and the birds, who she feeds dai­ly, swoop down and dec­o­rate her hat with leaves, pic­tures, flow­ers (paper and real), col­ored eggs, a paper fan, and a pink valen­tine. In Dreams, Rober­to imag­ines (or does it real­ly hap­pen?) that when a paper mouse he has made tum­bles from his win­dowsill, its shad­ow “grew big­ger — and big­ger — and BIGGER” until it scared off the dog ter­ror­iz­ing his friend’s kit­ten on the side­walk below.

Ezra Jack Keats: Artist and Picture-book MakerWe haven’t real­ly even talked about his art and his bril­liant use of col­lage and col­or. Just as Keats’s books cel­e­brate the pow­er of the imag­i­na­tion, Ani­ta Sil­vey says that Keats took “absolute joy in the cre­ative process.” We can share that joy in his books in sto­ries and art that rec­og­nize that every­one needs to be seen, every­one has a place, and every­one, joy­ous­ly, mat­ters.

Jack­ie: Bri­an Alder­son in Ezra Jack Keats: Artist and Pic­ture-Book Mak­er writes that in The Snowy Day Keats “came home to his prop­er place: a col­orist cel­e­brat­ing the hid­den lives of the city kids.” I would add that that can be said for most of his works. And we are the rich­er for it.


My Seneca Village

by Mar­sha Qua­ley

My Seneca Vil­lage
by Mar­i­lyn Nel­son
Name­los, 2015

My Seneca Village cover

I’m going to begin with a dis­claimer that is also a bit o’ brag­ging. I’ve had the good for­tune to meet and work with Mar­i­lyn Nel­son (A Wreath for Emmett Till, Snook Alone, How I Dis­cov­ered Poet­ry). I’ve stayed up late and sipped wine and talked with her, spent a day escort­ing her to school vis­its where she wowed ele­men­tary stu­dents; she once supped at my table. I also had the good for­tune to hear some of the poems in My Seneca Vil­lage when the book was a work in progress.

So, obvi­ous­ly I was pre­dis­posed to like it. I was not pre­pared, how­ev­er, for how quick­ly and com­plete­ly I fell in love.

The book opens with Nelson’s “Wel­come,” which includes a suc­cinct his­to­ry of Seneca Vil­lage, “Manhattan’s first sig­nif­i­cant com­mu­ni­ty of African Amer­i­can prop­er­ty own­ers,” that was found­ed in 1825. The vil­lage was short-lived: “By 1857, every­one would have been forced to move, and Seneca Vil­lage would be com­plete­ly erased by the cre­ation of Cen­tral Park.”

41 poems are at the heart of the book. Each was inspired by a name and “iden­ti­fy­ing label” Nel­son found in cen­sus records. Pre­sent­ed in chrono­log­i­cal order, the poems span thir­ty-two years; sev­er­al of the char­ac­ters reap­pear, matur­ing and chang­ing along with the vil­lage. For the first read­ing, it’s ben­e­fi­cial to read the poems in order, even if a quick glance at a table of con­tents that reveals such titles as “Mir­a­cle in the Col­lec­tion Plate” or “Pig on Ice” tempts you to skip ahead.

Equal­ly impor­tant are the one-page scene-set­ting prose descrip­tions that pref­ace each poem. Were My Seneca Vil­lage ever to be an image-illus­trat­ed book, I’d wager not even the finest of our pic­ture book artists could ani­mate the char­ac­ters and set­ting as well as the author’s lan­guage; it would be akin to break­ing a spell.

Seneca Village Project; Google Earth; Photo: City Metric

  Cen­tral Park West is the street bor­der­ing the park in the right hand image. Seneca Vil­lage Project; Google Earth; Pho­to: City Met­ric                                          

His­tor­i­cal foot­notes accom­pa­ny sev­er­al of the poems. Those and the excel­lent con­clud­ing author’s note, in which Nel­son explains the poet­ic forms and rhyming tech­niques she used, remind the read­er that the lit­er­ary mur­al unfold­ing in her hands is the result of his­to­ry, imag­i­na­tion, and hard and inten­tion­al work.

This is a book for all ages, but, oh, what a ter­rif­ic book to read aloud or sim­ply make avail­able to young read­ers (though I should warn any inter­est­ed teacher that there is one poem that might trig­ger PG-13-ish ques­tions or com­ments; I won’t men­tion it by name because I don’t want any­one read­ing ahead, but it includes the love­ly com­pound noun “plea­sure-pur­vey­ors”). 

Seneca Vil­lage is an almost-lost world.  With My Seneca Vil­lage, Mar­i­lyn Nel­son brings that world near in time and close to home.


A Trip to the Art Museum

by Vic­ki Palmquist

Arlo's Artrageous Adventure!  

Arlo’s Artra­geous Adven­ture!

David LaRochelle
Ster­ling Children’s Books, 2013

When Arlo’s grand­moth­er drags him to the art muse­um, he can’t imag­ine how he’ll be inter­est­ed. Some­thing odd catch­es his eye and he soon real­izes the paint­ings have things to say that sur­prise and delight him — and the read­er. Fun and quirky, with illus­tra­tions that will make you smile and flaps to lift that will reveal nuances in much the same way you dis­cov­er some­thing new in a paint­ing each time you look at it … this is a good choice to pre­pare a child for a trip to the muse­um.

Art Dog  

Art Dog

Thacher Hurd
Harper­Collins, 1996

When the moon is full, Arthur Dog, secu­ri­ty guard at the Dogopo­lis Muse­um of Art becomes Art Dog, a masked artist paint­ing mas­ter­pieces. When an art heist occurs, Arthur must find the true crim­i­nals. Your read­ers will have fun rec­og­niz­ing the works of Pablo Poo­dle, Hen­ri Mutisse, and Vin­cent Van Dog.

Behind the Museum Door  

Behind the Muse­um Door:
Poems to Cel­e­brate the Won­der of Muse­ums

Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins, ed.
illus by Stacey Dressen-McQueen
Har­ry N. Abrams, 2007

An ide­al read-aloud to pre­pare for a  class trip, this col­lec­tion of poet­ry will be use­ful when dis­cussing art and artists. The poems are ener­getic and infor­ma­tive while Dressen-McQueen’s illus­tra­tions do an admi­ral job of visu­al­ly rep­re­sent­ing each poem.

Chasing Vermeer  

Chas­ing Ver­meer

Blue Bal­li­ett
Scholas­tic, 2004

Petra and Calder, 11-year-olds, become friends when they team up to solve the theft of a Ver­meer paint­ing which was en route to a muse­um in Chica­go, where they live. The thief leaves clues in the news­pa­per and our clever duo work hard to solve the puz­zles and mys­ter­ies that result. Your read­ers will learn about art while play­ing detec­tive.

Dog's Night  

Dog’s Night

Mered­ith Hoop­er
illus by Alan Cur­less
Frances Lin­coln, 2006

With a set­ting at London’s Nation­al Gallery, this is a tale of that one night a year when the dogs in the museum’s paint­ings are set free to come to life and play. A good way to intro­duce young peo­ple to fine art.

Eddie Red Undercover  

Eddie Red, Under­cov­er: Mys­tery on Muse­um Mile

Mar­cia Wells, illus by Mar­cos Calo
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2013

Edmund, an 11-year-old boy with a pho­to­graph­ic mem­o­ry and a tal­ent for draw­ing, is hired by the NYPD to help them look for thieves plan­ning a major art heist. Filled with humor, inter­est­ing char­ac­ters, and a lot of clues to a sat­is­fy­ing mys­tery.



Frank Cot­trell Boyce
Harper­Collins, 2006

When Dylan’s father leaves because their busi­ness, Snow­do­nia Oasis Auto Mar­vel, is fal­ter­ing, Dylan’s fam­i­ly tries to improve their cir­cum­stances. At the same time, paint­ings from the Nation­al Gallery are being moved to stor­age near Dylan’s Welsh town. Filled with art his­to­ry and col­or­ful, charis­mat­ic char­ac­ters, this book is sure to hook read­ers.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er

E.L. Konigs­burg
Atheneum/Simon & Schus­ter, 1970

A clas­sic in which Clau­dia plans care­ful­ly for a week’s stay in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art to break the monot­o­ny of her life. She invites her younger broth­er, James, because he has mon­ey. A new sculp­ture in the muse­um is pos­si­bly a mar­ble angel cre­at­ed by Michelan­ge­lo, but no one knows for cer­tain. Clau­dia and James are deter­mined to help solve the mys­tery.


Going to the Getty  

Going to the Get­ty

Vivian Walsh
illus by J. Otto Sei­bold
J. Paul Get­ty Muse­um, 1997

The cre­ators of Olive, the Oth­er Rein­deer have cre­at­ed a pic­ture book that intro­duces young vis­i­tors to the Get­ty Muse­um in Los Ange­les, includ­ing art­work, gar­dens, and behind-the-scenes work spaces.

Katie and the Sunflowers  

Katie and the Sun­flow­ers

James May­hew
Orchard Books, 2001

When Katie vis­its the muse­um, it’s an adven­ture indeed! She finds she can reach into the paint­ings, such as Van Gogh’s Sun­flow­ers, while oth­er paint­ings come to life. There are a num­ber of Katie books in which she learns more about fine art, but this par­tic­u­lar title fea­tures Gau­g­in and Cezanne, the Post-Impres­sion­ists. Back mat­ter helps elu­ci­date more infor­ma­tion in a friend­ly way.



Elise Broach
illus by Kel­ly Mur­phy
Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt, 2008

An excel­lent mys­tery weav­ing togeth­er the world of art and the world of art theft. Mar­vin is a bee­tle who lives under the sink in James’ apart­ment. Mar­vin has a mar­velous tal­ent for draw­ing in minia­ture. So mar­velous that his draw­ings become a media sen­sa­tion … for which James receives the cred­it. Art forgery is required but the friend­ship between Mar­vin and James, nei­ther of whom can speak to the oth­er, is test­ed.

Matthew's Dream  

Matthew’s Dream

Leo Lion­ni
Ran­dom House, 1995

When Matthew the mouse goes on a field trip to the art muse­um with his class, he is over­come with the beau­ty and pow­er of the art­work hang­ing there. Inspired, he returns to his dusty and unin­spired attic and cre­ates art with things he’s nev­er rec­og­nized as hav­ing beau­ty, cre­at­ing paint­ings “filled with the shapes and col­ors of joy.”

Mrs Brown on Exhibit  

Mrs. Brown on Exhib­it and Oth­er Muse­um Poems

Susan Katz
illus R.W. Alley
Simon & Schus­ter, 2002

A book of poet­ry is writ­ten in the children’s own voic­es about their exu­ber­ant teacher, Mrs. Brown. She loves field trips to art exhibits and oth­er exot­ic muse­ums. A good book to show the breadth of col­lec­tions encom­passed by muse­ums.



Susan Verde
illus by Peter H. Reynolds
Har­ry N. Abrams, 2013

On a vis­it to the muse­um, a young girl reacts with dif­fer­ing emo­tions to each paint­ing she sees, express­ing her­self with move­ment and sound and facial expres­sions. Drawn in a car­toon style, this book will help kids move beyond that feel­ing of rev­er­ence that muse­ums some­times inspire to exam­ine the works for a per­son­al con­nec­tion.

Museum ABC  

Muse­um ABC

New York Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art
Lit­tle Brown, 2002

An alpha­bet book intro­duc­ing chil­dren to the col­lec­tion of the New York Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, includ­ing Roy Lichtenstein’s Red Apple and Degas’ bal­leri­nas. It works well as a dis­cus­sion starter about art and as a guide to the museum’s trea­sures.

Museum Book  

Muse­um Book: a Guide to Strange and Won­der­ful Col­lec­tions

Jan Mark
illus Richard Hol­land
Chron­i­cle Books, 2007

There are anec­dotes, his­tor­i­cal facts, and invi­ta­tions galore in this book to look at muse­ums from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. Top-notch.

Museum Trip  

Muse­um Trip

Bar­bara Lehmann
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2006

When a boy gets sep­a­rat­ed from his class on a field trip to a muse­um, won­drous things hap­pen when he stops to tie his shoe and gets sep­a­rat­ed from his class. He goes on an adven­ture that will have read­ers ask­ing, “Is that real?” Well, look for clues in the illus­tra­tions. It’s a word­less book, so your chil­dren will have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to tell the sto­ry in their own way.

Norman the doorman  

Nor­man the Door­man

Don Free­man
Pen­guin, 1959

In a book that has not aged, a dor­mouse is a door­man at the Majes­tic Muse­um of Art. He leads tours of small crea­tures to mar­vel in the paint­ings and sculp­tures stored in the museum’s base­ment. Inspired by a com­pe­ti­tion, Nor­man cre­ates his own entry out of mouse­traps set to catch him by the Muse­um guard. Filled with puns both ver­bal and visu­al, this is a must-have for your col­lec­tion.

Seen Art?  

Seen Art?

Jon Sci­esz­ka
illus by Lane Smith
Viking Books, 2005

In a quirky play on words, the nar­ra­tor is look­ing for his friend Art, but he’s direct­ed to the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art by a lady who thinks he’s look­ing for … art. While con­tin­u­ing to look for his friend, he encoun­ters paint­ings by Van Gogh, Licht­en­stein, Matisse, Klee, and more. A humor­ous way to approach fine art.

Shape Game  

Shape Game

Antho­ny Browne
Far­rar Straus Giroux, 2003

In an inspi­ra­tional, auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal pic­ture book, Antho­ny Browne shares his family’s vis­it to the Tate Muse­um in Lon­don that changed his way of look­ing at art. He exam­ines actu­al paint­ings hang­ing in the Tate in a man­ner that encour­ages the read­er to look more inten­tion­al­ly at art. The Shape Game is a fam­i­ly tra­di­tion, one that Anthony’s moth­er shares with him on the way home from the muse­um.

Speeding Down the Spiral  

Speed­ing Down the Spi­ral: an Art­ful Adven­ture

Deb­o­rah Good­man Davis
illus by Sophy Naess
Life in Print, 2012

A some­what longer pic­ture book that frames a look at art­work in the Guggen­heim Muse­um in New York City with a vis­it by a bored girl, her father, and her baby broth­er in a stroller. When the stroller gets away from her and heads down the spi­ral, a group of peo­ple give chase … and look at the art­work along the way!

Squeaking of Art  

Squeak­ing of Art: the Mice Go to the Muse­um

Mon­i­ca Welling­ton
Dut­ton, 2000

Using repro­duc­tions that look some­what like the orig­i­nal works of art, this book teach­es the vocab­u­lary and con­cepts that are so help­ful when one vis­its a muse­um.

Under the Egg  

Under the Egg

Lau­ra Marx Fitzger­ald
Dial Books, 2014

In this nov­el, 13-year-old Theo inher­its a paint­ing after her grand­fa­ther dies unex­pect­ed­ly. Iso­lat­ed by pover­ty and the lack of a respon­si­ble adult, Theo gains friends as she attempts to fig­ure out if the paint­ing is one of Raphael’s and why her grand­fa­ther had it. It’s a charm­ing book with a riv­et­ing mys­tery and fast-paced action.

Visiting the Art Museum  

Vis­it­ing the Art Muse­um

Lau­rene Kras­ny Brown
illus by Marc Brown
Dut­ton, 1986

When a young fam­i­ly goes to a muse­um, there is a great deal of com­plain­ing and expec­ta­tions of bore­dom. Instead they are drawn in by work rang­ing from Renoir, Pol­lack, Cezanne, Picas­so, and Warhol. Repro­duc­tions by Marc Brown of those famous paint­ings make this book acces­si­ble by younger and old­er chil­dren.

You Can't Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum  

You Can’t Take a Bal­loon Into the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um

Jacque­line P. Weitz­man
illus by Robin Preiss Glass­er
Dial Books, 1998

When a young girl and her grand­moth­er vis­it the muse­um, the guard tells them she can’t take her yel­low bal­loon in with her. He ties it to a rail­ing. The two muse­um vis­i­tors view works of wart while the yel­low bal­loon is untied by a pigeon to float through and explore New York City, often in par­al­lel adven­tures.


Give me a good mystery

Sum­mer­time is syn­ony­mous with read­ing for me.

My grand­moth­er kept a light blue blan­ket by the back door so I could spread it out under the elm tree and dis­solve into sto­ries. Some­times a lemon­ade, some­times a piece of water­mel­on … but always a book. Some­times a friend would sit next to me absorbed in a sto­ry of their own but most often it was just me, the birds, the sounds of sum­mer, and a hard­cov­er book.

I was remind­ed of that blan­ket under the tree this week­end when we were in Som­er­set, Wis­con­sin. We had to be some­where at 11 am but we were ear­ly. We had brought books with us — of course — and we sat under a tree read­ing.

Eddie Red UndercoverFor me, it was Eddie Red Under­cov­er: Mys­tery on Muse­um Mile. Read­ing mys­ter­ies is a pas­sion and a com­fort for me. This book by Mar­cia Wells, with inte­gral illus­tra­tions by Mar­cos Calo, swept me in and con­nect­ed me to the girl who read dur­ing her sum­mers, as many books as they’d let her check out of the library.

Eddie Red lives in New York City with a dad who’s been down­sized from the library and a moth­er who’s a real estate agent. Although he’s been attend­ing Sen­ate Acad­e­my, a school for gift­ed stu­dents, his family’s finan­cial duress puts him in a state of anx­i­ety over not being able to afford tuition next year. He likes his school but he real­izes he won’t see his best friend, Jon­ah, any­more. Jon­ah is bril­liant but he’s chal­lenged by hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty and a num­ber of med­ical con­di­tions … all of which make him a per­fect side­kick.

You see, Edmund Lon­nrot, our hero, is a 12-year-old with a pho­to­graph­ic mem­o­ry and a star­tling abil­i­ty to draw detailed, life­like por­traits of peo­ple he has seen recent­ly. When Edmund and his dad are drawn into a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion in an alley, Edmund is lat­er able to draw the crim­i­nals for the police. It turns out these par­tic­u­lar bad guys are part of the Picas­so Gang, inter­na­tion­al­ly-want­ed art thieves. The police hire Edmund as a police sketch artist, code name Eddie Red, to observe the com­ings and goings of peo­ple on Muse­um Mile in NYC, any of whom could be a dis­guised art thief.

Plau­si­bil­i­ty? Well, let’s just say that the phrase “will­ing sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief” is apro­pos. I was will­ing to over­look the NYPD hir­ing a twelve-year-old for a stake­out as far­fetched  and get com­plete­ly involved in Edmund’s and Jonah’s sto­ry, a chess game of a plot, and Edmund’s like­able sense of humor. The author does a good job of mak­ing Eddie’s tal­ents feel uni­ver­sal­ly adopt­able — if only we had a Jon­ah to give us that extra oomph in the mys­tery-solv­ing are­na.

Eddie Red Undercover - Marcos Calo illustratorCalo’s por­traits are a part of the plot, essen­tial to the sto­ry. They’re as full of char­ac­ter as the author’s sto­ry. At the end of the book Eddie Red offers advice on how to draw a por­trait. That’s per­fec­tion because I found myself itch­ing to pick up a pen­cil and draw the peo­ple around me while I was solv­ing the mys­tery along­side Edmund.

It’s an engag­ing sto­ry, per­fect for read­ing any time, but espe­cial­ly sat­is­fy­ing on a sum­mer after­noon.


That’s Some Egg

by Vic­ki Palmquist

Under the EggIn Under the Egg, Theodo­ra Ten­pen­ny begins her sto­ry when her beloved grand­fa­ther, Jack, is hit by a taxi … and dies. Out­side their 200-year-old Man­hat­tan town­home, Jack whis­pers to Theo to “look under the egg.” Deal­ing with her grief, but des­per­ate because she and her head-in-the-clouds moth­er have no income, Theo tries to fig­ure out what her grand­fa­ther meant. She’s fair­ly cer­tain he’s try­ing to pro­vide for them, but did he have to be so mys­te­ri­ous?

What unrav­els is a tense mys­tery of art “theft,” Jack’s sol­dier­ing in World War II, sus­pi­cious adults who become alto­geth­er too inter­est­ed, and a new best friend, Bod­hi, who aids and abets Theo’s hare­brained, but ulti­mate­ly bril­liant, schemes.

Under the Egg is a fast-paced, intel­li­gent, learn­ing-about-art-his­to­ry while sav­ing the world sort of book, not unlike Indi­ana Jones or Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. I stayed up all night to read it, unable to rest until the mys­tery was solved.

On Lau­ra Marx Fitzgerald’s web­site, there are won­der­ful resources. When I fin­ished Dan Brown’s The DaVin­ci Code, the first thing I did was find a paint­ing of The Lord’s Sup­per to see if he was right. Fitzger­ald saves us the hunt. There’s a map of all the places Theo vis­its in New York City. There’s more about Raphael, with thought­ful­ly pro­vid­ed paint­ings that link to fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries from the painter’s life. There’s a page devot­ed to sep­a­rat­ing fact from fic­tion. And more.

Read­ers who love adven­tur­ous romps, who like to puz­zle through a mys­tery, or enjoy vis­it­ing art muse­ums will adore this book.


Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming

There is a sil­ly debate tak­ing place about whether adults who read children’s books, includ­ing young adult books, are infan­tile and should have their driver’s licens­es revoked because they’re obvi­ous­ly not mature enough to play dodge ‘em cars on the free­way and text while their two thou­sand pound vehi­cle hur­tles down the road. Grown up, indeed!… more
Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice

Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice

The woman who cuts my hair, Amy, had a par­tic­u­lar­ly hard sum­mer the year her boys had just learned to read. Their school asked that she keep them read­ing over the sum­mer, but there were only so many Mag­ic Tree­house books she want­ed them to read. What oth­er books would be suit­able? The min­utes flew by in the hair­cut­ting chair as I made sug­ges­tions and she lis­tened, appar­ent­ly hav­ing a prodi­gious mem­o­ry.… more
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