One of the coolest things about being a kid in New York City is that you get to see your home town in all kinds of art. That of course includes books, and there is no shortage of children’s books about NYC. But some are better than others, and some are flat-out must-reads. (Many, for kids wherever they live! See #1 on our list.) We polled NYC booksellers, fellow parents and threw in our own two cents to arrive at this list of the best children’s books about New York City, with picks for the tiniest of readers to bigger kids. May we suggest heading to one of our favorite NYC independent bookstores for kids to pick some up?

photo: Viking Press

The Snowy Day

It's a classic for a reason. (Also the New York Public Library's most borrowed book, btw.) Brooklyn native Ezra Jack Keats' ode to a snowy day in the city won the Caldecott Medal in 1963, and is credited with breaking the color barrier in children's literature. You can get it in many forms, including a board book to get your baby started on the right foot. 

Ages: Two and up

Mr. Boddington's Studio: NYC ABCs

From the Brooklyn stationary store, Mr. Boddington's Studio comes a beautiful board book for your early learner. Discover NYC's nooks and crannies from A to Z, with iconic landmarks like Central Park Zoo, Rockefeller Center and Yellow taxis all making an appearance. 

Ages: 2-5

photo: Harper Collins

Subway

Gina Verdi, Children & Family Events Specialist at The Astoria Bookshop dubs this one "The book for every young subway enthusiast. It's a delight to read out loud every single time, especially if you make the sound effects that go along with the story." Follow along as a father and two kids (drawn as subway stick figures) ride the rails on a rainy day and explore the greatest subway system on Earth (delays and all). 

Ages: Two to five 

photo: Mimi O'Connor

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Mo Willems' Knuffle Bunny series is so popular there's literally a statue of its central character at a Park Slope Library. Set in the Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhood (the author's former stomping ground) and featuring actual photos of the area as backgrounds, Knuffle Bunny features the bond between a girl and her stuffie, and a ill-fated trip to the urban setting of a laundromat. (Knuffle Bunny Too brings more of the same, with Grand Army Plaza making a star appearance in a pivotal scene.) 

Ages: three to five 

photo: HMH Books for Young Readers

The House on East 88th Street

The first in author Bernard Waber's popular Lyle, Lyle Crocodile series, this 1962 story tells the tale of how the Primm family found a crocodile in the bathtub of their new house. It's easy to see why kids have loved it for decades. 

Ages: Four to seven 

photo: Mimi O'Connor

Last Stop on Market Street

Winner of so many awards (including a Newberry Medal) and a New York Times best-seller, Last Stop on Market Street follows CJ and his Nana on a bus ride through the city. Along the way, Nana teaches CJ a thing or two about observing beauty in the world. With words by Matt de la Peña and pictures by Christian Robinson, this book is lauded for its ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic diversity. 

Ages: Three to five 

photo: POW! Kids Books

Bodega Cat

This book celebrates a New York City staple, the bodega cat (as well as the shops themselves, and the people who run them). Bodega Cat follows feline Chip throughout his day in the Matos family's store, with his duties including working the breakfast rush, receiving deliveries, chasing pigeons and napping on a bag of potato chips. 

Ages: Three to five

photo: Square Fish

Subway Sparrow

With the subway central to any New York kids' life—and so many train-crazy kids out there—this list would not be complete without a few titles that include the transit system. (We've included many!) The Astoria Bookshop's Verdi loves Subway Sparrow, describing it as "a 'only in NYC' story of how a group of people who cannot speak each others' languages work together to rescue a sparrow.  The book itself is in English, Spanish, and Polish." The book will provide an added thrill for D train riders; the sparrow hops on at Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. 

Ages: Four to eight

photo: Scwartz & Wade

The Secret Subway

This book has a one-two punch of a great story and spectacular visuals. The Secret Subway tells the true tale of Alfred Ely Beach's attempt to create the first New York City subway in 1870; art from Red Nose Studios brings the incredible story to life with gorgeous art.  

Ages: Four to eight

photo: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

The Curious Garden

Published the same year The Highline opened, The Curious Garden tells the story of Liam, a boy living in a grey and dreary city who decides to cultivate a garden on some abandoned, elevated train tracks. Verdi likes this title in part because of its key message of patience, as well as the importance of making nature an integral part of the urban landscape. "In his author note, Peter Brown asks, 'What would happen if an entire city decided to truly cooperate with nature?' Since he penned The Curious Garden, the High Line on the west side of Manhattan has grown by leaps and bounds and is a one-of-a-kind experience," she says. 

Ages: Four to eight

photo: Holt Books for Young Readers

Little Elliot, Big City

The Little Elliot book that started it all, Little Elliot, Big City, pairs a charming story of a small cupcake-loving, polka-dotted elephant living in NYC with lovely illustrations of the city circa 1940. Being so small, Elliot can sometimes feel overwhelmed in his town; that changes when he makes a new friend, a tiny mouse. 

Ages: Four to eight 

photo: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Subway Story

Books are Magic's Children's Book Manager Abby Rauscher recommends Subway Story, which is not only transit-inspired, but also weaves in history and environmentalism. Main character Jessie, a shiny new subway ferries people to the New York World's Fair in the 60s, has many adventures zipping along the rails for decades, and eventually begins a second "career" as part of an artificial reef in the ocean. 

Ages: Five to eight

photo: Harper Collins

How Little Lori Visited Times Square

Legendary illustrator Maurice Sendak and Amos Vogel teamed up in 1963 to create this silly story that follows Little Lori as he attempts to get to Times Square. (It was out of print for many years, but happily, it returned.) Many wrong turns and modes of transport are taken, but eventually, with some help,  he reaches his destination. 

Ages: Four to eight 

photo: Mimi O'Connor

All Are Welcome

A charming picture book that celebrates diversity, inclusion and community, All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman features kids of all kinds learning, playing and celebrating. NYC kids will recognize themselves and the character of their city, brownstones, taxi cabs, chain link fences and all. (Psst! We have it on good authority that the school featured is PS 130 in Kensington, Brooklyn.) 

Ages: Four to eight

photo: Crown Books for Young Readers

Tar Beach

A pick from Gina Verdi, Children and Family Event Specialist at The Astoria Bookshop, Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold features Harlem and the George Washington Bridge. "It is a classic New York City tale told by a Harlem artist that still inspires young readers to use their imagination and fly. It's a work of historical fiction, yet the characters seem real and give us hope while reminding us that we still need to learn about our city's past," she says.  P.S. there's a story quilt by Ringgold with the same title at the Guggenheim Museum! 

Ages: Five to eight

photo: Chronicle Books

Her Right Foot

Popular author of books for adults Dave Eggers weaves a tale with Lady Liberty at the center, touching on topics of history, identity, immigration, tolerance and patriotism. Illustrations by Shawn Harris give the book a modern and fresh look. 

Ages: Six to nine

photo: Mimi O'Connor

Eloise

Another kids' book inextricably linked to New York City, Eloise features it titular character living it up, however she pleases, at the Plaza Hotel. With iconic illustrations by Hillary Knight, the book is a celebration of sassy little New Yorkers, and kids everywhere. 

Ages: Six to nine 

photo: Universe

This is New York

Miroslav Sasek's 1960 children's book looks ultra modern and chic even though it was created 50 years ago. Both informative and evocative, the book tours the city, visiting numerous landmarks (the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the American Museum of Natural History), as well as observing the signs of city life. (Case in point: Windows full of air conditioners during New York City summer.) 

Ages: Seven and up

photo: Scholastic

If You Lived 100 Years Ago

Fascinating, fun, and of course, educational, Ann Mcgovern's trip back in time to turn-of-the-century New York City shows kids a very different New York City, one with no cars, lots of bicycles, child labor and cramped quarters and schools. The book looks at how rich and poor lived, ate, worked, and had fun through more than 50 questions. 


Ages: Seven to 10

photo: New York Transit Museum/MoMA

The Great New York Subway Map

If you're a design-nerd, you might want to pick this one up for yourself. Published by the Museum of Modern Art in cooperation with the New York Transit Museum, this super chic book celebrates Italian designer Massimo Vignelli's iconic 1972 map of the subway system. Along with telling the story of its creation, the book introduces the idea that graphic design can solve problems and shape our world. 

Ages: Seven to 10

photo: Penguin Random House

Harriet the Spy

Harriet is another little girl in NYC who wormed her way into the hearts of many a reader over several decades. (For example, this, from Jonathan Franzen: “I don’t know of a better novel about the costs and rewards of being a truth teller, nor of any book that made more readers of my generation want to become fiction writers.") Follow along as Upper East Sider Harriet chronicles her world, and ends up in hot water with her friends when her musings are revealed. 

Ages: Eight to 12

—Mimi O’Connor

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