When I was a kid I had two main places that I NEEDED to travel. New York City and Italy. As an adult, I find that people’s passion for New York City probably starts as a child and I think I know why.
If you’re planning a trip to visit NYC with your kids, well first, your kids are lucky. And two, you’re in luck. The children’s books set in NY options are plentiful. There’s something for every age, interest, site, you name it. Narrowing this list to the best picks is almost impossible. But, it’s not and here it is.
My picks for the best children’s books for a trip to NYC.
(Links are affiliate links, by the way.)
A Board Book for NYC
Let’s just get this out of the way now, for every section of recommendations, there are so many awesome options. So many. This list was fun and difficult to compile. I’m going to pick one, but I may link out to other options as well.
I like this board book for NYC because it introduces the city to kids via color. I think it makes a great jumping off point for babies who will experience the city for the first (second, third, etc.) time. Then, once in the city, parents can talk about color and the city more in depth.
A pop-up book for NYC
I love a good pop-up book and there’s something so exciting about pop-up books about New York City. Probably because New York imagery is awesome.
I like this book because it includes both the famous sites that we’ve known and learned about for years, and newer attractions like the One World Trade Center and the Highline.
A Travel Journal for NYC
There are so many great travel journals that are specific to New York City, but the Leap and Hop series of travel journals is just one of my favorites. I actually bought this one for a planned trip to New York that ended up getting canceled. But the journal is great to learn about the city, write down observations, and keep as a souvenir.
A loved book for NYC
People really love children’s books where a parent or grandparent shows their little one the city. And that’s why it only made sense to include Nana in the City on this list. This book may be good for your trip because the little boy is in the city visiting his nana. The sights and sounds scare him, so nana takes him on a tour of her city and shows him the cool things that make those sounds aren’t so scary.
This is also a Caldecott honor book.
A scavenger hunt for NYC
In multiple forums and conversations every year I hear the same question over and over again – “I have kids and I’m wondering, what should we do when we visit New York?”
It’s not that there’s nothing to do in the city for kids. It’s that there’s so much to do with the kids in the city. In a future post I’ll narrow down some choices, but in the meantime, I’m going to recommend this scavenger hunt series for a trip to NYC.
This book offers 12 sight-specific missions for some of the city’s most popular destinations for families. So, it’s a curated list, with information, and a fun way to explore the sites. That’s a lot packed into a book!
A guidebook for NYC
This is a natural pick. Author Leonard Marcus visits NYC sites written about in popular (and even not-so-popular) children’s books set in New York. I recommend picking this one up prior to your trip and checking out as many books as possible.
A Newberry book for NYC
A little girl wants to escape her suburban life and ends up living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a week. While the premise of the book is awesome, and the writing good enough for a Newberry honor, that is not necessarily why I included it in this list.
When this book was published over 50 years ago parents and children called the Met to see how they could stay overnight. The museum eventually created a dedicated phone line to field questions about the book. Back in 2008, the NY Times wrote an article about NYC children’s books. They quoted author Leonard Marcus frequently because he wrote the Storied City: A Children’s Book Walking-Tour Guide to New York City (see: A guidebook for NYC above). In discussing the impact of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweile,r he said:
I think they got more of a response about that book than about any of the treasures in the collection from around the country.
This is the power of books. I’d venture a guess that those kids who read the books 50 years ago are now interested in taking their grandchildren to the Met museum. So, let your own kid’s lifelong love of the Met start with this book.
P.S. The Met no longer has a dedicated phone line or web page. They do have a video, though!
A Caldecott book for NYC
This is a fun book for visiting any city, but especially NY. The illustrator used New York City as his inspiration. He created the alphabet using city sights. What I like about this book as a way to prepare for a trip to NY is two-fold. It gets kids prepared for the places they’re about to explore, and it provides a challenge to make their own alphabet book while there.
More books set in New York
You guys, there are so many books set in New York City. So many great books. I think there will be another post coming up in the future about classic book-related NY experiences (like Eloise at the Plaza… I’ve been sitting on this post for a few months now). There are so many award-winning books that narrowing it down to the options above was difficult.
So, if you are looking for even more books, please check out New York State’s global bookshelf entry. As of the writing of this post, there are 32 books on the global bookshelf for the whole state. And since researching this post I’ve come across dozens+ books that need to be added. So bookmark and check back frequently.
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