Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Storied City by Lenoard S. Marcus

            One can find many guidebooks to New York for families with children, but if your children are avid readers, as the children and grandchildren in my family are, no guide is better than Lenoard Marcus' Storied City: A Children's Book Walking Tour Guide to New York City (Dutton, 2003). As Marcus writes in his introduction, "As a city of superlatives where people have long come to follow their dreams, New York was bound to lodge itself in the world's imagination and to become a favorite setting for literature."

           Between the covers of this small, easy to follow guide, Marcus features 200 of the best books about New York written for young people. It also includes 21 walking tours describing 100 sites that inspired their authors, including the house where Margaret Wise Brown wrote Goodnight Moon.  To visualize what it looked like on the inside when Brown lived there, Marcus suggests that you pick up a copy of her book Mister Dog, where iillustrator, Garth Williams, used her house as inspiration for his scenes.

           Washington Square Park, the setting for Charlotte Zolotow and neighbor, Hans Rey's 1944 collaboration in The Park Book, is also featured in W. Nikola-Lisa's Bein' With You This Way. Other authors who called Greenwich Village home are Robert McCloskey (Make Way for Ducklings) and Maurice Sendak.

            Lucky the researcher who can retrace the steps of these authors and illustrators, roam through the places and spaces where they lived and created their stories and art. I justify spending ten days in New York, away from work and more mundane responsibilities, with grown-up reasons--research, collaboration with others, etc. However, what truly inspires me is my own childhood wonder--the memory of a favorite book read over and over again, and hours spent pouring over the illustrations of gifted artists. The truth is I am blessed with a job that allows me to work at something I love, and would do even if I didn't have any excuse at all.

           Here's hoping that you too will find your way to New York someday and when you do, take along a copy of Storied CityPerhaps, like me, you will find some of your childhood memories there as well.