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A literary tour of Manhattan

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

A while ago I took you on an architectural tour of Manhattan--this will be a literary tour through some of the classics of children's literature. One of the best things about parenthood is reading to children--holding a small person on your lap with a book in your hands is pretty close to Heaven. My favorite place in the world, Manhattan, is the site of many great books--so, put on your walking shoes, pack your metro card and let's go.

We'll start at the very bottom--the southernmost tip of Manhattan--the Staten Island Ferry.


The Staten Island Ferry at sunset

We were very tired

we were very merry.

We rode back and forth

All night on the Ferry.

Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Yes, I know, Edna St. Vincent Millay is not a poet for children, but I believe in getting as much as possible as early as possible into those little brains, so this is a good start.


Then over to Battery Park City where words from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass grace the railing of a marina. Look out over the Hudson River, turn around and look up at the tall buildings and then read aloud...

“City of the Sea!…City of wharves and stores-city of tall facades of marble and iron! Proud and passionate city!”


The pier at Battery Park, looking across to New Jersey

Kids need to know this is an amazing place.

I know, so far, there's no kids lit but it's coming.

You may want to hop on a bus for the next stop on our journey--Fifth Avenue and 34th Street.

Remember James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl? James meets a strange old man in his garden who gives him a bag of strange green things that he drops under the peach tree. Overnight the peach grows to an enormous size. James climbs inside it and meets a ladybug, a spider, a grasshopper, a centipede and an earthworm--all giant-sized and dressed like people. The peach becomes too heavy for the tree, it rolls down the hill and into the sea. They sail along peacefully for a while but then sharks attack the peach. The spider spins a bunch of ropes and they lasso a flock of seagulls and the peach is lifted into the sky. Now airborne they continue sailing westward until they spot the spires of New York City and wonder how they'll land the peach. Then an airplane flies by and severs all the spider's ropes and the peach plummets to the earth, only to be impaled on the spire of the Empire State building. All of New York turns out to greet James and his friends with a ticker-tape parade and James eventually moves the peach pit to Central Park where he lives happily ever after. If you haven't read this book you really must.


Now keep walking up Fifth Avenue--stopping briefly to wave to the Library Lions.

You must be getting hungry by now so proceed to the Plaza Hotel for tea with Eloise.


Portrait of Eloise by Hillary Knight

The Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel, home of Eloise

Then on to the boat pond where Stuart Little sailed his schooner, the Wasp. Thank you, E. B. White.


The boat pond in Central Park

While you're here you can visit Hans Christian Andersen and his ugly Duckling friend, by Georg John Loeb.


Hans Christian Andersen and the ugly duckling by Georg John Loeb

and climb on a mushroom to have a chat with Alice. The sculptor, Jose de Creeft, designed this specifically for children to climb on it.


Alice in Wonderland by Jose de Creft, in Central Park

We can't linger here, we have to get to the Met! The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

In The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Claudia runs away from home but has to take her little brother because he always saves his allowance and she needs his money. At the Met, they hide from the security guards at closing time and sleep in the historic rooms, behind the velvet ropes.


period room display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

They take a bath every night in the fountain and then they solve a mystery about a sculpture by Michelangelo--it's very exciting.

While we're at the Met, and if you have an older child you might want to to look for the bad word that Holden Caulfield found in the Egyptian tomb but that's up to you.

Have I left out your favorite? It would also be fun to do a movie tour of Manhattan, don't you think?




November 26, 2020

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