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Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure by Nadja Spiegelman & Sergio Garcia Sanchez

Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure
Written by Nadja Spiegelman
Illustrated by Sergio Garcia Sanchez
(Toon Books; $16.95, Ages 8-12)
Also available in Spanish

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A Junior Library Guild Selection
Starred Reviews – Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal & Booklist

Ever gotten lost on a subway? In New York? I have and I’m from New York! But once you’ve navigated your way around and feel you’ve got the hang of the subway, it’s like you’re on top of the world, not 35 feet underground (like at the 42nd St. Station). You might never take the bus again.

intimageLostinNYC.jpgI’ll start this review by pointing out that a purchase of Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure, is like getting multiple books in one! First there’s the graphic novel adventure featuring Pablo, a boy new to both his school and to the city. Alicia, a classmate, volunteers to partner with him on a field trip to the Empire State Building using public transportation. At the uptown Manhattan subway station (96th St.), the pair get separated from their class and have to find their way alone. Eventually even Alicia and Pablo get separated which may seem frightening, but it’s never presented that way. In fact, it’s empowering for kids to see their peers commuting this way successfully. Demonstrating common sense, the two make tracks individually to the Empire State Building, one on foot, the other using a cross town train. Ultimately, across a crowded lobby, Pablo and Alicia are reunited in time to join the tour, running towards each other like in a scene from a film. They’re clearly overjoyed, but Mr. Bartles, their teacher, is not as impressed.

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Interior image from Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure by Nadja Spiegelman with illustrations by Sergio Garcia Sanchez, Toon Books ©2015.

In addition to the adventure, there’s the budding friendship story. As the bungled journey evolves, Pablo eventually comes to appreciate Alicia’s gesture of kindness to buddy up on the field trip which he so vehemently rejected at the beginning of the book.

“I was only trying help.” – Alicia
“Help?” – Pablo
“What makes you think I need help! I don’t need anything.” – Pablo
“I thought maybe you wanted a friend…” – Alicia

It’s through this friendship that Pablo is able to  look at New York with new eyes and begin to feel at home.

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Interior image from Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure by Nadja Spiegelman with illustrations by Sergio Garcia Sanchez, Toon Books ©2015.

Another draw is the NYC subway system, like an extra character, with its express and local lines, the colorful maps, and the various stops or stations in the city. I was delighted to see my old subway stop in Queens even made it into the book! Fans of transportation trivia will enjoy the enlightening repartee between Mr. Bartle and his students as he educates them on their subway knowledge. I lived in New York for 30 years and had no idea why the Y and U letters were never used. After reading the fact-filled end pages I learned it’s because the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) worried the public would be confused thinking they sounded too much like “why” and “you.”

Last but not least is the inclusion of archival photographs from old New York taking readers back in time to the 1800s and into the 20th century for a glimpse of what early subway stations and construction on them looked like. There are also more details about the Empire State Building and a Further Reading & Resources for those who, like me, cannot resist finding out more about the Big Apple’s history. Author Spiegelman has packed a plethora of interesting information into this engaging and extremely original book. I had no idea that the Empire State Building, where my uncle once worked, has its own zip code (10118) and had its grand opening on May 1, 1931, 84 years ago today! Lost in NYC closes with Tips for Parents, Teachers, and Librarians to make young readers’ experience of diving into a TOON graphic novel more pleasurable.

I have to give a shout out to the amazingly detailed illustrations by Garcia Sanchez. My favorite is the angled perspective of the Empire State Building as the school children zoom up to the observation deck in one of seventy-three elevators. Early on I noticed a man taking photos in almost every scene, but I didn’t notice the policeman watching him. Sanchez, while on a reconnaissance mission for the book, must have aroused suspicion. In a humorous touch, the artist has cleverly inserted himself and the cop who followed him into the story so be on the lookout!  Between the diverse cast of characters, the compelling storyline and the excellent artwork, I have to say I am very happy to have found Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure. 

Click here to download a guide for teachers.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

100 Years of Grand Central Terminal

UnknownToday, February 1st, is the 100th anniversary of Grand Central Terminal (simply called Grand Central by New Yorkers). This landmark in the heart of the Big Apple and seen in countless films – most notably Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, has elegantly stood the test of time. Being a former New Yorker, I have always had a soft spot for the station. For me it’s a time capsule and represents a bygone era when men wore hats, women wore gloves and the trains pulling out of the platforms held a promise of  journeys beyond the crowded city limits.

UnknownAs we celebrate the station’s centennial, we can once again enjoy all 32 pages of Maira Kalman’s praise-worthy picture book tribute in Next Stop Grand Central ($16.99, Nancy Paulsen Books, ages 4 and up). First published in 1999 and now re-released for this special occasion, Next Stop Grand Central is a festive and fun frolic through the fast-paced environs of one of America’s busiest train stations. And parents, don’t forget to show your child the entire book jacket, too, because Kalman’s zany sense of humor begins even before page 1!

This is just the kind of book my kids would have had me read over and over to them as we made new discoveries each time and discussed each one.  Maybe the first time reading we’d notice Ed with his excessively long arm changing one of the KAZILLION light bulbs in the station. Maybe next time we’d ooh and ahh over precious Pete, the pup on his way to Riverdale to “cheer up Ida Frumkiss.” Kids will certainly get a kick out of all the activity on every page as Kalman’s comical artwork, depicting a colorful cast of characters, begs to be studied not just glanced. Kalman includes a lot of what is the heart and soul of the station such as the information booth and its iconic clock, the Oyster Bar, Vanderbilt Hall, the grand staircases, the star-filled ceilings and the marble floors.

Whether you find yourself slowly turning the pages to catch up with the many different people detailed in the book on their way to so many different places or you want to quickly get to the end to find out exactly how Kalman will wrap up her story, there’s no perfect way to read Next Stop Grand Central. All I can say is it just has to be read!

Beneath The Big Apple: Subway Story

The NYC subway system is a behemoth of well-planned underground and above ground lines snaking through the heart of Manhattan and delivering passengers to the far edges of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. It is also very old—the first successful opening of underground railway lines in New York City happened in 1904 (www.nycsubway.org), and it has since grown to be one of the largest systems in the world. For the year and a half I spent in graduate school, I rode the subways in the Big Apple, maneuvering my way to and fro daily through its serpentine belly to reach my destination.  In all the time I spent sitting in a subway car, only once did I ponder what happened with all of the old subway cars, so when I saw Julia Sarcone-Roach’s book Subway Story ($16.99, Knopf Books For Young Readers, ages 5-9), I knew I had to read it. Inspired by the author’s visit to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, Subway Story tells the true story of a subway car, which Sarcone-Roach names Jessie, who was first introduced in New York City during the 1964 World’s Fair and later “reefed” off the coast of Delaware in 2001.

Jessie’s story begins at birth, weighing in at 75,122 pounds and 51 ½ feet long. She arrives in New York and begins the important work of ferrying visitors of the World’s Fair around the city. Sarcone-Roach’s dreamy watercolor illustrations take her readers on a typical New York City subway ride, from the station, to inside the car, to the bridges and tunnels connecting Manhattan to the outer boroughs. Through all four seasons, year after year, Jessie continues working hard, proud to be a New York City subway car, but the time eventually comes when Jessie is forced to retire from her duties. Here is where the story takes a surprising turn—rather than sitting in a junk yard for the rest of her life, Jessie is loaded on a barge and taken out to the ocean where she is pushed into the water. Sarcone-Roach paints a new world for Jessie on the floor of the ocean, where she is soon visited by plants and animals of the sea. The Author’s Note at the end of the story explains more about this actual process of “reefing” old subway cars and provides resources for further exploration; interestingly, this real method of recycling the subway car creates an artificial reef on which sea life begins to grow, attracting new plants and marine life to an area. It is one of many creative ways old subway cars across the world have been put to good use (others are also mentioned in the Author’s Note).

Subway Story is not only a fascinating look into the daily workings of a subway car but also an educational glimpse into a likely unheard-of practice of recycling old subway cars. For any young girl or boy interested in trains, or any child who has ever ridden on a subway, this book is a must-read. It will give your child a fresh perspective about a mode of transportation he may uses every day or teach him about a different way people get around in big cities where many people do not own a car. Most importantly, however, Julia Sarcone-Roach’s enlightening Subway Story and illuminating illustrations can provide a gateway for teaching your child more about reusing old materials and open the door to a windfall of ideas your child can brainstorm for how to reuse or recycle things in your own home.

Reviewer Karen B. Estrada has 9 years of experience as an English educator teaching students ranging from 6th grade to adult learners. She got her start teaching as a participant of the JET Program, during which she spent 3 years living and teaching in a rural Japanese town of 5000 people.  Since then, Karen has continued to teach English and Writing Skills at various levels in diverse settings such as Harlem, New York City, suburban New Jersey, and semi-rural Maryland. She holds a BA in English from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX and an MA in Teaching of English from Teachers College, Columbia University. Karen is currently taking a short break from teaching as she awaits the arrival of her first child due in late April.

Adventure On The Go!

I loved Bizzy Bear Off We Go! ($6.99, Nosy Crow, ages 1 and up) by Benji Davies from the moment I picked it up and noticed that the yellow taxi cab on the cover moves! I pulled on the tab to reveal a green bus and motorcycle passing Bizzy Bear by as he embarks on his adventure by plane, train, and automobile.

Through a series of thick cardboard pages, Bizzy Bear hails a taxi, gets stuck in traffic, hops a train across the river, and catches his plane just in time to make it to the beach, where he goes for a sail on the ocean. Each new mode of transportation introduced offers a movable tab that slides to make the car, traffic, train, plane, or boat move in a creative way. I not only loved this interactive element to what is a cute and colorfully illustrated story, but I also found the narrative easy to read due to its careful rhyme scheme and rhythm. This book makes a perfect read-aloud and tactile activity to do with an infant or toddler. It’s the ideal vehicle for getting your child started on learning about various modes of transportation in a fun way.

Reviewer Karen B. Estrada has 9 years of experience as an English educator teaching students ranging from 6th grade to adult learners. She got her start teaching as a participant of the JET Program, during which she spent 3 years living and teaching in a rural Japanese town of 5000 people.  Since then, Karen has continued to teach English and Writing Skills at various levels in diverse settings such as Harlem, New York City, suburban New Jersey, and semi-rural Maryland. She holds a BA in English from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX and an MA in Teaching of English from Teachers College, Columbia University. Karen is currently taking a short break from teaching as she awaits the arrival of her first child due in late April.

Getting There

As a travel writer, children’s travel adventure author and member of the National Council for Geographic Education, I say any book written for kids that exposes them to the world is a wonderful thing. Getting There by Martha Stewart Konrad from Tundra Books is a simple, adorable book with vivid photographs written for very young readers.

It is all about how people from different parts of the world get around. You name it – Yak, camel, moose, bike, canoe, cart, boat, on foot, being carried and more. It shows children that no matter how different our lifestyle may be from people in other parts of the world, we all have a lot in common. I applaud the author for doing her share to promote geography education, which is greatly lacking in our schools.

The best thing about buying Getting There is that all royalties go to support children of extreme poverty through an organization called World Vision. So when you buy this book, you will not only be educating a child you love, but you’ll also be helping a child in need in another part of the world.

dsc_0024-300x217Getting There was reviewed by Debbie Glade. Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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