This post is inspired by Keris Stainton's new novel, Jessie Hearts NYC, and by Chicklish's New York Books Challenge. Now my interest is more older children's literature than Young Adult/ teen, but still, this got me thinking, so I came up with three New York-set books. (Another I loved recently is Unhooking The Moon, which I wrote about here).
The Saturdays written and illustrated by Elizabeth Enright (1941)
The four Melendy children, Mona, Rush, Miranda (Randy) and Oliver, live in a brownstone in Manhattan with their widower Economics professor father, Cuffy, their housekeeper and Willy Sloper, the maintenance man. One rainy Saturday the children are in their Office at the top of the house, bored and wishing they had enough money to do something interesting, when they come up with a plan to pool their pocket money once a month so that they each get the chance to do something fun, and the Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club- I.S.A.A.C- is born. The Melendy children's afternoon ambitions are in keeping with their creative and intellectual family life. Randy has ambitions to become a dancer or a painter; her Saturday is spent at an art gallery on Fifth Avenue, where she sees French paintings (Impressionist?) where she also learns to appreciate Mrs Oliphant, an elderly family friend better. Rush, who wants to be a pianist or an engineer, goes to the opera to see Siegfried- maybe this production at the Met?- where he also finds a dog that the family names Isaac. Mona, who wants to become an actress, goes and gets her hair bobbed, but also learns that growing up does not just mean changing the way you look. Finally, little Oliver goes to Madison Square Gardens to the circus, but comes home on a police horse.
The Manhattan setting is evocative; mentions of Tiffany's, Central Park, Broadway, Lexington Avenue will instantly take anyone who has visited New York City right back there. This book is no longer in print in the UK, but can easily be obtained online, or your local bookshop can order it from US publisher Macmillan's.
Eloise by Kay Thompson illus. Hilary Knight (1955)
I would recommend The Saturdays to 8+, Eloise to be read to 4+ and to read alone 6+, and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler for 8+.
I'm eagerly awaiting a copy of Jessie Hearts NYC, and will be writing about it as soon as possible!
Two of my favourite New York songs:
Piazza New York Catcher by Belle and Sebastian (a very bookish band!)
Elegance from Hello Dolly! Any time Brits feel like laughing at Dick Van Dyke's London accent in Mary Poppins, check out Michael Crawford's Yonkers accent and blush.