Why is New York City so appealing as a book setting for juvenile literature? I have several theories. New York is real, but crazy things can happen there. It is easy to believe that a child “just like me” fell into some fantastic adventure. A child has more opportunities to be independent, to be noticed, to get lost on purpose, to solve a crime, to defeat a magical beast, or to gain an unusual power in New York. Anything is possible for the main character– and the reader who wants to be the main character.
I consider From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg the gold star of New York City children’s books, but there are many others to enjoy, and they cover all book genres. The list below includes realistic fiction, historical fiction, adventure, mystery, and fantasy. You name it; it can happen in NYC.
- Red Blazer Girls by Michael D. Beil
- Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
- Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Blume
- Floors by Patrick Carmen (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory read-alike)
- The School Story by Andrew Clements
- The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier
- The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
- In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Betty Bao Lord
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio (keep a tissue close by)
- Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
- Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
- The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
- Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
- When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (read with Wrinkle in Time)
- All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
- Hank Zipzer Series by Henry Winkler
The book titles above work well for upper elementary (~4th to ~7th). Since I am more of an upper elementary literature specialist, I did not include high school level (e.g. Catcher in the Rye by Salinger) or picture books (Eloise by Thompson or Knuffle Bunny by Willems) to the list, but I will get to it… one day.