Historical Fiction -- Life in New York During the 1800s

New York City has to be one of the greatest places in America, if not the world. Luckily for us, many authors have chronicled The Big Apple's antics in a way just right for kids.

Here are some of the books available. This is not yet a complete list, but I'm adding books to the list daily. If you wish to purchase any of these books, click on either the title or the book cover to be directed to Amazon.com. As a warning, I have put up pictures of the book covers to give you somewhat an idea of the style of each book (I know, I know. "Don't judge a book by its cover") so the pages may load slowly, depending on the speed of your internet connection.

The categories below are sorted by approximate age group and topical categories. Feel free to browse around. The same links are located on the left side of your screen. To return back to this page, simply click on the "Welcome" link on the left.

If this website came up without frames, click here to see the complete "New York City Books for Kids" website with frames.

Other Pages of Interest:
Fiction & Historical Fiction: General Books About New York City (Nonfiction) | Fiction NYC Picture Books and "Easy Reader" Stories (Ages 4-8) | Fiction NYC Books (Ages 9-12) | New York Fiction for Young Adults | New York Historical Fiction (Colonial Period and Revolutionary War) | New York Historical Fiction (Ellis Island & Immigration) | New York Historical Fiction (Life in the 1800s) | New York Historical Fiction (Life in the 1900s)

NYC History: New York Biographies | Native Americans from New York (History and Historical Fiction) | New York History (Colonial Period and Revolutionary War) | New York History (Immigration and Ellis Island) | New York History (The 1800s) | New York History (The 1900s) | The World Trade Center and September 11, 2001 |

NYC Locations: The Statue of Liberty | The Empire State Building | Central Park | NYC Art Museums (Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, etc.) | NYC's American Museum of Natural History | Harlem Books (Including books about the Harlem Renaissance) | Chinatown Books | Little Italy Books | The New York City Subway System | Brooklyn Books | The Bronx Books | Queens Books | Staten Island Books | Long Island Books | Upstate New York Books | New York State Books

Life and Travel in NYC: Thanksgiving in New York City | Christmas in New York City | New York Sports Teams and Players The NYC Fire Department (FDNY) and NY Police Department (NYPD) | General Books About Cities | New York City and New York State Test Preparation and Study Guides | New York Regents Review Books | Parenting in New York City | New York Travel Guides for Families with Children

NYC Toys, Puzzles, and Games (For Kids & Adults) | Amazon.com Coupon Codes

Books for Beginning Readers

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus

By Francis Pharcellus Church
A beautifully illustrated gift edition based on the legendary letter and essay that appeared in 1897 in The New York Sun. That letter and its editorial response have become a Christmastime legend. Little did F.P. Church know back in 1897 that his response would come to stand for the affirmation of all the joy and magic of the holiday season.

Description from Publisher

Books for Older Readers

Hey Kid, Want to Buy A Bridge?

By Jon Scieszka
Joe, Sam, and Fred are really good at meeting people, making friends-and enemies-in all different places and times. But this time everything is completely different! It's Brooklyn, it's the 1880s, and some crazy guy's trying to build a bridge all the way across to Manhattan. Meanwhile, their great-granddaughters, who have inherited The Book are doing a little time-traveling of their own, and they need some help. The guys just want to get back to their simple, ordinary twenty-first century lives. But will they find a way out before things get too far out of hand?

Description from Publisher

Joe, Fred, and Sam, the Time Warp Trio, should know better by now than to mess around with The Book--a magical book given to Joe by his uncle. But this time they really think they have things under control... until Sam's latest invention, the Graphi-Sonic, accidentally interfaces with The Book, and the boys wind up traveling back in time to 1877. At least they recognize the turf--it's still their hometown of Brooklyn, minus the cars and skyscrapers. And plus one very addled Thomas Edison. Not to mention the trio's great-granddaughters from the future, who have (still with us?) inherited The Book. Now, all they have to do is find The Book (which is missing again) and skedaddle back to the future before the phonograph and light bulb and Edison's other inventions lose their chance of being invented.

The many fans of Jon Scieszka's Time Warp Trio sequence (2095, etc.) will be thrilled to delve into another illogical, madcap, even slightly educational adventure with the hapless time-traveling lads.

Description from Amazon.com

This adventure finds the boys in New York City, perched on top of a Brooklyn Bridge tower. At first they believe that they have traveled into the future (complete with space aliens), mainly because they encounter their great-granddaughters once again. They discover, however, that they are visiting Brooklyn before the bridge was completed. In fact, it is 1877. "The Book" and Sam's invention, "a Graphic Sonic," have somehow combined to propel them into the past, leaving them in the precarious situation of trying to get back to their own time. They also meet a "zapped" Thomas Edison, who may or may not become a great inventor. How the trio, their great-granddaughters, and baseball set everything aright makes for a fun read. Another winning entry in the series

Description from School Library Journal

Roller Skates

By Ruth Sawyer

  • 1937 Newbery Award

Lucinda's year in New York City began when her family went to Europe and left her with Miss Peters - not, thank Heaven, with Aunt Emily and her four docile, ladylike daughters. Miss Peters understood that a girl of ten wanted to roller-skate to school, and stop and chat with Patrolman M'Gonegal, and make friends with Mr. Gilligan, the cabbie, and even play with Tony, whose father kept a fruit stand down the street. Roller Skates is a delightful story of old New York, and about a tomboy who could not help being a lady at the same time.

DD>Description from Publisher

A zestful account of Lucinda's never-to-be-forgotten rphanyear. When her parents go abroad for a year in the 1890s, Lucinda, freed from the customary restraints imposed by am'selle,explores New York on her roller skates and makes many friends, including a fruit vendor's son, a hansom-cab driver, and an impoverished but talented violinist. Sawyer's Newbery Medal-winning portrait of her own childhood is as fresh and compelling as ever.

Description from Horn Book

The story takes place in New York City in the 1890s, during the year of 10-year-old Lucinda's "orphanage." That's Lucinda's term for her situation when her parents go to Italy and leave her in the care of Miss Peters and Miss Nettie. Lucinda, enjoying her freedom, explores the city on roller skates and makes friends wherever she goes. She reads Shakespeare with her uncle, puts on her own production of The Tempest, creates a magical Christmas for a little girl from an impoverished family, helps a family protect their fruit stand from attacks by rowdy boys, and has picnics in a vacant lot , among other adventures. Forbes does a good job with the reading, conveying Lucinda's enthusiasm but not becoming overly dramatic.

Description from School Library Journal

Secret in St. Something

By Barbara Brooks Wallace
One flight up the narrow, steep stairs, Robin finds himself swallowed up by the darkness, terrified and hating the thought of the misery and fear his knock will bring to the wretched families who huddle behind every door in the building.

Thus begins the story set in a grim tenement district of New York City before the turn of the twentieth century. It is there that Robin, once protected by a loving mother and father, both now dead, must contend with a brutal stepfather, Hawker Doak. Yet Robin is faced with only two choices: remain in the ruthless charge of Hawker, collecting the hated rents, and, perhaps worse, being sent to work in a factory or escape into the treacherous slum streets, haunted by, among other horrors, the bullying boys who work and live in the streets, and whom Robin so fears. Either choice provides a sure recipe for a very short life. But in the end it is fear for the life of his baby brother that makes Robin's agonizing decision for him. The answer to whether or not they survive will only be found when Robin discovers the secret guarded by a place called St. Something.

Within this true picture of tenement life, Barbara Brooks Wallace has created another chilling mystery that starts with one kind of terror, only to weave its way into yet another, deepened by intrigue and unspeakable treachery.

Description from Publisher

Fans of Wallace's earlier novels will be lining up to read her latest mystery-adventure set in the dangerous streets and bleak tenements of late-nineteenth-century New York. It has all the elements they've come to expect from the Edgar Allan Poe award-winning author: a plucky main character who is repeatedly thrust into dangerous situations, cliff-hanging chapters, vicious enemies, and a period setting so well described readers will be able to smell the dank hallways and dirty streets. When 11-year-old Robin decides to bundle up baby brother Danny and run away, he's not sure how they'll survive, but he knows what they'll face if they stay: beatings and hunger at the hands of Hawker, their cruel stepfather, who will send Robin to work in a factory and place Danny in a filthy "baby farm." But before the night is over he finds some unlikely protectors: four tough street boys willing to share their home in the cellar of a church and teach him how to survive on the streets. Things seem to be looking up until Hawker catches up to him. There's good suspense along the way, as well as a satisfying conclusion, in which Danny learns a secret that changes the boys' lives.

Description from Booklist

Shady characters, dark stairwells, and menacing footsteps abound in this Victorian-era mystery set in New York City. Following the deaths of first his father and then his mother, Robin lives the quintessential hard-knocks life. When his cruel stepfather, Hawker Doak, threatens violence against Robin's brother, Danny, Robin runs away with the baby in the middle of the night. They find refuge with street boys holed up in the basement of a church that the illiterate boys call "St. Something." The urchins quickly adopt Robin and Danny, giving them a home and showing Robin how to make a living. However, all of their lives change forever when Hawker reappears and later makes a stunning deathbed confession. The sense of danger and bleakness in these characters' lives is convincingly portrayed. This feeling is contrasted nicely with the warm and loyal familial relationship of the youngsters. The mystery element and the leering, abusive Hawker keep the story moving swiftly. While the street boys' heavy dialect may be daunting to less competent readers, children will cheer at the rags-to-riches ending and the renewed sense of hope in the boys' lives. Give this to both historical fiction and mystery fans, who will enjoy the unique blend of genres.

Description from School Library Journal

This rousing survival story of five street boys and a baby is every bit as captivating as Oliver Twist and its beguiling band of pickpockets. Only this story is considerably shorter and portrays boys determined to eke out their meager livelihood honestly. Eleven-year-old Robin is controlled by Hawker Doak, the chillingly abusive stepfather who forces him to collect rents from New York City's bleakest tenement buildings. Spine-tingling descriptions of darkness, fear and destitution depict Robin's existence and invite interesting parallels between Victorian London and this late 19th century American setting. Fortunately, Robin meets Piggy, Spider, Mouse and Duck—runaways with a sense of honor and humor. The ensuing tale is a Dickensian mystery filled with tension that will alternately shrink readers' hearts in fear and then swell them with joy. How can boys, hiding in a church whose name they can't read, look after Robin's infant brother and still escape the constant threat of cruel parents and brutal workhouses? Read this stirring and non-didactic tribute to honesty and loyalty and find out. The title of the last chapter, "Quite a Story Indeed," describes it best.

Description from Children's Literature

The Lost Village of Central Park

By Hope Lourie Killcoyne
It's 1855 in New York City. You're ten, but you've never gone to school. Your home, Ireland, is a fading memory. Finally, after years of working as a maid with only your mother and the people you cook and clean for as companions, you're on the verge of getting your first best friend.

That is, if the slave catchers don't get her first...

The Lost Village of Central Park is set in one of New York's lost neighborhoods—Seneca Village. This isolated community was a six-block pocket in Central Park on New York's Upper West Side—before there was a Central Park, before there was an Upper West Side.

Seneca Village existed in a New York where black kids lucky enough to go to school went to segregated "colored schools," and most of the newly arrived Irish Catholic kids didn't go to school at all. Slavery was still legal in much of the country, and though not officially sanctioned in New York, slave catchers still grabbed their runaway quarry wherever they found them—free state or not.

The Lost Village of Central Park, a historical fiction chapter book, is recommended for eight to eleven year olds.

Description from Publisher

Beth's Story (Portraits of Little Women)

By Susan Beth Pfeffer
Painfully shy Beth March is excited to be visiting New York City with her parents. The theater, opera, symphony, museums--Beth loves every minute of her adventure. She even meets Abraham Lincoln, and has the courage to tell him that women deserve the right to vote.

But once she's back home in Massachusetts, none of Beth's schoolmates believe that she really spoke to Mr. Lincoln or that she even met him. They know Beth is shy--too shy to speak to a man running for President of the United States. Even Beth's younger sister, Amy, thinks she's lying. Now Beth wishes she'd never been to New York...until she's surprised by an unexpected visitor.

Little girls, parents, and teachers will cherish these original stories, inspired by the timeless classic Little Women, which capture each of the March sisters at age 10, as they experience the joys and sorrows of sisterhood, family life, and a changing America. Written by award-winning author Susan Beth Pfeffer, each hardcover book is packaged with a beautiful portrait cover, cloth bookmark, and black & white illustrations throughout. Each book also includes a section with crafts, recipes, and other activities that bring the stories to life.

Description from Publisher

Charley Skedaddle

By Patricia Beatty
Charley is a member of one of the toughest gangs in New York City. When his older brother is killed at Gettysburg, Charley vows revenge against the Confederates. So he joins the Union Army as a drummer boy.

Charley thinks war will be glamorous and exciting. But then he sees two of his friends gunned down mercilessly. When Charley shoots a Confederate soldier in self-defense, he knows he can't take any more killing. He "skedaddles" away from the battle, convinced he's a coward. Hiding in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charley encounters the ultimate test of courage. Can Charley prove his mettle once and for all -- and restore his shattered self-image?

Description from Publisher

Fighting is important to Charley Quinn, 12, a street-tough New York Bowery Boy who runs away from his Irish-Catholic home to join the Union forces in Virginia. But war proves much more horrible than he'd thoughtso terrible, in fact, that he deserts, giving himself the disparaging name ``Skedaddle.'' Afterward, Charley takes refuge in the mountains with Granny Bent, a midwife with her own secret loyalties. This well-crafted, somewhat episodic novel makes the point that fighting brings honor, and cowardice, shame. The settingsfrom the Bowery, to the battlefield, to Granny's cabinare quite powerful. These, along with Charley's disillusionment and change, give this novel depth and make it one of Beatty's best.

Description from Publishers Weekly

Anna, Grandpa, and the Big Storm

By Carla Stevens
Anna's grandfather is bored with city life until he and Anna are stranded on the Third Avenue El during the blizzard of 1888.

Description from Publisher

A charming tale of the growth of friendship between granddaughter and grandfather against a backdrop of the very real blizzard of 1888, a time when streetcars and fire engines were drawn by horses. The story opens in a New York apartment with a bored, unhappy grandfather visiting Anna and her parents. Grandpa insists on braving the snow to get Anna to school so she will not miss the final day of her spelling bee. The storm worsens, and a ride on the elevated train ends with firemen climbing their ladders to reach the travelers stranded in the chilly train. The rescue story ends with Grandpa playing host to two ladies who welcome shelter until the storm subsides. Watching this extended group getting warm, sharing a board game, and making friends, the reader learns that Grandpa was just bored and lonely. Seeing how adding friends to family contributed to a happy visit teaches us much about the interactions needed to be fully alive.

Description from Children's Literature


By James Lincoln Collier

  • Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People 2002

His Ma had believed that it was possible to rise up, because she had come down.

It’s 1895 in New York City. Hard times have hit, and life isn’t going to get better any time soon. Almost thirteen-year-old Chipper Carey is running with the Midnight Rats just to survive. Ma died of consumption. Uncle Bert beat him mercilessly. Better a life on the streets under the gang’s protection than to live with him anymore. Sure, he feels badly about stealing and fighting. He knows Ma wouldn’t have approved. She wanted and expected a respectable life for him. But reality dictates. Without the Midnight Rats, Chipper would starve. Fortunately, fate steps in and introduces him to Miss Sibley, who, like Ma, believes he’s meant for something better than the Midnight Rats.

Description from Publisher

Set in the 1890s, Chipper's story is a terrific read. Orphaned at the age of six and beaten by his guardians, Chipper had no choice but to run away, learning to live on the streets of New York City. Chipper is now twelve years old and a member of the Midnight Rats street gang—a group of kids who pickpocket and pilfer to stay alive. While trying to fulfill yet another of his gang leader's faulty schemes, Chipper seemingly is befriended by a con man named Patch. Patch sees physical similarities between Chipper and a dead wealthy man. He involves Chipper in a complex scheme to extort money from the man's family by pretending that Chipper is the man's long-lost son. Chipper becomes torn by his loyalty to the gang members who have protected him and the wealthy family who is so kind to him. The ending seems predictable but will be a delightful surprise to many readers. Collier, celebrated author of My Brother Sam Is Dead, leaks out the story slowly, keeping the reader just ahead of the endearingly naïve main character. Although most supporting characters are stereotypical, Chipper becomes a friend. Readers sense his confusion at being pulled in so many directions, relate to his feeling like an outsider, and celebrate when in the end he chooses to be true to himself. Young teens will enjoy the adventurous life on the street and the attempt to stay one step ahead of the unfolding story. This title is recommended for public libraries and middle school collections.

Description from VOYA

Earthly Astonishments: A Novel

By Marthe Jocelyn
Meet Rosa, the Bearded Lady! Charley, the Albino Boy! See them all for yourself at R. J. Walters' Museum of Earthly Astonishments!

In 1883, there is no better place in the world to see exotic attractions than Coney Island, New York. Josephine lives in a little dot of a town called Westley. But her parents still can charge a penny to any visitor who wants to gawk at her. They also can sell her for an even better price to the MacLaren Academy for Girls, where Josephine scrubs and fetches and withstands mocking torment from the fine young ladies of the school.

One day Josephine takes four gold dollars from the schoolmistress and runs away. But she trades her freedom to belong to the famous R. J. Walters' "Natural Curiosity" show on the Coney Island boardwalk. He gives her a new name and a new identity--Little JoJo of Bohemia--but the crowds and the newspaper articles can't satisfy the hunger she has for a real family and a real home. In this beautifully evoked, wonderfully readable adventure story, an incredibly versatile writer creates a marvelously believable heroine from a time and place filled with many wonders.

Description from Publisher

A small but plucky and resourceful heroine stars in this novel, set in the era of P.T. Barnum and his extraordinary exhibits, from Jocelyn (Hannah and the Seven Dresses). Josephine, only 22 inches high, is sold by her own parents to a young ladies boarding school, with a headmistress who makes Sara Crewe's Miss Minchin appear angelic. The place is a horror, for Miss MacLaren uses the tuition money to line her own pockets, spending little on her students and less on the house and help. Josephine escapes to the city, to become part of the Museum of Earthly Astonishments along with Charley, an albino boy, and his mother, the kindly Nelly. Josephine learns her part and plays it well, a living doll dressed in historical costumes; Charley and Nelly become her family. But Miss MacLaren tracks her down, of course, a development that leads to more daring escapes, vivid newspaper stories, and touching friendships. Set in and around Coney Island and the Lower East Side of New York City in the 19th century, the novel is full of historical color while focusing on a tiny person whose courage and inner fortitude are very large, indeed.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

When I Dream of Heaven: Angelina's Story

By Steven Kroll
In When I Dream of Heaven, the appalling conditions of the New York City sweatshops at the turn of the 20th century and the plight of young immigrant girls come to life as 14-year-old Gina Petrosino struggles with her sense of familial duty and her strong desires to further her education. Gina is an appealing protagonist, frustrated with the limited choices open to her and wanting independence while remaining part of the strict Italian family that she loves.

Description from School Library Journal


By Isabelle Holland
Holland recreates the battles of thousands of Irish immigrants against poverty and prejudice in New York City in the late 1800s. Kevin O'Donnell fights to earn pennies to buy food for his little sister. Luck strikes when Kevin steals his favorite newspaper to sell and is caught by the owner, Mr. Langley. He takes a shine to Kevin, offers him a job as a messenger, and later begins to teach him to write; in the meantime, Kevin succumbs to his own prejudices, remaining suspicious of his wealthy boss. When his father is injured, Kevin assumes financial responsibility for the entire family, while also nursing a dream of working as a reporter on a newspaper. Falsely accused of theft, Kevin quits, then turns to stealing in an effort to keep the landlord at bay. Mr. Langley rescues him when Kevin is arrested, and everything comes out all right. Holland creates believable characters, driven to act by need and circumstance, and torn between right and wrong. The book may be useful for helping children understand a few basic concepts about writing while offering a suspenseful introduction to the difficulties faced by immigrants.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

Captured by a Spy

By Lucille Travis
The New York City draft riots during the Civil War provide the backdrop for this story of two Northern boys: Ben, white, and Zack, African American. Captured by blockade runners, they are taken to Canada and placed in the hands of Clement Vallandigham, the infamous copperhead whom Lincoln has exiled for his Southern sympathies. The boys pretend to be peace Democrats--opposed to the president and in favor of slavery--to better their chances of escape, but Zack hates the hypocrisy. Disguised, they secure the help of a woman spy, who makes them promise not to inform on her until she has made her getaway. The boys fear that such action is treasonous, until they consider the mercy she has shown them. There's lots of adventure in the mix, but this is mostly a heartening story about mercy--and how it evolves even in the midst of a shameful and tragic period in history.

Description from Booklist

The Thief from Five Points

By Lucille Travis
While staying at his uncle's mission in New York City during the Civil War, twelve-year-old Ben and his friend Zack try to help a young girl escape from a gang.

A frightened young maid disappears from Ben's Uncle Hiram's house where the boys are visiting, and Ben and Zack jump at the chance to unravel the mystery. Soon they discover that she is being blackmailed by a gang of rough boys called the Plus Uglies, who are holding her little brother captive.

Description from Publisher

The Ghost of Gracie Mansion

By Susan Kohl
In 1803, Esther and Archibald Gracie move their family to a new country home to escape the yellow fever epidemic raging around their townhouse in Manhattan. William, 16, is reluctant to leave the excitement of the city. He has recently started working as a clerk for his father, a commission merchant and shipowner. While packing up their household, Esther tells the children about a secret passageway from the mansion's basement to a river cove. The previous owners of the site, Loyalists during the American Revolution, had constructed the passageway in case they needed to make a speedy escape. The pace picks up when the family arrives at Gracie Mansion. They see someone lurking in a hallway and all sorts of objects disappear. When the children find the entrance to the passageway, they discover a former Hessian mercenary who wanted to start a new life as a farmer. The historical significance of these events is explained to the children by characters such as Alexander Hamilton, who seems to be introduced just for this purpose. A brief historical note explains the background of the story, but no sources are listed. The book will be of most interest to residents of New York City.

Description from School Library Journal

The Snow Walker

By Margaret K. Wetterer and Charles M. Wetterer
Remember the storms that buried the East Coast in snow during the Winter of 1995? Well, bad as they were, the Blizzard of 1888 was worse. People were afraid to leave their homes; 80-mile per hour winds tore the roofs off houses; thousands of birds froze to death, and power and phone lines broke. But 12-year-old Milton Daub was looking for an adventure. So he and his father made a pair snowshoes and Milton went out in the snow to shop. An elderly neighbor saw Milton returning from the store and asked to buy some of Milton's milk. Within minutes, Milton was bringing supplies-including lifesaving prescriptions-to his snowbound neighbors. Based on a true story, this is an exciting, suspenseful adventure as well as an educational glimpse into life in the 19th century.

Description fro Children's Literature

Notes running before and after this true story inform beginning readers of the facts about the Blizzard of 1888, a three- day storm that ravaged the northeastern US. Milton Daub, 12, leaves his home in the South Bronx to buy milk, wearing the snowshoes he and his father have patched together from odds and ends around the house, with a picture from a geography book as a guide. As neighbors in need shout requests for groceries and medications to Milton from their snow-banked, second-story windows, the boy's mission grows. At day's end, he is not only able to turn his unasked-for profits over to his mother but has also saved a life. Wetterer (Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express) and her co-author craft a satisfying volume in the On My Own series, building suspense as the snowshoes disintegrate; Young's illustrations wonderfully evoke old New York City and the storm of a century.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

Annie Quinn in America

By Mical Schneider
Annie Quinn knows that a new life in America is her only chance. In 1847, the only sure way to survive the potato famine is to leave Ireland. With her younger brother Thomas, twelve-year-old Annie must leave her mother and home behind. She'll join her big sister Bridget, a maid in a New York mansion. At least Annie has her father's fiddle to play. But Annie's fiddle is stolen by smooth-talker Finnbarr O'Halloran as soon as she steps foot in New York. And Bridget likes being a lady's maid, but Annie's stuck polishing gleaming tabletops and washing perfectly clean steps under the housekeeper's eagle eye. She has it better off than Thomas, who sleeps in a cellar and works as a stable boy under the greedy Mr. Belzer. Then Bridget goes to Ohio, Thomas runs away, and Annie is fired! And Annie's adventures are only beginning...

Description from Publisher

Irish Americans seem so integral a part of America today that we tend to forget the days when the Irish were newcomers. Annie Quinn vividly reminds us that the Irish were once the people who did the jobs no one else wanted, the ones ridiculed, stereotyped, and discriminated against. Annie is only twelve but her father has already died in the famine and her mother is struggling to hold life together for the four young children still at home. When Annie's older sister sends money from America, Annie and her younger brother Tommie are shipped off alone to the new land. Her father's precious fiddle is stolen before Annie spends a single night on dry land. Letters from mother take months to arrive and share sad, painful details of desperate poverty. Her little brother's boss says the Irish are "lazy, reckless spendthrifts," so Tommie runs off and joins a Dickensian gang with an Irish Fagan at the helm. It is not America the beautiful. But Annie's spunk and determination win out, evil is ultimately punished, and the story concludes on a note of hope and optimism. The book reads quickly because there are so many adventures and mishaps; the characters and situations are very real; and the opportunities for discussion are almost endless in comparing this wave of Irish immigration with current immigrant experiences.

Description from Children's Literature

There's no debate when Annie and her brother get a chance to leave famine-ravaged Ireland in 1847 to live with their sister Bridget in New York. The youngsters brave the perilous journey and arrive at the bustling city ready to start anew. Bridget finds a place for them on the domestic staff of the Fairchild household, where she works as a maid, and the siblings look forward to the day when they can bring over the rest of the family. Then reality intervenes: a conniving thief who stole the children's baggage at dockside returns to menace them, and the household staff takes advantage of the younger Quinns, unbeknownst to both Bridget and the Fairchilds. Despite the difficulties, all ends well: plucky Annie triumphs. This well-done historical novel, rich in details about the potato famine and Irish life in mid-nineteenth-century New York, will grab readers with its action-packed plot and strong characterizations.

Description from Booklist

Cutlass in the Snow

By Elizabeth Shub
Shub, who has previously collaborated with Isadora on Seeing is Believing and The White Stallion, deftly portrays the details of the sail across Great South Bay and the excitement of the adventure. She describes the landscape of Fire Island with extraordinary love and care. One is torn between rushing through the book oto see the outcome and lazing over the beautiful prose. It's 1797 and 10-year-old Sam and his grandfather sail from Long Island to Fire Island. Once on the island they find a pirate's cutlass thrust into the snow. It marks the spot where a treasure chest is buried. Isadora's wispy and wonderful black-and-white picturesone per chapterevoke perfectly the period and the warm relationship between grandfther and grandson.

Description from Publishers Weekly

{The author is} a noted translator of folk and fairy tales. . . . Her impressive credits notwithstanding, the author here tells only a slight tale, onein which the possibilities are not developed. . . . Surprisingly, {she} does not take advantage of the dramatic world of piracy. . . . The multilayered illustrations of the award-winning artist and writer Rachel Isadora give vigor tothe adventure. Her drawings . . . sweep across the full page and inform as well as amuse with unexpected detail. . . . Despite shortcomings, the story, which is cleverly brought into the present, will appeal to many young readers. They may be inspired not only to dig for treasure in the sand but to explore other sea adventures and tales of its mythic figures.

Description from The New York Times Book Review

Sweet America: An Immigrant's Story

By Steven Kroll
It's 1889, Tony Petrosino is 14 years old. He comes from a poor village in Italy. He has been in America for two years.

Tony and his family live in a cramped tenement apartment in New York's Little Italy. His papa has seasonal work laying streets. His mamma sews garments and makes artificial flowers at home. Tony, his two brothers, and his sister do what they can help. But Tony wants to do better. Struggling with neighborhood gangs, working as a part-time newsboy, he has learned English and graduated from the eighth grade. Now he'd like more education, but his papa, stuck in Old World ways, says no!

Tony must become a full-time newsboy. He must give more to the family. Tony wants to rebel, but he is loyal to his family. His decision will begin the widening of his experience. His story and its conclusion will fascinate lovers of history and fiction alike.

Description from Publisher

Miracle on 34th Street

By Valentine Davies

(Ornament and Book Gift Set)

Single Book Also Available
Several reissues make a reappearance this season. Leading the list is a facsimile edition of Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies. The handsome volume re-creates the 1947 edition with heavy cream-colored paper and a font that emulates the original hot-metal type.

Description from Publishers Weekly

Trimming the tree and revisiting favorite holiday stories are cherished Christmas traditions in small towns and big cities across the country. This beloved book celebrating the powers of kindness and faith, restored to its original 1947 design, is paired for the first time with an old-fashioned wooden ornament, perfect for handing down-along with warm memories--through generations of believers.

A white-bearded gentleman who appears at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade fills in for an unfit Santa Claus-and is asked to become the store's resident Santa. This Kris Kringle believes he is Santa, as do children from all over the city, and reindeer at the zoo nearby. A few skeptical souls try to have him declared insane, but miraculously, the State of New York, with the help of the U. S. Postal Service, come to the gent's rescue by declaring that he is indeed Santa Claus. Since its first publication in 1947, this tale has been treasured by generations of believers, making this Academy Award-winning story part of holiday traditions all across America. This facsimile edition faithfully re-creates the first hardcover publication, inviting new families or readers to celebrate both the story and the charm of the original design. A brief historical note, new in this edition, details the simultaneous development of the book and film.

Description from Publisher

Behind the Lines

By Isabelle Holland
Centering on the 1863 New York City draft riots, this historical novel abounds with political, racial and moral conflicts--and protagonist Katie O'Farrell is conveniently at the fore of them all. Just before the 1863 New York City draft riots, Katie works as a kitchen maid for the Laceys, an American family of British heritage with a house on Washington Square Park. While she serves tea and cake to the upper crust, she supports her father and siblings, who live in crowded quarters on the Lower East Side with other recent Irish immigrants. When a draft is instituted for soldiers to fight in the Civil War and Christopher Lacey is obliged to register, his parents offer Katie's brother Brian $300 to take his place. Meanwhile, New York's Irish community, enraged by the draft, angry at the abolitionists and frustrated with their lowly status, begins to riot, looting shops and lynching blacks. Holland's ( The Journey Home ) prose is prone to cliche (``Katie stared back at Mr. Lacey, her blue eyes blazing'') and the ending somewhat pat (Katie learns to see her black friend Jimmy as an individual who transcends his racial identity; Jimmy learns that not all Irish are the same), but the novel is well-researched and will appeal to those interested in this turbulent time.

Description from Publishers Weekly

Motherless Katie O'Farrell, 14, works as a live-in maid for the wealthy Lacey family in order to supplement the meager wages of her father and older brother, Brian. Reluctantly, she leaves her younger siblings at home, unsupervised. Ill at ease in this comfortable WASP environment, Katie is treated harshly for being Irish, Catholic, and poor. The year is 1863, and the government begins to conscript young men into the Union army, but allows the wealthy to purchase the services of alternates to fight in their stead for $300. When the Laceys decide to make Katie's brother the target for such an arrangement to save their son, she jeopardizes her job by conspiring to prevent her employers from contacting him; she further endangers herself when she hides a young black friend in the cellar of the Lacey home. Scene after scene of impending disasters and narrow escapes finally end when secrets are revealed and the girl finds allies in the rational Mr. Lacey and his sympathetic mother-in-law. Katie is a vibrant, well-developed character who carries this novel that is mostly populated by minimally drawn representations of the harsh adult world. Holland obviously cares deeply for her heroine and for historical accuracy, but the strain of trying to serve two masters adequately in limited space produces somewhat rushed and cluttered results. Still, the story is skillfully constructed, and the role of the Irish in the Civil War is brought to light. A painless way to fulfill a school assignment.

Description from School Library Journal

Newsies: A Novel

By Jonathan Fast
Starring Robert Duvall and Ann-Margret, the Disney musical film Newsies is the moving story of two New York newsboys who rally their colleagues against unfair practices of publishing giants Hearst and Pulitzer in 1899. This novelized version is illustrated with color stills from the film.

Mary McLean and the St. Patrick's Day Parade

By Steven Kroll
This spring will be Mary's first St. Patrick's Day in America. More than anything she wants to ride in the horse-drawn cart with Mr. Finnegan in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Mr. Finnegan agrees, but on the condition that she brings him a perfect shamrock. A touching story of a young immigrant girl whose wish really does come true . . . with a leprechaun's help. Full color throughout.

Description from Publisher

A St. Patrick's Day picture book that blends realism and folklore. Kroll accurately portrays the difficult life of the Irish immigrants who lived in lower Manhattan in the 1850s and spices this reality with a little Irish magic in the form of a visiting leprechaun. The well-paced and satisfying story focuses on Mary McLean, a girl of nine or so, who dreams of riding in New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade. She is promised this honor if she can find a perfect shamrock somewhere in the snow-covered city. Spurred by her need to lift herself out of the drabness of her daily life, she searches tirelessly, never letting go of her dream. Her quest appears hopeless until she meets a feisty leprechaun with a shamrock; but he tricks her, dashing her hopes. Mary's father comes home on the eve of the big parade and places the shamrock in his jubilant daughter's hands. While Kroll takes delight in presenting details of the period, Dooling appears to be more concerned with the universal aspects of the story. His richly colored oil paintings--``urban realistic'' in style--use light and shade, angle and perspective to bring out the emotional tone of the tale. The pictures have a warm, personal quality and shy away from an elaboration of historical details of costume and setting. In spite of divergent approaches, text and illustration together provide a well-rounded experience containing both fact and feeling. Young readers and listeners will admire Mary's vision and determination and will find, as a bonus, that they have been pleasantly introduced to an important era in our history.

Description from School Library Journal

One-Way to Ansonia

By Judie Angell
The story of a young girl, Rose Olshansky, from her days in New York when she was just a girl, until she decided she was going to Ansonia, Connecticut to begin her new life. Filled with vivid portrayals and moving moments, this journey with Rose is a non-stop adventure!

Description from Publisher

The story of Rose, one of a large Russian Jewish immigrant family, begins as she buys a ticket to Ansonia at Grand Central Station in 1899. Sixteen, she is taking her baby away from the squalor of tenement life. . . . {The story} then goes back to the arrival, six years earlier, of Rose and her siblings in New York; they were to be a surprise for their father's new wife, but they were all hastily put in separate but equally crowded homes and put to work. Rose was the rebel . . . secretly going to night school--secretly because Papa wouldn't approve.

Description from Bull Cent Child Books

Voices After Midnight

By Richard Peck
Chad and Luke hear voices in an old New York City brownstone, and eventually the two are transported to the 1880s and start to follow events that lead to a near tragedy. This entertaining book deserves, and will no doubt have, a wide audience.

Description from Horn Book

Why is Chad so uneasy when his California family rents a town house in New York City? Once there he hears voices--late at night, after midnight in this strange house that's at least one hundred years old.

Then he finds that his younger brother, Luke, hears them, too, and even their older sister Heidi's afraid to stay in the house alone.

As Chad and Luke explore the house, they begin to slip in and out of their own time, back to the winter of 1888. Are the voices they hear crying out for help? Will Chad ignore the voices or plunge into the unknown danger of one handred years before?

Description from Publisher

Back to "New York City Books for Kids"

Still can't find what you're looking for? Search Amazon.com's database directly.

In Association with Amazon.com


(NOTE: The advertisements below have not been placed on the site by its owners. We are not responsible for their content.)