Little Italy

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 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.

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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

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Books for Beginning Readers

Peppe the Lamplighter

By Elisa Bartone

  • 1994 Caldecott Honor Book

Peppe, a young immigrant, lives in a tenement in Little Italy in the early 1900s. His mother is dead, his father is ill, and the boy must help support his eight sisters. The street lamplighter offers him a temporary job, and Peppe accepts with pride and excitement. His father disapproves, but the girls encourage him. Peppe imagines each light to be ``a small flame of promise for the future'' and makes a wish for those he loves at each lamp. His father's continued disapproval discourages him and makes him so ashamed that one night he gives up. This night, his youngest sister does not come home because she is afraid of the dark. Peppe's father then pleads with him to light the lamps, admitting it is an important job. This is a pleasant story about a boy's aspirations and the values that shape character. The brilliant color illustrations are perfect in capturing the flavor of the neighborhood. They give a strong sense of time and place. The play of light from the streetlamps and kerosene lamps is especially striking, and the composition of each page is so embracing that readers will feel taken in, whether it is an interior scene or a sweeping streetscape. A solid, refreshing selection that can stand on its own, but would be great to use with immigrant studies.

Description from School Library Journal

The story avoids sentimentality in favor of simplicity and a touch of lyricism (when Peppe lights the lamps he imagines each one to be a 'small flame of promise for the future'); Peppe's quiet quest for familial respect and pleasure in his work is touching and rhythmically written. The early-American city scenes are dark but have a nice period luminescence in the myriad street and table lamps, and the earth-toned watercolors lend the bustling streets and interiors of Little Italy an air both somber and lively. This is a pleasing kid-centered slice of history that possesses a warmth and dignity to which contemporary youngsters will relate.

Description from Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

American Too

By Elisa Bartone
From the same team behind Peppe the Lamplighter, another moving tale of Italian immigrants on Mulberry Street. Rosina thinks she must shed her Italian ways to be really American. She insists that her parents call her Rosie, and she changes her doll's name from Allesandra to the good "American" name of Meghan O'Hara. While her family speaks Italian, waving their hands around, Rosie sits on her hands and answers in English. And when Papa tells her that she'll be the queen of the feast of San Gennaro, she storms, Why do we always have to do Italian things? This is America, not Italy!

While gazing at the Statue of Liberty, she has a wonderful idea--a way to be American and Italian, too, a way to have the best of both worlds. Bartone's prose is tight and well-paced with subtle touches of humor. Lewin's glowing illustrations, carefully researched for historical detail, make Rosie and her surroundings palpable.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

Set in the Little Italy of post-WWI Manhattan, this uplifting companion to the Caldecott Honor book Peppe the Lamplighter introduces a feisty girl who emigrates from Italy with her family. As their ship arrives in New York, Rosina spies the Statue of Liberty and announces that she wants to wear a dress and crown and carry a torch, just like that grand lady. Determined to be "a modern American girl," she changes her name to Rosie, refuses to eat the eggplant her mother packs in her school lunch and tells her parents she will not play the queen in the annual feast of San Gennaro. But as she watches the preparations for the Italian feast day, Rosie hatches a plan that lets her participate in the celebration yet prove her allegiance to her new country. The likable heroine and judicious details about the setting help distill the experience of new Americans caught between two cultures. Lewin's stunning paintings, often so clearly focused and lifelike as to resemble photographs, convey the flavor of the periodin clothing, decor, architectureas well as Rosie's highly charged emotions.

Description from Publishers Weekly

Books for Older Readers

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

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