Queens


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.

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Fiction for Beginning Readers



Gina

By Bernard Waber
With a lively rhyming text and energetic line-and-watercolor pictures, the author and illustrator of Ira Says Goodbye (1988) offers another book about moving. When Gina moves to an apartment in Queens, there are no girls her age in the neighborhood. Just boys everywhere. At first she's lonely, but she loves sports, and when she shows that she can slam the ball right over third base, she's part of the crowd. Still, she clings to her dream "of someday seeing other girls play on her team." The story's a bit purposive, but Waber has fun with names and rhymes ("Yusuf, Yakov, Laird, and Sonny. If it weren't so weird, it could have been funny" ). The pictures show that the guys on the street may all be boys, boys galore on every floor, but they come in all shapes and sizes, colors and crews.

Description from Booklist

How Pizza Came to Queens

By Dayal Kaur Khalsa
An Italian visitor to Queens bemoans the unavailability of pizza until some thoughtful girls enable her to make some.

Description from Publisher

May, of My Family Vacation , is staying with her good friends Linda, Judy and Peggy Penny while her parents are away. The Penny family is visited by a distant cousin, elderly Mrs. Pelligrini, who walks through the kitchen door, sniffs the air and immediately declares, ``Is no good.'' The girls notice that the only time the elderly visitor is really happy is when she is cooking, and they all wonder about the mysterious ``pizza'' that Mrs. Pelligrini misses so much. ``Maybe it's her daughter . . . '' says one of the girls. ``Or her dog,'' ventures another. When the girls learn, at the library, the meaning of the word pizza, they copy the list of ingredients and then go shopping. Mrs. Pelligrini, seeing the items the girls have assembled, flies into action, and soon the house is filled with the aroma of the bubbling, baking pie. This amusing story is embellished with Khalsa's intensely colored paintings in her vigorous primitive style, each one brimming with details of family life a few decades ago. The delicious-looking endpapers depict pizza pies falling from a beautiful blue sky.

Description from Publishers Weekly

Can you imagine the world B. P. (before pizza)? When Mrs. Pelligrino visits relatives in a quiet Queens (New York) neighborhood c. 1950, local knowledge of Italian language and cuisine is limited to spaghetti, macaroni, and lasagna. Their glum visitor speaks little English, so the children try without much success both to cheer her up and to understand her reiterated complaint: ``No pizza!'' Finally the girls do a bit of research, and then buy the necessary ingredients. Mrs. Pelligrino is ecstatic and unwraps the rolling pin that she has been cradling. The children are skeptical--their reaction to the recipe had been ``Yuk''--but the finished product thrills everyone. Khalsa's paintings are also satisfying: a wide range of flat, bright colors in her naive style conveys the cheerful simplicity of a lost Eden. The jacket illustration, a smiling Mrs. P. and her four young friends whirling dough aloft, and the pizza-in-the-sky endpapers are particularly successful. Culinary historians may question this version of pizza's advent (and the text might have been shorter), but, like its subject, this product should appeal to popular tastes.

Description from School Library Journal

The story is wonderful. It takes place at some unidentified time in the past (probably late 40s or early 50s), when an elderly Italian relative, Mrs. Pellegrino, pays a visit to Queens and is disappointed to discover there's no pizza there -- but she doesn't speak English well enough to explain what pizza is. The children she visits want to make her happy, so they do everything they can to find out what pizza is so they can get one for Mrs. Pellegrino. They finally find the answer in the library (using a dictionary and then a cookbook), and buy all the ingredients, thinking all the while that a PIE made with TOMATOES sounds disgusting. To say the least, they get a pleasant surprise.

It's a funny and charming story, but it's a lot more than that, too. I think it's very important for children to learn to appreciate other cultures, and a book showing that their favorite food has not been in this country forever, but came over with immigrants, is a great way to help them see foreign cultures and people in a positive way. The children in the story are also great role models. The find Mrs. Pellegrino odd (her difficulty with English even makes her seem a little mean at first), but they are able to put aside their feelings and try to help her feel at home. And they're rewarded for their kindness with their first taste of pizza now there's a reward most kids can appreciate.

Description from Amazon.com Customer Review



Fiction for Older Readers



Lily's Crossing

By Patricia Reilly Giff

Awards:
  • Newbery Honor Book

Elizabeth Mollahan--the Lily of Lily's Crossing--lost her mom when she was little. Her father and a grandmother are her only family. Every summer the three of them flee sweaty New York City for a beach house in New York's Rockaways.

This year though, Lily's father announces that he's enlisted in the Army; days later, he is gone. Alone with her grandmother, Lily sees a long lonely summer ahead. And then, Albert appears. A refugee from the Nazis, his family thrown to the winds, young Albert bears a grief and sadness of his own.

It's a pleasure to read along as Lily and Albert negotiate the pain they feel and the secrets and adventures they share. With subtlety and compassion, this gift of a book reminds us that wars happen to children, too.

[10 and up. Adults should sneak a peek too.]

Description from Amazon.com

Exceptional characterizations and a robust story line turn this WWII homefront novel into far more than a period piece. Spending the summer of '44 at her family's vacation home on the Atlantic, Lily feels angry and deserted when her widower father joins the Army and is sent to Europe just after the Allied invasion. Her ever-critical Gram seems to be breathing down her neck at every turn, and Lily has gotten off on the wrong foot with Albert, the Hungarian refugee boy staying with neighbors. She just can't seem to break out of her self-described role as "a last-row, last-seat kid in school with terrible marks... [who] told lies every other minute." Giff keeps the spotlight off Lily's flaws, refraining as well from overtly linking them to her self-consciousness at being motherless. Rather, she uses them to generate the plot: as Lily and Albert work their way into friendship, Lily tells a lie with unexpected and potentially dangerous consequences. Lily learns her lesson in a resolution that feels psychologically true. In the background, characters cope with wartime shortages, stumble into tragedy as sons and brothers fall in battle-in short, lead complicated lives with the hope of redemption. Closely observed, quickly paced and warmly told, this has all the ingredients that best reward readers.

Description from Publishers Weekly

Set during World War II, this tenderly written story tells of the war's impact on two children, one an American and one a Hungarian refugee. Lily Mollahan, a spirited, sensitive youngster being raised by her grandmother and Poppy, her widower father, has a comfortable routine that includes the family's annual summer migration to Gram's beach house in Rockaway, NY. Lily looks forward to summer's freedom and fishing outings with Poppy. She meets Albert, a Hungarian boy who is staying at a neighbor's house. At first, her fertile imagination convinces her that perhaps Albert is a Nazi spy, but eventually the two become good friends. The war interferes directly with Lily's life when Poppy, an engineer, is sent to Europe to help with clean-up operations. History is brought to life through Giff's well chosen details and descriptions. Both children suffer from the separation from loved ones, and both live with guilt for not having said proper good-byes. Albert even feels that he in some ways betrayed his sister Ruth, who was too ill to make the transatlantic journey. The developing friendship between Lily and Albert, and Albert's plan to swim to Europe to find Ruth, will grab readers' attention and sustain it to book's end. Despite convenient plot twists to reach a happy ending, Giff's well-drawn, believable characters and vivid prose style make this an excellent choice. A fine addition to collections that include Sonia Levitin's Silver Days.

Description from School Library Journal

6-321

By Michael Laser
Sixth grade is a watershed year for Marc Chaikin, a student in Queens, NY in the 1960s. "In just two months I fell in love, watched my family break into pieces, and came this close to getting beat to a pulp...not to mention meeting Mickey Mantle..." Author Laser drew on his own experiences in writing this, as he relates in an afterword, and the well-written story rings true in its careful detailing of Marc's varied experiences. He's afraid of his new teacher at first, but comes to appreciate the man's high standards, and similarly comes to see his love interest, a shy girl who longs to be wild, in a new light. As his parents' relationship deteriorates, and everything around him changes, Marc realizes that he can change also, and he learns to speak out when it matters. This is a heartfelt tale that succeeds in conveying Marc's story while touching on universal themes. For younger YAs in middle school and upper elementary grades.

Description from KLIATT

Marc Chaikin's life has always been stable and steady but he is about to discover hatred and first love. Marc and his friends in 6-321 (the highest academic class) are being bullied by the students in 6-309 (the lowest academic achievers) and anger and hostility are escalating. Meanwhile, he is fighting the most popular boy in class for the affection of Lily Wu, his idea of the perfect girl. On the day of the agreed "big fight," President Kennedy is shot, and priorities suddenly change. Written in a direct style, and set within the narrow confines of Queens, NY, in 1963, this coming-of-age story subtly draws readers in. Laser's uncomplicated language allows his theme about image and expectation to come through clearly.

Description from School Library Journal

The Queens Jazz Trail Map and Walking Tour

By Ephemera Press
While New Orleans may boast that it is the "birthplace of jazz," New York City's borough of Queens has its own proud claim: it has been the "home of jazz," the residence of choice for hundreds of the music's leading players. The award winning Queens Jazz Trail map (originally commissioned by Flushing Town Hall) shows the different neighborhoods and sites that are part of this hidden jazz history. Featuring portraits of jazz greats and drawings of their houses, this pictorial map makes a beautiful poster. The back of the map contains a short history of jazz in Queens; the addresses of homes once occupied by jazz musicians; and sites of current interest to jazz fans.

Each CultureMap explores a specific New York City neighborhood, focusing on the people and places that have made that neighborhood famous. The front side of each publication features a beautifully illustrated pictorial map done by a well-known artist. The backsides provide the itinerary for a neighborhood walking tour that has been carefully researched by a team of educators. CultureMaps are designed for scholars, tourists, locals, students and others interested in history and culture. The maps are available in both a folded format and as unfolded posters suitable for framing.

Description from Publisher



Nonfiction






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