Keeping Reading for Children’s Books about New York and New York City!
“New York it’s a helluva town.” Or in this case, it’s a helluva state! New York City has enormous significance on the global and national stage so when people say New York, they think New York City.
But New York as an entire state has a lot to offer: the Erie Canal, Niagara Falls, and the Adirondacks. Upstate New York is filled with gorgeous landscapes and industrial cities. Tourism is big in New York with natural and urban sites to satisfy any tourists.
However, studying and learning about New York, or any state, is more than memorizing its industry and agriculture. My approach to homeschooling involves what as Charlotte Mason coined, living books. Living books are books that make the subject you are studying come alive and are written by people who love the subject.
This book list is divided into 2 sections: New York and New York City. Both lists contain picture books and chapter books about and set in either Upstate (what New Yorkers call everything north of NYC) or New York City All of these books DO make New York come alive to the reader.
ICYMI, click HERE for all the other state book lists!
New York History and Facts
- New York is nicknamed the Empire State referring to the state’s national and global signficance.
- Motto – Ever upward.
- New York became a sate on July 26, 1788. It was the 11th state.
- New York was named in honor of England’s Duke of York.
- Five U.S. Presidents were born in New York: Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Donald Trump.
- Albany is the capital city of New York.
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Descriptions come from Amazon; some are edited for length
Living Books about New York
Children’s Books About New York
Picture Books About New York State
E Is For Empire: A New York Alphabet by Ann Burg
“E is for Empire is an alphabet book that introduces children and adults to New York State’s history, culture, and landscape in a unique two-tiered approach. A quick rhyme offers children facts about New York from A to Z. Alongside each rhyme, older readers gain a deeper understanding of the topic by reading the longer expository text.”
This series of books called Discover America State By State are some of my favorites for introducing a state to kids. Each letter states a fact or a thing about that state. For example, for New York letter A is for Adirondacks and the letter B is for Brooklyn Bridge, and so on. Each letter comes with a four line rhyme about that respective letter’s fact or subject. What I love most is on the side of the page it gives more in-depth description about each subject. It’s a great jumping off point for what sparks an interest in your child!
Picture Books Set in New York State
“The Erie Canal comes to life in this classic children’s book, illustrated by award winning artist Peter Spier, to the words of the familiar folk song, ‘Low Bridge, Everybody down (or Fifteen Years on the Erie Canal)'”
Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers by Karen B. Winnick
“Abraham Lincoln was the first president of the United States to wear a beard. What gave him the idea to grow a beard was a letter he received from an eleven-year-old girl from Westfield, New York, named Grace Bedell. ‘Dear Sir, …if you will let your whiskers grow I will try to get [my brothers] to vote for you. You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you.’ Here is the true story of the determined girl from Westfield whose letter helped create the image of Lincoln that we have today.”
Mirette and Bellini Cross Niagara Falls by Emily Arnold McCully
“With the help of a young immigrant boy they meet on their crossing to America, two famous tightrope walkers manage to survive the treachery of a rival showman. By the creator of the Caldecott Medal book, Mirette on the High Wire.”
The Big Balloon Race by Eleanor Coerr
“Ariel would love to be in the basket of Lucky Star on the day of the big balloon race against Bernard the Brave. Her mother, Carlotta the Great, is the best lady balloonist in America. But Ariel’s parents think she is too young. Little do they know she is asleep in the Odds and Ends box when Carlotta the Great orders ‘Hands off!’ and the balloon race begins. The thrills of Ariel’s first ride in a hydrogen balloon come to life in this story based on a real ballooning family of the late 1800’s. Carolyn Croll’s pictures capture the pageantry and drama of the race, and will have readers rooting to the end for Ariel and her mother.”
Chapter Books Set in New York State
Children of the Longhouse by Joseph Bruchac
“When Ohkwa’ri overhears a group of older boys planning a raid on a neighboring village, he immediately tells his Mohawk elders. He has done the right thing, but he has also made enemies. Grabber and his friends will do anything they can to hurt him, especially during the village-wide game of Tekwaarathon (lacrosse). Ohkwa’ri believes in the path of peace, but can peaceful ways work against Grabber’s wrath?”
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
“The second book in the treasured Little House series, Farmer Boy is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved story of how her husband, Almanzo, grew up. While Laura Ingalls grows up on the prairie, Almanzo Wilder is living on a big farm in New York State. Here Almanzo and his brother and sisters help with the summer planting and fall harvest. In winter there is wood to be chopped and great slabs of ice to be cut from the river and stored. Time for fun comes when the jolly tin peddler visits, or best of all, when the fair comes to town. Almanzo wishes for just one thing (his very own horse) and he must prove that he is ready for such a big responsibility.”
I adore this book. And so did my kids!! They didn’t really get into the Little House books but they LOVED Farmer Boy. And this next book is a HUGE favorite of theirs.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
“Terribly unhappy in his family’s crowded New York City apartment, Sam Gribley runs away to the solitude-and danger-of the mountains, where he finds a side of himself he never knew.”
The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin
“When Pacy’s mom tells her that this is a good year for friends, family, and ‘finding herself,’ Pacy begins searching right away. As the year goes on, she struggles to find her talent, deals with disappointment, makes a new best friend, and discovers just why the Year of the Dog is a lucky one for her after all.”
Living Books About New York City
Picture Books Set in New York City
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber
“Lyle the crocodile lives in a house on East 88th Street in New York City. Lyle enjoys helping the Primm family with everyday chores, and playing with the neighborhood kids. He’s the happiest crocodile any home ever had, until one neighbor insists that Lyle belongs in a zoo! Mr. Grumps and his cat, Loretta, don’t like crocodiles, and everything Lyle does to win them over seems to go wrong. It will take all of Lyle’s charm, and courage, to reveal the hero, and friend, behind the big, crocodile smile.”
“Red and Lulu make their nest in a particularly beautiful evergreen tree. It shades them in the hot months and keeps them cozy in the cold months, and once a year the people who live nearby string lights on their tree and sing a special song: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree. But one day, something unthinkable happens, and Red and Lulu are separated. It will take a miracle for them to find each other again. Luckily, it’s just the season for miracles. A heart-tugging story combining the cheer of Christmas, the magic of New York City, and the real meaning of the holiday season: how important it is to be surrounded by love.”
“In this fascinating and fun take on nonfiction for kids, Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris investigate a seemingly small trait of America’s most emblematic statue. What they find is about more than history, more than art. What they find in the Statue of Liberty’s right foot is the powerful message of acceptance that is essential of an entire country’s creation.”
“Ringgold recounts the dream adventure of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who flies above her apartment-building rooftop looking down on 1939 Harlem. Part autobiographical, part fictional, this allegorical tale sparkles with symbolic and historical references central to African-American culture. “
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift
“On the Manhattan bank of the Hudson River, a small lighthouse, made of steel and painted bright red, proudly protects boats with his faithful beam. One day a great expanse of gray steel, which also shines a bright light into the fog and darkness, is built over it. The little red lighthouse feels insignificant and useless in comparison but soon learns that . . . small can be mighty!”
Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet
“Everyone’s a New Yorker on Thanksgiving Day, when young and old rise early to see what giant new balloons will fill the skies for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Who first invented these ‘upside-down puppets?’ Meet Tony Sarg, puppeteer extraordinaire! In brilliant collage illustrations, the award-winning artist Melissa Sweet tells the story of the puppeteer Tony Sarg, capturing his genius, his dedication, his zest for play, and his long-lasting gift to America, the inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy’s Parade.”
Chapter Books Set in New York City
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
“Tucker is a streetwise city mouse. He thought he’d seen it all. But he’s never met a cricket before, which really isn’t surprising, because, along with his friend Harry Cat, Tucker lives in the very heart of New York City―the Times Square subway station. Chester Cricket never intended to leave his Connecticut meadow. He’d be there still if he hadn’t followed the entrancing aroma of liverwurst right into someone’s picnic basket. Now, like any tourist in the city, he wants to look around. And he could not have found two better guides―and friends―than Tucker and Harry. The trio have many adventures―from taking in the sights and sounds of Broadway to escaping a smoky fire.”
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
“When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere, to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. And so, after some careful planning, she and her younger brother, Jamie, escaped — right into a mystery that made headlines!”
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
“The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.”
“Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds, and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?”
The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
“Meet the Melendys! The four Melendy children live with their father and Cuffy, their beloved housekeeper, in a worn but comfortable brownstone in New York City. Tired of wasting Saturdays doing nothing but wishing for larger allowances, the four Melendys jump at Randy’s idea to start the Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club (I.S.A.A.C.). If they pool their resources and take turns spending the whole amount, they can each have at least one memorable Saturday afternoon of their own. Before long, I.S.A.A.C. is in operation and every Saturday is definitely one to remember.”
Books Set in New York (for Mom!)
I love to read, and I love a good theme or challenge for a reading list. So my final two books on this book list are one adult fiction and one adult non-fiction.
Fiction Book Set in New York
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. First published in 1925, this quintessential novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the mysteriously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.”
Non-fiction Book Set In New York
“Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists’ ascent, a prelude to fame.”
And there you have it! 20 living books about New York. It is my hope that this book list provides you with JUST ONE book to share with your kids.
From Times Square to the Erie Canal, and from Upstate to New York City, I hope you find some fun things to learn about New York!
Don’t forget to check out the others states!
- New Jersey
- South Carolina
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- New Mexico
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