Life in the City: Books for Young Children
Life in the big city is filled with lots of sights, sounds, smells, and new people to meet and greet! These books capture life in the city from a child's point of view and all of the adventures that await children outside their door.
For related books and activities, see the following:
- Out and About with Preschoolers – also available in Spanish, Polish, Korean, and Chinese (Illinois Early Learning Project)
- Reading Rockets' themed booklists
- Parent Reading Tip Sheets for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers in 13 Languages (Colorín Colorado)
A New Kind of Wild
When Ren moves to Ava's city, he feels lost without his wild. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic, where everything is exactly what it seems? Of course, not everything in the city is what meets the eye, and as Ren discovers, nothing makes you feel at home quite like a friend. Inspired by the stories her father told her about moving from Puerto Rico to New York as a child, Zara González Hoang's author-illustrator debut is an imaginative exploration of the true meaning of "home."
Block Party (Confetti Kids)
The neighborhood is having a block party where everyone is responsible for bringing a food dish. Padma is excited about the party until she learns that her mother is planning to bring lentil soup. Padma thinks soup is so boring! Everyone else will bring fun things like pizza or hot dogs. Plus Padma worries that her friends won’t like the soup—but to her delight, she discovers that they not only like the soup, they want to learn how to make it.
Boogie Boogie, Y’all
The city is alive with vibrant art in every corner of the parks, the shops, the trains. But most people are too busy to see it — or worse, choose to ignore it! When three children stop to marvel at the art around their community, they realize it’s up to them to show everyone else how truly special it is when art and reality dance together so seamlessly.
Carmela Full of Wishes
When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her wish has already come true — she's finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. Together, they travel through their neighborhood, past the crowded bus stop, the fenced-off repair shop, and the panadería, until they arrive at the Laundromat, where Carmela finds a lone dandelion growing in the pavement. But before she can blow its white fluff away, her brother tells her she has to make a wish. If only she can think of just the right wish to make...
Cherries and Cherry Pits
Bidemmi is a budding artist and a careful observer of the world around her. As she weaves together stories and drawings of the people in her neighborhood, she ties the tales together through cherries — buying them, sharing them, and enjoying them. Learn how Bidemmi uses cherries to create her vision for the future in this brightly colored and softly crafted book that understands and speaks to young children.
From "10 horns beeping" to "2 bikes growling" a baby sleeps on. But when "… 1 bird begins to twitter," a smiling baby awakens! City sounds and sights abound in stylized illustrations and satisfying, rhythmic language of this cumulative rhyme.
Join a young girl as she travels around her city noticing different shapes on buses, kites, and more. Collage and paint illustrations and a lyrical text create a memorable journey while encouraging close observation.
Come on, Rain
Tessie, the child narrator, is the first to see the long-awaited rain clouds form. She and her neighbors celebrate the long awaited relief from the summer hear and dry spell in poetic language and loose but lively, luminous watercolor illustrations.
Coquí in the City
Miguel's pet frog, Coquí, is always with him: as he greets his neighbors in San Juan, buys quesitos from the panadería, and listens to his abuelo's story about meeting baseball legend Roberto Clemente. Then Miguel learns that he and his parents are moving to the U.S. mainland, which means leaving his beloved grandparents, home in Puerto Rico, and even Coquí behind. Life in New York City is overwhelming, with unfamiliar buildings, foods, and people.
Follow That Map! (Confetti Kids)
Five friends from diverse backgrounds learn how to navigate common childhood challenges, new experiences, and the world around them in the realistic and kid-friendly Confetti Kids early chapter books.Pablo and his friends want to spend the last day of summer at Coney Island. They can ride bumper cars or play ring toss--there's so much to do! But first, they need to figure out how to get to Coney Island from their neighborhood.
Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey
In this warm holiday story, a young Puerto Rican boy saves the life of his pet turkey on Thanksgiving with help from his close-knit New York City family and neighborhood. Spanish vocabulary is woven into the text. Spanish version available.
How Do You Wokka-Wokka?
The narrator begins his neighborhood trek with an infectious rhyme, saying that some days "you just gotta wokka." In fact, he is so infectious that others join him to say and show how they wokka-wokka, too. Lively illustrations and playful nonsense rhymes make this a joyful walk down any street.
Jack and the Beanstalk
The traditional tale of a boy who planted magic beans is reimagined as a city story of a spell broken. Illustrations are photographs that have been manipulated for good effect.
Last Stop on Market Street
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn't he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them. Winner 2016 Newbery Award.
Lily's New Home (Confetti Kids)
Lily and her parents move from their suburban neighborhood to New York City. Lily is used to living in a house on a quiet street. When they arrive at their new apartment, Lily notices the amount of activity all around. Kids play jump rope on one corner. Buses and taxis zoom by. Lily feels like a small ant on such a busy block and worries that she’ll never feel at home. As she and her parents explore their new, multicultural neighborhood, Lily discovers that sometimes change can be a good thing.
Max Found Two Sticks
Max recreates the city rhythms all around him with his two sticks. His imaginative play reaches a climax when a real marching band comes down his street and a drummer gives him a pair of drumsticks. Pinkney’s animated scratchboard illustrations further enliven the text.
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood
What good can a splash of color do in a town that is gray? As Mira and her neighbors discover, more than you might ever imagine! Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, Maybe Something Beautiful reveals how art can inspire transformation—and how even the smallest artists can accomplish something big. Pick up a paintbrush and join the celebration!
Music Time (Confetti Kids)
Henry dreams of becoming a rock star drummer and practices at home whenever he can. One day while Henry is drumming, his mom has to work, and asks him to stop playing. Henry decides to go outside to play his drum and he sees his friends. Henry wants to keep practicing, but he also wants to play with his friends. By playing Freeze Dance, he can do both. And when his mother finishes work that evening, they figure out how to enjoy music together too.
It's a New Year in Chinatown, but one little boy from Hong Kong wonders, "How can it ever be a good year thousands of miles from home?" As he moves through the seasons, however, New York finally begins to feel like home. Told in verse, these poems capture the challenges of adapting to a new life from a child's point of view. Vivid paintings with a photograph-like quality bring the poems to life.
Nim and the War Effort
Nim, a young girl living in San Francisco's Chinatown during World War II, is determined to collect the tallest stack of newspapers to support her school's newspaper drive and the national ongoing war effort. The story and its evocative illustrations depict the cultural traditions and quiet determination of a Chinese American family trying to embrace their American identity while the country is at war with Japan.
Red Is a Dragon: A Book of Colors
Product Description: In this lively concept book a little girl discovers a rainbow of colors in the world around her. Red is a dragon in the Chinese New Year parade, yellow are the taxis she sees on her street, green are jade bracelets and the crunchy kale growing in her garden. Many of the featured objects are Asian in origin, and all are universal in appeal. With rich, boisterous illustrations, a fun-to-read rhyming text and an informative glossary, this colorful book will brighten every child's day!
Round Is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes
A girl discovers things that are round, square, and rectangular in her urban neighborhood. A gently rhyming text and crisply lined illustrations reveal many things that are universally recognizable as well as others that come from the child's Chinese background.
Mama, Carmelita, and their dog Manny greet people in their diverse neighborhood as they walk to see Abuela Rosa. Everyone says "hello" but in their own language — ranging from Italian and French to Hebrew and Arabic to slang American greetings. It is Manny's "woof," however, that is universal. Textured illustrations make Carmelita’s community familiar and accessible.
A young girl learns to find beauty in her sometimes gritty urban neighborhood, showing how the way one sees makes a difference that affects others. Luminous watercolors detail the child, her neighborhood, and suggest what she sees around her.
Buckle up as a toddler's tantrum is cleverly averted when a loving dad transforms an everyday neighborhood stroll into an extraordinary adventure. Brought to brilliantly-colored, kinetic life by award-winning artists Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay, Strollercoaster sings with details of a diverse and vibrant urban neighborhood bursting with life, enhanced by Spanish words embedded in the art. It's the best ride in town!
"Down, down, down…now off we go!" begins a journey on city subways from Washington DC to Moscow and more. This short, fantastic, colorfully illustrated trip ends with a brief description of the real transit systems described.
The Snowy Day
The Snowy Day is the simple, beloved tale of a boy waking up to discover that snow has fallen during the night. The little boy celebrates the snow-draped city with a day of humble adventures. Spanish version available.
Tía Isa Wants a Car
The narrator and her aunt work to save money to buy a shiny green car to take them to the sea. Though it takes time, Tía Isa and her niece reach their goal and buy the car that brings them to the beach. Cheerful illustrations and an upbeat narration with a sprinkling of Spanish words create recognizable characters in a realistic setting based on the author's childhood memories. Also available in Spanish.
An African American boy experiences the excitement of his very first train ride with his parents. Spanish version available.
We Play Music
It’s a celebration of sound when a group of neighborhood children gather on a stoop to play their instruments. Spanish version available.
Winter Walk in the City
Take a walk through the city in winter and experience the sights, sounds, colors, and smells of the multitude of different holidays we celebrate this season. From Hanukkah and Christmas to Mawlid al-Nabi and Chinese New Year, everyone has a reason to celebrate. With simple rhymes, a counting pattern, and stunning papercraft art reminiscent of Ezra Jack Keats, this diverse board book is the perfect introduction to the cultural melting pot that makes the city so special.
See more great related resources and videos in our Multicultural Literature section!