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.

Related activities

For related books and activities, see the following:

Block Party (Confetti Kids)

Illustrated by: Shirley Ng-Benitez
Age Level: 3-6

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.

Cherries and Cherry Pits

Age Level: 3-6

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.

City Lullaby

Illustrated by: Carll Cneut
Age Level: 3-6

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.

City Shapes

Illustrated by: Bryan Collier
Age Level: 3-6

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

Illustrated by: Jon J Muth
Age Level: 3-6

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.

Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey

Illustrated by: Joe Cepeda
Age Level: 3-6

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?

Illustrated by: Randy Cecil
Age Level: 3-6

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

Age Level: 3-6

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

Illustrated by: Christian Robinson
Age Level: 6-9

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!)

By: Paula Yoo
Age Level: 3-6

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

Age Level: 3-6

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

Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9

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! 

My Chinatown

By: Kam Mak
Age Level: 6-9

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

Age Level: 6-9

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

Illustrated by: Grace Lin
Age Level: 3-6

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

Illustrated by: Grace Lin
Age Level: 3-6

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.

Say Hello

Age Level: 0-3

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.

Something Beautiful

Illustrated by: Chris K. Soentpiet
Age Level: 3-6

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.

Subway Ride

Illustrated by: Sue Rama
Age Level: 3-6

"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

Age Level: 0-3
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

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

Illustrated by: Claudio Muñoz
Age Level: 3-6

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.

Train Ride

Age Level: 3-6
Language: Spanish

An African American boy experiences the excitement of his very first train ride with his parents. Spanish version available.

We Play Music

Age Level: 3-6
Language: Spanish

It’s a celebration of sound when a group of neighborhood children gather on a stoop to play their instruments. Spanish version available.