Nana in the City

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Nana in the City Book Poster Image
Vibrant art, gentle story of Nana and a boy's magical cape.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Provides a realistic glimpse of New York City: the subway, the park, people; shows how "security blankets" make kids feel braver; great opportunity to learn about artwork, especially watercolor techniques.

Positive Messages

Feeling scared in new situations is OK. People who love you, especially grandmothers, will help you feel safe. Once you get to know a place, you feel more comfortable and can appreciate the extraordinary things around you. The adventure is worth taking.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nana is kind, sensitive, fun, and creative. She appreciates her grandson for who he is, accepts his fears, and figures out a solution to help him. The grandson is a cute kid who loves and appreciates his Nana, and he trusts that she will look after him. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nana in the City, a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book, is a gentle, warm story about overcoming fears and how a grandparent, or another person you trust, can help. In simple text and bright, energetic, expressive watercolor illustrations, Lauren Castillo captures the bustle and excitement of the city as well as the tenderness between the boy and his Nana. This would be a particularly good book for kids who are about to move to a place that is unfamiliar to them ... or even those embarking on an overnight visit away from home.

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What's the story?

When a young boy visits his Nana in New York City, the noise, the crowds, the subway, and all the other strangeness frighten him. The city is busy and loud and filled with scary things. Nana decides she will take him out to show him all the wonderful things about city life. But first, she knits him a special cape to make him feel braver and help him through the first scary steps. By the end of the story, the cape has done its magic, the boy's world has grown, and he realizes how extraordinary the city is and that it's "the perfect place for Nana to live." 

Is it any good?

Named a Caldecott Honor book in 2015, NANA IN THE CITY is a gentle, reassuring book that does a wonderful job of depicting the very loving relationship between a grandmother and her young grandson. The text is simple, the message is solidly uplifting, and the artwork is fantastic. Castillo paints in vibrant oranges and red watercolors that definitely bring the story to life. Dark lines outlining parts of each illustration make the pictures pop with energy, and effects done with salt bring a gritty texture to sidewalks, streets, and other scenes of the city.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the author-illustrator use illustrations to enhance the text and give context to the adventures and feelings of the boy and his grandmother. How does she use color, or the lack of color, to change the emotion of the story?

  • What do the illustrations tell you about the relationship between the boy and his grandmother? How does she show the boy's changing attitude about the city? How did he feel in the beginning? How does he feel in the end? How do you think he will feel next time he visits?

  • How do you feel when you go someplace that is unfamiliar to you? Have you slept overnight at someplace other than your home? Did your feelings change over time? Did you have something like the boy's cape to make you braver? How do you think that helps?

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