Thursday, April 16, 2015

Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo

Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo
Clarion Books

Rating: 5 stars

I'm always curious who wins the Caldecott and I like to get in on the prediction excitement with my kids. But while I love good illustrations and am glad there's an award for it, sometimes the story in a Caldecott winner falls short.

But that's not the case with this recent Caldecott honor book. Nana in the City has both: great story and incredible illustrations.

A young boy goes to visit his nana who--you've probably guessed--lives in the city. Specifically, New York City. The boy seems to have the expectation many of us do about grandmothers: they should be in a quiet place, taking care of kids, looking after the grandfather in the picture. Even I agree this stereotype is comforting (though flawed)...

But this boy's Nana is different.

"For you to wear on our walk today," she said.
"You'll see that the city is not scary at all."
When her grandson expresses his concern that "a city isn't a place for a nana," she smiles. She agrees that the city is loud and busy--but thinks it is more extraordinary than dangerous. She doesn't discredit his opinion, but she invites him to go along with her the following day to see the city through her eyes. During a night full of new sounds and not much sleep for her grandson, Nana sits and knits (that's grandmotherly, right?) and watches over him.

Before they set out on their adventure, Nana gives the boy what she's been knitting: a red cape. It makes him feel brave!

With few words and gorgeous illustrations, Castillo shows the boy and the reader the good sides of being loud (a funky breakdancer performing in the street), being busy (a bustling picnic area in the park), and being extraordinary (downtown Broadway area, with bright lights all around).

When it's time for the boy to leave, he agrees: A city is the perfect place for his Nana. And for him to visit. He gives the cape to Nana, so she'll be brave after he leaves.

I can't begin to tell you how talented Lauren Castillo is, but click HERE for a little glimpse of Amazing--there are some of the sketches for Nana in the City, how she uses salt to add depth to a picture, and a five-second video of her flipping through her sketchbook. In my next life, I'd like cool and quirky, warm and sweet characters to come from my fingertips, too...

If this book doesn't leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling, I'm not sure what will!

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