5 Picture Perfect Spots From 5 Perfect Picture Books

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What kiddo wouldn’t love stepping straight into a favorite storybook? Maybe Whoville, or where the Wild Things rumpus, or the room with the little old lady whispering “Hush” aren’t available for drop-in visits, but, lucky you – because all of New York City is a storybook setting! For families in the five boroughs, there are a myriad of opportunities to bring your child’s favorite bedtime stories to life. Check out some of our top picks for taking a picture book tour:

You Can’t Take a Balloon Into The Metropolitan Museum
The Story: This book has no words, just pictures, to tell the tale of a little girl out on the town with her grandmother who is stopped from bringing a yellow balloon into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They tie it up outside but, what do you know – a mischievous pigeon comes along to set it free. As the little girl and her grandma enjoy the sights inside the museum, the frisky balloon takes its own tour of the city, passing by such landmarks as the Metropolitan Opera, Central Park and the Plaza Hotel (where old friend Eloise resides, natch).

Where to go: Following in the intrepid balloon’s footsteps would take you all over the city. But, if you’d like to get your fill under one roof, start at the Met, located on 1000 Fifth Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge
The Story: Manhattan’s only remaining lighthouse was first made famous by this 1942 children’s book filled with atmospheric illustrations of a majestic, steel bridge looming over a bustling waterfront along the Hudson river and overlooking New York City “where the people lived.” The lighthouse, you see, was a very happy lighthouse – until the great big bridge was built right over it’s head, and then the lighthouse felt a touch threatened. However, the two eventually learned to live in peace and accept that each has an important job to do. Over a hundred years later, the bridge is still there, of course, and so, miraculously, is the little red lighthouse in Fort Washington Park. In 1948, the Coast Guard decommissioned and intended to sell it, but public outcry – primarily triggered by the book suggesting that lighthouses had feelings, and if it was upset about the bridge, imagine what being discarded would do to it – was so great, the plan was ultimately scrapped.

Where to go: Freshly repainted in 2000 (before that, it was kind of The Little Dingy Lighthouse), this family-friendly landmark is once again open for visitors to Upper Manhattan.

Mermaids on Parade
The Story: Vibrantly colorful drawings of Coney Island in Brooklyn cover every page of this tale about a little girl excited to march in the annual Mermaid Parade dressed up as a “Shy Mermaid Coming Out of Her Shell.” All the key sights are here, including Astroland’s Cyclone, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, the sandy boardwalk, and all the equally colorful characters who populate it. The book even comes with instructions for making your own mermaid’s tale!

Where to go: 2013’s parade date has already been set for Saturday, June 22 at 1:00 pm, and registration will be opening shortly. The Mermaid Parade is the largest art parade in the nation. Created as a celebration of the ancient mythology and honky-tonk rituals of the seaside, it showcases over 1,500 creative individuals from all over the five boroughs in an all-out welcome to summer. So read all about it – and go!

The Story: In New York City, where boys and girls take intelligence tests at the age of four for admission to kindergarten, nothing is more important than knowing your ABC’s (and your 1-2-3’s; and being able to recognize complex patterns while bubbling in the correct answer sheet). But while most teaching picture books offer up the standard, A is for Apple, B is Ball, C is for Cat, ABC in NYC boasts images city kids can really relate to.

Where to go: Hunt for all of the items in the book in your neighborhood and beyond. A is for Apartment Building. B is for Bagel. C is for Chrysler Building. D is for Dumpsters. And E is for Empire State Building. Also G for Graffiti, H for Horse and Carriage, L for Lady Liberty, M is for Metrocard… you get the idea. Plenty of places to visit. Plenty of opportunities to learn, NYC-style.

Danny and the Dinosaur
The Story: Danny and the Dinosaur might not take place in NYC proper (when he goes home to play hide-and-seek with his new friend, the area definitely screams suburbia; though it could be some areas of Brooklyn, Queens, even Riverdale). But are you aware of another museum that features Indians, bears, Eskimos and, of course, dinosaurs?

Where to go: Danny is at the American Museum of Natural History on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. And you could be, too! (For info on their non-dinosaur exhibits, click here).

Want more NYC storybook fun? For more on children’s picture books and illustrations, check out our piece on the Museum of American Illustration. And for walking tours of classic NYC chapter books, see Eloise at the Plaza and Stuart Little.

— Alina Adams

Images courtesy of Amazon.com & Luciefocus