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5 Great Books Set in New York City Neighborhoods

Laura Tucker | The Children’s Book Review | August 23, 2019

Neighborhoods in New York have an astonishing specificity. Blocks are like microclimates, wildly variable and subject to change. My book, All the Greys on Greene Street is set in New York’s SoHo at the beginning of the 1980s; if I’d set the story five years before or five years after, the neighborhood—which is practically a character—would have looked and felt very different.

Here are some great New York books, completely ensconced in their time and place.

Jenny and the Cat ClubJenny and the Cat Club

Written by Esther Averill

This one is set in a very cozy West Village, where Jenny’s human, a sea captain, has a little house. Averill sketches some real New York types here, nimbly disguised as cats. The story is beautiful: Shy, gentle Jenny learns to be brave—or, more accurately, to follow her heart even though she’s frightened. Everyone needs a red scarf.

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Ages 5-9 | Publisher: NYR Children’s Collection | 2003 (New Edition) | ISBN-13: 978-1590170472

Stars Beneath Our Feet CoverThe Stars Beneath Our Feet

Written by David Barclay Moore

This novel is set in Harlem, divided in more ways than one. The language is gorgeous, and a cinematic attention to detail strengthens the book’s impeccable sense of place. I loved Lolly’s voice—his bravery and clear-headedness, even as he struggles with heartbreaking tragedy and change.

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Ages 10+ | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1524701246

The Tattooed Potato and Other CluesThe Tattooed Potato and Other Clues

Written by Ellen Raskin

This is set in a brownstone in New York’s bohemian West Village, home to artists and gangsters and other misfits. It’s about art and crime (my book is too!) and it’s deeply, deeply weird. I’d entirely forgotten I’d read it until I was about ten pages in, when an ancient familiarity burbled up out of my unconscious and I realized I’d been carrying some of these images around for a really long time. I’d love to read it with a kid so I could hear what they thought of it.

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Ages 10+ | Publisher: Puffin Books | 2011 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0142416990

Liar and SpyLiar & Spy

Written by Rebecca Stead

Stead’s books are all great New York books, but I chose Liar and Spybecause a) it’s set in Brooklyn, where I live, and b) it captures a quintessential New York rite of passage, which is to become obsessed (usually by inventing a mystery implicating them) with one of your neighbors in the building. I also can’t think of another novel that so perfectly captures the kind of not-quite-right friendship that’s at the center of this book.

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Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Yearling | 2013 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0375850875

AllOfAKindFamilyAll-of-a-Kind Family

Written by Sydney Taylor

This series is set on Lower East Side in the early 1900s, when it was a Jewish enclave. I loved this series, and was happy to discover how well the books held up when I reread them with my daughter. (It’s fun to go to Economy Candy to replicate the trip the girls take to buy penny candy.) The writing is lovely—formal and careful—and the sisters are completely relatable. The love Taylor felt for the neighborhood she grew up in, despite the poverty and difficulty, shines through.

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Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Yearling | 1984 | ISBN-13: 978-0440400592

About Laura Tucker

Laura Tucker has coauthored more than twenty books, including two New York Times bestselling memoirs. She grew up in New York City around the same time as Olympia, and now lives in Brooklyn with her daughter and husband; on Sunday mornings, you can find her at the door of Buttermilk Channel, one of their two restaurants. She is a cat person who cheats with dogs. All the Greys on Greene Street is her first novel.

For more information, visit: lauratuckerbooks.com

All the Greys on Greene StreetAll the Greys on Greene Street

Written by Laura Tucker

SoHo, 1981. Twelve-year-old Olympia is an artist–and in her neighborhood, that’s normal. Her dad and his business partner Apollo bring antique paintings back to life, while her mother makes intricate sculptures in a corner of their loft, leaving Ollie to roam the streets of New York with her best friends Richard and Alex, drawing everything that catches her eye.

Then everything falls apart. Ollie’s dad disappears in the middle of the night, leaving her only a cryptic note and instructions to destroy it. Her mom has gone to bed, and she’s not getting up. Apollo is hiding something, Alex is acting strange, and Richard has questions about the mysterious stranger he saw outside. And someone keeps calling, looking for a missing piece of art. . . .

Olympia knows her dad is the key–but first, she has to find him, and time is running out.

Lauded by critics in five starred reviews, All the Greys on Greene Street has been called “a remarkable debut” and “a triumph.”

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | June 4, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0451479532

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Laura Tucker, author of All the Greys on Greene Street, selected the middle grade novels for this book list: 5 Great Books Set in New York City Neighborhoods. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with , and .

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.


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