Nana in the City – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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Don’t you just love the serendipitous discovery that one of your favorite picture books of the previous year that you already have scheduled for this Friday’s Perfect Picture Books just happens to have won a well deserved Caldecott Honor Award this week??!!

nanaTitle: Nana IN THE City

Written and illustrated by: Lauren Castillo

Published by: Clarion Books, 2014

Themes/Topics: city life, nanas, red capes

Suitable for ages: 3-8

Awards: Caldecott Honor, 2015


I went to stay with Nana at her new apartment in the city.


A little boy goes to visit his nana in her new city apartment. His first trip out into this urban world leaves him overwhelmed by the noise and dirt and he worries that the city may not be a great place for his nana to be living. A nana-made, special red cape the next day and  Nana’s promise to show him how wonderful her city is transforms the next day, when even Times Square seems extraordinary to this little boy.

Why I like This Book:

  • It is New York! From the first double paged-spread of Brooklyn Bridge spanning the Hudson to Manhattan, to the pretzel stand and almost being run over by cyclists in Central Park.
  • Who can resist such a spunky, creative, fun-loving nana?
  • Many things in life can appear scary from a child’s perspective including a large metropolis appearing an unsuitable place for one’s grandma. Grandma’s red cape and reassurances help change this child’s perspective from one of fear to awe.
  • It is a story with a quiet narrative arc that packs a punch (which I welcome).
  • The starker, darker color choices at the beginning give way to the thematic red and other bright, warm colors as the boy’s perspective changes.
  • I wouldn’t mind one of these cityscapes in my living room.
  • The city is busy and the city is loud are repeated three times with a wonderful transformation of meaning.
  • The precious vignettes of nana and grandchild, mastery of line, ink and charcoal drawings and choice of blocks of color render these cityscapes both grandiose and intimate. Brava, Lauren, in a great award winning story.


Exactly a year ago in January 2014, I did an interview with Lauren as part of my illustrator interview series and she shares much of her process in creating Nana in the City here.

Discuss with children why the red cape makes such a difference! And in what situations would they want to put on their red capes?

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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17 Responses to Nana in the City – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. jama says:

    So looking forward to seeing this book!

  2. Heather Dent says:

    I just got this book from the library the other day! I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but after this blog post I want to go pull it off the book shelf immediately! The illustrations look gorgeous.

  3. rhythm says:

    Aaahhh! Those serendipitous moments! Love it!! I haven’t read this one yet, but love it just from what I see. All Nanas should be wearing red capes! Super Women all!!

  4. What a charming book about a spunky grandmother and her grandson! Visiting NYC for the first time can be overwhelming. I remember my daughter’s hesitancy at 9 yrs. I think it was the noise and the homeless that disturbed her most. And the crush of people. This is a great book to use before you take a child from an urban city to NYC or a big city. The illustrations are wonderful. Congratulations to Lauren! I really enjoyed your interview with Lauren. The book I selected today just won the Asian Pacific award.

  5. Wendy Greenley says:

    Perhaps we all could use “red cape” perspective. I haven’t seen this one yet (darn those kids at the library for taking it out!) but it is on my list. Love your reasons for liking the book so we get to know you and the book!

  6. Great addition to our list, Joanna! Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful book. Having grown-up in NYC I’m especially drawn to it! 🙂

  7. Joanne Sher says:

    Requesting this one FOR SURE. Looks wonderful!

  8. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    I love New York! This one sounds like winner! Will have to check it out. But I’m thinking of several nanas in NY who might want to share this with their grandkids. Thanks!

  9. What a neat coincidence about the Caldecott. I’ll have to keep my eye out for this one. 🙂

  10. This is a great one. Thanks you adding it to the list. I need to go back to the illustrator interview link.

  11. What a lovely story. Loved how the little boy is concerned about his Grandmother. This is a beautiful way of seeing New York. Reminds me of our visits to the big city that never sleeps. 🙂 Thanks for sharing Joanna.

  12. Clarbojahn says:

    I need a copy of this book!! I am definitely going to request for my library. thanks for introducing it to us, Joanna.

    It reminds me long ago of going to the city in Leeuwarden in Holland with my grandmother right before leaving for the states and being so overwhelmed. This should put me right back there at age six with my only memories of her.

  13. I think if I had a red cape I would definitely go visit the City. Or maybe just a red hat would be enough.

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