Recently, I visited New York City for the first time. I've seen tall buildings before, I've seen crowded urban areas before, and I've even seen NYC before...though only in the movies. There is nothing quite like it, and there really is a electric feeling of energy, combined with architectural wonders, street vendors, Central Park (along with great baseball fans, and very friendly people).
I mention all this becasue "My New York" is an eye-popping, dazzling work that reaches out to you like your first ice cream sundae. At the bottom of each page, Kathy Jacobsen describes (through her narrator, "Becky") the sometimes majestic scenes that she experienced in her eight year stay in the city. The book focuses on Manhattan, fans of Brooklyn and Queens, etc. might feel slighted. Her elaborate, often densely populated pictures include the public library (the one picture where she errs--see below), the zoo on Fifth Avenue and 64th street (there's a nice map of Manhattan in the beginning), an intimate view of the D'Aluto cheesecake store, the underbelly of the aircraft carrier, "Intrepid," a three-panel foldout of the Empire State Building, with a similarly sized view from the top of the building on the opposite side!
Like a Florence Ziegfield show, the can-you-top-this pictures (and the nicely-pitched descriptions) don't let up. There's the inside of the FAO Schwarz toy store, three or four stories showing on one page! Th Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. bird's-eye view of July 4th fireworks exploding over the tall ships and the Manhattan skyline, Central Park, dinosaurs in the atural History Museum, the MET, the Apollo Theater in Harlem (advertising "Amateur Niht"), a nighttime parade in Chinatown, and, of course, RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL and the ROCKETTES doing a Christmas program! Yet there's more, including the Macy's parade, the New Year's Eve ball dropping in Times Square, and games and facts at the conclusion. The book seems longer than it is because of the exciting, detailed pictures--it's almost too much to read at one time.
I agree that the book has too many sly references to friends and who-knows-what other allusions to things that Ms. Jacobsen enjoys or wants to promote. While this is somewhat of a tradition in kids' books, she really overdoes it here. Yet this is a problem only on the opening spread showing the New York Public Library; elsewhere the references are either more subdued or more publicly known. The Public Library spread is annoying also because she includes some very vague-looking drawings of celebrities, whom you can try to locate if you choose. Still, the excessive nature of this scene is easily overlooked given the talent and energy that Ms. Jacobsen brings to the rest of the book.
"My New York is very attractively priced as of this date, and the varied references (sigh--but no Yankee Stadium) will appeal to kids with different interests. Also, I don't think the pictures are in the "folk art" style; the shadings, contrasts, and slightly loopy drawings of people (think "Nancy" or "Little Orphan Annie") evince more of a very early comic strip sensibility. Ultimately, this is a very satisfying book, a large and luminous look at the grandeur of New York City. I think I'll be going back there soon.