This Wednesday brings about another great winner: Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo. As one of the six Caldecott Honor Books from 2015, Nana in the City presents a relatively low-key and simple story of a boy visiting his grandmother in the city. The boy is afraid of the loud noises and big sights, but by the end of the story, he sees just how wonderful the city could be.
The words and illustrations, both of which come from the imagination of Lauren Castillo, blend seamlessly together to create beautiful art. There is a combination of vibrant pictures that fill entire pages as well as illustrations that are more muted and include more white space. The pictures in the first half of the story seem to convey a colder and overwhelming view of the city since the boy is so afraid.
Contrastingly, when the boy is safe and sound in his grandmother’s home, the pictures become more subdued and peaceful with more white space to support more words. These moments of tranquility allow the boy to process his day and enjoy some time with his nana. The next morning, his nana gives him a red cape to make him brave. When the boy goes out with his nana and the red cape, the illustrations combine both the vibrant pictures with the more peaceful tone to create a welcoming view of the city.
I think this story is best suited for children between the ages of 4 and 6. The language includes some words that may need explanation for this age group such as “bustling,” “rumbles,” and “extraordinary.” However, children would still understand the book and be introduced to new vocabulary.
Nana in the City also introduces the wonderful theme of stepping outside of your comfort zone to children. I would talk with a group of students about what they use or do to comfort themselves in new situations so that they can explore their own life and perhaps discover new techniques to handle novelty. Although some things, like going into the busy city for the first time, seem intimidating, children can see that being brave and taking this great step into the unknown could introduce them to something that they actually love. Everything is new at one point, but we shouldn’t be afraid of these new experiences. So pick up this book, and dive into the unknown with Lauren Castillo’s Nana in the City.
By: Mary Smith