New York City

When the Beat Was Born by Laban Carrick Hill and Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

When the Beat Was Born by Laban Carrick Hill and Illustrated by Theodore Taylor

When the Beat Was Born, by Laban Carrick Hill, is a stunning example of just how wonderfully diverse the world of children's biographies is getting. This picture book offers a look into the life of DJ Kool Herc, one of the founders and innovators of hip-hop music.

Hill's words, when combined with Theodore Taylor III's crisp, colorful illustrations, depict how a boy named Clive left Kingston, Jamaica, for the Bronx. Clive wanted to be a DJ, slinging an arsenal of records and getting crowds amped up at parties.

Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor

Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor

"Stepping in a rhythm to a Kurtis Blow. 
Who needs to think when your feet just go?"

                                                Tom Tom Club - The Genius of Love

Ed Piskor cannot rap or dance. He is no good with turntables or sampling. What Piskor can do is draw, which is why Hip Hop Family Tree is such an important testament to honoring the innovators and pioneers of the culture.

Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City is perhaps the catchiest, most joyous-sounding album to explore death that I have ever heard. The third release from collegiate prep rockers Vampire Weekend shows emotional and musical growth as lead singer Ezra Koening struggles with his own mortality.

Punk: The Best of Punk Magazine by John Holstrom and Bridget Hurd

Punk: The Best of Punk Magazine by John Holstrom and Bridget Hurd

Punk: The Best of Punk Magazine follows the history of New York City's Bowery music scene with actual reprints of the homemade zine's existence from 1976 to 1980. What's captured on these black and white pages is an anti-movement—a reaction against the well-intentioned but ultimately toothless peace and love ethos of the late 60's.

New York was a dump, seemingly destined for ruin. Rock music was gasping for air, trying to find sustenance from the softly vacant likes of Toto, Bread, or Seals and Crofts.

John Holstom and Legs McNeil did not expect things to improve. But when they heard a new band called the Dictators, a change started to manifest. The Dictators wrote songs about hanging out at burger joints, drinking Coca-Cola for breakfast, and being "Teengenerates." It was stupid enough to also be absolutely brilliant, and it encapsulated Holstrom's and McNeil's lives like no other music they were hearing at the time.

Faith Ringgold: Stories in Stitches

Faith Ringgold is an artist who uses different materials to tell the stories that are important to her family and her people. Whether working with quilting squares, African masks, paint and brush, or her own words, Faith gives the rich colors and textures a life of their own. There's motion in her work, a striving upward and pushing at the edges of her world.

I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert

I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag cover

I picked up I Never Promised you a Goodie Bag, by Jennifer Gilbert, thinking that it would be full of hilarious mishaps that occurred at weddings and events that the Save the Date’s CEO had experienced. However, I soon found that it was something more. It is the memoir of a young woman who started out life being fiercely independent, the daughter of wealthy parents who had an import business and were frequently overseas. Jennifer traveled all over without a care in the world until at 22 years old she was attacked in the hallway of her best friends’ apartment. Her friends were too frightened or too selfish to come out, even though Jennifer was screaming for help. The girls in the apartment did call some boyfriends and they came over with baseball bats and drove the attacker away.  

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Meli

Some of my fondest memories from holidays in my childhood are of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television. The magic of the parade with its wonderful balloons signaled the beginning of one of my favorite times of year. But I never gave much thought to the history of the parade and its famous balloons. When I saw the book Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, by Melissa Sweet, I couldn’t resist the chance to meet the man behind the magic.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

August Pullman has a face that only a mother could love, only his mother to be exact. The main character of R.J. Palacio's book Wonder has an extra large forehead. His eyes are much lower than they should be. His mouth always hangs open and his ears are underdeveloped and cauliflower-shaped. What people do not know when they look at August is that they are seeing a very smart, funny, and capable young man.

Empire State by Jason Shiga

Empire State by Jason Shiga

Most love stories don't end with a snowball to the face. Then again, this is no love story.

Empire State, by Jason Shiga, actually starts in the Golden State: Oakland, California. Jimmy works in a library and runs his own Web site. He finds inner peace through repairing books and geeking out over sci-fi movies. As he leaves work one day, we meet his friend Sara, who greets him...with an unprovoked punch in the arm.

Sara's sarcastic and unsatisfied world view is a million miles from Jimmy's acceptance of his uncomplicated life. Still, they both find some comfort and security in each other's presence. Unfortunately for Jimmy, Sara has a yearning to leave Oakland and enter New York City's publishing industry. When she receives an internship, the call is too powerful to resist.

Where's Walrus by Stephen Savage

Where's Walrus by Stephen Savage

All is well at the city zoo. The zookeeper lies back in his chair, grabbing a quick snooze. It is a perfect time…for escape.

Where’s Walrus, written and illustrated by Stephen Savage is a delightful romp through New York City with a flippered fugitive who always knows where he can blend in, outsmarting the zookeeper every step of the way. Our title character first hides in a fountain, pretending to be a mermaid, next we see him in a diner, then a store window. The zookeeper is close behind, but never quite sees through the disguises. Will you?