Writers abound in Brooklyn: you trip over them in the park, bump into them in the street, stand beside them on the subway. And among them, writers and illustrators of children's books form an honorable sub set. There are also those writers who draw on memories of Brooklyn but have abandoned their native borough for reasons I cannot fathom. This week the children's bookshelf of the Brooklyn Collection has received two new additions--which reminded me that there are some fine older titles resting on it too. When a harried parent with a toddler must finish an assignment, these are among the volumes we call upon to amuse and delight.
New and charming, if a little verbose for the rugrats, is the ABC's of Brooklyn, an alphabet illustrated with photographs of every corner of Brooklyn, including "J is for just one rider on a jaunt by Jamaica Bay," and "D is for a dramatic doorway design" featuring the facade of our very own Central Library. The book also covers numbers 1-10 through Brooklyn themes. This is an amusing and useful book for Brooklyn parents and children -- and for those unfortunate enough to live in other places -- who will surely be inspired to create their own personal alphabets.
Also new! Ann Rosen's In the Presence of Family: Brooklyn Portraits takes a loving look at Brooklyn families with roots in every part of the world. Rosen's photographs capture their subjects in celebratory mood, and the joyful images are supplemented by brief descriptions of family background.
Turning to fiction and autobiography, Myron Uhlberg in his Flying Over Brooklyn recalls a day in 1947 when, as a boy, he awoke to a world transformed by several feet of snow. As he is sledding in the park, he imagines flying to all of his favorite Brooklyn places, which are magically captured in Gerald Fitzgerald's illustrations.
Mari Takabayashi's Brooklyn is a jewelled city in which the rhythm of the days and seasons are realized in glowing color and careful detail.
Alas, out of print is Jonathan Frost's Gowanus Dogs, the story of a homeless man who rescues--and is rescued by--a stray dog. You can't get sappier than that, but the black and white illustrations, of dogs tearing apart bags of trash, a sleeping spot under the BQE, pigeons swooping over the canal, are gritty and true, and executed with uncommon skill.