Friday, March 8, 2013

Is there a new urbanist, or city-friendly, children’s book out there?

A couple weeks ago, I received a great gift in the mail.  My wife and I had a baby girl back in Little House
September, and the gift was from a mentor of mine, Fred Etzel, an adjunct who has taught land use law at Berkeley’s city planning program for decades.  The gift was The Little House, the 1943-classic by Virginia Lee Burton.  I was so excited to receive this because I realized, as I read it to my daughter, that I had read this book as a child, that I loved the pictures then, and that it was probably the first time in my life that I was interested in land use!  I was excited to be able to share this passion with my daughter.

As we read, though, I began to think about the overarching message of the book.  For those who haven’t read the book (spoiler alert:  plot summary ahead!), it follows the life of a house that lives on a bucolic hill that is in tune with the seasons, that is slowly encroached upon and de-spoiled by the big bad city, and then is removed back to another bucolic hill where it was once again in tune with the seasons.  The gist, as was probably ripe for the suburb-loving Forties, is that cities are scary places out of tune with the environment. 

While I continue to love the book both for nostalgic reasons and because it is the only children’s book I know about land use, I wondered if there was another children’s book out there that might depict the new rise of the city and all of the great things that are happening out there in urban environments right now.  So I thought I’d throw it open to discussion:  any land use-lovers out there with recommendations for children’s books that express contemporary views of cities and urbanism, or otherwise portray strong land use or environmental values?  A newbie parent needs to know!

Oh, and if you don't own The Little House, you can watch a Disney cartoon of the book here.

Stephen R. Miller

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I think "Roberto the Insect Architect" is a city oriented kids book, about a termite who wants to build not eat. He moves to the city and designs and builds homes for insects who need them. Illustrations are fun, too.

Posted by: Kyle Julien | Mar 9, 2013 5:10:52 AM

"The Carpenter's Gift" is an illustrated children's book about the origin of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in Depression-era New York. A really lovely book, and its message seems positive towards both urban and rural areas.

Posted by: Burnsville Real Estate Lawyer | Mar 12, 2013 6:51:41 AM

If you look at Amazon's "customers also bought" segment, it doesn't seem to show newer books with the same perspective. I didn't realize she also wrote Mike Mulligan and His Big Red Steam Shovel, a theme of adaptive reuse. Hmm, perhaps someone can write an adventure about Harold and his purple crayon going to urban planning school...

Posted by: george | Mar 16, 2013 10:04:06 AM