Three days in New York City and such a perfect weekend – spending time with my family, cool weather, and so many book-related activities! As soon as I settled into my seat on the train, I entered the land of books…
First, I finished reading The Vacationers by Emma Straub. According to yesterday’s New York Times Book Review, Straub’s novel has been on the hardcover fiction best seller list for four weeks. The story of a New York City family vacationing in Mallorca is a smart summer read. Sunny setting, but clever writing about all kinds of vacations – especially those from the truth. Almost everyone in this novel is taking a break from doing what’s expected of them. I was so invested in this story that the miles flew by and we were walking through Penn Station in what felt like minutes.
Our first destination was the New York Historical Society where one of this summer’s special exhibits is Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans. This is what we saw as we approached the museum:
The exhibit celebrates the 75th anniversary of Madeline’s publication and it is so beautiful! But… no pictures allowed so I don’t have any to share. There are drawings from all six of the Madeline picture books and the panels Bemelmans painted for the playroom in Aristotle Onassis’ yacht, The Christina. One of Bemelmans’ most beautiful paintings was a cover he did of horses and riders in Central Park for the October 9, 1954 issue of The New Yorker. The original is in the exhibit, and it took my breath away. Here’s a pic of the magazine cover, but if you want to see the real one, plan a trip to New York before October 19 when the exhibit closes.
I re-read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a few years ago, and it was a totally different book than the one I read as a teenager. I loved it just as much, but while the first time I read it, it was the story of a girl growing up in Brooklyn, this time I was fascinated by the adults in Francie’s life. It was a far richer and more complicated story than I remembered.
The next day, while my husband and son were taking a Big Onion walking tour, I went to the New York Public Library to see the exhibit – The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter. I had taken a quick walk through the special exhibit a few months ago, but this time I was able to look at everything more closely. The “tower” of books that have been banned or challenged is disturbing and moving. I was especially disappointed to see a quote about the dangers of Judy Blume’s novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. That was my handbook to growing up! The silly comment betrays the “commenter’s” total failure to see how this classic continues to help millions of young girls navigate the early stages of adolescence. What totally bummed me out is that the small-minded person who wrote this is from Xenia, Ohio where I grew up.
On a happier note, after seeing the exhibit, I went to the NYPL Children’s Room where this awesome piece by Todd Parr is on the wall:
Leaving the Library, I looked down and saw this yellow brick road of sorts…
Another thing on my New York Wish List was a visit to the Pierpont Morgan Library to see Gatsby to Garp: Modern Masterpieces from the Carter Burden Collection. Carter Burden, as I learned, was a New York City council member who had an important collection of American literature – first editions of major works, letters and galleys. Again, no pictures allowed in exhibit, but there was a guide (for in-gallery use only) and I was allowed to step into the hallway and take pictures from that. The third picture is from a copy of The Great Gatsby that Fitzgerald signed for a friend. The inscription is pretty funny….
The print is small – hard to read. I had to be quick with my picture taking! Fitzgerald wrote:
If it weren’t for libraries how would 100,000 women like my mother ever get to sleep?
There was no answer – only the squeaky rustle of paper as 100,000 women turned another page.
We did other fun things in New York – went to the Village Vanguard, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, and ate good food – but as we got back on the train yesterday to return home, I had visions of books dancing in my head!