Author and illustrator Lauren Castillo narrates the story of a little boy who visits his grandmother in the city in her 2015 Caldecott Honor book Nana In The City.
Nana(grandmother) has moved to a new apartment in the city and her grandson comes over to visit. The big buildings, the busy subways and noisy streets frighten him. Perhaps, he comes from where the streets are quieter and the noisiest it gets are when the winds howl.
His grandmother senses his fear of the new and decides she will help him get to know the city better. She gives him a red cape to help him feel brave and they set out. They visit parks, listen to street musicians, talk to dog walkers and the homeless man on the street.
The little child starts to feel better as he gets to soak in the sights, sounds and people in the city. Soon, the city is no longer a place full of unknown faces in a hurry, but one in which regular people live their lives. The city stops being scary even though it is full of noise and lights. A city he learns can be very entertaining. Later on, as he says goodbye, the little boy knows in his heart that his nana is safe and that city life will be good for her.
Lauren Castillo’s drawings capture the young child’s transition from fear to understanding and finally peace quite beautifully. If the early pictures are rather grey and foreboding, the later ones are warm and colourful. The relationship of the two main characters, the little boy and his Nana are brought through evocatively in the drawings.
Children can relate to the fear of the new and adults will relate to Nana’s wonderful solution to her grandchild’s predicament. She makes him a friend of the city by doing rather than talking down to him.
As always it is interesting to know more about the creator and in this video, Lauren explains the influences on her art and stories.
Nana In The City is a beautiful picture book that imparts a lesson gently – that for a child his/her the help required to become more comfortable in the world can be done gently by adults, with both enjoying themselves. The pleasure of helping a child overcome a fear and knowing that it will lead to new adventures is immeasurable.