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Book’s City Adventure

A rhythmic journey through Philadelphia with a little library book lost in the big city.

Photo of Julia Levy
8 1

Written by

Out from the library,

Out into the city!

Look at the buildings —

So bright and so pretty.

A million people!

A pigeon, a fly!

Book looks around

as taxis zoom by. 

Then — oops! She drops,

And falls down — PLOP!
But Kit scoots on … no time to stop. 

Will I get home, all by myself?

Will I get back to my library shelf?

And what will Librarian Joyce have to say?

Why does my life have to turn out this way?

Hakeem bends down and says, “Wow! Look!” 

Right there on the sidewalk, he picks up a book.

He opens the cover and reads what’s inside...

Then puts Book on the bench while he plays on the slide.

“A book!” says Ming’s dad, coffee in hand,

They read her while watching a subway jazz band. 

From boathouse to townhouse to old carousel,

Book makes a stop at the Liberty Bell.

She sees flags flying high and bikes zooming ‘round,

From person to person she’s passed around town.

I’m terribly worried I’ll never get home. 

For the rest of my life, I’ll roam and I’ll roam!

Just then, from above, Book hears a kind voice. Could it be? It IS! It’s Librarian Joyce!

Joyce scoops her up and says with a smile,

“I just can’t believe it — you’ve traveled for miles!

Before the day’s over, I’ll read you myself. 

Then I’ll bring you back home to your library shelf.”

Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

We want our personified Book to inspire children and parents to look at their environments with increased curiosity and to realize how books and stories can open up the world.

Share your suggested book title

Book’s City Adventure

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

Julia and Cara both know from working with urban families that, too often, reading is not part of everyday life. Sometimes, this is due to lack of resources (families don't have books). Sometimes this is due to language or literacy barriers. Sometimes parents think they don't know how to read in engaging ways. Academic research (which informs this project!) is unequivocal: reading to children, from their earliest days, builds receptive and expressive language skills and creates important bonds between parents and children. The challenge is to turn this research into action — changing families' behavior and making reading part of everyday life. We wrote our story to encourage this shift through rhyme and repetition; familiar people, things, and places; and bold, bright colors and shapes that make reading fun and enticing for all. We believe the plot and structure of the story make it easy to read in an engaging way, even for parents who are less confident readers.

Please describe any familiarity you may have with Philadelphia and its residents? (optional question)

Julia grew up just outside of Philadelphia. She has many memories of being a kid in and around the city — climbing through the giant heart at the Franklin Institute, going to children's concerts at the orchestra, sketching at the PMA, running/biking/rowing along the Schuylkill River, and merging onto I-76 for the first time. She still has many friends in and around Philadelphia.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

In our work, we have seen a clear shortage of stories that resonate with the urban families we serve. We have crafted our manuscript with an eye toward the experiences of city kids (and their parents). While many children’s books depict houses and barns, we chose to set our story in an urban landscape of streets and sidewalks, parks and SEPTA buses. We hope to convey that reading — and the back-and-forth interactions it facilitates — can occur throughout the city, not just inside libraries or schools. We hope that our characters’ names and the diverse families represented in our illustrations will allow city kids to recognize themselves and their environment in our story.

Location: Country

United States

Location: State or Department

New York

Location: City

New York City

Tell us more about you / your team

CARA SPITALEWITZ, PhD has been working with children in NYC for almost 20 years. She received a Master’s Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she was an Urban Scholar focusing on child poverty. She is currently a child & adolescent psychologist at Bellevue Hospital Center, the oldest public hospital in the country, and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. JULIA LEVY has been working with NYC children/families for 15 years. She is currently the Director of Product & Play for Sparkler, a startup promoting healthy early child and brain development, working with high-needs U.S. families. She previously ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to self publish DONNY THE BULLY, an anti-bullying book she wrote and illustrated, inspired by negative politics. She graduated from Dartmouth and Columbia Business School, and is the mom of two (amazing!) young boys.

Provide an example visual identity for a look and feel you might like to achieve. ( (optional question, 3-5 visuals)

Julia created the illustration using cut paper and glue. It shows Kit on her scooter — the preferred mode of transportation for modern city kids — dropping Book and setting up the "problem" of our story. Like the other illustrations in our story, there are vibrant colors, geometric shapes, and many recognizable elements of city life (e.g., fire hydrants, loud noises, taxis...) that our intended readers can see and connect with as they read.

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • Yes

If yes, please list titles and publications.

Julia's publications: Donny the Bully (2017), US Education Reform and National Security (2012) ~850 published articles in The New York Sun, The Financial Times, Hearst Newspapers, and more on education, policy, and development

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • OpenIDEO announcement email

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are creatives, writers, or artists
  • I am/we are a formal part of a University or Research Institution


Join the conversation:

Photo of Courtney Mather

What a fun idea for a story and an urban journey...I love it!

Photo of Julia Levy

Thank you, Courtney!

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