Keeping the City Going – written and illustrated by Brian Floca

Keeping the City Going – written and illustrated by Brian Floca, Atheneum (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), 9781534493780, 2021 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book 

What did you like about the book?  Think of this book as part of the historical record. Floca, like the rest of us, was stuck in place during quarantine, but he made better use of his time than I did. Living in New York, he used watercolor, acrylic and gouache to record the city as it slowed to a crawl, showing the essential workers who kept doing their jobs. He loves drawing vehicles and those make up the bulk of the illustrations: subways, ambulances, all kinds of delivery trucks, garbage trucks, postal vans, etc. For kids who love transportation, this book is a real feast. And the drivers, delivery people and workers also play prominent roles, as we get to examine their uniforms and tools. A final scene shows the doctors, nurses and janitors in a busy hospital, turning to look at us over their shoulders, as they hurry through their duties. It’s also a reminder of how New Yorkers celebrated these essential workers with nightly impromptu fire escape concerts, using instruments and kitchen utensils. In the not-too-distant future, we’ll forget how empty the streets were, how people looked masked up, and how much takeout we ate, but Floca’s book will remain as a testament to resilience. The text is straight-forward and serviceable, with small dashes of humor to lighten the mood. A personal and heartfelt note from Floca closes the book.

Anything you didn’t like about it? It’s a small thing, but I didn’t love the use of the Helvetica Neue font. It’s hard on the eyes and doesn’t match the elegance and delicacy of Floca’s illustrations.

To whom would you recommend this book?  I think kids right now would want to read this to get a birds eye view of New York during the shut-down. As years pass, it will be a time-capsule for all of us. Kids who are vehicle-crazy will also enjoy identifying the different trucks, bikes and cars and their unique riders. There will be many books about the quarantine but this one will have staying power.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: May 23, 2021

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