When Jackie Saved Grand Central by Natasha Wing

When Jackie Saved Grand Central: The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Fight for an American Icon

Natasha Wing, Author

Alexandra Boiger, Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Narrative Nonfiction, Mar. 7, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes: Jacqueline Kennedy, Grand Central Station, Conservation and Restoration, New York City

Opening: “When Jackie became First Lady of the United States in 1961, she moved into the White House and restored the dreary mansion into a stately home that made Americans proud… Fourteen years later, another famous landmark, this time in New York City, needed Jackie Kennedy’s help…”

Book Jacket Synopsis: First Lady. American legend. New Yorker.

Jacqueline Kennedy loved everything about her home city, from the beauty of the parks to the grandeur of the buildings. Grand Central Terminal was one of the grandest buildings of all — but in 1968, it was in danger of destruction. Jackie couldn’t imagine changing New York’s famous train station! So the former First Lady of the United States and other passionate Americans came together to save the iconic landmark, embarking on a journey that went all the way to the Supreme Court. And as they fought to preserve the past, those who love Grand Central made history.

Why I like this book:

Natasha Wing has skillfully written an inspiring story about how former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy led the effort to save and restore Grand Central. It’s owners wanted to build a skyscraper right on top of this historic site, which opened in 1913.  For Jackie and many others who loved this landmark, “destroying Grand Central would be architectural mutilation.”

Convincingly written and impeccably researched, Wing’s picture book shares a lot of detail about this little-known story for many Americans. In a last-ditch effort to gather support, Jackie and 300 supporters joined aboard the Landmark Express, and traveled from New York to Washington, D.C., to garner public support and attention for their cause before the Supreme Court. Jackie’s comment to the press upon arrival, “If Grand Central Station goes, all the landmarks in this country will go as well.”

This book is a classroom gem that shows children how important it is to get involved in a cause they believe and connect their voices with others in order to create change in their communities and world. They too can make a difference.

Alexandra Boiger’s beautiful illustrations are expressive, inspirational and highlight this important story. Make sure you read her Illustrator’s Note at the end. Boiger shares how she uses different colors and symbols to highlight the emotional story line. For example, during the fight, Jackie wears a bright red coat which depicts her anger.

The restoration work took 20 years and Jacqueline Kennedy died four years before it was dedicated in 1998.

Resources/Activities:  Encourage children to identify historic buildings in their local communities. Visit them. Have buildings been restored and taken care of? If you live in New York City visit Grand Central Station. Both Wing and Boiger urge visitors to walk into the Main Concourse and look up — where the stars shine from the cerulean ceiling. There is also a lengthy Author’s Note at the end that gives a lot more background about Jackie and the restoration work.

Natasha Wing is the author of many picture books, including an acclaimed biography of artist Josef Albers and the best-selling Night Before series. Visit Wing at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

*I was provided with a copy of this book in turn for a fair and honest review.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings

Oskar and Eight Blessings51kJJQr3hbL._SY399_BO1,204,203,200_Oskar and the Eight Blessings

Richard and Tanya Simon, Authors

Mark Siegel, Illustrator

Roaring Book Press, Fiction, Sep. 8, 2015

Pages: 40

Suitable for Ages: 4-9

Themes: Kindness, Refugees, Jews, Holocaust, Hanukkah, Blessings, New York City

Prologue: “Oskar’s mother and father believed in the power of blessings. So did Oskar…until the Night of Broken Glass. His parents put him on a ship to America. He had nothing but an address and a photo of a woman he didn’t know — “It’s your Aunt Esther.” — and his father’s last words to him: “Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.”

Book Opening lines: Oskar arrived in New York on the seventh day of Hanukkah. It was also Christmas Eve.

Book Jacket Synopsis: It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. Oskar, a refugee from the horrors of Nazi Europe, arrives by ship in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he’s never met. As he walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his aunt’s home uptown, he encounters the sights of the city at holiday time — and receives small acts of kindness from its people, each in its way welcoming him to the city and a life in the new world.

Why I like Oskar and the Eight Blessings:

Richard and Tanya Simon’s heartwarming story captures the best of New York and its residents who welcome Oskar to their city through their generous spirits and acts of kindness– a helping hand, a loaf of bread, a superman magazine, a snowball fight, a pair of mittens, and a friendly wink. It is the essence of what America is about, welcoming immigrants fleeing oppression or seeking a better life.

The story is realistic and believable for children. The characters are diverse. The plot is engaging. Oskar is overwhelmed by how small he feels in such a big city. He is tired and hungry. The sights and sounds are strange and confusing. Oskar is brave and remembers the wise fatherly advice he receives that wraps him in warmth during his 100-block journey to his aunt’s house.

This Hanukkah story, set in 1938, is timeless and should be shared with children no matter what tradition they celebrate. Compassion and kindness towards others is not limited to color, race or culture. This is a story of hope for humanity.

Mark Siegel’s illustrations are hauntingly beautiful. With spare text, the illustrations are expressive and really show the story. There is so much feeling captured in the characters eyes and smiles. The illustrations are uplifting.

Resources: An Author’s Note offers historical insight into the story, a glossary provides definitions of key words, and a map shows Oskar’s walk up Broadway in 1938.

Check out Susanna Leonard Hill’s review of Oskar and the Eight Blessings, on Perfect Picture Book Friday, which will return January 8.