Celebrating Central Park in Children’s Books

Editor’s note: This is a lightly edited version of a blog post originally published by the New York Public Library. Two of these books are available in our online shop; you can borrow any of them at your local NYPL.

New York City has many wonderful parks, and the most famous one of all is Central Park. The Park is the setting for many terrific stories and has its own rich history which you can read about in the books below.

Fiction with a Central Park Setting

Evie Brooks in Central Park Showdown by Sheila Agnew

Evie Brooks is now happily living in Manhattan with her veterinarian uncle, Scott. Busy with new friends, the feisty Evie is determined not to let her new life be disrupted by the sudden appearance of her long-absent father. With the Central Park Zoo as one of Scott’s clients, expect many scenes with the City’s animals.

A seal holds itself up by its flippers to look out of its enclosure at the Central Park Zoo

The Central Park Zoo, where visitors can see sea lions under the Manhattan skyline, makes an appearance in many children’s books such as Evie Brooks in Central Park Showdown and Ida Always.

Home is With Our Family by Joyce Hansen

Attending abolitionist meetings and speeches by Sojourner Truth while protesting plans to turn her 19th-century New York community into a park, 13-year-old Maria learns of a new friend's dire troubles in this story by a pair of Coretta Scott King Award winners.

The Magical Unicorn Society: A Brief History of Unicorns by Selwyn E. Phipps

From the story of the 17th-century sailors rescued from pirates by Water Moon unicorns to the mystery about the girls who believed they discovered a Woodland Flower unicorn in modern-day Central Park, this book—the second in a series—shares some of the most amazing stories of humanity's experiences alongside these magical creatures.

The Mayor of Central Park by Avi, illustrated by Brian Floca

It’s 1900 and New York City’s animal residents are buzzing with baseball fever as squirrels manage the teams and opossums work behind-the-scenes in this colorful tale from the Newbery Medalist author of Poppy and Ereth’s Birthday.

Picture Books set in Central Park

The Cyclops of Central Park by Madelyn Rosenberg, illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov

Timid Cyclops ventures out of his cave in Central Park to seek Eugene, a daring sheep missing from his flock, all across New York City.

The Dancing Clock by Steve Metzger, illustrated by John Abbott Nez

From the Central Park Zoo, Milo the snow monkey watches the animals on the dancing clock perform every hour and wants to join in, then Milo finally gets the chance one day when the zookeeper forgets to lock his gate.

A playful statue of a bear dances around the Delacorte Clock

In The Dancing Clock, a Central Park Zoo resident—Milo the snow monkey—finds a way to join in the fun with the other animals atop the Delacorte Clock.

Ida Always by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso

A polar bear grieves over the loss of his companion, based on the real-life Gus and Ida of the Central Park Zoo.

The Snowflake Sisters by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Lisa Desimini

Two snowflakes named Crystal and Ivory travel on Santa's sleigh and make their way through the wintry sky until they become part of a snowboy in Central Park.

Nonfiction about Central Park

Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, with drawings by Brian Selznick

This book tells the true story of Victorian artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins who built life-sized models of dinosaurs with the hope of educating the world about these awe-inspiring ancient animals and what they were like. A Caldecott Honor Book and ALA Notable Children's Book.

A Green Place to Be: The Creation of Central Park by Ashley Benham Yazdani

In 1858, New York City was growing so fast that new roads and tall buildings threatened to swallow up the remaining open space. The people needed a green place to be—a park with ponds to row on and paths for wandering through trees and over bridges. When a citywide contest solicited plans for creating a park, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted put their heads together to create the winning design.
This book is available in our online shop.

The Incredible Life of Balto by Meghan McCarthy

The true story of the heroic dog whose statue is in Central Park at the intersection of 67th Street and East Drive.

The statue of Balto photographed in mid-winter snow

In The Incredible Life of Balto, learn the story behind this beloved Park statue. Fun fact: the real Balto attended the dedication ceremony for this sculpture in 1925!

Parks for the People: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted by Julie Dunlap

Growing up on a Connecticut farm in the 1800s, Frederick Law Olmsted loved roaming the outdoors. A contest to design the nation's first city park opened new doors for Olmsted when his winning design became New York's Central Park, just one of Olmsted's ideas that changed our nation's cities. Award-winning author Julie Dunlap brings Olmsted to life in this wonderful biography.

Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses by Shira Boss, illustrated by Jamey Christoph

This charming picture book tells the true story of Bob Redman, a child growing up in New York City. Tired of the noise, the people, and the rushing around, Bob took shelter in the natural beauty of Central Park where he covertly built a series of amazing treehouses, starting with a simple platform and growing more and more elaborate over time.

Who Pooped in Central Park?: Scat and Tracks for Kids by Gary D. Robson, illustrated by Robert D. Rath

Join four intrepid kids as they discover the surprising variety of wildlife that lives in New York City's premier park. The animals themselves are sometimes hard to find, but their poop is everywhere!
This book is available in our online shop.