A Tuesday Ten: A New York State of Mind . . .

I’m a little slow on getting these posts up this week due to a head cold that makes the screen all blurry, but here we are!  I’m a New Yorker and have a particular love of science fiction and fantasy set in the Big Apple. So here’ my ten!


The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh (Hyperion, 2007)

We’ll kick off the list with this lovely book.  Jack Perdu meets a mysterious girl named Euri who shows him the secrets of Grand Central Station . . . and introduces him to the ghostly population of the city.  This odd paranormal/ghost story meets Greek myth set against a New York landscape is a favorite of mine.  Plenty of landmarks, bits of New York History and recognizable characters.  The cover has one of the most iconic images from Central Park, the angel at Bethesda Fountain.  While the story works as a stand alone, there was a sequel written:  The Twilight Prisoner (2009).


The Dead Gentleman by Matthew Cody (Knopf, 2011)

Here’s an offbeat, steampunk style adventure of sorts.  With alternate worlds and time travel between 1901 NYC and present day, it’s an inventive story with a lot of unusual elements.  Tommy Lerner is an orphan in desperate need to escape somewhere safe,  Jezebel Lemon is a modern day gal living in her apartment building and worrying about homework and boys.  No the two must navigate their way through time travel and otherworldly portals  in order to save their world from a dangerous villain who wants to take over the Earth.


The Inquisitor’s Apprentice by Chris Moriarty (Harcourt, 2011)

Alternate history fantasy is something that’s a bit of a rarity in children’s books.  Chris Moriarty’s children’s debut takes us to an alternate turn of the century New York City, where magic and curses  and all sorts of spells are part of everyday life.  A Young Jewish boy Sacha is found to have the ability to see magic and is recruited willy-nilly by the city’s Inquisitor to be an apprentice.  You’ll spot plenty of familiar New York streets and landmarks,  numerous historical characters just slightly reimagined including Thomas Edison, and J. P Morgaunt (Morgan).  The second book in this series hit the shelves this year: The Watcher in the Shadows (Harcourt, 2013).


Changeling by Delia Sherman (Viking, 2006)

I know, I know, I brought this title up on my last list.  In this fae adventure, Neef is a human girl who was switched with a fairie child when she was small.  Since then she’s been growing up in an alternate version of New York City full of magic and strange creatures!  I think one of my favorite bits was the Eloise contest held in the book, but it’s a lot of fun overall.  Adventure, humor and plenty of New York references.  The second book is The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen (2009).


The Elf of Union Square by Jan Carr (Putnam, 2004)

A satirical fantasy story of a grumpy elf living in Union Square who hates how every one is suddenly being “too nice.” To combat the niceness and friendliness, he begins to pull pranks that put people at odds with one another.  His attempt to return Union Square to the bad old days may be for naught when a boy named Jack begins to notice what’s really going on . . .


So You Want to Be A Wizard by Diane Duane (HMH, c1983)

This particular book introduced me to urban fantasy, and began my love of books set in NYC.  In this first book  of the Young Wizards series,  Nita and Kit are two new wizards in New York . . . and in order to survive their trial period, they’ll have to travel into an alternate version of New York City full of nightmarish creatures, sentient automobiles and the Lone Power Itself.  Other books in this series feature tidbits of New York City, but the first book does it best.  I do want to bring up one loosely connected title by Diane Duane, it’s usually considered young adult fantasy, but a sophisticated middle grade reader could probably dive into  The Book of Night With Moon (Warner, 1997) without a problem.  This spin-off focuses on a set of cat-wizards whose job it is to oversee the portals on the subway tracks at Grand Central station.  Lots of New York flavor!


Dead City by James Ponti (Aladdin, 2012)

It was only a matter of time before we started seeing zombie stories for middle grade readers.  This novel is pretty much an MG version of the huge urban fantasy/paranormal  stories featuring strong female protagonists battling monsters and undead things.  Molly Bigelow has some big shoes to fill.  Her mother is known as one of the most feared zombie hunters ever–and now it’s Molly’s turn to take on the family legacy.  But can one awkward New York City schoolgirl figure out how to tackle the undead and survive the experience? The second book in this series, Blue Moon is expected out in October 2013.


The Bronze King by Suzy McKee Charnas (Houghton Mifflin, 1985)

When odd things start going missing after an explosion on the subway, Tina is sure there is something stranger and darker afoot.  When help arrives in the form of a magic using fiddler from Sorcery Hall, Val will find herself in a battle of good vs. evil played out against the backdrop of New York City!  A great urban fantasy that, while dated, still gives readers a good sense of being in New York City.  This was the first book in a trilogy, and all three take place in and around New York City: The Silver Glove (1988), The Golden Thread (1989).


When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009)

Awarded the Newbery in 2010, this story set in 1970s New York City is an example of powerful fiction that has just a dash of science fiction thrown in the mix.  Miranda discovers a mysterious note one day that reads: I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.  
This note is the first of several, and while Miranda doesn’t know what it all means, it’s clear the person writing the notes knows all about her. Definitely worth a read!


The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, Illustrated by Garth Williams (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1960)

Seriously, how could I not anchor the list with this charming critter tale? Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse encounter a singularly musical cricket that has found himself transported from the countryside of Connecticut to the heart of New York City.  Chester cricket’s stirring music not only appeals to his furry friends, but to humans as well.  Can the big city offer a home to one uncommon cricket?  Awarded the Newbery Honor in 1961, this heartwarming story almost always gets a mention when NYC children’s fiction is brought up.  Selden wrote one other, lesser known book set in the city: The Genie of Sutton Place (1973).

I’m tempted to add more–but my rule is ten, and the hour is exceedingly late.  So there you have it!  Any of your own New York City titles to add?

What’s your favorite city/place/country setting?  Comments welcome!

About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on September 19, 2013, in Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. What about Gods of Manhattan?!? I LOVE that book! I was glad to see So You Want to Be a Wizard, though:)

  2. My first thought was Gregor the Overlander. When You ReachMe is my favorite, though.

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