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Review: Lost in NYC

When I first caught a glimpse of Lost in NYC, I was attending the NYC School Librarian Conference. It was back in November, and I only had the opportunity to flip through the book, but my immediate thought was that the artist had certainly caught the frenetic pace of the NYC Subway system. Now that I finally have had an opportunity to sit down and savor this title, I wasn’t disappointed, nor was my initial reaction wrong.

Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure
By Nadja Spiegelman & Sergio Garcia Sanchez
Toon Books. 49 pp.
$16.95 HC. ISBN 9781935179818
Recommended for grades 4 and up

Lost in NYC tells a very simple story. Pablo is constantly moving around because of his father’s job. He starts a new school in NYC on field trip day. His class is going to visit the Empire State Building and they’re going to take a subway to get there. But when Alicia, a classmate who volunteers to be Pablo’s partner, tries to show him a subway map, the two get separated from their class and in turn are lost in the NYC Subway system. All ends well. Both return to their class. But in the interim, Pablo learns that it’s okay to accept friendship.

The story is relatively simple and would not stand out on its own. But what sets this book aside is the artwork. The detailed images, as the students walk the streets of NYC or descend into the subway system, are so accurate and vivid that readers can play “I Spy” or “Where’s Waldo.” (In fact, Sergio places himself in many pages throughout the book. There’s a short explanation of the story in the back, prompting readers to go back.) The panels add to the artwork, as some of the standard left-to-right directional flows of panels are ignored, and instead the panels follow the direction of Alicia or Pablo as they navigate NYC.

Though this is primarily a fictional story, there are many elements that make it work partly as an informational text. Mr. Bartle acts as a tour guide, telling his students about some of the history of the New York Subway system. There are actual photos naturally inserted into the story, showing readers how the subway system was excavated. The book also contains a wealth of information in the back-matter. Tidbits include the history of the New York subway system, including why there aren’t lines with certain letters (the theory is, no one could say the “P” line without giggling) and photos showing the progress of the Second Avenue Subway line.

This slim volume will offer many levels of entertainment and information for readers. Toon Books offers a teacher’s guide online, and there are many ways this title can be used in the classroom. But display it on a shelf, and young readers will surely enjoy a good read.

Note: Toon Books has simultaneously released a Spanish edition.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright ©Toon Books

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Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 3 and regularly reviews for SLJ, LMC. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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