Book Review: This is New York By M. Sasek

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and while I’m all about wearing green for any occasion, I’m actually celebrating another special, personal holiday. This marks our year anniversary of living in NYC! Oh, how things have changed in that year. I thought it appropriate to celebrate an old book that still rings true and delights in the city. Originally printed in 1960, M. Sasek’s fabulous look at New York was reprinted in 2003 with some updated statistics. It is a beautiful look at the big and small, up and down, packed amazingness of the largest city in the Western Hemisphere. This is New York by M. Sasek, 1960/2003.

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It is rare that I include the title page in my review, but with that beauty – how could I not?

M. Sasek began his This is series with Paris and eventually created 18 books total. This is New York is the first of 3 about American cities and it is thrilling to view whether you live here or not.

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I’ve always found Sasek’s books to be a bit choppy in text, but intriguingly so. They remind me of those vintage short movies with a deep-voiced narrator speaking at random intervals. Sasek expects you to read the pictures and read the text too. You’ll miss the point if you eliminate either one. It also reminds me of the way a child’s conversations often flow. Some statements can feel completely out of the blue until you look around and decipher where they are connected.

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The information about New York is so perfectly bizarre it feels very random, and yet I imagine there was great thought in the outline and the choices to highlight. Pieces like the air-conditioner comment above make me laugh out loud. It feels like Sasek followed around an observant child and picked out all the things their eyes see.

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The major sites are represented like the Empire State Building and Lady Liberty. But the oft overlooked items are there too, including how you put your coins in on the bus and how huge and fluffy the squirrels are.

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A few snapshots are of things that no longer exist as far as I know and make me nostalgic for that part of the city I will never know. And I desperately wish that Times Square looked even remotely as lovely as Sasek’s hand-lettered signs version does. That would be worth the headache to visit that part of town!

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This is New York lives on as a marvelous children’s travel guide to the city, along with the others in his incredible series. It is an excellent snapshot of the ever-changing city, even while it bursts with over 60 fascinating pages. While I tend to try to find the vintage edition of older books, I actually appreciated purchasing the reprinted one as I love the asterisks which point you to the back where some of the statistics have been updated. Truly fascinating stuff that makes you wonder how those have changed even more. Did you know a fire alarm sounds every 30 seconds in New York City?

If you weren’t familiar with M. Sasek’s work before today, I sincerely hope you seek him out. He truly has a unique perspective and a skillful way of expressing it through his illustrations that give a loving look at the cities while also maintaining a playful feel.

Thanks for celebrating our city anniversary with me. I hope you check out New York City, either in person or via this book!

One thought on “Book Review: This is New York By M. Sasek

  1. I just bought the DC version for a friend who’s moving there with her two girls. I can’t wait for them to find out just how kid friendly and incredible the city is!! I thought this book would be a fun way for them to get excited.


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