This beautiful and lushly illustrated history of Central Park starts with the land’s beginnings, as a barren area where farm animals and industrial waste left much to be desired, and the design contest devised by architect Calvert Vaux – a contest that he also entered with every intention of winning. A Green Place to Be follows Vaux’s and park superintendent Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision, focusing on their planning, execution, and invitation to artists to join in the effort. The winter of 1858 saw the first park of the park, the Lake, open for visitors; in the summer of 1859, the woodsy Ramble joined the landscape, followed by the Children’s District.
Illustrated in watercolor and pencil, this is a loving tribute to an iconic green space and the men and women who created it. Back matter includes profiles of both Olmstead and Vaux, and a Q&A on spaces within the park. Sharp-eyed readers will love returning to the illustrations again and again to find squirrels, bridges, and other affectionately placed details. There is an author’s note and bibliography for further reading.
A Green Place to Be is a love letter to New York’s green spaces and creativity. Central Park’s website has extensive information about the park, including a calendar of events and links to social media. Planetizen has a good article on teaching urban planning to preschoolers; this could be a fun activity where kids can learn and create their own green spaces! National Geographic has a fun Design a Park activity for middle grade kids, and the STAR Library Network has a printable Design a Park activity that will work with large groups of kids. It’s a fun springtime program!