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Bright Lights, Big City: Kids Books About Urban Life

With nearly three quarters of the world expected to live in urban areas by 2050, it’s about time we see more children’s books about living in the city. Kids in New York and Paris, of course, have had their own beloved icons for years (thank you Harriet, Madeleine and CJ from Last Stop on Market Street), but Canadian readers haven’t seen themselves represented in quite the same way. This absence is part of the reason I’ve been working with Groundwood Books on the ThinkCities series.

My third book in this nonfiction series exploring urban systems and sustainability, City Streets Are for People is coming out this week and it’s a kid-friendly manifesto about reclaiming our streets for people and transit, not cars. The series has also looked at city trees and water systems because decoding our environment will help young people live better and advocate for the health and well-being of their communities. It’s also just really fun to see the places you live in the books you read. In that spirit, here are a few titles—both fiction and nonfiction—that take on the urban jungle and its people in all their busy, complex glory.

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Kittens in the City

Book Cover Little Yellow House

This month we're looking at books about community and fostering connection, and Carissa Halton's Little Yellow House is a perfect title to start with. In this collection of candid and thoughtful essays inspired by life in Edmonton's inner-city Alberta Avenue neighbourhood, Halton writes about her friends and neighbours, the community institutions that support them, the challenges of city life, home ownership, raising kids, and the tensions of gentrification. It's an illuminating and hopeful book that asks readers to think again about what makes places liveable, and also provides a wonderful glimpse of Jane Jacobs' proverbial sidewalk ballet.

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The first set of kittens Bill ever took in was brought to his attention by a desperate mewing from the blackened garage that slumped behind his six-suite rooming house. The kittens followed Bill to the front of his home where he set them up comfortably under the wooden stairs.

These three kittens were the product of a union between two abandoned cats as they waited patiently for the return of their owners. Bill had noticed the cats’ human family packing up the moving truck and the next day drove away with everything they owned except for their four feline pets lounging on the front porch. They weren’t the only ones aba …

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