Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Walking in the City with Jane: A Story of Jane Jacobs

Walking in the City with Jane: A Story of Jane Jacobs

Susan Hughes
Illustrator:  Valerie Boivin 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Kids Can Press, 2018   ISBN: 978-1771386531

Jane was a curious person. For her, being bored was one of the worst things ever, and being surrounded by interesting things was wonderful. As a young person she loved exploring the town where she had grown up. When she left high school and moved to New York City to find work as a writer, Jane had a wonderful time exploring the neighborhoods of the great city.

Jane was observant, which was a good thing for a writer to be, and she noticed that the city was an ecosystem. It was made up of different parts that needed to work together if the city was going to be a pleasant place. There had to be a balance between offices and homes, stores and restaurants, parks and streets. In her opinion a healthy city was one where “people can live and work safely and happily.”

Jane got married and had children and she and her family lived in a wonderfully diverse and vibrant neighborhood. Jane loved seeing how the people interacted, and how the neighborhood format made such interactions so easy. Unfortunately, some people thought that cities are places for businesses and freeways. In their view the needs of people do not matter, and neighborhoods like Jane’s were slums and a waste of space.

One day Jane heard that a city planner called Robert Moses had decided that her neighborhood was a slum, and he wanted to tear down a part of it and put a highway through it.

Jane went on the offensive. She participated in rallies and wrote letters. She was a part of a group that worked tirelessly to make sure that Greenwich Village and its Washington Square Park was left intact, and in the end the protestors won their battle and Robert Moses was forced to back down.

Still thinking that “cities were created by and for traffic,” Robert Moses came up with another highway plan. Still thinking that cities “were created by and for people,” Jane did her best to prevent the plan from being approved. It would seem that there was always a new battle to be won, but Jane was not discouraged. She kept on speaking out.

This excellent biography tells the story of a woman who clearly believed that if you care about something, you do everything you can to defend it. She had a unique way of looking at situations, and thanks to her, many people have come to see that cities are organic places that need to be natured.