Title: Building Manhattan
Author and illustrator: Laura Vila
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 2.7
Concepts: economic development, resources
Review: At a time when climate change and global warming have entered public discourse as one of the biggest problems the world faces today, Building Manhattan comes as a welcome vehicle for teaching young children how all these problems started. The book takes the reader on a tour of the biological, social, and economic forces that have shaped Manhattan as we know it today.
Starting with about 50,000 years BCE, we see Manhattan as a thirteen-mile long island with tall grasses and woods that provided home to numerous small animals. Many years later, the Lenape people lived harmoniously with their natural environs, but as the Dutch and British inhabited the island, they quickly changed the landscape to suit their needs. Economic development brought ever higher buildings, residents and tourists from all over the world, thriving businesses in services and manufacturing, and a comprehensive infrastructure to support the economy. Laura Vila’s colorful and imaginative illustrations bring these developments to life and show children some of the tradeoffs between modernization and environmental conservation.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children