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There are always surprises to be found in New York City, and today, only 4 
years after the fact, I found one of them. New York is a literary town, you 
know, including children's literary. So there I was on my way to a very fun 
meeting on the East Side, walking from my train at Penn Station, and I happened to 
turn down 41st St. instead of my usual route, which is through Bryant Park in 
back of the NYPL--you know--the one where the lions are. It's a terrific park, 
especially in summer when the gardens are blooming. There's a carousel, and 
this time of year, a skating rink that they set up over the lawn. I love having 
lunch outside there in the summer, which I do a lot, on my way to teach my 
Pratt class, and the people watching is sublime. They even have an outside 
lending library, if you want to sit there and read.

And if you stand on the southeast corner of the park, you can see the top of 
the Empire State Building (which, of course, you can tie in to Elizabeth 
Kimmel's wonderful picture book, The Top Job (Dutton, 2007), and Deborah 
Hopkinson's Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building (Schwartz & Wade, 
on your right and the top of the Chrysler Building (the building of which you 
can read about in Bo Zaunders's Gargoyles, Girders & Glass Houses (Dutton, 
2004), illustrated by his wife, the wonderful Roxie Munroe, who also illustrated 
The Inside-Outside Book of Libraries by Julie Cummins, which just came out in 
paperback (Dragonfly, 2008) and which includes those selfsame lions, on the 
cover, even) straight ahead. Excuse the run-on sentence. If you want to see all 
of New York in one swoop, then go take a gander at one of my favorite books, 
Kathy Jakobsen's My New York (Little, Brown, 2003), with its lift-up gate-fold 
pages. A very nice tour.

OK, that was a bit of a digression, as I did NOT go through Bryant Park 
today, since I was freezing my bum off outside, and I decided to take a street not 
taken. Which was 41st Street. I walked east, past 5th Avenue, then past 
Madison, walking fast, when I happened to look down. There were bronze sidewalk 
plaques every dozen steps. I saw they were there but the writing on them was 
upside down for a person walking east, and at first I paid them no mind. Then I 
stopped and looked down at one. Oh, my! On the plaque was a literary quote. 
Twelve steps down, I turned around again, and the next plaque had another literary 
quote. For 2 blocks, and on both sides of the street, there were dozens and 
dozens of them, with quotes from Julia Alvarez, Kate Chopin, George Braque (my 
favorite quote of the day: "Truth exists; only falsehood has to be invented"), 
William Styron, and on and on. Pity the poor people trying to walk in back of 
me--the New York Rule being, DON'T DAWDLE, PEOPLE!!!--because every few steps, 
I'd turn around, stop, and look down. 

I Googled it when I got home, and of COURSE there's a website with a picture 
of every plaque. Here's a bit of what it says on the website, <>:

"GCP has transformed East 41st Street between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue 
into an entertaining and illuminating promenade to the majestic New York Public 
Library Humanities and Social Sciences Library by displaying 96 bronze 
sidewalk plaques featuring quotations from literature and poetry. Known as 
Way," this initiative was being undertaken by GCP with the assistance and 
support of the New York Public Library. Library Way was officially dedicated on May 
27, 2004.

"When the Library Way project was first initiated by the GCP more a decade 
ago, 41st Street from Fifth Avenue to the Park Avenue/Pershing Square Viaduct 
was a shadowy street that was commonly treated as a "backstage" delivery-
entrance to properties on nearby 42nd Street. But the recent rehabilitation of 
existing properties and new development along this thoroughfare, including the 
completion of NYC's newest glimmering office tower, and the opening of some of the 
city's swankiest hotels and coolest restaurants, has made 41st Street one of 
the more exciting and active streets in the Grand Central neighborhood."

So if you want to take a vicarious literary walk down 41st Street, you don't 
need to bundle up and shiver like I did. Those of you who are always looking 
for literary quotes, there you go. The plaques are fabulous--I only got to read 
one block's worth, but now I know they're there, I'll go back and read the 
rest of them in person. (Watch out, pedestrians!)

Judy Freeman
Children's Literature Consultant
"Wild About Books" columnist
School Library Media Activities Monthly
Author of Books Kids Will Sit Still For 3
(Libraries Unlimited, 2006;
and the brand new Once Upon a Time!:
Using Storytelling, Creative Drama, and
Reader's Theater with Children in Grades K-6 (2007)
65 North Sixth Avenue
Highland Park, NJ 08904
732-572-5634 /

Biggest Grammy Award surprises of all time on AOL Music.

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