Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, September 16, 2019

Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island by Jennifer Thermes

Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island
Written and illustrated by Jennifer Thermes
Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2019
For all ages

Travel back in time to learn how the vibrant and cultural hub of our country, the island of Manhattan, came to be. Jennifer Thermes' artistic talent is on display here with her dramatic illustrations created using watercolor, colored pencil, and ink on Arches hot press paper. Each full page spread incorporates sidebars and detailed maps that all together creates a dramatic story. 

Millions of years ago when the glaciers melted, before anything had a name, the island lay sheltered in an estuary where freshwater river met saltwater sea, anchored on bedrock far below the surface of the earth.”

The first inhabitants of the island were the Lenape. They called it “Mannahatta, which means “island of many hills.” Once the colonists arrive, the Lenape were forced off the island forever.

Woven into the story of Manhattan are the many advancements that made the city unique. Elevated trains, the first subway (1904), bridges and tunnels that would connect the five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island) “to become Greater New York.” Most importantly, readers will see how it is the people who arrived from all over the world to make Manhattan their home that has given the city its character.

Back matter includes an afterward, a timeline (I LOVE timelines), and selected sources.

I learned that located in Washington Square is an English elm tree known as the Hangman’s Elm that is said to be almost 350 years old. What stories that tree could tell.

A perfect book to share with anyone interested in New York City, but especially those visiting it for the first time. I would also pair it with New Yorker cartoonist, Roz Chast’s book, Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York. (Bloomsbury. 2017) 

"From the Battery downtown up to Inwood, every inch of the island has a story to tell," and Thermes has done an excellent job telling that story using words and pictures.

A highly recommended purchase for all libraries.  

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library to write this review.


  1. In my library queue, Louise :). I love Jennifer's maps, and this one looks absolutely AMAZING. Very excited to read it!