October 27, 2016
Peeking Under the City by Esther Porter, illustrated by Adnres Lazano
When we discuss cities and what it in a city, we tend to focus on the things we can see as we walk down the sidewalk — buildings, people, cars and more. In their book, Porter and Lazano take a look at what is going on beneath the city and they cover all the bases.
Granted, the focus is on things that are essential to city life. There is a discussion of the pipes that bring natural gas and water into the city as well as the sewers and storm drains that allow rain water to escape. Readers get to see the tunnels for roadways and trains and well as the foundation pilings that are sunk deep into the ground.
But that isn’t all that can be found underground. Porter also writes about burials and crypts. She includes spreads on artifacts as well as fossils.
The text isn’t particularly dense but it is informative. Readers will definitely come away from it all with a better sense of a how a city functions and what is unseen.
The book design contributes to the unique feel of this book. Although the cover orientation is typical with the binding to the left, as soon as the reader gets into the story they turn the book on its side so that it displays a tall narrow window into the earth. Quite clever!
Lazano’s digital illustrations aren’t as specific as schematics or blueprints. But they give enough detail to create a complete and accurate picture. In addition to showing the view from buildings down into the ground there are inset “close-ups” of various details. All in all the design works well to pull the reader in and teach them something about the world they live in.
A glossary, critical thinking questions and list of additional readings complete the book. This is an excellent choice for a school library or classroom but don’t pass it up for the young builder or digger in your life. Invite them all to explore the world under the city.