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The Works: Anatomy of a City by Kate Ascher, 240 pp, RL4

The Works: Anatomy of a City by Kate Ascher isn't really a kid's book, but it is certainly kid friendly. That is, if your kid loves books like Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day and David Macaulay's The Way Things Work. or any of the titles in the DK Eyewitness series. This is a must for any little Urban Planner in the making!

Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day ? by Richard Scarry: Book CoverThe New Way Things Work by David Macaulay: Book CoverRobot (Eyewitness Books Series) by Roger Bridgman: Book Cover
Filled with monochromatically colored illustrations, the layout is very similar to that of a DK Eyewitness book, but crisper, tidier and more unified in their sameness. At times, the illustrations can feel a bit like an instruction manual from IKEA, meant to be understood by everyone regardless of native tongue.

The city of the title that is being dissected is New York City, and Kate Ascher was an executive vice president of the New York Economic Development Corporation so her knowledge of the infrastructure of NCY is expansive. The book is divided into five chapters and, as Ascher says in the introduction, "Throughout this book, every attempt has been made to select those topics that seemed most relevant and at the same time least familiar to a broad spectrum of readers and to approach them in a way that readers will easily grasp," which is exactly why this is a great book for kids, wether they can read it on their own or have it read to them. 

The first chapter in the book is titled "Moving People." In the subsection "Streets" Ascher takes a page or two to list the various trees that can be found throughout the city as well as provide a map of those trees and their locations. She also goes underground with subways and also a section on bridges and tunnels. There is a panel covering the different street markings and their meanings as well as a color-coded map of the smoothness of New York's streets.

The chapter on "Moving Freight" covers rail and maritime freight as well as air cargo and a few interesting pages on markets.
The chapter on "Power" covers electricity, natural gas and steam. "Communications" visits telephones, moving the mail - which reminded me so much of the chapter in What Do People Do All Day about how the mail gets delivered, and the airwaves.
"Keeping it Clean" examines the ways that water, sewage and garbage are moved about the city.
The final chapter, "The Future," revisits each chapter and takes a very specific look at the city and how it needs to change to meet the future.


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