30 Days of Poetry: A Kid's Eye-View of WPA-Era New York City
I often surprise people when I admit that one of my favorite books here at the Library is not a centuries-old icon of the history of printed word, but is instead a humble little book called The Doughnut Boy and Other Poems. But it's true. I love this little book both because of how it came to be as well as for the illustrated poems within, all of which offer a glimpse of New York City through the eyes of a sassy little beret-wearing, doughnut-loving, public-transit-taking, library-visiting child.
Published in 1940, The Doughnut Boy and Other Poems is one of an extensive series of titles published in the late 1930s and early 1940s, all created through the New Reading Materials Program, which was a partnership between the Work Projects Administration and the Board of Education of the City of New York City. The books they made united working writers, poets, and artists to write, illustrate, and print texts that were then used to boost the reading and literacy skills of the city's children. The Library has dozens of New Reading Materials Program books, and the stories include poetry, folk tales, fairy tales, history, and more. Doughnut Boy is just one of them, and in it poems by Barbara Young and art by Jean Oliver evoke a child's daily life in New York City.
There's the fun of riding the Staten Island Ferry.
As well as the joy of witnessing the city's trees change throughout the seasons.
There's also poetry about the subway, about the city at night, about the diversity of its residents, and, of course, about a beloved doughnut vendor. And the entire book wraps up with a poem about New York Public Library, which concludes with a bit of career guidance. Happy National Poetry Month, from this "lady in a library" and the Doughnut Boy! To hear an excerpt from The Doughtnut Boy and Other Poems as well as a whole month's worth of other beloved poems, visit the Library's National Poetry Month page every day in April!