Growing up, I loved this book. It is the very simple story of a brother and sister, Susie and Ned, who spend the day at the Children's Zoo in Central Park, NYC. While the zoo seems more like a petting zoo than the mega zoos we have today, it is sweet as they go from animal to animal holding their helium balloons.
I think my real attraction was the fact that the children visited on their own. In this big city of tall buildings and crowds, there was a place just for kids, where they could spend the afternoon on their own and be safe. Their mother picks them up at the end and says she will return another day to visit the zoo with them.
We are headed to NYC this fall with our kids. It will be their first time to Manhattan and when booking our trip, I immediately thought of this book and zoo. I want to see the whale itself with my children. I want to see the big, blue sappy whale with the fish tank in its mouth that was so great, people would queue for it.
Well, this story does not have a happy ending for the 5 year old me. Jonah the Whale was moved to Roackaway Beach in Queens when the zoo had a major overhaul in the mid 1990's. He now sits, mosaic-ed with his mouth close up, in a traffic triangle, an eyesore to many.
At least he still exists in his glory in books, photographs and the collective memory of the many adults who grew up visiting him or just reading about him and dreaming of the big city.