My Leaf Book

Nana in the City

by Lauren Castillo

When a little boy spends the weekend with his nana, who lives in an apartment in the city, he is unsure about the new experiences the city offers. But with Nana's special help, he quickly discovers that cities are a perfect place for Nanas to live and boys to visit. 

Is your young reader a city child like Eloise, or not accustomed to the hustle and bustle of big city life like the little boy in Nana in the City? If the latter, your young reader might share some of the little boy's fears. Nana in the City inspires independence and being open to new things. Lauren Castillo's book shows young readers that visiting new places and having new adventures is not such a scary thing after all! 

In this Issue


City Shapes Art Activity

City Shapes Art Activity - Nana in the City - Lauren Castillo -

Since the city is one of the main characters in Nana in the City, what better way to extend the story than for your young reader to create a city of their own?  Young readers will take great delight in filling the windows of the buildings with the familiar faces of their own family, friends, and pets! It is fun to create the buildings with simple black lines, and have the faces peering from the windows in bright colors, inspired by Lauren Castillo's illustrations. 

Invite your young reader to explore how basic rectangles can transform into buildings and windows. In this way they can see how shapes are the building blocks of any more complex drawing - like the pictures in Michael Hall's books My Heart is Like a Zoo and Perfect Square - and in this case they form city buildings.  The size of your young reader's cityscape will depend on the length of the paper. Some young readers may be so immersed in this activity that they will want to have blocks and blocks to their city - either by taping more pieces of paper together to using a roll of paper like we used in the Magnificent Hats art project or the My Garden Mural. This may become an ongoing city development project!

In the story, the little boy overcomes his fear of the rather overwhelming city when he sees the sights, sounds and faces that bring it to life. With this art activity, your young reader has the opportunity to bring their own city to life.


We found these images of the illustration process for Nana in the City from an interview with Lauren Castillo (there are more pictures in the interview!). In these examples you can see how she uses black lines with bright pops of color, which inspired our idea for this week's art activity.

   Nana in the City - Lauren Castillo -

Nana in the City - Lauren Castillo -


City Shapes Art Activity


  • Paper
  • Black Marker
  • Crayons
  1. Invite your young reader to create city buildings by drawing rectangles for buildings and filling those with squares and rectangles for windows and doors. 
  2. Use crayons to add people and pets to the windows. 

You Might Also Enjoy: Explore Ink, Colored Pencil, and Watercolor Art with Kids


Make a Paper Bag Cape

We originally made this Paper Bag Cape to go with Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, but it's also perfect to make after reading Nana in the City!

Make a Cape from a Paper Bag - Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo -


Soft and Chewy Pretzels

Soft and Chewy Pretzels - Nana in the City - Lauren Castillo -

After enjoying Lauren Castillo's story and seeing her illustration of the street cart vendor selling hot pretzels, we knew this was the perfect recipe to accompany Nana in the City. Although the steps involving boiling water and the hot oven require parental help, there are many opportunities for young reader involvement in making this recipe, including measuring ingredients, rolling dough into long ropes, and forming the pretzels. Plus, the dough has to rise for a bit, which gives you and your young reader time for another rereading of the book or the addition of a few more buildings to the cityscape. 

Soft and Chewy Pretzels - Nana in the City - Lauren Castillo -

Soft and Chewy Pretzels - Nana in the City - Lauren Castillo -

Soft and Chewy Pretzels

Adapted from Martha Stewart Kids, September/October 2004


  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • Coarse or pretzel salt
  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine yeast, sugar, honey, flours, water, and salt. Mix on low speed about 8 minutes until a smooth dough has formed. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes, until dough is puffy. 
  2. Toward the end of the rise time, stir the baking soda into a large pot of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  3. Punch down the risen dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll one of the dough pieces into a rope about 24 inches long. 
  4. Form the pretzel by grasping each end of the dough "snake" and bringing the ends together, leaving a loop at the bottom. Wrap the ends around each other once, then lay the ends on the bottom loop to form the pretzel shape. (It's  more complicated to describe than actually do; you can also use these pictures as a guide). Repeat with the remaining dough pieces. 
  5. Place as many pretzels as will fit in the pot of boiling water and cook for about 30 seconds, then turn each over and cook for about 30 seconds more. Transfer pretzels to a baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse or pretzel salt. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. 

You Might Also Enjoy: Teddy Bear Bread


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I just love the variety of activities you've paired with the story! Allowing the kids to create while practicing shapes -- love that learning connection. And the pretzels certainly remind me of my last visit to the city :)


I love the activities that you provided to go along with the book.

Carol McKechnie

Thanks so much for all of the ideas. I love the art project. My students would love to make these and share their work with another class in a little art gallery project!

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