City under the city

Dan Yaccarino

Book - 2022

"Bix lives with her family in a city where people rarely talk or play together, and no longer read books. Instead, they stare at small portable screens, monitored by giant eyeballs. The Eyes are here to help! With everything. But Bix would like to do things for herself. Running from an Eye, she discovers another world: the City Under the City. There, she befriends a rat who leads her to a library and its treasure trove of books and knowledge. As she explores the abandoned city, she's t...hrilled to learn about the people who lived there, with no Eyes. But she misses her family, and decides to head home, where, just maybe, she can help defeat the intrusive Eyes--and show her people how to think for themselves and enjoy each other's company. Told through Dan Yaccarino's stunning graphic style, this page-turning picture book/early reader crossover will spark a new appreciation of reading, books, independence, friendship, and family."

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Review by Booklist Review

Bix and her family live in a futuristic world where The Eyes, yellow floating eyeballs with mechanical claws, watch everything and help everyone, from waking folks in their pods each morning to choosing the books schoolchildren read on their screens all day. But Bix wants to be independent. One day she follows a tiny, cute creature down a hole and tumbles deep underground where a city hides beneath her modern city. In the buried city, she discovers a library and begins reading books, which teach her how humans lived before The Eyes. There, she hatches a plan to spread this newfound knowledge and defeat The Eyes, but she'll need the help of everyone above ground. The moral messaging is clear and strong (it's essentially The Matrix meets Pleasantville, but for second graders), and the plot, for all its impressive complexities, is told in very simple text that will appeal to emergent readers. Yaccarino's highly recognizable digital-art style, with its lavender-skinned humans and minimalist color blocking, is perfectly sparse and mechanical for this quasi-disturbing dystopian adventure.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The latest from Yaccarino (The Longest Storm) centers a comics-styled near-future dystopia in which purple-hued people in pointy helmets have given up all claim to autonomy and connection. They walk around all-consumed by handheld screens and are "helped" in every moment of their lives--even teeth-brushing--by yellow, single-eyed floating orbs, the Eyes: "The Eyes don't just help. They also watch." Bix, the young protagonist, yearns for genuine relationships and self-determination, but her parents and sister are as distracted as everyone else. When a friendly rat introduces Bix to the titular, abandoned underground city and its library, museum, and music hall--the remnants of life before the Eyes took over--she's awakened to the possibility of another existence, and returns home to lead a successful uprising. The earnest, message-heavy storytelling slackens in places, but readers should appreciate the parallels between the Eyes and a familiar screen-obsessed surveillance culture, and resonate with Bix's thirst for knowledge and refusal to settle for the status quo. Ages 4--8. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Nov.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Horn Book Review

This unusual picture-book adventure stars one small girl who thwarts authority, starts a revolution, and saves the world. The futuristic tale plays out in three parts. The first introduces our hero, Bix, who lives with her family in a technologically advanced society where "the Eyes" -- bright yellow spheres with one eye and a retractable arm -- "help everyone." Nonconformist Bix resents the interference -- she can brush her own teeth, thank you -- but no one else seems bothered. One fateful day, Bix evades the ever-present Eyes, follows a friendly creature, and falls down a hole. Yaccarino (The Longest Storm, rev. 11/21) steers part two in an unexpected direction with a dramatic gatefold spread revealing an abandoned "city under the city." Where Bix's controlled, impersonal world is cool light blue, purple, and white, this subterranean setting is strikingly different, featuring warm reds, black, and hints of green. More curious than afraid, Bix explores the city. She finds a "very interesting place" (a library) full of "strange-looking objects" (books) and immerses herself in learning about this ancient, pre-Eyes civilization. When she eventually returns home, she brings a contraband book to share with her family, which ends up sparking a fire in the hearts of the populace. Part three involves an uprising against the Eyes' totalitarian regime. Younger readers may not pick up on the parallels to contemporary battles over freedom of thought and expression, but the straightforward, short lines of text are written for a picture-book audience -- advancing the story, developing character, and touching on deeper meaning. A stirring and thought-provoking tribute to the power of books, reading, and human connection. Kitty FlynnJanuary/February 2023 p.72 (c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A child living in a surveillance state uncovers another way of life. Bix and her family live under the constant supervision of the Eyes, floating yellow orbs with robotic arms and complete control over the daily lives of the inhabitants of this futuristic, unnamed abstract city. Through short, straightforward prose and comic panels depicting a space age--esque setting, readers learn that Bix dislikes the Eyes' assistance and surveillance, occasionally feels lonely, and hates her Eye-assigned reading. One day, she follows a rat underground and discovers the ruins of a very different city--one that appears much like one in which readers may live, albeit abandoned. There, she finds a library, a museum, and a grocery store--and evidence of a life before the Eyes, even the idea that once not everyone liked the Eyes. After a few days, she misses her family and returns to the city above with her new rat companion and a mountain of books. Everyone but the Eyes rejoices, and Bix begins a reading revolution that ends with the destruction of the Eyes. In this half-baked Nineteen-Eighty-Four--meets--City of Ember for kids, Yaccarino's choppy writing leaves much to be desired. Though the text is simple, the concepts seem to be aimed at an older age range; the result is hardly the life-changing reading Bix finds underground. Bix and most of the city's inhabitants are purple-skinned; other characters have skin the white of the page. (This book was reviewed digitally.) Uninspiring. (Picture book. 6-8) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.