“Keeping the City Going,” a new children’s book by Brian Floca, is an homage to the essential workers who do just that — Postal Service employees among them.
“It was a very conscious decision to depict a postal worker,” Floca said. “So much around us simply shut down last spring, but never the delivery of mail or packages. That meant a lot to a lot of people.”
The book re-creates the mid-pandemic mood in word and image, with the eerie quiet of the streets punctuated by the bustle of essential workers supporting the people safe inside their homes.
One illustration is based on a letter carrier Floca met on Smith Street in Brooklyn, NY. He asked if he could take her photo, and she agreed.
“I gave her my card when we spoke, but I don’t know how convincing I sounded when I told her I was making a drawing that would go in a book,” he said.
Atlantic Area Corporate Communications employees determined the carrier in question was Maricruz Davis, who was completely unaware of her star turn. In fact, she only found out when her supervisor texted her with the news while she was visiting family in Panama.
She remembers the time depicted in the book well. “It was very scary. Every day I prayed to be safe. Every day I left my house I was in fear knowing something could happen to me.”
New York was particularly hard hit early in the pandemic and there were many coronavirus- related absences. Davis often worked long hours, finishing her route and then delivering backlogged mail.
“It wasn’t easy,” said the letter carrier, who is nearing her well-earned retirement.
Davis and the author chatted recently, after which Floca jumped on his bike to meet her on her route bearing gift copies of the book. “It felt really meaningful to be able to do that,” he said.
“Every portrait in the book is based on a person or people I saw working,” Floca said.
“Some of the drawings ended up being composite portraits, and many of the drawings are based on people I saw driving or biking past me. I didn’t always get to talk with those workers. I was lucky with Maricruz, and no other drawing in the book is based quite so directly on a single, specific person.”
Floca has written several other children’s books and has illustrated many others. His book “Locomotive” won the 2014 Caldecott Medal, which is awarded to the artist of the year’s most distinguished American picture book for children.
“Keeping the City Going” was released April 27 and has earned starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and Booklist.
Share your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your comments could be included in the “Mailbag” column.