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As an exploration of the relationship between children and their urban environment, this British import is lively and engaging, a city-lover's argument for ""making the city more accessible, more negotiable and more useful to the child."" Although Ward quotes from city enthusiasts and child authorities as different as Paul Goodman and Yi-Fu Tuan, Piaget and Claude Brown, his referrals and examples are largely British, the only factor which limits the book's appeal. Overall it's an observant, insightful examination of what the city offers children, how they have benefited historically, what modern attitudes--like the priority of the vehicle--now cross them up, and, briefly, how modifications of those attitudes, among planners and private citizens, could improve conditions for all. Ward champions the traditional street culture, fire hydrant rituals, et al.; fears that adventure playgrounds may yet succumb to adult shortsightedness--in the U.S., designs are already ""influenced"" by insurance companies and maintenance staffs; and upholds the sometime advantages of both child labor and formal schooling. And, in an especially articulate chapter, ""The Girl in the Background,"" he demonstrates how child-in-the-city has really meant boy: girls, because of parental restrictions, have been far less visible, often denied access to both central and streetcorner opportunities. There's much more here--examples of extraordinary neighborhood enterprises, familiar distinctions between class deprivation and the culture of poverty, comparisons between past and present runaways, and a generous assemblage of photographs: a batch from Becky Young, a series on the use of the milk crate, shots of games and street fairs and everyday events. ""Although throughout this book you read about the deprivations of the city child, you see through the eyes of the photographers how children colonize every last inch of left-over urban space for their own purposes, how ingeniously they seize every opportunity for pleasure. The words spell deprivation but the pictures spell joy.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1978
Publisher: Pantheon