Next Stop Grand Central, by Maira Kalman

My friends, I apologize! I’ve been working from home for a long time now, ever since my daughter was born, and now that I’m working at the library, my cozy sitting-on-the-couch-with-my-computer time is severely limited! I haven’t written in a while, and that’s because a) most of my waking time is consumed by either being at the library or thinking about what needs to be done at the library and b) I’ve also kind of been out of town. A lot.

A few weeks ago, we all flew to Portland for my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday. Wonderful to see everyone, lots of rain, and I got to see the final product of a project I’ve been a part of for almost 3 years now.

Here’s the story: about 15 years ago, my friend Jessica Ferber, a recent graduate from University of Vermont and a photographer, received a phone call from one of her professors. It seemed a man had just collapsed and died in a local homeless shelter in Burlington. He had left behind several boxes containing mountains of negatives and photographs, and would she be interested in taking them on as a project? She was. She took them home and as she began looking through them, she found herself staring at the black and white images of Miles Davis, Flip Wilson, and Bud Powell among many others. She had very little to go on but what bits and pieces she could put together from the boxes. The man’s name was Robert James Campbell, and he had been a jazz photographer in New York in the 60’s and 70’s but at some point had dropped off the map. He had no family that came forward, no friends beyond those at the shelter. Jessica began the arduous journey of piecing together his story, tracing routes he’d taken, researching receipts and notes she found, trying to figure out how he’d ended up homeless and totally anonymous. She spent well over a decade consumed by Campbell’s story. She began a Kickstarter campaign in 2012, raising enough funds to professionally repair the negatives that had been badly damaged over the years and has finally put it all together in a beautiful book. It’s a fascinating retrospective and the photography is breathtaking. We spent well over a year together going over the text, and I’m thrilled to have had the experience editing it. It’s called “Rebirth of the Cool,” it came out YESTERDAY, and it can be ordered through Amazon or hopefully you’ll see it in your local bookstore!


She wrote a neat piece about her experience here.

A bit before that trip, my dear friend Katie and I met up for a girls’ weekend in NYC, where we got to see Hamilton on Broadway (OMG, go. If you have to knock down an old lady to see it, go), a live taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers, and then The Book of Mormon. We went to Ellis Island, the Met, the Natural History Museum, the Whitney Museum, and numerous coffee shops (she’s kind of a coffee guru). We even got to visit with my aunt who lives in Manhattan (and I took the train to New Jersey for a quick lunch with my grandmother and aunts). Whew, it was a whirlwind but the most thrilling kind!

Our first stop in New York was of course The Strand Bookstore, and I might have possibly overloaded on books in order to receive a *free* tote bag. I’m a sucker. BUT LOOK WHAT I FOUND!


I love Maira Kalman. I love her in the New Yorker, I love her blog, I love her children’s books, and I love her grownup’s books. Her doodles are gold. I want to wallpaper my house with her bright sketches. So when I saw this book, Next Stop Grand Central, I knew I’d be bringing it home for my kids.

Kalman really captures the feeling of the hustle and bustle of Grand Central Station, of New York in general even- how the chaotic crowd is made of individual characters and the crazy tempo of everyone rushing to make trains or working at the station.

I’ve written about a couple of Maira Kalman’s other books here and here, if you come across this one, it’s just as fun.

I’m afraid I’ve been sitting on this post for so long it’s nearly Christmas now, so I’m just going to link to some of my older posts regarding Christmas books.

I hope you’re all having a lovely holiday season, my friends!


These aren’t book reviews, per se, but more profiles of the really, really good ones. Recommendations, really, for which I am not compensated. If you’re looking to buy any of them, I’m afraid my Amazon store’s acting wonky right now, but click on the above link of the book title and it will take you to Powell’s, which I prefer actually. Or even better, walk on down to your local independent bookseller and support them.

3 thoughts on “Next Stop Grand Central, by Maira Kalman

  1. Wow! What a great story behind the book Rebirth of the Cool (great title, too) and I also love everything Maira Kalman (except I didn’t know about her blog – thanks!)
    I’ll be on the lookout for both books.


  2. Oh, how I understand you. Couldn’t understand (and sometimes even admit) the fact I’m still at work (I like my job though). Hope you had a nice Christmas time. Happy New Year, Amélie, and good luck at your work! 🙂 Keeping my fingers crossed for you.


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