The Mayor of Central Park

The Mayor of Central Park

4.0 2
by Avi

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Life is good for Oscar Westerwit. He's the mayor of Central Park — the greatest place on earth for the squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and other animals who live there. He's the shortstop and manager of his baseball team. What could be bad?

Plenty! Big Daddy Duds, jewel thief, all-around thug, and leader of rats, is about to take over the park. And when he does,


Life is good for Oscar Westerwit. He's the mayor of Central Park — the greatest place on earth for the squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and other animals who live there. He's the shortstop and manager of his baseball team. What could be bad?

Plenty! Big Daddy Duds, jewel thief, all-around thug, and leader of rats, is about to take over the park. And when he does, the other animals who live there will be turned out of their homes. Everyone looks to Oscar to save the day, but he may not even be able to save himself. . . .

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
This New York is brash, energetic and wittily translated to fit Avi's anthropomorphic world, while Brian Floca's full-page illustrations skillfully render both the characters and their park. In his elegantly detailed pencil drawings, a battalion of rats, armed and at attention, fills Bethesda Fountain Terrace (the angel of the fountain, of course, is here a squirrel); in another, the nattily attired Oscar hatches a plot in the dim bar of the Rock and Mole Café. — Andrea Thompson
Publishers Weekly
In a starred review, PW called this tale of a baseball-loving jewel thief of a rat who takes over Central Park in 1900 New York City, "an over-the-top romp." Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
When Big Daddy Duds moves his gang of rats from downtown Manhattan to Central Park, it is bad news for the residents. Oscar Westerwit, baseball fanatic and Mayor of Central Park as voted by its residents, decides to fight back with an army but soon realizes they are no match for these thugs. This early twentieth-century melodrama would not be complete without a damsel, but this one is anything but helpless. When Big Daddy's daughter, Maud, is jilted by her beau, Arty Bigalow, she leaves her parents' home. Maud, a nurse, gets a job working for a rich old goat in Central Park. When she hears what her father has done, Maud offers to help Oscar. She suggests a baseball game to determine who controls Central Park. Oscar's star pitcher, Arty Bigalow, is nowhere to be found on the big day. Much to the surprise of everyone, Maud becomes an integral part of the game. An amusing story with a teasing of baseball and a wide range of well-developed characters. When Avi's gangster talk is right on, it adds real color to the story. There are, however, some moments where it feels jarring and contemporary. Full-page pen and ink drawings are scattered throughout the book and will be appreciated by readers who have recently moved into chapter books. 2003, HarperCollins, Ages 8 to 10.
—Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-This animal fantasy cum comic-gangster tale is spiced with some old-fashioned romance and set at the turn of the 19th century. The narrator, a cub reporter at the Daily Mirror, tells the story of squirrel Oscar Westerwit, acclaimed as the "Mayor" of Central Park. The story centers around Oscar's struggle against the rat Big Daddy Duds, when he and his gang invade the park, terrorize the residents, and vandalize their homes. The book opens with the star pitcher of the Central Park Green Sox going missing: the first sign that something is amiss. The resolution to the conflict comes through a baseball game, and the character who replaces the missing player provides a pleasurable plot twist. The lighthearted, almost frothy characterization and conversational storytelling style work fine, and successfully evoke a tough New York, complete with payoffs and tip-offs. However, the fantasy is less successful. Some animals live in trees, albeit fully furnished, even electrified ones, leading readers to believe that they coexist with a human-sized world. On the other hand, wealthy Mr. van Blunker, a goat, lives in a mansion on Fifth Avenue. It turns out that there are no humans in this fantasy universe, but the magic is broken, and readers are left wondering about the relative sizes of the animals and their physical environment. The inclusion of nonnative animal species, including a yak and a kangaroo, may be a nod to cosmopolitanism, but it further weakens the fantasy. Still, this is an enjoyable chapter book for readers not yet ready for the seriousness or more sophisticated humor of Poppy (Orchard, 1995) and its sequels.-Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Central Park's furred and feathered residents face an incursion of gangster rats in this turn-of-the-20th-century tale of baseball, interspecies romance, and ingenuousness triumphant. The sudden appearance of Big Daddy Duds and his well-armed thugs compels Oscar Westerwit, a bon vivant squirrel who considers himself the park's unofficial "Mayor," to take action. His ragtag "army" is quickly dispersed, but unexpected allies have been at work behind the scenes, and persuade Oscar to play on Duds's predilection for baseball by challenging him to a winner-take-all game. With Oscar's new heartthrob Maud making a surprise appearance on the mound, the good guys come out on top, of course. Told in rollicking, streetwise language, the episode rolls fluidly along, and aside from one wounded rabbit the violence never escalates beyond threats-but there's more baseball talk than baseball action. Avi can do better than this predictable plot, and despite his habit of calling park residents "voters," and Floca's natty Wind in the Willows-type animal figures, any satiric or metaphorical subtext is buried beyond recovery. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.41(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Mayor of Central Park

Chapter One

I Start Telling the Tale

Now the way I heard it, this whole loopy story happened in the pearly month of May 1900, right here in the middle of New York City. It's mostly about this gray squirrel who went by the name of Oscar Westerwit.

To look at Oscar Westerwit you might think, hey, just another New York City squirrel. Only thing is, if you said that, you'd be dead wrong. 'Cause the simple scoop is that this here Oscar Westerwit was a full-sized uptown romantic. And when you get an uptown squirrel who's romantic, let me tell you something: You got yourself a story busting to trot itself up Broadway like a tap-dancing centipede.

But you're asking, how come I was able to grab this tale? Well, back in them days I was cub reporter for the Daily Mirror. My beat was Central Park. So, figures, while I'm not in the story, I heard all about it.

Anyway, this Oscar Westerwit, this squirrel I'm talking about, the voters in Central Park used to call him the mayor of Central Park. Which ain't to say he actually was mayor. At the time, the real mayor of New York was Hiz Honor Robert A. Van Wyck, a guy so terrific they named a traffic jam after him.

But the thing of it was, since Oscar knew everybody and everything in the park so well, the voters there called him the mayor.

Now to bump right into the beginning, this yarn started spinning string on the third Friday night in May. That was when Oscar held his regular mayor's monthly open house.

Only first you need to fix yourself a picture of Oscar in your head. I mean, this here was one swell-suited squirrel, dressed up to all nine buttons. He was sporting a light, white cotton suit, with a baby blue bow tie, shined-up shoes and spats, and a ripping red gardenia right there on his jacket lapel.

And his home -- a two-room elm tree apartment in the middle of the park-was just as terrific. There was an easy chair by the window with an actual electric lamp at its side. There was a pile of The Baseball Weekly stacked up along with the New York Tribune. Pictures of his heroes -- Honus Wagner, Roscoe Conklin, and Lillian Russell -- were on the walls, right along with his degree from the City University -- class of 1898.

As for Oscar hisself, he was humming a Broadway show tune and sliding into a tap-dance do-diddle every other step while setting food on the table. You know, like:

My sweetheart's the girl in the moon,
I'm getting to marry her soon.

When all of a sudden, who should come bip-bopping into his room? Sam Peekskill, that's who.

"Hey, Oscar," the rabbit shouted, the way only an excited southpaw rabbit can volume his voice, "Arty Bigalow has gone missing!"

Now what you got to know is, Oscar wasn't just mayor of Central Park. No, sir, he was also the shortstop and manager of the Central Park Green Sox. And a pretty decent player, too.

"Says who?" said Oscar to Sam.

"No one's seen him since day before the day before."

"I'm not worried," said Oscar as he filled a bowl with nuts and crackers and set it by the window.

"How come?" said Sam.

"Sam," said Oscar as he laid out some pretzels and pickles, "no way Arty's going to miss the game. Hey, if we beat the Wall Street Bulls, we're in first place. He knows that. I know that. Everyone knows that. Here, pal, spot down these cucumber sandwiches."

"Sure," said Sam, doing like he was told. "But Oscar," he said, "this Arty, his personal life is one big spicy meatball. What the guys were thinking was, maybe youse should go check his boardinghouse. I mean, that cat's our only pitcher."

Oscar shook his head and plunked a pile of napkins down like he was flashing a royal flush at a Friday night poker game. "Tonight's my open house."


"Hey, Sam," said Oscar. "Come over here."

Sam went to where Oscar was standing by the window.

"See that moon in the sky?" said the squirrel.

"Sure. It's where it's supposed to be, ain't it?"

"Right. But pop your eyes on how the moonlight makes the park hills, lakes, trees, and meadows look like they've been dipped deep in blue light and purple shadow."


"And there -- the Dakota towers are looking like servants on the ready. Now -- listen to those clip-clopping horses and carriages on Fifth Avenue. And over to the West Side -- hear them clanging trolley bells. Got all that?"

"What's all this to do with tomorrow's game?"

"Sam," said Oscar, "this Central Park is ... perfect."

"Yeah, but if Arty --"

"Hey, pal," said Oscar, "Central Park is where I was born, grew up, and live. Central Park is the best beauty in this whole burg."

"Sure, Oscar, but Arty --"

"Hey, come on. Guys like us have been around here long before 1857 when the park was built; long before the Dutch showed up in 1612. Long even before the Lenape Indians named this island Manna-hata."

"Okay," said Sam. "It's great to know all that stuff, but if Arty don't --"

Oscar spread his forepaws wide. "Hey, I love this place!"

"Oscar," said Sam, "you know where a romantic like youse belongs? In a Broadway show, that's where."

"Broadway Oscar, that's me!" And the squirrel did a quick tap-dance double doodle.

"That's cute, Oscar, but I just hope you're right about Arty."

Wasn't long before the apartment was crowded. Some were there for the nuts, pretzels, and talk Oscar laid out deep. But plenty of folks were there asking for his help ...

The Mayor of Central Park. Copyright © by Denise Avi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Avi is the award-winning author of more than seventy-five books for young readers, ranging from animal fantasy to gripping historical fiction, picture books to young adult novels. Crispin: The Cross of Lead won the Newbery Medal, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth were awarded Newbery Honors. He is also the author of the popular Poppy series. Avi lives outside Denver, Colorado. You can visit him online at

Brian Floca's illustrations have appeared in several books by Avi, including the six volumes of the Poppy stories and the graphic novel City of Light, City of Dark. For younger readers, he is the author and illustrator of Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo II as well as the highly praised books Lightship, a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book and ALA Notable Book; The Racecar Alphabet, also an ALA Notable Book; and Five Trucks.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 23, 1937
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964

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The Mayor of Central Park 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A squirrel named Oscar Westerwit, who¿s the mayor of Central Park, loves baseball. Daddy Duds who¿s the leader of the downtown gang, likes baseball just as much as diamonds and jewels. Daddy Duds and his thugs are trying to take over Central Park. But Oscar and his friends are trying to stop them. Will they be able to save Central Park before it¿s too late? I like this book because Avi makes this book fun and also he makes this book come to life. He can make you see how the characters think and feels. I think that this book is filled with adventure, mystery and of course baseball.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Oscar Westerwit owns Central Park and its very own baseball team, the Green Sox. Everything is peaceful in Oscar¿s domain until Arte Bigalow, famous and talented pitcher on the Green Sox, never turns up on a fateful game of baseball. Then Big Daddy Duds, a rat criminal with a love of diamonds and baseball, arrives with his gang and raises turmoil in Central Park. His gang drives animals out of their homes and even manipulates the local police force in the rat¿s favor. What can Oscar do? Admittedly, my favorite part of this book is the animal fiction aspect of it. In fact, Oscar Westerwit himself is a squirrel. I also thought that it contained a lot of detail, however, Avi did not over-elaborate, so I really felt that I was with Oscar throughout the book. I didn¿t like the way that Arte Bigalow disappears near the beginning of the book and then never reappears again. All in all, the Mayor of Central Park is quite an enjoyable read.