by Judy and Terry

Have you ever been to Central Park in New York City?  We’ve been there a number of times and we love every visit.  We like it so much that the Park became the inspiration and setting for our first children's novel, The Protector of Central Park. 

The reasons why we are so attracted to the park are many.  For example, Terry thinks himself a bit of an amateur geologist and is, actually, very well self-educated on the stony roots of the Earth and how they came to be.  He is fascinated with the huge, bare-backed rock outcrops surfacing throughout the park like pods of whales rising from a sea of grass and woods.  He excitedly points out the claw marks left behind from ice-age glaciers and delights in explaining to anyone who will listen where the Manhattan Schist embankment at Billy Johnson's Playground came from.

Judy, on the other hand, is a gardener.  At the 1/2 acre home we lived in for sixteen years, she gardened with a passion; tunneling through earth with the eagerness of a mole, hilling up beds of iris, day lilies, and every kind of perennial she could get her hands on; planting as many trees as Johnny Appleseed; pruning dozens of varieties of roses and growing her own vegetables.  When she visits Central Park, she insists on stopping by the Shakespeare Garden, the Conservancy Garden, and the butterfly gardens of North Meadow.  She likes to end our stay in the serenity of Strawberry Fields.  Strawberry Fields, if you don't know, is a living memorial to John Lennon of the Beatles.  This tranquil spot is a Designated Quiet Zone in the Park, a place for peace and meditation, shaded by American elm trees.  A circular mosaic, placed there, is dedicated to John, whose life ended a short distance away in 1980; and a plaque proclaims that 121 countries endorse Strawberry Fields as a Garden of Peace. 

Geology and gardening are just the tip of the iceberg of all the fun things to see and do in Central Park.  There's the famous zoo, of course, the huge Jacquie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and other lakes and boats to go with them, the skating rink, the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, Belvedere Castle and Tavern on the Green, the Delacorte Theater, two wonderful museums, and dozens of ball parks, playgrounds, walking paths and acres and acres of fresh, green lawns for picnics, flying kites, or kicking a soccer ball, along with many other delights uncounted.  You can't "do" the Park in one visit or even one full day.  You must return again and again, as we do.  No sooner do we leave than we want to come back.

The park is a haven of beauty and peace.  Looking around, one has to be reminded that the park is entirely man made, with virtually every wheel-barrow of soil brought in from someplace else.  It is a wonder, as beautiful and green as it has ever been.  For any visitor to the Big Apple, Central Park is a destination not just for city-bustle-weary New Yorkers, but for everyone; so we confidently claim that Central Park is not just New York City's Park, it is America's Park.   

Our way of honoring the Park was to write a children’s story about the animals living there.  For some strange reason, our characters have personalities very much like those of the humans living around them.  They live in diverse neighborhoods, go to school, work to make a living and know how to have fun—people watching is their favorite recreational activity.  But they also live in a dangerous world.  The Protector of Central Park tells how the animals, led by a young squirrel who must grow up too soon, learn to face a devastating threat from outside the Park.

The story takes place in the northern-most section of the Park, which is less well known to out-of-city visitors.  But we made great effort to make it more familiar to our readers by thoroughly describing the places where the action takes place and by providing a map for reference.    Our hope is that this tale will bring many more humans to see what lies in the hidden reaches of Central Park.