Hidden City Poems of Urban Wildlife

Hidden City

Written by Sarah Grace Tuttle

Illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2018.

I grew up in the woods with the summer sounds of wood thrushes and katydids lulling me to sleep each night. In spring, we searched the woods for Indian pipes, Dutchman’s breeches, and lady slippers. The squirrels and songbirds joined us at meals at our picnic table among the trees. Despite all this, I was thrilled to move right into Boston when I was a teenager, and I’ve never wanted to be too far from that city since. But in the years I raised my young children, I despaired of giving them the kind of connection to nature that was so easy to nurture in the woods. I wish I had had a copy of Hidden City when they were small.

Sarah Tuttle’s poems evoke the rhythms, sounds, and behaviors of the wildlife tucked in and around a city landscape. Tuttle’s love and knowledge of wildlife and ecology sings through with information artfully included in each poem to help children and their parents know where to look for wildlife and learn more about each species. The poems focus on the everyday sightings of pigeons, sparrows, and dandelions and the more unusual: raccoons at night, snakes in the vacant lot, red-winged blackbirds in the marsh by the railroad track. These rich poems will spark interest—and questions. A rich double-page spread of end notes provides both more information and a list of resources for families wanting to learn more.

Tuttle’s beautiful poems are beautifully paired with artist Amy Schimler-Safford’s colorful artwork. The pictures are not only inviting, but also fun and informative. Many of the pictures have wildlife hidden here and there for eager readers to find. Who wouldn’t want to dive into these appealing pictures to find the dragonfly among the cattails, count the snails at night, or imagine the mouse’s warm paper nest?

To be fair, I must disclose that Sarah Tuttle is a critique partner of mine, so I have known and loved these poems for some time. I will be buying this book for my home library and sharing it with families I know. Even if you don’t know her, if you are raising or teaching children in a city environment, you will want a copy of this book to read and study and to encourage your family to go out and discover the wildlife in your neighborhood.

I received an advance reader copy of Hidden City courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Seven Audiobooks to Make Holiday Travel Fly By

The impending holidays make me think of travel with kids. I don’t know any kid who likes a long car ride, but a good audiobook can turn cranky into complaisant and make hours feel like minutes.

For the Younger Set:

audio-winnie-the-poohWinnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

The set we had when our children were small was put out by the BBC. We loved it because it had pooh stories but it also had poems from When We Were Very Young. There are loads of editions out there. I’d definitely go for British actors!

 

audio-junie-b-jonesJunie B. Jones by Barbara Park

The whole family loved to listen to Junie B stories. She always got us laughing out loud with her antics!

 

For Older Kids:

audio-hp-and-the-sorcerers-stoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

This one almost goes without saying. We’ve listened to some of the Harry Potter stories in addition to reading them. They’re beautifully read by Jim Dale, and each book contains hours of material. We found we got a different appreciation for the stories by hearing the words read aloud.

audio-chronicles-of-narniaThe Chronicles of Narnia C. S. Lewis

My in-laws gave my daughter this boxed set with all seven of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories. They’ve been a favorite of both my kids. There are connected stories that fall both before and after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, so there’s lots of material there. They’re read beautifully, so even though my husband and I aren’t C. S. Lewis fans, we’ve all listened to them together.

My Current Favorites:

audio-the-graveyard-bookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I’m just listening to this book now. It’s one I’ve been meaning to read for years and what a fun book it is! Nobody, the main character, is a living boy raised by the ghosts in a graveyard. So charming, such beautiful language, so very English! It’s a tribute to The Jungle Book with a very different setting. The beginning is quite violent and scary, so if you’ve got very small or sensitive kids, this might not be the best choice.

audio-brown-girl-dreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

I don’t know why it took me so long to get to this book, but it became an instant favorite. Written in verse and read by the author, it was an absolute delight to listen to in the car. Because each track is a poem, it would also be a great book to listen to in small chunks. The language is gorgeous and Woodson’s memories of growing up brown during the civil rights era is important for all American children to hear. This book could also spark great discussions. I may have to plan a road trip, so I can share it with my family.

Finally, Flashing My Geek Card — the radio play my entire family can quote from:

audio-hitchhikers-guideThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This series was actually a radio play before it was published as a book. It’s got everything you need for a long, boring trip: excitement, space travel, and the answer to life, the universe, and everything. What more could you need besides a towel?

The library’s a great place to discover new audiobooks, and for airplane trips Playaways, those tiny library mp3 players with just one book on them, are perfect. Then everyone can have their own story to enjoy.

Wishing you peaceful, story filled holidays and safe travels.

 

Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color

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Poems by Elizabeth Alexander & Marilyn Nelson. Pictures by Floyd Cooper.

Wordsong, 2007.

In 1831 Prudence Crandall opened a boarding school for young ladies at the request of the people of the town of Canterbury Connecticut. As a Quaker, she saw no problem with inviting the African American maid of the school to take part in classes once her work was done. Soon after, the first African American student enrolled. Unfortunately, the white residents of Canterbury took exception to African American students learning with their daughters. By 1833 the white students had been withdrawn and an entirely African American student body enrolled. The people in this very white town in the most homogenous state in the nation were in an uproar.

The poems in this beautiful book tell the story of this exceptional school, of its students, of their wish to better themselves and their communities, of the sacrifices they made to learn and of the trials they endured in a place where they were legally free but societally constrained.

The poems in this book and the beautiful illustrations evoke these brave students, their wonder at the fears of the residents of Canterbury, their hunger for learning. All sonnets, they tell a tale of the sacrifice made to get the girls to school and the troubles they face when the town turns against them, fouling the well, and making laws in attempts to drive them away.

I can see a myriad of uses for this book in the classroom. The story illuminates the tensions in the northeast in the mid-nineteenth century. It is easy to believe that all the racism and trouble in this period was in the south; however, Miss Crandall’s School clearly shows that tensions there between white and African American residents were very real and very dangerous.

The poems all take the form of sonnets and could be studied simply as poems or for their form. The details of the story provide avenues for critical thinking. How would you do your laundry, exercise, plant potatoes if the only way to stay safe was to remain within the walls of the school? What case could the students build against new laws made to evict them from the town and the state? Can one group of people restrict the education of another?

Highly recommended.