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.

Picture Books

Nonfiction Picture BooksIt’s been years since I’ve been in the classroom as a teacher, but when I read children’s and young adult books I still think about which students I’d recommend them to. I think about how they might be useful in teaching or introducing one subject or another. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think of books primarily as teaching tools, but I do think that a great book is a wonderful way to open readers up to new information, insights, and experiences.

For the last few years I’ve been wondering whether nonfiction picture books could be used in classrooms for middle school and high school students. Would they be a good way to introduce a new topic, or would the kids just shut down because it seemed babyish and they were embarrassed?

I have a fair number of friends who have become middle school and high school teachers, but none of them have tried using picture books with their classes. So the question has been simmering in the back of my mind until recently.

Pernille Ripp is a teacher from Wisconsin. I’ve been following her blog for about a year. She’s forthright and honest about the joys and struggles of teaching. She questions everything, and she’s not afraid to get student opinions to make sure that her teaching methods are working for them. I just love her sensibilities.

Last year Ms. Ripp moved from teaching elementary school to teaching seventh grade English. This summer she’s written a couple of great posts on using picture books in the classroom. Here is her excellent post on why picture books belong in every classroom. And here is a post on her current 10 favorite nonfiction picture books.

She’s convinced me that picture books can have an important place in a classroom of older kids. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I do occasionally review nonfiction picture books. Since Ms. Ripp has confirmed my belief, I’m going to add nonfiction picture book reviews as a regular feature on the blog. I’ll post them on Tuesdays, so watch this space!

Are you a teacher or librarian who uses picture books with kids in middle school or above? I’d love to know about your experiences!