Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book Love: HIDDEN CITY (Giveaway!)


In my blogging life, there are few things that give me as much satisfaction as being able to introduce a poet from one of The Best of Today's Little Ditty collections as a DEBUT AUTHOR.

This is one of those moments.

Although Sarah Grace Tuttle hails from Boston, we never crossed paths while I lived there. My connection with her is one of those "small world" stories—a close friend of mine told me about a woman named Sarah who writes poetry in her critique group. Not long after, I started noticing Sarah Grace Tuttle's name pop up in Poetry Friday roundups, and, well, here we are!

On her website, Sarah describes how, thanks to her Nana, her first stories were recorded before she was even able to write. She also describes her lifelong fascination with the natural world. Unwilling to choose one interest over the other in college, she ended up earning degrees in both Environmental Studies and English, followed by an MFA in Writing for Children.

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (March 8, 2018)
ISBN: 978-0802854599
Find at, Barnes & Noble, &
Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2018) is the result of Sarah's two passions coming together to create a book that's graceful and eye-opening—the perfect blend of poetry and science.

Twenty-eight pared-down, lyrical poems celebrate the urban wildlife that captivated Sarah as a young child, from house mice to feral cats, dandelions to elm trees, and shadowy spiders to roof top falcons. Coupled with Amy Schimler-Safford's richly colored collage illustrations, this collection also happens to be gorgeous!

While marketed for young children (have a look at the adorable book trailer), Hidden City will be enjoyed by anyone who is enchanted by nature. Whether it's pigeon pageantry, ants waging war on the sidewalk, moss carried by a shoe, or a cricket singing to his mate in a heating vent, the hidden lives of plants and animals are unveiled in surprising and imaginative episodes that dazzle and pop off the page.

One of my favorite poems is this collection is about house sparrows. (I wish you could hear them "chitter-cheeping" outside my window right now!)

From Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife (Eerdmans, 2018).
Text © Sarah Grace Tuttle; illustrations © Amy Schimler-Safford.

A "hidden" benefit of Hidden City is that it subtly reminds readers to notice and care about the environment—the flora and fauna that share our corners of the world. You'll find additional fun and unusual facts about the wildlife featured in these poems at the back of the book, as well as suggestions for further reading.

And speaking of further reading, do be on the lookout for another book from Sarah coming this fall! It's a board book from Creative Editions called Dot, Stripe, Squiggle. Also inspired by nature, it introduces the extraordinary patterns displayed in living things by featuring dotted, striped, and squiggly sea creatures.

For today, however, I've invited Sarah to come and talk about the inspiration for one of her poems from Hidden City. And because we're focusing on poetry in the classroom this month at Today's Little Ditty, she has a wonderful educational activity to offer as well!

Thanks so much for being with us, Sarah.

Thank you so much Michelle for hosting me today and featuring Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife. Happy Poetry Friday!

Hidden City was born from my life-long love of nature in the city. As a child, dandelions were my favorite wildflowers. Pigeons were endlessly fascinating, and rabbit tracks on the sidewalk were a special find on a winter day. As an adult, I wanted to create a book for the kids like I was—the city kids who love the wildlife right in their own backyard, and the ones who would love it if given the chance.

Many of the poems in Hidden City are based on moments of observing wildlife or questions about what I saw that I had as a young person. They are also science poems, designed to quietly teach readers about what they are seeing as they look around their neighborhoods and backyards.  

“Sunflower Buffet” is a list poem inspired by a tall stand of sunflowers I walked by every day when coming home from school.  

From Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife (Eerdmans, 2018), text © Sarah Grace Tuttle,
illustrations © Amy Schimler-Safford. Click image to enlarge.


pollen and seeds
can feed

I always saw so many animals in and around the flowers! Many of the animals I included in the poem are ones I observed on those walks. As a science writer, I also created this poem as a way to introduce an underlying concept of food webs—how one species can feed many others. A sunflower provides so much more than food, but focusing the poem on this single ecological function allowed me to both educate and have some fun.

List poems are a great way to start teaching the observation skills that an ecologist or wildlife scientist relies on in the field. Here is an observation list poem activity that you can take and adjust to the needs of your group of young writers.

Part One: Research

Take your writers to an outdoor place—the schoolyard, a local park, or even a side street with a few trees on it. Have them pick something natural to focus on—it can be anything, so long as it’s not man-made! Maybe they spot an ant in a sidewalk crack, or focus on a tree, bird, cloud, or flower in a garden. Have them list at least 10 things (fewer for very young children) that they notice about what they are observing. Their list can be single words or multi-word phrases, but it must be something they actually observe that day. Encourage them to be as specific as they can.

Part Two: Writing

For very young children, the list they made outside can be their poem. Have the title of the poem be what they observed.

For older children, have your writers pick at least six of the things on their list and arrange them into a poem. They can choose the order of their items any way they want (alphabetical, chronological, spatial, or even just what sounds good), but there should only be one item per line. Have them add another line or two to the poem about what they observed. Suggestions: If they are adding lines at the beginning of the poem, have them use the lines to introduce their subject. (For example: “A lone tree on the sidewalk…” ) If they are adding lines at the end of the poem, have them use the lines to draw some sort of conclusion about what they observed. (For example: “… a tree is a busy place!”) I find these extra lines are always fun to read. You never know what a child will come up with!

Thank you, Sarah!
What an excellent way to bring poetry into the classroom. 

Would you like to get your hands on a copy for your home or school library? 
(Of course you would!)

Sarah has graciously offered a personalized copy of Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife to one lucky Today's Little Ditty reader. To be eligible, all you need to do is leave a comment below or send an email to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject "HIDDEN CITY GIVEAWAY." You have until Wednesday, March 21, 2018. The winner will be selected randomly and announced on Friday, March 23rd.

In addition, Sarah is running another giveaway at her website that is specifically for teachers—an opportunity to win one of three classroom visits. (In person if your school is within the extended Boston area, or a virtual visit if it is not.)  Click HERE for more information about the classroom visit giveaway.

Thank you to everyone who has been leaving golden shovel poems on our March 2018 padlet. We've got quite a variety there already, but there's always room for more! This week's featured poems at Today's Little Ditty were by Brenda Davis Harsham, Janice Scully, Sherry Howard, and Cindy Breedlove. Jone Rush MacCulloch  featured a golden shovel this week at Deo Writer. Mary Lee Hahn, Catherine Flynn, and Michelle Kogan are all featuring golden shovel poems at their blogs today.

Lovely Linda Baie is our host this week for the Poetry Friday roundup. You'll find all the poetry goodies over at TeacherDance.


  1. I've already ordered this wonderful book by Sarah because Brenda shared it this week too, & I read her post first! It looks delightful.Spending lots of time in the wild is what I did so often with my students, and yes, poetry comes easily when inspired in nature.The Trailer is darling, too. Thanks, Michelle And Sarah for the giveaway, and congratulations on the book!

    1. Yay, Linda!! So glad to hear this. I'm happy to learn here that Sarah has another book coming. :-)

  2. So glad you are featuring this book, Michelle! My post today is also about HIDDEN CITY. It's a beauty. A debut is such a special thing... three cheers for Sarah!!! Great teacher tips, too. Thank you. xo

  3. Michelle, I love that Irene, you and I all managed to emphasize different things. And I love that we both adored the Sunflower Buffet. :-)

  4. Oh, must get this book! Love the sample poems and learning more about the book from Sarah. The art is charming too :).

  5. Yes, these sample poems are delicious! Congratulations to Sarah on her debut, and thanks so much for introducing us to her book, Michelle. Thanks also for your comment on my sonnet last week--I've been offline and haven't had a chance to respond until today.

  6. This sounds like a lovely book! I loved the two poems featured.

  7. What a wonderful debut! It's been fun seeing different aspects of this book highlighted on different sites today. Clearly it needs to go on my book-buying list. The sparrow poem captivated me and the illustrations are fabulous!

  8. Love, love, love the words and the art! What a gorgeous debut!

  9. I love this so much! I love nature and I love nature in the city and I love these poems.

  10. Congratulations, Sarah. Your book looks wonderful!

  11. What a fabulous new poetry treasure! I can't wait to share this lesson with my students!

  12. Oh, this collection looks wonderful! I want to read it now!

  13. I need me some sparrows right now! We've had enough winter this year, right Sarah Grace Tuttle (and Brenda Harsham)?

  14. An enchanting book in so many ways, congratualtions Sarah! I loved hearing about where the ideas for the poems came from, way back when. Thanks for sharing Sarah's book with us Michelle!

  15. This book is getting lots of love! Hooray for Sarah!

  16. Michelle & Sarah: Thank you this wonderful post! And congratulations, Sarah, on a gorgeous book. What a debut!!! The artwork pairs beautifully with your carefully chosen words. Delightful!

  17. From Dianne Moritz:

    I really enjoyed the 2 poems posted from Sarah's book. I could "see" the little sparrows huddling in the rain. Her simple imagery was very sweet and evocative.

  18. The list poem activity sounds good. I'm saving it for future reference. Thanks, Sarah and Michelle!

  19. This book is a treasure, in word and art. I am ordering it now. Thank you for shining a light on such beautiful words and art about the world right around us. xx

  20. I saw this book on blog I read earlier and fell in love with it. I have always been fascinated by how nature can take root in the most unlikely of places.