[review + giveaway] Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals by Marilyn Singer and Gordy Wright

Imagine visiting New Delhi and seeing dozens of rhesus monkeys scampering down the street, climbing atop walls and buildings, even having them steal your food. People who live there are used to such monkey business, which is especially problematic when the animals break into and destroy homes and offices.

Monkeys are considered sacred in India, so it’s illegal to kill them. Though rhesus macaques have traditionally been cared for in temples around the country, many have been displaced due to a variety of factors. Today, there are an estimated 30,000 rhesus macaques running wild in New Delhi, and persistent efforts to chase them away remain futile.

This is just one of the interesting scenarios described in Marilyn Singer’s new poetry picture book, Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals (words & pictures, 2019). Illustrated by British artist Gordy Wright, this unique collection introduces readers to creatures around the world who have adapted well to urban life, citing why they may have left their natural habitats.

 

 

We meet each animal through a poem and nonfiction note, sometimes hearing their voices and candid observations about being city dwellers.

From the monkeys saying, “Give us/give us/what we want, what we need;” to the wily Chicago coyotes demanding the kind of respect afforded their domestic canine cousins, “We came on foot,/crossing dangerous terrains . . . give us welcome to rid you of your mice and rats;” to the wild boars in Berlin expressing their gratitude, “Thanks for knocking down that wall./Thanks for your delicious corn./We declare a free-for-all;” we can better appreciate their amazing ability to trade “forests, caves, prairies, rocks,” for “bridges, rooftops, city blocks” — and thrive!

Using a variety of poetic forms, including haiku, villanelle, acrostic, sonnet, free verse, and her famous reverso, Marilyn captures the essence of each animal’s reality, sometimes creating an emotional context or painting a striking lyrical image. We can easily picture beautiful monarch butterflies traveling long distances “across wild mountains, tame gardens, familiar parks and distant plains.”

 

 

My first thought upon seeing “city animals” in the book’s title brought to mind the usual suspects: mice, rats, pigeons, squirrels, roaches. It never occurred to me that if I ever visited Thailand, for example, I might stumble upon a giant lizard, or that in Nara, Japan, I could feed and bow to a deer and it just might bow back!

I loved learning about all the new-to-me animals: Brazilian Agoutis (who help grow nut trees), Huntsman Spiders in South Africa (cool weathercasters), and Brushtail Possums in Australia (best to build outdoor shelters so they don’t invade your attic!).

Did you know the world’s largest urban bat colony can be found under a bridge in Austin, Texas? Or that reticulated pythons travel through the sewers in Singapore? What about those badgers in England who upend cemetery gravestones and dig up bones? And no one knows for sure whether the fresh water river crabs, who live beneath the ruins of Emperor Trajan’s Forum in Rome, predated the arrival of the Romans thousands of years ago, or if they escaped from an ancient fish market to breed in the underground canals.

Readers will marvel at the wealth of fascinating details, never thinking about city animals in quite the same way again. After all, many of them had no choice but to make a new life amidst steel, glass, and concrete once their natural habitats were destroyed. Those who were there before the cities were built have proven their remarkable resiliency in the face of formidable change.

Wild in the Streets is truly a captivating blend of poetry and prose, thoughtfully examining the pros and cons of wild animal/human co-existence. Gordy Wright’s appealing illustrations happily take us from city to city, detailing the wide range of adopted homes, from French storks nesting on chimney tops, to Taiwanese tree frogs singing in the gutter, to majestic peregrine falcons surveying NYC from high atop a skyscraper ledge. It’s heartening to see humans interacting with wild animals, each taking the other in its stride. And, as with the case of honeybees (who are suffering from colony collapse disorder), we see how responsible urban apiculture in cities like Vancouver is vital.

 

 

After visiting all these cities, I love how the book ends with pigeons, who live “everywhere.” When I traveled to London, New York, Paris, Venice and Rome, there were pigeons there to greet me. It’s good to know that no matter how far you may roam, pigeons know just how to make you feel at home.

Finally, Wild in the Streets will prompt kids to be more observant and appreciative of the natural world, perhaps instilling the importance of protecting and preserving various animal species. It’s never too early to raise this awareness, and books like this one will get the conversation going.

Enjoy these sample poems from the book.

*

 

 

WHITE STORKS
Munster, France

For storks it doesn’t pay to be aloof.
They choose a chimney, spire, roof
in the middle of town to raise their chicks
atop a messy nest of sticks.

For storks it doesn’t come as any shock
to settle near a human flock.
Precarious perches seem alarming,
yet people also find them charming.

For years folks spread stories, sweet and weird,
until these birds became revered
as bringers of luck and sometimes maybe
the welcome gift of a newborn baby.

*

 

 

WATER MONITORS
Bangkok, Thailand

We want fish, we want meat.
Give us places to stay wet,
In the park — not the street.

You may watch while we eat
All the quarry we can get.
We want fish, we want meat.

We are lizards. We’re not sweet.
Still and all, we’re not a threat,
In the park — not the street —

We appreciate a treat.
Eggs are nice, but better yet,
We want fish, we want meat.

We can swim (but we can’t sweat)
In the park — not the street.

Take a photo, send a tweet.
Don’t attempt a friendly pet.
We want fish, we want meat
In the park — not the street.

*

 

 

SIKA DEER
Nara, Japan

It’s said that long ago a god appeared
atop a mountain, riding a white deer.
Today each doe, fawn, and buck is revered.
They roam the storied streets. They’re welcome here.

From all over the world, visitors throng
to see the town, its park and sacred shrine,
to feed these creatures, twelve hundred strong,
that aren’t patient, that will not wait in line.

At vending machines and food carts, they flock.
Some bow for biscuits — a delightful trick —
while others are testy, inclined to shock.
They jostle. They nip. They headbutt. They kick.

But greet them kindly and do not tease them.
Keep calm, bow first, and that may well please them.

*

 

 

WILD IN THE STREETS: 20 Poems of City Animals
written by Marilyn Singer
illustrated by Gordy Wright
published by words & pictures, September 17, 2019
Poetry Picture Book for ages 4+, 48 pp.
*Includes Author’s Note, List of Poetic Forms, Glossary, and Suggestions for Further Reading

 

*

 

🐝 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY 🦎

The publisher is generously offering a copy of Wild in the Streets for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment at this post mentioning your favorite city animal no later than midnight (EST) Wednesday, September 25, 2019. You may also enter by sending an email with WILD in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, please. Good Luck!

*

 

MOTHERSHELL GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Thanks for all your lovely comments on last week’s post. It was moving to hear how much Andrea’s poems touched all of you, bringing back memories of your own moms.

We are pleased to announce that the person who’ll be receiving her very own copy of MOTHERSHELL is:

🌺 TANIA!! 🌻

🎈 Congratulations, Tania!! We know you’ll enjoy the book!! 🎉

Thanks again, everyone!

*

 

The lovely Linda Baie is hosting the Roundup at TeacherDance. Please be sure to crawl, hop, fly, scamper or skip on over to see the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. Happy Poetry Friday!


*Interior spreads from Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals, posted by permission. Text copyright © 2019 Marilyn Singer, illustrations © 2019 Gordy Wright, published by words and pictures. All rights reserved.

**Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

39 thoughts on “[review + giveaway] Wild in the Streets: 20 Poems of City Animals by Marilyn Singer and Gordy Wright

  1. My favorite city wildlife are the cats who walk amongst us every day! They slink, they stalk, and sometimes they even come close to you. The urban undomesticated cat is my favorite city animal!! 🐈😻

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I lived in Victoria BC in the 80’s, it was not terribly uncommon for cougars to be spotted in the city’s back yards, and once one even came to the Empress Hotel in downtown. It was amazing that these big predators could slink and hide in city parks and back yard shrubs!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My favorite, though many disagree, are the squirrels around us. My neighborhood has many trees, thus inviting to them. I know they can be a nuisance for some, but I love watching their antics! We do have coyotes appear on occasion, seems so strange to have them living in the city! We saw monkeys in Tamarindo, Costa Rica last year, everywhere, but I had no idea about them in New Delhi, wow! The book looks wonderful, Jama, so fun to read and learn about these animals. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know about the monkeys in India running wild until I read this book. They are so cunning and persistent, it’s easy to see why they are hard to control. We’ve seen coyotes in our back yard — don’t like them since they scare away our fox family. Squirrels can be fun to watch, but we’ve had to give up feeding the birds because of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am thrilled to learn that Marilyn Singer has a new poetry book out. Hooray!! I am such a huge fan of her work! And what a clever topic. But I’m not surprised from the out-of-the-box thinker who brought us verso poems. My favorite wild city animal is a monk parakeet. Once someone’s escaped pet, these birds have now colonized the area around University of Chicago (as well as other places in the country.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wonderful review! I thoroughly enjoyed all the sample poems. I’ll have to get my hands on this book. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  6. All week long I’ve been looking forward to seeing what you’d do with your post, Jama. Wasn’t disappointed either. 🙂 Such a beautiful and fascinating book, isn’t it? For TLD I thought briefly about writing about my own experience with a Huntsman spider, but didn’t want to relive the nightmare. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Can’t wait to read this new book. I have been entertained by a young squirrel right outside on the tree by my balcony 😳. Sometimes a little too close for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to regularly feed a squirrel we named Samuel, who turned out to be a girl. She waited patiently on the banister outside the kitchen door for her share of peanuts each day. So polite!

      Like

  8. Believe it or not my favorite animal is the pigeon. Everyone I know dislikes them but I tend to think of them as beautiful birds who have a bad rap. Before I moved to Vermont from Boston, I used to
    sit in the parks and feed them peanuts and scraps of bread. I think they are smart as can be and we cannot forget that they served in the military during the war. Haven’t seen many here in Vermont. I wonder why?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When I live in the country we had all kinds of animals come into our yard. We moved to a small city 8 months ago and I was surprised that there are cats and chickens who roam the neighborhood. This book sounds really interesting, thanks for the giveaway!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. There are quails, deer, and raccoons in our backyard, but it dips down into a little forested canyon with a creek. I used to live in a more urban setting when I went to grad school in California, and there was a possum living in the empty lot across the street.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Those sure are some big water monitor lizards… I’m loving this book–it’s a great way to visit all these animals and the cities they are dwelling in at a relatively safe armchair distance away. I saw a nature show recently on the rhesus monkeys–nothing stops them at all. Although we have coyote’s here in Chicago, I haven’t seen one yet… Thanks for your fantastic review Jama, I’m looking forward to the poems in Marilyn’s book, and the art too!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love Marilyn’s books and have a special fondness for urban ecology, a favorite theme I also like to explore in my nonfiction books! LOVE that there’s a poem about Berlin’s Wildschwein/wild boars. My husband’s from there & we lived there for a year, 2004-2005 for his first sabbatical and saw them often!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This sounds like my kind of book! My favourite city animal, besides owls, of course, is the moose that got lost and wandered around Buttonville Airport and Highway 7 (north of Toronto) last fall. He called himself Elliot and had a Twitter account. I advised him to get a map and a compass and head north. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.