Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Welcome to Author Marilyn Singer

Marilyn in her Office
Photo by Steve Aronson

Today I am very happy to welcome award-winning author Marilyn Singer, who has written over 100 books for children and young adults. Marilyn joins us to celebrate her latest book, WILD IN THE STREETS: 20 POEMS OF CITY ANIMALS, illustrated by Gordy Wright and published by Words Pictures/Quarto

An author in many genres (she says variety keeps her from getting bored), Marilyn lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband Steve, a poodle, a cat, and two collared doves. She is no stranger to animals, and no stranger to wordplay! It is an absolute pleasure to host Marilyn here and to learn the story behind her latest poetry collection. Many thank yous to Marilyn for her time and also to Words Pictures/Quarto for offering a giveaway to a commenter on today's post.

Enjoy Marilyn's generous sharing of this backstory, and after you read, consider taking on her challenge to try a form of poetry she invented...the reverso!

In Brooklyn, New York, where I live, there are more inhabitants than just people, dogs, and cats. On any given day, I might see pigeons, sparrows, squirrels, a variety of insects and spiders, and also the occasional rat.  Those are the animals people often hear about in the city. But in Brooklyn alone, there are also red tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, monk parakeets, a variety of other birds, raccoons, opossums, bats, and many other creatures. In fact, in cities all over the world, you can find a wide variety of animals—and some of these critters are quite surprising, from rhesus monkeys in New Delhi and wild boars in Berlin to reticulated pythons swimming through sewers in Singapore and river crabs living under ancient ruins in Rome.

Years ago, I got interested in city animals and I wanted to write a prose book about ones found in America.  An editor suggested that I go global.  I’ve always liked research, but, at that time, people did not own home computers—if you can imagine that—so it was difficult to find articles and to contact people in different countries.  And I certainly couldn’t afford to travel around the world to see the animals in person.  

Fast forward several decades:  the internet became available and research became a lot easier.  I decided to revisit my idea.  Only this time, instead of a prose nonfiction book, I chose to write a book of poems, which would include some prose to explain more about both the critters and the cities in which they lived.  This time, the research was really enjoyable and it revealed a number of surprises, such as those crabs in Rome and the wave of huntsman spiders that enter homes to escape the rainy season in Cape Town, South Africa.   Furthermore, I thought it would be a fun challenge to write the poems in a variety of forms, including one I created:  the reverso.  

A reverso is one poem with two halves.  The second half reverses the lines of the first half, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization, and it has to say something different from that first half.   I didn’t choose which animal went with which form in advance.  I just went with the flow.  Monarch butterflies seemed to want a reverso, perhaps because they travel long distances to overwinter and so do tourists, so a reverso is what they got.  ;-)

©2019 Quarto Publishing, Used with Permission
(Click to Enlarge)

Monarch Butterflies: Pacific Grove, California

After such a long and perilous journey
across wild mountains, tame gardens, familiar parks and distant plains,
they leave behind
the trail of sweet-nectared flowers,
grateful for
their needed winter's rest in Butterfly Town,
hanging from the eucalyptus, still as dead leaves.
We tourists pause to marvel at these precious pollinators
at last taking time off from work.

At last taking time off from work,
we tourists pause to marvel at these precious pollinators,
hanging from the eucalyptus, still as dead leaves
(their needed winter's rest in Butterfly Town),
grateful for
the trail of sweet-nectared flowers
they leave behind
across wild mountains, tame gardens, familiar parks, and distant plains
after such a long and perilous journey.

The final result of this research and writing was WILD IN THE STREETS: 20 POEMS ABOUT CITY ANIMALS, published by Words Pictures/Quarto and illustrated by the wonderful Gordy Wright.  

Oh — and I did get to visit those monarchs in Pacific Grove, as well as the bats in Austin, Texas and, of course, the peregrines in New York.  I hope I get to see some of these other creatures in their urban habitats someday.  I hope you get to see some of them, too!

Some Questions and Ideas for You:
  • Walk around your city or town.  What animals do you see? 
  • What cities would you like to visit and what critters would you like to see there?
  • Try writing a poem about a city critter you have seen or would like to see.  Now try writing a prose piece.  How do the pieces differ?  Or do that in a team—one poet and one prose writer.
  • What poetry forms do you like?  Can you write a haiku about your critter?  Can you write about it in another form?
  • Try a reverso!  It’s not easy, but it is fun!

 Thank you, Marilyn, for joining us here today! It is an honor to feature a writer I so admire.

To learn more about WILD IN THE STREETS, visit these blog tour stops:

Mile High Reading

Thank you again to Words Pictures/Quarto for offering a copy of this book. If you would like to be entered into the giveaway, please just leave a comment by 11:59pm on Thursday, October 17, 2019.

Please share a comment below if you wish.


  1. I have met Marilyn a few times and even danced with her in New Orleans. She is a delight as is her gift of poetry. The reverso is a genius invention and very hard to do. This is a wonderful book. I know kids will love it. They love animals, and they love poetry.

  2. Great interview, Amy. Marilyn Singer, so glad you never gave up on this educational, fun, and beautiful book idea. Reverso is a creative poetry form. Thanks for sharing this particular sample poem. Lovely!

  3. I enjoyed this interview immensely. I'm a middle school librarian and I've been trying "pop up read alouds," where I send out an e-mail that I'll go to a classroom and read aloud for 10 min. For some teachers, this is a welcome treat and I love seeing the first e-mail answer...because that's the classroom I pop into. My first pop up visit wasn't much of a success. I didn't consider my audience very well. So, I thought about something that would appeal to all. I took Marilyn Singer's Follow, Follow....and it was a hit. Since it was "Read A Poem to a Child Week," I asked a student to hold the camera and record it. It was lots of fun and guess what? That book is now happily checked out of the library. Thank you for your latest work, Ms. Marilyn Singer....and for your classic work too. You really make a difference in the world of reading and writing. Thanks, Amy for hosting this week's interview and highlighting 'Wild in the Streets.'

  4. What a beautifully written and illustrated book! I can see using it with children of all ages, especially my HS writers workshop class. :-)

  5. I love Marilyn Singer’s work and am fascinated by reverso poems, as are my students each time I share Marilyn’s work with them! I would LOVE to add this book to my classroom collection. Thank you for spotlighting Marilyn’s work and for the opportunity to win a copy!