Lois Lenski was first an art student, then an illustrator, then a poet and and illlustrator, and then an author of prose stories for elementary age students. Her city poem “Sing a Song of People,” illustrated in this picture book by Giles Laroche, is a simple, much-anthologized list of the kinds of people a child might meet on a city sidewalk. Of course, the city is New York or Chicago or some other northeastern city. The people are riding on subways and walking on sidewalks in front of huge department stores or apartment buildings.
My daughter asked me just last week why hardly anyone walks anywhere in Houston. I told her it was too hot in Houston, but that’s only half the story. We Texans are too fond of our automobiles to ride subways. Even if the places we go are not that far away, we never think of walking or riding a bicycle. Psychologically, we believe in distance and open spaces, and of course, air conditioning on the way.
Anyway, in Lois Lenski’s city, people walk and ride buses and subways, and wear hats, and carry umbrellas, and pass by each other without stopping to talk. This last is not a Southern custom either; when we get out of our cars, we tend to talk to people in lines, in the aisles of the grocery store, in waiting rooms. So, Sing a Song of People is a poem about a different culture, but not an unattractive one. All the busy people hurrying along the streets make an interesting poem and a montage-like picture of city life.
Go here to read a short autobiographical piece by Ms. Lenski telling about how she came to write poetry and how her poetry and her prose share the same theme: a child interacting with his environment.
Sing a Song of People is one of the over 365 books listed in my preschool/kindergarten curriculum, Picture Book Preschool. In this read aloud curriculum list I recommend some of the best picture books available for children, and the book suggestions are grouped into themes such as last week’s theme “Farms” or this week’s “Cities.” For more information about Picture Book Preschool or to purchase a copy, just click on the ad in the sidebar.