Wednesday, May 9, 2012


By Susan Verlander

(Chronicle Books, 2004)

We’ve all had the misfortune of being rudely awakened by unwelcome noises.  I recall motorcycles revving, a dorm fire alarm blaring and the Northridge earthquake roaring and rumbling.  Fortunately, most mornings open with a predictable song, the instrumentation played by a melodic robin, an overactive furnace and/or an itchy dog.

Wake Up, City is an ode to the morning noises in the urban jungle.  Susan Verlander provides seventeen sounds one might hear inside a home and on the busy streets of the city.  My favorite pair: 

traffic cops twirls
street sweepers swirl

Each description is accompanied by a bright digital illustration using Adobe Illustrator.  The colorful images will awaken even the sleepiest reader.

I bought this book years ago, thinking it would be a wonderful tool for showing young writers how they need to consider all the senses when composing a story or describing an object or scene.  Kids readily attempt to add language about what they see but too often the other senses get short shrift.  Wake Up, City will remind writers to be more attuned to the sounds in a setting.

I worked with a grade one class in creating a class book for their rural community since the sounds are so different in their environment.  We brainstormed ideas, following Verlander’s pattern of identifying a perons or thing and attributing an action verb about a noise the person or thing makes (e.g., in Wake Up, City, “subways rumble”; in Halfmoon Bay, pine trees rustle).  Each child took one idea to write and illustrate.

 I would also use this book with an energetic group, first clearly defining each noise to expand vocabulary and then having them act the sounds as I reread it.  This active involvement makes the learning memorable, increasing the likelihood that the actors will use the terms as writers and speakers.  Regardless, the acting is just plain fun, likely leading to encore reading/acting opportunities.

In general, as a quick read or a writing/acting prompt, Wake Up City will make students more attuned to the sense of sound.

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