Constructed from zillions of polymer clay pellets in every imaginable hue, Canyon’s illustrations create dizzying, very close-up, pigeon’s-eye city views for which Rammell’s short, similarly semi-abstract verses provide well-tuned accompaniment. Wondering what pigeons see as they “feel the city beats,” the poet veers in frequently changing cadences from concrete observations of “different shoes on different feet” to straight sound effects: “Screech! Hiss! / Pop! Pound! / Rat-a-tat-tat! / Ka-thunk-ka-thunk!” The verses float opposite ornate window frames that provide a glimpse “outside” – and also turn out to be large die-cut rectangles, so that with each turn of the page the scene bursts into full-bleed glory while the already-read lines show through. More generic in locale, but similar in visual energy to Robert Neubecker’s Wow! City! (2004), this flight will send young audiences fluttering and spinning through their own urban visions.
— Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2006)
… Created with polymer clay and photographed, the vibrant spreads show delicately feathered figures and urban backdrops in an array of rainbow colors. Children will enjoy their details and obvious technical skill … An arched-window cutout appears throughout, framing scenes and adding an element of surprise. It’s great to encourage kids’ interest in what so many consider an unlovable creature, and larger libraries may want to add this interesting title.
— School Library Journal (August 1, 2006)
This is a kaleidoscopic, prismatic, bee-bopping, hip-hopping look at the day in the life of one of the most taken-for-granted creatures in a city-the pigeon.
From the first line, this poetic tale jogs along until the last page when the daylight begins to fade. The multi-colored doves are showcased in every scene: where the city awakens and human feet hit the pavement, where the cars honk and the subways roll, where the skyscrapers are assembled, where the popcorn is popped, where the gardens bloom, and where the jazz floats on evening air.
The author, a musician and poet, says he likes to celebrate the things people are often too busy to notice-the pigeon is the perfect subject. This is his first book, written in poem form. The verse is accompanied by remarkably detailed, three-dimensional, vivid illustrations fashioned solely of polymer clay. City Beats is the illustrator’s second children’s book; her first, Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef, won numerous awards, including the 2006 Learning Magazine Teacher’s Choice Award for Best Children’s Book.
The layout is clever, with text on the left page and a window on the right, in which the reader gets a glimpse of a larger picture. “Sun is rising- / People too. / Brimming, bustling, / Busy street. Passing faces / In the morning, / Different shoes / On different feet.” On the opposite page two shoe heels are shown in the window. A turn of the page and it becomes a two-page spread of remarkably real-looking pigeons, pecking at discarded curbside donuts, seemingly oblivious to the lime green high heels and hot pink flip-flops clicking past them. “Rumble, grumble, / Grinding gears, / Whirzip, whirzip! / ker-chunk-ker-chunk!” reads another page, the text encircled by bright-eyed pigeons perched on steel cables among the steel girders, winches, and men in yellow hard hats.
The text is lively and lovely, replete with loads of alliteration (“bouncing, basking, / Bubbling, blooming”) and assonance (“…Beep! / Screech! Squeak!”). This book begs to be read aloud. Canyon’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment, with their colorful and captivating realism. Her creations look so real that younger (and older) readers will want to touch the pages. On each page are a multitude of colors, shapes, and textures that will stop readers in their tracks to carefully study the detailed renditions.
A brief history of the pigeon (also known as the rock dove) is included in the front of the book, and it just may persuade some readers to see this city bird in a whole new light.
What is a day like for a pigeon? One can only hope it is as wonderful and wild a ride as it appears in this tale.
— ForeWord Magazine(Sept/October 2006)
Pigeons can even provide a unique perspective on urban life. City Beats: A Hip-Hoppy Pigeon Poem (Dawn Publications, 2006, ages 1 to 6) gives a bird’s eye view of a typical pigeon-day, from pecking breakfast crumbs on “brimming, bustling, busy streets” to the “rapping, rocking rhythms” of evening. The jazzy verse by S. Kelly Rammell is beautifully accompanied by Jeanette Canyon’s vivid polymer clay artwork. The book may well become a favorite read-aloud before or after a visit to your gray-winged neighbors.
— Nat. Wildlife Assoc. – Green Hour website (www.greenhour.org)
Mary Quattlebaum (July 2008)
City Beats: A Hip-Hoppy Pigeon Poem is written by musician, puppeteer and author S. Kelly Rammell and illustrated by award-winning illustrator Jeanette Canyon. They create an energetic book that celebrates the life of a city pigeon. The reader will open the book to a short description of the history of Rock Doves and how they adapted to city life from the wild cliffs. The focus of this onomatopoetic book is from a cut out window over-looking a busy city street. As each page unfolds the multicolored polymer clay illustrations pop right out of the book. Each illustration was crafted entirely from polymer clay and then photographed. Children can pore over these pages again and again and make fresh discoveries with each read-through. The vibrant illustrations are a pigeon’s-eye view of city life. Younger children will love to gaze at the colorful artwork and will feel the sense of flying and feeling like a city bird.
This a must have book for teaching the poetic device onomatopoeia to elementary level students. Home by Jennie Baker would pair nicely with City Beats. Home is a wordless picture book that is also set through the view of a window. Highly recommended for ages 4 to 8.
— Catholic Library World (December 2006)
This imaginative book follows pigeons on their adventure through the city. The verse of each poem mirrors the beat of the big city – giving you the feel, excitement, and experience of city life. Die-cut windows on each page give you a unique perspective of each brilliantly illustrated city scene.
— Genesee Valley Parent – Jillian Melnyk (April 2008))
City Beats is another winner for Jeanette Canyon. She continues to amaze one with what she can achieve with polymer clay. The rhythm of this book is so different from the calm flow of the sea in Over in the Ocean In a Coral Reef yet equally effective. The lively beat of the city is perfectly captured in both text and illustrations. The use of the window reveal was very effective – evoking a promise of what was to come and then a complete reveal accompanied both times by the words to support and sustain the beat. She and S. Kelly Rammell make a great team.
— Learning Explorations – Barbara Geiger (June 2006)
Rhyme, rhythm and free verse abound in books perfect for National Poetry Month – and all year round.
Words swoop and soar, and so do the feathered protagonists of City Beats: A Hip-Hoppy Pigeon Poem. Through playful imagery, young readers get a bird’s-eye view of a city replete with “juicy colors,” “grinding gears” and “different shoes on different feet.” Author S. Kelly Rammell uses onomatopoeia to wonderful effect and kids will want to make all the “screech,” “hiss,” “ker-chunk,” “pound” and “tweet” sounds in this engaging text. Illustrator Jeanette Canyon conveys the color, energy and texture of the urban scene through stunning polymer clay art that follows two pigeons as they peck crumbs on a sidewalk, goggle at a parade and roost sleepily on a window sill at night.
— Washington Parent – Mary Quattlebaum (April 2006)
Pigeons are city birds, and this book gives a compelling account of their urban lifestyle. Look how they coexist with the crowds, the traffic, the construction … Readers of all ages will glean a new appreciation of “rock doves” from this wonderfully written rap-style book. Colorful polymer clay artwork intricately recreates an exciting city landscape.
— Metro Parent (July 2006)
The first page of this colorful book explains some facts and background information about pigeons, and then asks, “What do you think a day is like for a pigeon?” Musical hip-hop rhymes describe what pigeons may see, hear, and smell in the course of a day in the busy city. A window opening cutout on one page shows part of the illustration that is on the next page. The full pictures are beautiful and there are vivid illustrations of the pigeons in the city. The artwork is rather complex for young readers, but they may enjoy seeing all the colors and shapes. The rhythm of the verses would be great to read aloud, and the use of exciting words would be helpful in developing vocabulary. Many words are the sounds of the city such as, “Honk! Beep! Screech! Squeak!” At the end of the story, the pigeons sit sleeping on the windowsill. Readers will enjoy the rhythm of the verses, and the unique way of looking at pigeons and their lives in a city.
— Children’s Literature – Vicki Foote (September 2006)
For pure poetic fun, City Beats has a beat all its own. Bouncing rhymes combine with beautiful illustrations (created, we are told, from polymer clay), and detail the daily life of pigeons who nest so plentifully on our urban cliffs. For preschool and kindergarten children, particularly those in an urban setting, the author and illustrator have created a wonderful experience. It is a must for quiet reading in the book corner as well as for a lively story time.
— Missouri State Univ. Library Book Review Board (Sept. 2006)
This “hip-hoppy pigeon poem” reveals the marvel that is a city through a bird’s-eye view. And why it is that a type of dove indigenous to rocky cliffs has chosen to live in urban concrete canyons. Even more amazing, however, is the uncanny clay art that serves as the book’s illustrations. Your child will be engaged and amazed on two levels.
— Iowa Parent – Craig Summers Black (Nov. 2006)