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City Sights, City Sounds

Explore the sights and sounds of a typical city neighborhood with this silly story.

Photo of Estela Kennen

Written by

[Illustration notes: Each 3-line chunk below represents a 2-page spread. There should be a small yellow ball tucked away in each illustration, serving as a bonus hide-and-seek.]

Look in the loud station. See 1 silver train.

Does the train go smooch, smooch? No.

The train goes clang, clang. Yes.

Look in the quiet library. See 2 people in blue.

Do the people go clang, clang? No.

The people go shh, shh. Yes.

Look at the narrow sidewalk. See 3 brown dogs.

Do the dogs go shh, shh? No.

The dogs go bark, bark. Yes.

Look at the wide street. See 4 red cars.

Do the cars go bark, bark? No.

The cars go honk, honk. Yes.

Look at the big park. See 5 grey pigeons.

Do the pigeons go honk, honk? No.

The pigeons go coo, coo. Yes.

Look in the little laundromat. See 4 white washers.

Do the washers go coo, coo? No.

The washers go whoosh, whoosh. Yes.

Look in the bright barbershop. See 3 barbers in black.

Do the barbers go whoosh, whoosh? No.

The barbers go snip, snip. Yes.

Look in the dark alley. See 2 green trucks.

Do the trucks go snip, snip? No.

The trucks go beep, beep. Yes.

Look in the tall house. See 1 happy family.

Does the family go beep, beep? No.

The family goes smooch, smooch. Yes.

Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

Children and caregivers will delight in reading and rereading this silly, interactive book. Toddlers will feel a sense of accomplishment and joy in being able to say yes and no and repeat the sounds in the book, while familiarizing themselves with the people, places, and things they live around.

Share your suggested book title

City Sights, City Sounds

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

This manuscript was written to introduce, reinforce, or scaffold language development and pre-literacy skills. The story is structed as a simple predictive game that inspires a sense of both playfulness and mastery for toddlers. It inspires oral language skills by giving children simple words they can predict and eventually repeat (yes and no). It also uses basic monosyllabic nouns (dog, car, truck), as well as nouns that might gently extend their vocabulary by appearing within a familiar context (librarian, laundromat) – anchoring the idea that language can describe the world around us. The story encourages phonological awareness with the repeated use of onomatopoetic words. The interactive nature of the story suggests that language is not something to be merely experienced passively, but involves back-and-forth interaction. Finally, the manuscript includes an age-appropriate introduction to numbers which, with supporting illustrations, allows for a dynamic rereading of the story.

Please describe any familiarity you may have with Philadelphia and its residents? (optional question)

The first time I came to Philadelphia I must have been around six. I still remember seeing the Liberty Bell and the Franklin Museum. I have had the fortune of going back a few times, with relatives in tow, to show off the great city. A few years ago, however, we moved near Philly, and I got to know the place more deeply: I saw a friend get married in a gorgeous, tucked-away alley; I took class in a little storefront between a maze of buildings, I railed and subwayed and walked my way through the city. It is THIS Philly - the Philly of the everyday resident - that I try to reflect in my manuscript.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

I grew up in San Juan, PR and spent my summers in Queens, NY. As a teen I lived in Washington, DC and Chicago. After college I moved to a Southern city and later to England, both places where my skin tone gave pause and I would be pegged as a stranger the moment I opened my mouth. I am currently in Korea, where I am inescapably a foreigner. I know what it's like to be "the other," as a minority and a migrant. But I also know, from living in 3 continents, the common thread of urban life. I wanted to create a setting that felt like Philly, but was global enough to resonate with readers regardless of where they come from. I also wanted to capture and celebrate the everyday aspects of city life.

Location: Country

South Korea

Location: State or Department

Armed Forces Pacific (AP)

Location: City

Osan Air Base, Pyeongtaek

Tell us more about you / your team

I am a researcher, a homeschool parent, and a military spouse – I juggle identities. These perspectives have informed my approach: I value (demand, when possible!) an evidence-based approach to interventions, I want learning resources that are as engaging as they are educational, and I want materials that are inclusive to a wide variety of perspectives. I am likewise design-minded: I find a clear sense of purpose and audience crucial to doing work, and a reiterative process just as crucial for improvement. I appreciate the OpenIDEO platform, the clear set of evaluation criteria, and the opportunity to see other applicant’s proposals – what resonates, what’s missing. The process has pushed me to combine many more elements in my manuscript than I would have otherwise. I have also spent a lot of time lately imaging life from the perspective of a city-dwelling 18-month old. ;)

Provide an example visual identity for a look and feel you might like to achieve. ( (optional question, 3-5 visuals)

In a board book, neither words nor pictures convey the full meaning of the story; it is the juxtaposition that creates the message. While I am open to the artistic vision of the Penn Foundation, publisher, and of course, illustrator, I am drawn to the clean, soft, grounded illustrations of Mike Curato ( Whatever the style, the book should be full of diverse characters and familiar city settings.

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • Yes

If yes, please list titles and publications.

The Reluctant Caterpillar, Mee Genius, 2012 - ebook with audio -- out of print; a variety of magazines including AppleSeeds and Boy's Quest.

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are creatives, writers, or artists


Join the conversation:

Photo of Joannie Duris

Hi, Estela Kennen Wandering through the submissions and giving shout outs to ones that made me laugh. I love all your onomatopoetic words and how the pattern will have kids laughing at the silliness of it all. They know better! Good luck while we await word on the next round.

Photo of Estela Kennen

Thank you, Joannie. Your comments made my day. :)

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