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In the City, on My Block

A child shares their neighborhood's best features by focusing on the sights, sounds, and scents on each block.

Photo of Zetta Elliott
7 4

Written by

“In the City, on My Block”

In the city,

on my block,

flowers grow in gardens

& bloom on the sidewalk.

In the city,

high above my block,

the wind lifts the wings

of a red-tailed hawk.

In the city,

at the end of the block,

artists paint murals

& make the walls talk.

In the city,

not far from my block,

church bells tell the time—

no need for a clock!

In the city

neighbors on my block

open their doors

whenever we knock.

In the city,

up & down our block,

families cook their food

in a pot, grill, or wok.

In the city,

our entire block,

throws a party each summer

& the DJ makes us rock!

I love my block!

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

Last summer I moved from Brooklyn to West Philly and have found many similar features--parks encourage urban wildlife, gardens add color and beauty, chalk drawings brighten the pavement, and different cultures blend in community. For very young children, their world is often only as big as the families and neighbors on their block, and my rhyming verses reflect that localized vision of urban life.

Share your suggested book title

"In the City, on My Block"

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

I have worked with kids for thirty years but know there are distinct developmental differences according to age. My mother was a kindergarten teacher for twenty-five years; she was MY first teacher and I remember how she would read to the class, stopping to ask questions and allowing us to predict what would happen next by interpreting the illustrations. With babies, I think engagement comes from rhythm and recognition, so I tried to use rhyming words and urban features that would be recognizable to very young children.

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

I moved in West Philly from Brooklyn in August 2018. I *love* my new neighborhood, which is full of families from different countries, cultures, and classes. I run in Woodlands Cemetery and wrote a novel for teens set among the graves. Inspiration can be found everywhere you look in Philadelphia. I grew up hearing about the city because my maternal grandmother is an Allen and believed our family was connected to Bishop Richard Allen; I moved here, in part, to trace and write about my family roots. My father attended high school and college in Allentown so this region has felt familiar for most of my life.

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

I hope the story lists features that a child would recognize within their own urban neighborhood. I focus on sights, sounds, and scents--children hear bells tolling the time before they know how to read a clock; they smell food cooking; they visit neighbors and observe wildlife like birds flying overhead. I imagined an adult talking with a child who might be in a stroller or carrier, making connections to the verses in the story. The language is simple and the repetition creates a rhythm children can recognize over time.

Location: Country


Location: State or Department


Location: City


Website URL (optional question)

Tell us more about you / your team

I am an author/educator based in Philadelphia. I am an immigrant and have lived in the US for 25 years; I've worked with urban kids for 30 years, and try to create stories that reflect their varied realities. Since I moved to West Philly less than a year ago, I still see it with "fresh" eyes--not unlike a child who is curious and eager to explore a new place. I also find comfort in the familiar and appreciate the features of urban communities that can be found across the US. I generally write for older children so for this project I trimmed excess adjectives and got straight to the point. I also tried to consider the adult sharing the book with a very young child (who might have a short attention span!) I feel the rhyme pattern creates a soothing cadence while the illustrations could open up space for further conversation.

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

I have self-published several books with Purple Wong and feel she beautifully captures the vibrancy and diversity of urban life.

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

  • Yes

If yes, please list titles and publications.

I have over thirty books for young readers including the award-winning picture books BIRD and MELENA'S JUBILEE. My most recent titles include BENNY DOESN'T LIKE TO BE HUGGED, MILO'S MUSEUM, CIN'S MARK, THE RETURN, and THE PHANTOM UNICORN. A complete list of my books can be found on my website:

Do you have an agent?

  • Previously yes, currently 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 Laura Hancock

I like the ownership and pride of the neighborhood. Cute story.

Photo of Zetta Elliott

Thanks, Laura!

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