A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Ed Young

Source:  Purchased from Novel Books
Hardcover, 44 pages
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A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated Ed Young, is a collection of poems and illustrations about animals that live in harsh environments and have adapted to their conditions.  The poetry forms include free verse, cinquain, haiku, villanelle, sonnet, and others that give young readers a brief look at the animals in their habitats from the Humboldt penguins that live in the warmer climates of Chile and Peru to the blind cave fish that live in the dark deep.  Included in the poetry book are at times abstract looking pictures of the animals or their habitats, though the images resemble collage techniques that incorporate various mediums.  The book also includes a break down of what poems exemplify which form and end notes that give a little more information about each animal.

Dry as Dust

They can deal solo
with dryness, but give them rain
and then: toads explode.

For my little girl, who is age 2, this book was a little too old for her.  She couldn’t pay attention long enough to get through the entire book, but she loved the pages with the snow monkeys in “Think Heat.”  There are a lot more questions than answers, and kids who are older are likely to want more information about each animal and habitat.  For younger kids, there’s just enough in each poem to mirror their own wonder, including them in the wider questioning of these animals’ lives.

A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated Ed Young, is a little too old for my little one, but if she retains her love of animals, she’ll likely enjoy this more as she gets older.  I found the poems a little too simple, and some did not have enough information about the animals or their habitats, but the end notes did offer a bit more information.  As a jumping off point, the book will spark questions from younger readers, and it could inspire a mother- or father-child exploration of these harsh habitats and adaptable animals.  Singer offers a special thanks at the beginning of the book to several people and museums, which seems to be where she obtained some of the information for her poems.

About the Poet:

Marilyn Singer was born in the Bronx (New York City) and lived most of her early life in N. Massapequa (Long Island), NY. She attended Queens College, City University of New York, and for her junior year, Reading University, England. She holds a B.A. in English from Queens and an M.A. in Communications from New York University.  Visit her Website.

About the Illustrator:

Caldecott Medalist Ed Young is the illustrator of over eighty books for children, seventeen of which he has also written. He finds inspiration for his work in the philosophy of Chinese painting.

Young began his career as a commercial artist in advertising and found himself looking for something more expansive, expressive, and timeless. He discovered all this, and more, in children’s books.  Visit his Website.


This is my 38th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.



This is my 24th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.


  1. I’m sure she will love this book when she’s a little older. It looks great!

  2. I was wondering how she’d do. It’s definitely aimed at elementary aged kids. Booking Son loved it!

  3. I like the poem you featured. I’m also a fan of free verse so this could be the collection for me.

  4. Hm, I like the Dry as Dust haiku. I think the phrase “toads explode” is quite aptly used. 🙂