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Hunting for Frogs on Elston, and Other Tales from Field & Street Hardcover – April 1, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0226779935 ISBN-10: 0226779939 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews


“Sullivan had a unique passion for urban ecology and his writings bring out the naturalist in all of us. A master of the short essay (each is 1000 to 1500 words), the author captivated his audience by skillfully blending ecological theory, natural history, and humor. . . . . An excellent resource for any urban dweller with an interest in natural history. . . . The essays can be enjoyed equally by scientists and nonscientists, whether or not they have ever been to or lived in Chicago. This book is also a 'must read' for any high school or college environmental science class, especially [in] the growing field of urban ecology.”

(Aaron M. Ellison and Jessica L. Butler Quarterly Review of Biology)

From the Inside Flap

A selection of savvy observations on urban ecology from one of the Midwest's foremost authorities on the subject, Hunting for Frogs on Elston collects the best of naturalist Jerry Sullivan's weekly Field & Street columns, originally published in the Chicago Reader. Engaging, opinionated, inspiring, and occasionally irreverent, Hunting for Frogs on Elston pays tribute to Chicago's natural history while celebrating one of its greatest champions.

Published in association with the Chicago Wilderness coalition, Hunting for Frogs on Elston comprehensively chronicles Chicagoland's unique urban ecology, from its indigenous prairie and oft-delayed seasons to its urban coyotes and passenger pigeons. In witty, informed prose, Sullivan evokes his adventures netting dog-faced butterflies, hunting rattlesnakes, and watching fireflies mate. Inspired by regional flora and fauna, Sullivan ventures throughout the metropolis and its environs in search of sludge worms, gyrfalcons, and wild onions. In reporting his findings to otherwise oblivious urbanites, Sullivan endeavors to make "alienated, atomized, postmodern people feel at home, connected to something beyond ourselves."

In the sprawling Chicagoland region, where an urban ecosystem teeming with remarkable life evolves between skyscrapers and train tracks, no writer chronicled the delicate balance of nature and industry more vividly than Jerry Sullivan. An homage to the urban ecology Sullivan loved so dearly, Hunting for Frogs on Elston is his fitting legacy as well as a lasting gift to the urban naturalist in us all.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226779939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226779935
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,262,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Max H. Moen on May 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A Naturalists guide to urban Chicago, the title "Field & Street" is a play on the famous magazine title. It is a wonderful compendium of some of the best articles of the last few years from Chicago's famous free weekly newspaper, The Reader. As a youth growing up in the "inner city" I thought the only animal life to be found here were pidgeons, rats, cockroaches and sparrows. Thanks to Jerry Sullivan I discovered (among other things) that the sound of a distant jackhammer was really a nearby Woodpecker. Most "Windy City" residents thought of the Chicago River as a stagnant sludge pool ready to burst into polluted flames at any moment before Jerry began describing the natural wonders to be found on it's shoreline. His articles encouraged me to enjoy the city jogging paths that bring one close to that beauty. And beyond the unexpected wonder that Sullivan's articles bring, is his tremendous writing skill. Even if you don't care about the mallards, storks and cranes that can easily be found if you know where to look, you'll find what he has to say about them fascinating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Schultz VINE VOICE on May 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a collection of essays recording Jerry Sullivan's nature observations in and around Chicago. The first couple of articles are rather dry accounts about the need to manage Park District properties. I was put off by these first somewhat preachy, plodding essays, and almost didn't go further. I'm glad I did keep reading though - and you will be richly rewarded if you do too!

The book opens up into a warm, intelligent series of observations of nature's amazing details. You will discover what miracles to look for in a feather, in a fungus, on a flower's stamen. And you will learn some of the history of our observations of the subject along the way.

I happen to live near Elston Avenue in Chicago, so I was attracted by this book's title. However people in other places might pass it by because of the obscure Street reference. I wonder if a better title might not have been provided by one of the most interesting chapters in the book. This is the chapter on the early explorations of our Country's western frontiers, when the government sent out surveyors to plot the land. The government was at the time intent on gaining revenue by selling parcels of land to settlers. As they paced off the land for these purposes, the surveyors made use of what they came to call "witness trees." These were mature, proven trees that were likely to stand for many decades more, available to act as reference points for the measurements, as landmarks. In this book, Mr. Sullivan acts as a WITNESS TREE himself, marking the way to some of nature's most fascinating sights and sounds.

My only criticism of the book is that there aren't enough illustrations. There are a few collaborative line drawings - but I wish there were more. Maybe though, just as well. The absence of easy pictures will spur you to get up off the couch after each essay - and go have a look for yourself.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By judymellin@netzero.net on May 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
OK, I will admit that I knew the author, Jerry Sullivan. OK, I will admit that the "hoot" of my title refers to our common love of birds. And, yes, some of my work is mentioned in the book. But, after all those disclaimers, I would say you can't go wrong with this book! Jerry was an amazing writer, bringing the natural world to those already knowledgeable and those with no experience "in the field." He could take the most mundane sighting, such as caterpillars in his vegetable garden, and turn it into a story that made you part of the search. He combined scientific knowledge with the everyday world and always with a chuckle, usually at himself. There is something for everyone in this book that is comprised of 70 of his 1500 word essays that were originally published in the Chicago Reader as its "Field and Streets" column between 1984 and 1998. He takes us through the natural areas restoration movement that began in Chicago in an effort to bring back part of the natural heritage of Illinois. He introduces many to the wildlife such as coyotes that live right in our own back yards- and taught me that coyotes eat insects in the spring! He spent a day with ice fishermen and came away bemused about their devotion. There is nothing pretentious about his writing, just as there was nothing pretentious about the writer. This is a book to tuck into your car so that you can read an essay or two while waiting for the kids to finish soccer practice- and maybe to consider whether soccer is the best use of their after-school time. Whether you have spent your entire life in the Chicagoland region or have never set foot here, you will find yourself pulled into the world that surrounds all of us, if only we'd open our eyes to it.
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Hunting for Frogs on Elston, and Other Tales from Field & Street
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