There are picture books destined to be classics. These books stand the test of time. There is no subject matter that wouldn’t translate even after many, many years pass. Some classics that come to mind are A Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keats and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I would like to add the new book by first time author, long time illustrator Sydney Smith - Small in the City. It’s a beautiful story about exactly what the title describes, life in a big city when you are small.
In this story a child is telling the reader/listener about being small in the city, the feelings that are felt when you are little, the things you see that others miss, the sounds that are deafening to your ears. In the end, we learn the child is speaking to their missing pet cat but they know the cat will make it’s way home too, eventually.
First off the illustrations in this story are bold and brilliant, like a love letter to the city. Those who live in Toronto will recognize the iconic TTC busses and streetcars found within the illustrations. Sydney Smith is one of the greatest illustrators of our time, using watercolour and ink to create the most life like depictions. When the weather turns and the snow blows in, the illustrations take you right into the middle of the blustery, snowy day.
As a preschool teacher, I have to commend the designer Jennifer Browne on the choice of font. It is so incredibly refreshing to see a font used with the proper “a” as it is taught to preschoolers and kindergarteners when they are first learning to print. The font perfectly matches the feel of a small child telling a story and giving advice. The book jacket is beautiful but the case cover just screams classic, fabric bound with an imprint of the small child in the snow. Small in the City is a book you will be reading to your children and your children’s children for many years to come.
Huge congratulations to Sydney Smith as Small in the City has made the short list of books for the Governor General’s Literary Award.