About this book
Small in the City
The first picture book that the award-winning Sydney Smith has both written and illustrated is a story about feeling small in the city — and finding your way home.
On a snowy day in a big city, a little boy hops off a streetcar and walks through downtown, between office buildings, through parks and down busy streets. Along the way, he provides helpful tips about which alleys make good shortcuts, which trees to climb and where to find a friendly face. All the while, the boy searches for what he has lost …
The first book that award-winning illustrator Sydney Smith has written tells a story of what it means to get lost in the city, travel the wrong path and get caught in bad weather — and to ultimately find your way back home. His beautiful watercolour illustrations alternate between full spreads and small panels, evoking the sometimes overwhelming cacophony of urban sights and sounds, as well as the quiet moments that make all of us feel less small in the city.
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.
Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)
Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.
Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.
Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.
About the Author
Sydney Smith was born in rural Nova Scotia and has been drawing from an early age. Since graduating from NSCAD University, he has illustrated numerous children’s books, including the highly acclaimed wordless picture book Sidewalk Flowers, conceived by Jon Arno Lawson, which won a Governor General’s Award, among many other honours, and was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book. He is also the illustrator of Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, for which he was awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal, and which won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Prize. Small in the City is the first picture book that Sydney has written as well as illustrated. He lives and works in Toronto with his wife and son.
Awards and Praise
Winner Governor General’s Literary Award in Young People's Literature — Illustrated Books, 2019
Winner Ezra Jack Keats Award, 2020
Winner Atlantic Book Award — Lillian Shepherd Award for Excellence in Illustration, 2020
Winner Sheila Barry Best Canadian Picture Book of the Year, 2020
Finalist Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award, 2020
Commended Globe 100 List, 2019
New York Times 25 Best Children’s Books of 2019
NPR’s Best Books, 2019
School Library Journal Best Picture Books, 2019
Kirkus Best Picture Books, 2019
Horn Book’s Fanfare List, 2019
“Young readers will feel their hearts constrict, as they all know what it's like to confront a towering, intimidating world… . Extraordinary, emotional, and beautifully rendered.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“The ink, watercolor, gouache pictures have a unique, sometimes startling look as they divide into strips or fill the pages. They capture both the city's pace and its stark beauty, even on a raw winter's day. Smith's art has been award winning, but here he becomes author as well as illustrator. He does both titles proud in this stirring piece.” — Booklist, starred review
“The use of line, reflection, and perspective masterfully evoke a bustling gray city, making this thoughtful book an artful choice.” — School Library Journal, starred review
“The atmosphere will draw listeners in immediately … and many youngsters will appreciate the recognition of how sensorily overwhelming a cityscape can be and the tips for finding smaller pools of quiet and respite.” — The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
“Smith's understated portrait of longing for the return of a beloved family member takes readers on a quiet but powerful emotional journey … The story's spotlight is not on the loss of the pet, or on its return, but on the state of suspension in between — a mixture of grief, resignation, and patient waiting — and the independent child narrator’s loving regard for the animal as an autonomous being.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[T]he images do most of the talking. They range from modest vignettes of city life — a portion of wire fencing, a swatch of building — to showstoppers including a fractured illustration of the downcast boy's funhouse-like reflection in a mirrored-glass skyscraper. . . [H]eartrending.” — Shelf Awareness, starred review
“Small in the City is an unusual, useful parable, offering hope and reassurance for any young reader in the midst of a worrisome or frightening situation, whether it's a missing pet or something else ? or simply life itself.” — BookPage, starred review
“Small in the City is the best picture book I’ve seen so far this year, and among the most moving I know. For the right child it will be revelatory.” — New York Times Book Review
“Some picture books make you want to hug them to your chest and not let go until the fullness in your heart subsides. Small in the City, a work of surpassing poignancy and understanding by Canadian author-illustrator Sydney Smith, is one of them.” — Wall Street Journal
“Small in the City is full of faith and compassion, and gorgeous to look at, as well.” — Washington Post
Praise for Joanne Schwartz, Sydney Smith and Town Is by the Sea:
Winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal
Winner of the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award
New York Times / New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books
“This is a moving story, and a fine example of text and pictures in perfect harmony.” — Horn Book, starred review
“Art and text meld for a powerful glimpse at a way of life that begs inspection. A thoughtful and haunting book that will stay with readers.” — School Library Journal, starred review
“A quiet book that will stay with readers long after they have closed it.” — Kirkus, starred review
“Hauntingly beautiful.” — Booklist, starred review
“Sydney Smith’s gorgeous, airy illustrations showcase the beauty of childhood in the seaside town.” — Quill & Quire, starred review
Praise for JonArno Lawson, Sydney Smith and Sidewalk Flowers:
Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Illustrated Books
New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books
“An emotionally moving, visually delightful ode to the simple powers of observation and empathy… . A book to savor slowly and then revisit again and again.” — School Library Journal, starred review
“A reminder that what looks like play can sometimes be a sacrament.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
- Winner Atlantic Book Award — Lillian Shepherd Award for Excellence in Illustration, 2020
- Winner Governor General’s Literary Award in Young People's Literature, 2019
- Winner Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award, 2020
- Winner Sheila Barry Best Canadian Picture Book of the Year, 2020
- Winner Ezra Jack Keats Award, 2020
- Commended Globe 100 List, 2019