Ready for a big lump in your throat? Then I’ll begin. Loss is a well-trodden subject in children’s books, but perhaps the hardest to do well: Goodbye Mog, Dogger and Sad Book are my go-to classics. Sydney Smith, a Canadian illustrator who won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal last year for Town is by the Sea with the writer Joanne F Schwartz, will join the canon with this exceptional picture book about a little child in a big city.
A thin skyscraper of a book, Small in the City by Sydney Smith explores the sights, sounds and dangers of the modern metropolis as seen through a little protagonist’s eyes on a wintry day. Smith won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal last year for illustrating Town Is by the Sea, about a young boy in a seaside mining community, and he can conjure up a North American cityscape just as impressively – all gridded streets and buildings, traffic lights and crowds (Smith lives in Toronto). The narrator begins: “I know what it’s like to be small in the city... Construction sites pound and drill and yell and dig”, before offering advice about where to find comfort and make friends. Towards the end of the book, we learn who the advice is for, adding even more depth to this warm, sweet tale (it’s hard to resist immediately rereading).