Small in the City is the first book that Sydney Smith has both written and illustrated and his first effort is superb, he has probably created the perfect picture book.
On a snowy day in a busy city a child hops off a tram and begins navigating the city. The city is overflowing with people, vehicles and tall buildings. The child’s head is filled with the sounds of honking taxis, people’s footsteps, sirens blaring and construction equipment pounding, hammering and drilling. The busyness of the city is enough to make anyone’s head spin.
But it’s not all bad and scary as the child points out. There are shortcuts to take, yards to explore, trees to climb, bushes to hide under, vents that blow out hot air, shops that hand out food, places to perch and to rest and to listen to music, and even spots where you can find a friend. The child is looking for something, but what…
Wow, what a book this is. It is a story of getting lost in the big city and eventually finding your way back home. Like any good picture book it immediately draws you in - the wordless opening pages and black shadowed illustrations adding mystery and intrigue. As the story unfolds you think you may have an inkling as to what is going on but when Smith reveals the truth you have to read it all over again with a completely different outlook.
The text is written as a commentary. The child narrates and appears to be talking directly to the reader as they go about the city. But as the story unfolds and more clues are revealed, Smith reveals who the child is really talking to, and this changes everything. I love that the city is explored through the eyes of a child. The illustrations vary in style. Some are boxed and zoomed in for close-ups of the city and then there are the full page cityscapes which immerse the reader into the heart of the enormous city and show what it truly feels like to be small in the city.
A picture book that has got everything, including a heart-breaking revelation that will have readers flicking back through the pages to see that at first they may have missed.
Recommended for 7+.