Friday, 13 September 2019

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 13th September 2019: "Small in the City" by Sydney Smith (Walker Books)

Our Second Book of the Week sees a fabulous illustrator taking his own storytelling journey in a tale that's got a lovely twist at the end.

"Small in the City" by Sydney Smith shifts away from his glorious collaboration with Joanne Schwartz ("Town is by the Sea", a previous Book of the Week winner) into the dense and noisy environs of a huge metropolis.

A small child makes their way through the hustle and bustle of the city, with a hidden narrator detailing the various landmarks and places that there are to discover there.

It sounds like a simple setup, but your brain works overtime on this book, simultaneously soaking up Sydney's utterly brilliant and atmospheric visualisation of a modern city - all skyscrapers, busy humans, traffic and noise - alongside those more ethereal moments, quiet corners where vents gout sweet smelling steam into the street, or a lone plastic bag billows in a twisted tree like a macabre totem to modern life.

The child's eye view of the city is mesmerising - but the neat twist the book pulls towards the end really draws you in, and practically begs you to go through the story again with your new-found knowledge.

Everything looks huge when you're a kid. 
Sydney is an incredible artist, using a really gorgeous ink-line style with simple washes to sometimes convey the way cities look grey and washed out, but always pulling the eye back to tiny details in each page spread. We loved the way the actual text doesn't kick in straight away - there's no need for it, the visuals speak for themselves so when the narrative does begin, it does so with good reason.

Tiny pockets of nature manage to break through the urban landscape
To some extent, it feels like 2019 has saved all its best picture book work for the last quarter of the year - as ever! This is sublime, and it's obviously going to be a shoe-in for all sorts of awards. Again, a prime example of a children's picture book you can shove under the nose of anyone who doesn't believe PBs are for everyone, regardless of age - as this story really works on just about every level for kids and adults alike (in fact it's very reminiscent of a lot of high-end graphic novels in that respect).

Not to be missed!

Sum this book up in a sentence: Utterly and completely sublime storytelling from someone who doubles up as storyteller and visualist with ease and aplomb.

"Small in the City" by Sydney Smith is out now, published by Walker Books (kindly supplied for review).