Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 4 to 7
- Grade: k to 2
- Reading age: 4 to 7
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)
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 multiple children’s books, including the highly acclaimed wordless picture book Sidewalk Flowers, conceived by Jon Arno Lawson, which won a Governor General’s Award, was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book and has been long-listed for the Kate Greenaway Medal. He is also the illustrator of Grant and Tillie Go Walking by Monica Kulling and The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart, both highly acclaimed. Sydney has received a number of other awards for his illustrations, including the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration. He now lives in Toronto and works in a shared studio space in Chinatown.
- Winner, CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal
- Winner, Sheila Barry Best Canadian Picture Book of the Year
- Winner, Atlantic Book Award — Lillian Shepherd Award for Excellence in Illustration
- Unknown, Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award
- Winner, Ezra Jack Keats Award
- Winner, Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award
- Commended, New York Times 25 Best Children's Books of 2019
- Commended, Horn Book's Fanfare List
- Commended, Kirkus Best Picture Books
- Winner, Governor General's Literary Award, Young People's Literature - Illustrated Books
- Commended, School Library Journal Best Picture Books
- Commended, NPR's Best Books
- Commended, Globe 100 List
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
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
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
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. 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 full of faith and compassion, and gorgeous to look at, as well.
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. 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
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.
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
Other titles by Sydney Smith
Do You Remember?
It's Up to Us
Building a Brighter Future for Nature, People & Planet (The Children's Terra Carta)
Canada Year by Year - Revised Edition
I Talk Like a River
A Rebellious Shadow