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published: April 2017

Town Is by the Sea

by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith

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multigenerational, post-confederation (1867-)
0 of 5
0 ratings
list price: $21.95
also available: eBook
published: April 2017

? — Winner of CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal
? Winner of the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award
? — A young boy wakes up to the sound of the sea, visits his grandfather’s grave after lunch and comes home to a simple family dinner with his family, but all the while his mind strays to his father digging for coal deep down under the sea. Stunning illustrations by Sydney Smith, the award-winning illustrator of Sidewalk Flowers, show the striking contrast between a sparkling seaside day and the darkness underground where the miners dig.

With curriculum connections to communities and the history of mining, this beautifully understated and haunting story brings a piece of Canadian history to life. The ever-present ocean and inevitable pattern of life in a Cape Breton mining town will enthrall children and move adult readers.

About the Authors
Joanne Schwartz was born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She has been a children’s librarian in Toronto for over twenty years. Joanne has written articles for Canadian Children’s Book News and other publications. Her picture books include Our Corner Grocery Store, City Alphabet, and City Numbers. She has collaborated with Inuit elder Qaunaq Mikkigak on picture book versions of two traditional Inuit tales, The Legend of the Fog and Grandmother Ptarmigan. Our Corner Grocery Store was nominated for the 2010 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. Joanne lives in Toronto with her two daughters.
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SYDNEY SMITH is an illustrator born and bred in Nova Scotia. He attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and has been in Halifax since receiving his BFA in 2006. Since then, he has collaborated with many musicians and authors, including two children's books with Sheree Fitch. He was awarded the Mayor's Award for Mable Murple in 2011.
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Contributor Notes

JOANNE SCHWARTZ was born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Her first picture book, Our Corner Grocery Store, illustrated by Laura Beingessner, was nominated for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. She is also the author of Pinny in Summer, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant, and Town Is by the Sea, illustrated by Sydney Smith, which was a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book. Joanne has been a children’s librarian for more than twenty-five years. She lives in Toronto.

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.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
5 to 9
k to 4
Reading age:
5 to 9
  • Winner, Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration
  • Commended, ALSC Notable Children's Books
  • Winner, TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
  • Short-listed, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award
  • Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Winner, CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal
  • Commended, Cooperative Children's Book Center Best of the Year
  • Commended, BookPage Best Children's & Young Adult Books
  • Commended, New York Times Notable Children’s Books
  • Commended, NPR Book Concierge
  • Commended, Horn Book Fanfare
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids and Teens
  • Commended, Denver Public Library Best Children's & Teen Books
  • Commended, New York Times / New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award
  • Commended, Kirkus Best Picture Books
  • Short-listed, Governor General's Literary Award, Young People's Literature — Illustrated Books
  • Commended, Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book
  • Commended, Shelf Awareness Best Books of the Year
  • Commended, School Library Journal Best Books
Editorial Reviews

This is one of the most beautiful picture books you’ll see this year. It’s picture book-making at its very best.

— BookPage

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

Smith’s expressive, evocative spreads contrast the light-soaked landscape above with the night-black mine below … a sensitive way of helping readers understand that, for some, the idea of choosing a career is a luxury.

— Publishers Weekly

Only rarely in a picture book do words and art interact as potently and intimately as they do in this luminous collaboration.

— Toronto Star

A quiet book that will stay with readers long after they have closed it.


Exquisitely rendered, it's a subtle day in the life title … This is, in short, a magnificent book.

— A Fuse 8 Production

This is a moving story, and a fine example of text and pictures in perfect harmony.


Town Is by the Sea offers some of the most beautiful paintings of sunshine on water ever painted … a powerful and profound work of art that tweaks our perspective and transcends its subject.

— Shelf Awareness

Hauntingly beautiful.


"this story ebbs and flows like the sea itself . . . one of the best illustrated books of the year . . ."

— Huffington Post

This quietly devastating book … stirs timeless, elemental emotions.

— The New York Times

Sydney Smith's gorgeous, airy illustrations showcase the beauty of childhood in the seaside town. … [Schwartz] perfectly captures the matter-of-fact thinking of a small child.

— Quill & Quire, STARRED REVIEW

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