A young child, bundled up against the cold of winter, takes the bus into the heart of the city. Leaving the bus, the child makes their way through the buildings and the bustle, talking as they go. I know what it’s like to be small in the city… As the story continues, the reader comes to realise that they are addressing someone in particular, offering advice about how to survive-dryer vents that will keep you warm, somewhere that plays music to be enjoyed, a friendly shopkeeper who might give you some food…When the child pins a pink poster with the word ‘Lost’ and a picture of a cat, the reader understands who the child is talking to. The storm builds as the child makes their way home, the longing for their pet evident, where they are welcomed home. The final page shows a reassuring set of paw prints through the snow.
This is a wonderful book in so many ways. The child seems so small and alone against the towering buildings, the busy traffic and the crowds of people as it is captured in close ups, wider scenes and even as a broken image as if seen through panes of glass. Each illustration is evocative of childhood- that sense of being small and vulnerable- yet our young hero seems confident as they walk a familiar path.
The story is full of clues as to who the child is speaking to. Once you have seen the pink lost poster, you notice them dotted throughout the pages and the advice is couched in language which (once you know!) applies perfectly to cat-like behaviour. This all adds to the touching sense of loss and the tender concern in the advice offered.
This book offers so much potential for using with a class. The author cleverly leads the reader in one direction, building their expectations, before adding a twist which makes makes you re-read the story with fresh eyes. Succinct text and atmospheric illustrations combine perfectly to create a real gem which really exemplifies the power of a great picture book. Simply beautiful.
Small in the City Sydney Smith
Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406388404