Town Is by the Sea

 

Groundwood Logos Spine

Image Credit: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, Joanne Schwartz/Sydney Smith

Coal. Here in the United States, we have a long history with the fossil fuel. Americans have been burning coal for hundreds of years and mined it heavily from the late 19th century until the mid 20th. Towns developed around coal, generations of families (of various ethnicities) mined it & depended on it. Though we don’t mine and burn coal like we used to (due to mechanization of mining & increasing natural gas usage), we still have deep, emotional ties to it.

Town Is By the Sea is a story of the Canadian coal town Cape Breton in the 1950s and a boy’s connection to coal, to the sea and to his family. This story has multiple layers; on the surface level, it’s a boy’s account of his daily life. But on a deeper level, Joanne Schwartz paints an intimate portrait of a coal mining town and a boy’s understanding of his role as a miner’s son. Continue reading

Sidewalk Flowers

Groundwood Logos Spine

Image Credit: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), JonArno Lawson/Sydney Smith

 

I love seeing books about dads and their daughters. This relationship isn’t common to see in picture books but when its done right, it’s something special. Check out Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang for another great one.

Sidewalk Flowers features wordless comic strip-like panels that show inner city life. The pages are gray, black and white save for a bright streak of red for the girl’s cloak and oh, if you look closely…is that a flower growing quietly? A young curious girl explores her city while holding her father’s hand on a walk to run errands. He’s often on his phone but she’s tuned into the bustle, the people and the flowers. They are still connected though and she’s busy collecting her flower prizes. As they walk through the park, she gives a small gift for a fallen friend, a dozing friend and hairy friend. She brings color to what she touches and the pages slowly bloom.

Initially Smith’s illustrations highlight contrasting black and white lines, but he throws in moments of color as the story progresses. His watercolor illustrations are great and vibrant; it’s not a busy kind of vibrant but rather a comfortable vibrancy. The father and daughter enjoy each other’s company and its easy to see how much the girl is a part of her community and how much she is loved.

***P.S. UPDATE! This book was chosen to be given as a gift to every Syrian refugee family in Canada! Wow. It’s the perfect book for welcoming. ❤

Read about it here!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Community, Discussion, Wordless, Animals, Family, Quiet Moments, Father-Daughter
Book Info: Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson/Illustrated by Sydney Smith, 2015 Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), ISBN: 9781554984312