There is an event for this book. If you live in or near Toronto, you should go. I can’t, since I live in Boston, so I called the store and ordered a signed, personalized copy. They were very, very nice about it.
Then I got the call from my local shop that the copy I’d preordered there had come in, so I picked it up.
Yes, all of this was sight unseen for this book. But, listen: Sydney Smith, right? Remember The White Cat and the Monk? Remember Town Is by the Sea?
See that cover? Yes, I knew it was an important book.
Because Sydney Smith, that’s why. I knew him as an illustrator, yes, but I had a hunch that he’d be equally as important as an author.
I wasn’t wrong. I was more than right.
This is a book everyone needs, child or adult. It is wise and straightforward, advice from a child to someone close to that child who needs help.
Who is that someone? I’m not going to tell you that. Buy a copy (or two) and find out.
But it’s about vulnerability. The child is small in a big city. That makes the child vulnerable, in some sense. But also wise: able to give advice to someone else who is small in a big city. That makes the child strong, in some sense.
Now, I’m not going to tell you much more about the book itself, for fear of spoiling its beauty as a first read for you. But I’m going to tell you a secret:
I was once a small child in a big city and felt very vulnerable. I would wager a considerable number of precious books that I’m not alone in that feeling. It took me a while to feel strong and wise, and one of the defining events for me was locating “safe spots”: my favourite libraries and book shops and cafés near libraries where I could sit and read my books. Then I was able to recommend these spots to other people. Then I felt wise and strong.
But I will always, always feel heartbroken for the child I was: small in the city.
If you, too, were that person? And I’d wager many of you were? You will feel connected to this book.
But I also recognize, sitting here now, relating my story, how fortunate I was. The people I advised on lovely book shops were strong and wise in turn. They were not small and vulnerable.
And now, as an adult, looking around me– it’s the small and the vulnerable who break my heart.
And so, if you were once small in a big city. If you feel heartache for others who are small in a big city. If you were or are vulnerable and want to reach a hand to those who were or are vulnerable…
This book is for you.
This is where I’m desperately, desperately trying to find a page of artwork to show you Sydney Smith’s glorious ink and watercolour and gouache art… but I don’t want to spoil any of the surprising twists in this beautiful story for you. So I’m going to keep this short.
Just trust me, OK? And trust Sydney Smith. It is beautiful. You need it. You will love it.
And it will probably make you cry, in the best way possible.
Please write to me about it!
3 thoughts on “Small in the City”
[…] I’m saying is: Congratulations to Sydney Smith, author and illustrator of Small in the City, on winning the Governor General’s Award for Illustrated […]
[…] Goose Egg? By Liz Wong? Well, once upon a time, I had an extra copy of Small in the City in the house and offered it up for free delivery to someone– Liz Wong wrote and said […]
[…] books I know and have reviewed and loved– Town Is by the Sea, The White Cat and the Monk, and Small in the City. This is new. And one of the ways it’s new, and very like the text, is the nuance and blur of […]