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Symphony City

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  161 ratings  ·  52 reviews
In Symphony City, a young girl, lost in a big city, makes her way home by following the rich and vibrant music of the streets. Bursting with bright colors and narrated in lively, staccato phrases, Amy Martin's debut children's book is at once a sweeping page-turner and a book that makes you want to stop and pore over every page.

Symphony City is an exciting adventure story
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published July 19th 2011 by McSweeney's McMullens
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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  161 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: music & cat lovers; those who appreciate beautifully and unusually illustrated picture books
Recommended to Lisa (not getting friends updates) by: Bobby
In the author-illustrator’s thank you at the end, she includes the nineteen cats that appear in the book, by name. Very cool! She also thanks a variety of places (including San Francisco!) and people.

This is a wonderful story of a lost girl who finds her way via music and her imagination.

The story is told in very few words, not too many words on each page, and with big, bold, vivid pictures, so I think it can be appreciated by the very youngest children, but also in various ways by children of a
Dec 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Young Music Lovers / Readers Who Enjoy Beautifully-Illustrated, Well-Designed Picture-Books
Recommended to Abigail by: Lisa (not getting friends updates) Vegan
Independent publishing house and David Sedaris brainchild McSweeney's moved into the children's book market last year, when they released Symphony City (amongst other titles) through their new "McMullens" imprint. The result, at least in the case of Amy Martin's book, is a distinct triumph! The brief, minimalist text and gorgeously stylized illustrations work flawlessly together to tell the story of a young girl, separated from her parent on the way to a concert, who finds music on the streets o ...more
Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer
Check out more Picture book reviews @ Perspective of a Writer...

A girl gets lost on the subway as she travels with her dad to a free music concert. Music is symbolized as different objects that convey the emotion she feels as she listens.

The art in this book is magnificent. The dust jacket unfolds into a poster and boy would I love to have that!! I loved the use of white space and the large blocks of color and limited details. Each page was lovely, hang on the wall as art lovely! I mean serious
Jessica Harrison
Feb 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, picture
review via Cracking the Cover
Music can be found everywhere. That’s what a young girl learns in “Symphony City” by Amy Martin.

There’s nothing to do. But when a young girl learns there’s a free concert today featuring the Symphony City Orchestra downtown, she rushes out the door. “We can make it if we hurry.”

The subway is empty at first, but soon fills with people. The girl tries to hold on tight, but there are too many people, and she is left all alone. The girl hears a sound and realizes she can
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
So many reasons to love this book: the dust jacket folds out to a nice poster; the art is awesome, with some scenes depicted from rather unusual angles (which I liked a lot); the brilliant use of colors, ranging from grays to bright yellow, red, oranges etc; the central message of music permeating the fabric of the (any) city; and the reflective and thoughtful overtone to the book which makes it a good read for adults as well. And a special kudos to the author for giving a shout out to all 19 ca ...more
Dec 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
I really like the message of this book (you can find music anywhere), and the design/artistic elements are, for the most part, fun and unique; however, I really don't like how the little girl is drawn (she looks depressed and fatigued, at best), and she's the protagonist, so you see her sad face frequently throughout the book. ...more
GORGEOUS ARTWORK! Also, as a music educator, I think this is a great book to introduce children to different instruments. Also, the fact music can be found's just amazing what Martin did with the word spacing and book layout! ...more
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
A little girl is lost in the big city, but uses the sounds of music to find her way.

The artwork is amaaaaaazing! It's vibrant and the people are pictured as silhouettes with spare details for their features.

Sam Bloom
Aug 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Visuals are stunning on this one. Make sure to buy a copy so you can see how amazing the dust jacket/cover is - the library binding makes it so you can't see one of the best parts of the book. ...more
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The graphics are absolutely beautiful. The images make the words sing and come alive. Stunning.
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This beautiful picture book shows how music can be heard in the big city. From a keyboardist in the subway to a corner trumpet player, the music flows everywhere. With only one sentence per page and bright colorful illustrations, it's easy to get swept up into the musical delights of everyday. ...more
Seema Rao
A little girls finds music and color, instead of fear, when she loses her mother/ care-giver on a subway platform. Amazing, highly graphic, slightly abstracted illustrations. Feels at once symphonic and cinematic.
Kim Henry
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
Reminds me of "August Rush" of my favorite movies! ...more
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Was looking at this book to go with a music-themed story time. It has absolutely gorgeous illustrations, but is a bit too quiet for a story time book.
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
"The best songs love you back" ...more
Caitlin Ostberg
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful use of bold colors, patterns, and shapes.
Colorado Buck
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: children-picture
did not enjoy it as much as i thought i would. it was an interesting look at finding sounds in the world around you every day.
Nov 25, 2013 rated it liked it
My five-year-old son picked this book out from our local library last week.

I really wanted to like this book because of the art and music references but it was a challenge. First of all, it was a challenge to read the tiny white text against the light grey -- yup, I'm over 40 -- so that was a bit depressing. But even I didn't look as depressed as the little girl in the story did. I could understand her looking sad at the beginning of the book, but I expected her expression to brighten as the st
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Strong artistic touch and beautifully crafted design bring the music of the city to life. Like the other McSweeney's McMullens books, the book jacket folds out into a double-sided, over-sized poster. A really nice touch that should allow you to judge the book (in part) by it's cover.

The style difference of the faces with the rest of the art didn't feel right at first, but did grow on me.

Make sure to carefully read the acknowledgements and publishing information. There are a always a few gems in
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: getting-lost, music, city
This magical book is about a young girl who gets lost in the city, but along the way finds music and beauty around every corner. The illustrations are bold and magical: ballerinas dancing on rooftops, the young girl riding "waves" through the city streets. White and beige contrast bright yellows and reds.

This book is a study in art.
The text is written like poetry and doesn't use complete sentences; in the truest sense of the term "picture book," the pictures are required to make meaning of the
Eric Hinkle
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book! Just like her gig posters for Death Cab, Band of Horses, The Head & The Heart, etc., Amy Martin's illustrations in this book are full of wildly vibrant colors, cool shapes, and lots of music and instruments. The text is sparse (usually just a handful of words per page or two), but the pictures easily tell the rest of the story. It's very enjoyable just letting your eyes and mind wander around the pages, exploring what's there in the landscapes and colors. Lovely stuff. PLUS, absolu ...more
Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous book. I did judge this book by its cover and snatched it up off the library shelves. The story is somewhat lacking in detail, which makes this more of a wordless picture book. Seen that way, I would have given it 5 stars. A family heads into the city to hear the symphony, but the girl gets lost. Her journey through a big city (could be New York, could be Toronto, could be any large metropolis) is a little scary but mostly magical and extremely colorful. The illustrations on each page ar ...more
Aug 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: kids-books
very nice illustrations and construction. Has a super cool reversible poster/dust jacket. The animals, weather, cityscapes, little girl, and plants, and musicians/instruments have an elegant "dance-like" quality. the story itself was pretty weak, 'cept for the last line. the shout out to the cats was a good touch. ...more
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: infant, music, preschool
"Lost in the big city, a young girl makes her way home by following the rich and vibrant music of the streets. Bursting with bright colors and narrated in lively, staccato phrases' (goodreads feature review).

Beautiful, soft, large paintings made with watercolor, stamps, and multimedia. Attractive for children and adults.
Rebecca Ann
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
I liked this picture book, but I felt like it needed musical accompaniment. It would be fun to play a little bit of music to match the different styles portrayed. I loved the use of color and surrealist imagery to express different sounds. The blocky, flat, mostly white illustrations were beautiful, if unusual.
Best for kids ages 3 and up.
Early Literacy Skills: Phonological Awareness, Narrative Skills

This story relies on its illustrations to tell the story. This works somewhat for this book, but the small text is lost in within the colorful text and the story is hurt because of it. Young readers my need extra help with this book, but the message is still a good one.
Sandy Brehl
I'm a fan of the illustration and the idea of this book rather than the text. It is a highly appealing concept, and the images offer ample opportunity for discussion and even as prompts for personal writing. It offers an homage to the ubiquitous value of music in our lives, but I feel it might have been more effective if developed as a wordless book. ...more
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-book
The illustrations were particularly interesting to me. Loved how it went from more gray-scale to a gradual addition of color. Story is about a little girl who discovers music all around the city as she seeks to find someone she lost.
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is a piece of art.
I would love a poster size print of any page - the last page especially.
"the best songs love you back"

I love the note about the 19 cats pictured in the book and the list of their names.
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kid-stuff
I really liked the art of this book. Also, this book has really nice pages. The paper has a rough body, yet still a lot of softness, very neat. The story focuses on music being all around us, if one just opens his or her ears. A good topic, since the author does artwork for musical groups.
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Martin has created books, magazines, posters, products and illustrations for The New York Times, McSweeney's, GOOD magazine, The Walt Disney Company, Foreign Policy, Death Cab for Cutie, and Band of Horses, and The Los Angeles Times.

Her first illustrated children's book, "Symphony City," was released by McSweeney's in July 2011. She is currently working on her second book, about friendship and a v

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