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Town Is by the Sea
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Town Is by the Sea

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,345 ratings  ·  345 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 52 pages
Published April 1st 2017 by Groundwood Books
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Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,345 ratings  ·  345 reviews

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Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fathers reading to sons.
Recommended to Hilary by: Found in the library
This is a beautiful book and would make a perfect book for boys to read with their fathers and especially meaningful to anyone who has relatives who have worked in the mines.

The story follows a young boy who lives by the sea. He describes his day by the glittering sea and sunny park whilst being aware that his father is below in the coal mines. Whilst he enjoys the freedom of childhood and beautiful surroundings he is aware one day his time will come to follow his father to work in the mines.

Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There’s been a lot of talk lately about how a parent can engender empathy in their children. It’s a good question and worth a lot of discussion and listening. As a parent I’ve wondered about it myself, but it's not the only question I've asked myself. How do you give a child a sense of self-worth without false ego inflation? Does responsibility linked with a direct reward system help or hurt the child in the long run? And most importantly (and this is a kicker) how do you help a child feel grate ...more
Dave Schaafsma
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picturebooks
A kind of portrait of a coal miner’s son in a Cape Breton town illustrated with a lovely dark palette by Sydney Smith. The boy is a coal miner's grandson and coal miner's son and he expects to be a coal miner himself. It's what his family does. Living by the sea is lovely, but the men dig for coal in a mine underneath the sea, and almost never see it during the daylight. The boy's grandfather asked to be buried in a plot overlooking the water since he had spent so much of his life underground. W ...more
Karen Witzler
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautiful illustrations by Sydney Smith and a rare look at the world of a working-class little boy who is aware that he is expected to follow the other men in his family into work as a coal-miner.
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kidstuff
This is a simple story of how a Cape Breton boy spends his day in the village by the sea, contrasted with his own father's day spent mining coal. Even with its dark, dreary palette, this is a strikingly beautiful book.



A lovely portrait of a childhood in times before the internet.

Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A boy's day. He wakes up, plays with a friend, goes to the store for his mother, and visits his grandfather's grave. Throughout the day, he looks at the sea and thinks of his father, a miner who digs under the sea.

A moving story about mining families. Beautifully illustrated.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
The artwork is stunning. The story is a bit too long but lovely.
3.5 out of 5

Town Is by the Sea manages to be both quietly beautiful and depressingly fatalistic. Joanne Schwartz's laconic, matter-of-fact, and somewhat repetitive text is oddly comforting, while the story's depth and mixed emotions are revealed through Sydney Smith's masterfully paced illustrations that often are worth a thousand words. The contrast between the images of the stunningly realistic sea at different points throughout the day and the claustrophobic mines is especially jarring:

Seagulls call out on the shore wind and the fine mist spray of the restless sea hits us: white breakers captured in an endless wash against the cliff-slide of a small mining town in 1950s' Nova Scotia. So begins Schwartz’s and Smith’s ballad Town is by the Sea a mesmerising, dream-like ballad to a place enslaved to time and a dangerous history lost beneath the strata. Full review here
Megan Watterson
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was being used in a year 3/4 class on my placement. I loved this book for using with the class. There are so many messages in it of family and tradition alongside an innocent child. The author is creative in their writing and the description along with the drawings makes for a very powerful story. I would definitely recommend this book.
Phoebe Ledster
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
All good children's books can be read on two levels, and so can this one.

On one level, you have a simple story of a boy, in the Summer, going about his usual day of getting up, going out to play, and running errands for his mother, and having dinner with his father.

But underneath it all is the coal mine, both figurativly and literally. With each comment he makes abouat his day, he mentions that is where his father is, and we see him, down in the mines, working away, and almost being buried.

Tukunjil Nayeera
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is equally beautiful and depressive!
Joshua Wallington
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A lovely book exploring the life of a son of a miner who must follow within his footsteps. Beautiful images supported by effective underlying picturebook codes to promote high-quality discussion throughout the story.
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s
I enjoyed the contrast of the dark enclosed space of the mines versus the wide open airiness of the ocean. I also felt sad and wished for more for the boy than the legacy of the mines.
Tom Garrett
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A powerful picturebook giving insight into the life of a young miner’s son who, inevitably, will end up working in the mines too. It gives a great impression of entrapment and repetition that defines the young boys life, and indeed the lives of many other children around the world today.

Schwartz’s writing is bleak and Smith’s illustrations are beautifully stark which helps craft this tale. Time spent with this book only enhances the experience, the subtleties of the rich illustrations for examp
Nicki Fairman
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful story about a boy who watches his father go to the mines each morning, knowing this too is his future. With detailed pictures, the reader feels empathy towards the innocent child.
As the Horn Book review says, "There’s a distilled, haiku-like quality to this boy’s description of an ordinary summer day in a seaside coal mining town in the 1950s." This is a book to study -- one of the best pairings of words and pictures I have seen, and masterful in tone and voice. In Sydney Smith's watercolor and ink illustrations, there's the sparkly sea, the dark mines, and the world between. I see anxiety about the father's return (and the boy's future) in the rough, dark lines of the i ...more
Ms. B
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Full of sensory details, a little boy describes a day in his life in a small, coastal, coal mining town. Will those not living by the ocean or without knowledge of coal mining enjoy this book with a quiet beauty of its own?
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It goes like this:

Read. This. Book. :-)

(Lovely. Perfect for sequencing. Perfect for lots of things.) 💛
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I like this book because it involves some sequencing, for example, 'when I wake up it goes like this...... first I hear the seagulls, then I hear a dog barking..'. I feel the use of sequencing in the text would enable children to create meaning from it because they would be able to similarly talk about their daily routine and share these with others, this also puts the text into a context. The images in the text are clearly created to represent the words in the text. I like how some of the image ...more
Sarah Gerard
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
A beautiful and poetic picture book written from the perspective of a young boy who lives by the sea. His father works in the coal mines, a theme which is repeated throughout. I really liked this repetition- to me the repetition of the line ‘deep under the sea is where my father digs for coal’ perhaps signifies the innocence and lack of understanding the boy has for what his father does. Would be great to use cross curricular linking to History and PSHE (family relationships). I found the book r ...more
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books, family
This story is very simple, yet can have many different messages embedded within it. Town is by the sea is a story told from the perspective of a young boy about his life by the sea. There is constant repetition and reference to his father who is a coal miner. We don't learn much more about what his father does as a coal miner which could also be a reflection of how little the boy himself knows about his father's job. What I loved most about this book is the illustrations and how they add depth t ...more
Annalise Nakoneczny
Oct 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2020
I could literally stare at this book for hours. These illustrations are incredibly gorgeous, simple, and wide open as the sea described in the book. This is the story of a mining town, and it's not without danger. I have literally taken pictures of these illustrations so I can send them to everyone I know. Oh my word. This is one of those children's books I'll be buying for myself. ...more
Jacob Summerill
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A lovely picture book that gives a great insight into a young miner's son who ends up working in the mines too. The writing and illustration is brilliant and crafts the tale well. ...more
Marjorie Ingall
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids-3-6, kids-4-8
This is just ravishing. Sydney Smith's art -- I do not have words. The way he draws sunlight on water. Damn.

But Schwartz's text resonated too -- it's a love letter to a small mining town and the families hanging in there. I found myself thinking about Rhode Island, where I grew up, which is, you know, not known for its COAL. But it is a tiny, economically depressed state that was unfortunately dependent on a futureless industry -- in its case, costume-jewelry-making, which of course doesn't happ
Joshua Troyano
In my opinion, “Town is by the sea” is a fantastic picture book, as it is able to combine the text with the pictures to bring the story to life. It uses flowing and vibrant pictures to show the outdoors, and this changes when it comes to viewing the coal mines as it becomes more dark and gloomy.
The story shows two contrasting worlds with in the main characters life, that of the boy and that of the father. The boys world is full of vibrant outdoor experiences that are encompassed by the freedom
Edward Sullivan
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Text and illustrations work in perfect harmony in this haunting story set in a Cape Breton, Nova Scotia mining town, offering a striking contrast between a sparkling seaside day and the darkness underground where the miners dig.
Apr 24, 2017 added it
Shelves: picturebooks
Very moving, real, and beautifully illustrated.
Carol Scrimgeour
Powerful juxtaposition between light and dark, youthful freedom and adult expectations. Beautiful. Moving. Haunting.
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