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Small in the City

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,086 ratings  ·  264 reviews
It can be a little scary to be small in a big city, but this child has some good advice for a very special friend in need.

When you're small in the city, people don't see you, and loud sounds can scare you, and knowing what to do is sometimes hard. But this little kid knows what it's like, and knows the neighborhood. That makes for some pretty good advice for an even sm
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Neal Porter Books
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Average rating 4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,086 ratings  ·  264 reviews

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David Schaafsma
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had only thus far read Sidewalk Flowers, illustrated by Sydney Smith, which I loved for the artwork, so I was eager to see the first picture book he has both written and illustrated. The art is stunning, the story at least initially about what it is like being small in a big city. Then we see it is a letter to another small someone. Then we realize the child is searching the large, now somewhat desolate city for this someone, and eventually we realize that someone is the child's cat, and then ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
It doesn’t come up all that often that I have to review a picture book without giving away too much. Picture books are short by nature, and while they often contain twist endings, there are relatively few that draw out their endings in slow, patient reveals. But then, I don’t suppose that there are many picture books out there quite like Sydney Smith’s Small in the City. Recently I had the pleasure of presenting alongside Mr. Smith at an event for booksellers. To best describe this work, Mr. Smi ...more
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who appreciate great illustration
4.5 stars. This is a lovely and unique story and one best read knowing nothing about. The story shows a little girl walking through the city, many pages are without text but the ones that have words describe the feeling of being a small being in a large and sometimes unfriendly city.

The illustrations are exceptional and are so successful in getting across the feeling of being a small being in the City. I loved the scenes of snow, trees, and buildings, so many wonderful scenes. There are sad elem
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: quiet touching books
This is practically a wordless book. I love the artwork; it's gritty and rough and towering and it brings up feelings of being Small in New York. It's a great bit of art. There is beauty in the harsh lines.

A girl is narrating the story for us telling us it's okay to feel small in the city, but we will make it. She gives tips on how best to survive the big city and how she does it. The girl is on the bus by herself and walking around the town by herself. Man, as a parent, I would think you have t
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely beautiful. As soon as I saw the city scenes. I immediately thought we were in a Canadian city, and only found out after I finished the book that the author is a Canadian.
I loved the illustrations, and the quiet tone of the book. I could hear the sound of snowflakes hitting the snow as I read this book.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Skip by: NY Times
Shelves: childrens
This one was not for me. I found it kind of depressing as a young boy wanders around a big city searching for his missing cat. The ambiguous ending, which leaves readers wondering about the cat's return, might not be the kind of thing you want children to read.
Jodi Meadows
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I cried?

I cried.
Madison Warner Fairbanks
Very few words. Lots of artwork around a big city environment.
A bit sad.
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A young girl journeys through a vast, snowy, sometimes scary city while her mother waits at home. But what seems at first to be the gentle confidence of a loving mother assuring her child that she can make it home through the city and the snow slowly reveals itself to be something else entirely.

This is a very sad but ultimately incredibly uplifting book with beautiful, simple illustrations that hold a wealth of emotion and just a little mystery.

I loved this.
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Stunningly illustrated story about a small child getting around a big city.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrensbooks
Beautiful, touching story of a child giving advice on coping with being "small in the city." A bit of a surprise ending. Children will enjoy guessing who the advice is for and which clues informed their decision. After you're done, read FOUND by Jeff Newman and Larry Day.
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
UPDATE: Whilst cataloging this book, I noticed that the CIP summary spoils the book's surprise. Those dummies.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I don't know what I was expecting, but I was pretty disappointed for the first three-quarters.

Then I reached the surprise toward the end that sent me back to the beginning...

...and re-reading Knowing What You Now Know makes every page that much more powerful. And those curious lines that don't make much sense on first read become heartbreaking and deeply mea
Mary Lee
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, cats, picture-book
Love the moment when you realize the speaker in the book isn't talking to the reader. Gorgeous illustrations.
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books

“People don’t see you and loud sounds can scare you, and knowing what to do is hard sometimes.”

This subtle, quiet tale says so much in words and images. Sydney Smith’s illustrations have so much to say! From the first look out the bus window to the different sights along the way, this city talks to you. The snow storm as well. I can feel both the city and the escalating storm on the page. The movement, grittiness, cold, and sadness seep in as you turn, turn, turn the pages. All your senses come
Aug 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Sometimes reading a children's book about a kid describing Toronto on a search for his cat is all you need. How am I supposed to not get nostalgic when the first scene is a Toronto streetcar?
Excuse me, there's something in my eye. I didn't know the story of this book, and I won't spoil it. Suffice it to say that I think Sydney Smith is one of the best artists working, and this is the first book that he's both written and illustrated. It's a unique modern experience to follow an artist on Instagram (, see their process and sketches, and then see the finished product. I admire so much what he does with reflections, lighting, snow, and atmosphere. ...more
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
When you are small and along in the city, it can be very frightening. A child who knows how to navigate the streets offers some advice even though they can find the city a bit overwhelming too. Alleys make great shortcuts. Dryer vents can offer warmth. Avoid the big dogs that fight. The child hangs posters as they make their way through the city and the falling snow, identifying a place to sit together and options for hiding up high. It’s perfect advice for a lot cat who also could just come bac ...more
Jane Scholey
Absolutely LOVED this book by Sydney Smith. It is a stunning read and the pictures (very reminiscent of Paul Kenton pictures) are fabulous and add to the story so well. The use of colour makes the story even more atmospheric. What a stunning book to read to chn of all ages.
I read this in a bookstore while I was shopping for my 3-year-old nephew and I teared up. Aside from my obvious emotional problems, this is a beautiful, heartfelt book and I loved it.
Kris Patrick
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Requires more than one reading.
Hopeful if heartbreaking. (view spoiler) ...more
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's no easy task to be little in a world of large. When you stand in an open sunny meadow, wildflowers dancing in the breeze, wander along a path strewn with needles among tall evergreens or gaze at a starry expanse at night, you feel the full power of your size compared to the surrounding vista but in some respects these scenes give us a sense of calm. These spaces are not by our hands. Walking among towering skyscrapers along crowded sidewalks with traffic buzzing by at breakneck speeds is an ...more
I wasn't ready. Oof. But what a masterful oof.
Richie Partington
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picturebooks, ps
Richie’s Picks: SMALL IN THE CITY by Sydney Smith, Holiday House/Neal Porter Books, September 2019, 40p., ISBN: 978-0-8234-4261-4

“Way over yonder is a place that I know
Where I can find shelter from a hunger and cold”
— Carole King (1971)

“I know what it’s like to be small in the city.
People don’t see you and loud sounds can scare you,
and knowing what to do is hard sometimes.
Taxis honk their horns.
Sirens come and go in every direction.
Construction sites pound and drill and yell and dig.
The streets
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Oh, my. This one packs an emotional wallop. It reminded me of “Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure” by the Weakerthans, which is devastating. It's a hard world for little things, but the ending shows hope.
Debbie Wright
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-book
Wonderful illustrations and an interesting presentation of voice. We had a great discussion about the narration over lunch this week. The use of colour is also interesting. A 'must read'.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
A beautiful story of a child seeking out a lost cat, with lots and lots of illustrations and just a bit of text, with a deep feeling of peace and hopefulness.
Having been impressed by the illustrations this author crafted for previous books written by other authors (Sidewalk Flowers, The White Cat and the Monk, and Town Is by the Sea), I was eager to take a look at this one, the first book he has written and illustrated. I was not disappointed. The story is a simple but meaningful one. A young boy travels through the city, aware of its perils and his own small size. He knows that cities have many delights, but they also contain dangers, especially for ...more
Alice Bennett
A book about feeling isolated and alone in a big place. A child narrates their life in the city, illustrated with pictures that show the things around them, the people and the weather.

I like how the reader is never shown the child's face directly, it is always turned away or covered by something to illustrate how they have learnt to be constantly on the move and camouflage themselves to stay safe.

I would ask lots of questions about why the child is on their own, what has happened, are they hom
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Sydney Smith is a Canadian illustrator of children's books. He was awarded the 2015 Governor General’s Award For Illustrated Children’s Books for Sidewalk Flowers, a wordless picture book which he illustrated with author JonArno Lawson.

Smith studied drawing and printmaking at NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was while studying there that he realized his interest for illustrating childr

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