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Small in the City

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  334 ratings  ·  100 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
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Neal Porter Books
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Average rating 4.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  334 ratings  ·  100 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
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 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. ...more
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.
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.
Madison Warner Fairbanks
Very few words. Lots of artwork around a big city environment.
A bit sad.
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
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.
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 ...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.
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
LOVE! I recently moved from a major metro to a farm that is a mile from it's nearest neighbor. This book made me homesick for the city. The illustrations are so lovely. Loved this book!
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
Marlena Grace
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kiddos
What a cute lil book. Loved the art. Kinda sad tho. Got me a little teary??
Hopeful if heartbreaking. (view spoiler)
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
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
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
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
After reading 'Town is by the Sea' I couldn't not read more Sydney Smith books and I enjoyed this one even more. What first appears to be a story written to the reader by a child living in a busy city, actually turns out to be for her lost cat, telling it that being lost is scary but that it will find it's way home in the end.

Like with his other books, Smith avoids the use of facial expressions, so again it is up to us as readers to determine for ourselves what emotions are being felt by the
Raven Black
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Be in the right mind frame when reading this as it is, frankly, down right depressing. At first you think the narrator is talking to you the reader, then perhaps to a bird, or even a homeless person until you finally learn the real creature being talked to. The colors are the color of a stereotypical city: dark, some colors, but over all a winter day in a larger city area. Is on the NYT's Best Illustrated Books of the Year and while they are interesting illustrations they are not for everyone. ...more
Jordan Henrichs
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Whether you're big or small, whether you live in a city or not, I think a lot of kids (and adults) can relate to this book. Clever double meaning behind the message and title. I loved this!
Mary Lee
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-book, 2019, cats
Love the moment when you realize the speaker in the book isn't talking to the reader. Gorgeous illustrations.
Dylan Teut
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm going to pull a line from Kevin Henkes' LILY'S PLASTIC PURPLE PURSE in regards to my emotions surrounding this book. "Wow" is just about all I can say. "Wow." (a good wow; a surprising wow, in case you're wondering)
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'.
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: work-books
A simple and gorgeous story with a nice ending. I felt cozy reading it.
M. Lauritano
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Smith’s artwork is about as breathtakingly perfect as can be achieved in a picture book. Loose and alive ink-drawings meet painstaking observations of light and reflections. The story, though it makes some interesting choices, is not as moving or profound to me as it seems to be for other readers. It easily stands out from other narratives of this type, which is very overdone. All that said, still a jaw-dropping author-illustrator debut.
Rosie Mulholland
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Such a lovely book! I loved everything about it! I illustrations are beautiful! And the way that they are framed and organised really compliment the story!
It wasn’t until the end of the story that the narrator of the story becomes more clear. To begin with I thought the child in the picture was telling the story and acting as a support for the reader. But when it said “you could sit on her lap and she will pet you”, I became unsure. It’s then shown that a cat is missing and I thought that it was
Sandy Brehl
This universality of the main character is brilliantly portrayed by the illustrator, allowing the clothing, skin tone, and body posture to provide a skin which can and will be donned by any and every reader. The first person voice pairs with and up-close scenes, in full spread, and frames of various sizes, to share insights of the various welcomes and dangers of a neighborhood, especially to an implied listener who might be new to the age, probably navigating it alone. Questions arise ...more
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You don't actually realize what is happening in this story until you have passed the half-way point. This book is WONDERFUL to teach the joy of close reading and re-reading. I re-read the book about 4 times in one sitting and noticed different things each time I read. At first, I was listening to the young child talk about being small in the city and thinking that he was talking to himself. Almost talking through his fears to reassure himself that yes all this was true about the city but he'd be ...more
A young boy offers advice as someone who knows what it is like to be “small in the city.”

This picture book begins with a young boy on a bus who begins to describe how scary being small in a big city can be and offer advice about how to navigate different things. At first, it appears that the "you" to whom the boy is speaking is another child. Some of the things have a vaguely sinister tone, which suggests that he is talking to a homeless child or a runaway. Finally, it is revealed that he is
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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