The Book That Made Me: Philip Reeve 16/10/19
Small in the City
Publisher: Walker Books
It’s difficult being a small child in a big city. It’s noisy: taxis and cars honk their horns. Sirens wail in every direction. It can make you feel confused and overwhelmed.
Fortunately, the streetwise kid telling Sydney Smith’s atmospheric story has some advice for fellow kids negotiating a city: which alleys to use as shortcuts, and which to avoid; which trees to hide in and which houses to stand outside to hear music, be warmed by a hot air vent or even be given free fish.
Sydney Smith won the Kate Greenaway Award in 2018 for his illustration of Town Is By The Sea. Small in the City is the first book he has written and illustrated, and it’s a masterpiece of thick, blurry lines and drifting snow, framing a child’s solitary yet celebratory experience of urban life.
Starting without words, the book is reflective rather than particularly narrative; we are taken along for the ride in a potentially hostile environment that the child nonetheless has found his or her place in. At the end, he or she reminds us that when we’re tired of exploring, we can always go home. After all, home is a place of love and warmth, wherever it is.