Smith, Sydney. Small in the City. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2019.
The best picture books have illustrations that are an integral part of the story. The best stories let you feel what it is like to be in someone else’s situation. Small in the City starts with four pages of pictures showing a bundled-up little boy on a bus before the first sentence appears – “I know what it is like…” – and continues as he walks along cold snowy streets, looking everywhere – in alleyways, in fenced yards with angry dogs, under bushes and up in bare-limbed trees, past a fishmonger’s and an empty lot, by a red brick church and a bench in a park – as the snow gets thicker and thicker. Finally, in a sign he’s posted on a light standard, we discover to whom he is talking: his cat, who is lost. The words in the story become fewer again and the illustrations become snowier until the hopeful words, “But I know you. You will be all right.”
The design of this book is brilliant. The style of the illustrations, the size and style of the font, the placement of the sentences on the pages are all perfect. The concept of this book is powerful: a main character imagining life from the point of view of someone else whom he loves. Readers will feel the desperate worry mixed with hope that everyone who has ever had a pet can all too vividly imagine. Most highly recommended for anyone who loves picture books (or cats).