At first, there's no reason to suspect that the narrator isn't addressing the reader: "I know what it's like to be small in the city." But after several pages of what sound like his calls for sympathy, it becomes clear that the boy isn't being self-referential: "But I know you. You'll be all right." As the boy proceeds to share some tips with the unidentified "you," he's depicted hanging up flyers publicizing a cat's disappearance. Smith's images do most of the talking, ranging from modest vignettes of city life to showstoppers including a fractured illustration of the downcast boy's funhouse-like reflection in a mirrored-glass skyscraper.
Small in the City, the first book written and illustrated by Sydney Smith (illustrator of Sidewalk Flowers and Town Is by the Sea), has proved to be a 2019 favorite. Smith received the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award in illustration for young people's literature from the Canadian Council for the Arts, and the title was also chosen as a 2019 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children's Book. Too naturalistic to conclude with the expected child-pet reunion, Small in the City instead closes with a final, wordless illustration showing paw prints in the snow near red flowers--a promise of relief from winter, relief from sorrow. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author