cover image Small in the City

Small in the City

Sydney Smith. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4261-4

In his solo debut, Smith (Town Is by the Sea) follows a bundled-up child walking in winter amid tall buildings, traffic, and telephone poles. “I know what it’s like to be small in the city,” the narration begins. As it continues, readers slowly realize that the child is addressing someone in particular. Snow starts to swirl, and the child begins to offer advice: watch out for big dogs; a dryer vent might be a good place for a nap (“you could curl up below it”). The winter wind whips, and snow swirls faster. The child bends over a knapsack for a pink sheet of paper; “LOST,” it reads, over a picture of a cat. (A look back reveals the posters affixed all over town.) “If you want,” the child says, in words readers now understand are directed at the lost feline, “you could just come back.” Smith’s understated portrait of longing for the return of a beloved family member takes readers on a quiet but powerful emotional journey, one whose intensity Smith tracks visually as the winter storm becomes a blizzard and the driving wind makes it nearly impossible to see—until, just as suddenly, it lifts. The story’s spotlight is not on the loss of the pet, or on its return, but on the state of suspension in between—a mixture of grief, resignation, and patient waiting—and the independent child narrator’s loving regard for the animal as an autonomous being. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)