cover image Town Is by the Sea

Town Is by the Sea

Joanne Schwartz, illus. by Sydney Smith. Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $19.95 (52p) ISBN 978-1-55498-871-6

In an author’s note, Schwartz (Pinny in Summer) explains that until the 1950s, boys who grew up in Canadian coal towns knew that their futures lay at the bottom of their local mine. Her young narrator takes readers through a typical day, describing a quiet, unchanging life. Smith’s (The White Cat and the Monk) expressive, evocative spreads contrast the light-soaked landscape above with the night-black mine below, and the boy’s varied activities with his father’s fixed routine. In the morning, the boy stands in his underwear and gazes out the window toward the sea. A page turn reveals inky darkness: “And I know my father is already deep down under that sea, digging for coal.” The boy plays and does errands as his father toils far below. “One day,” the boy concludes, “it will be my turn.... In my town, that’s the way it goes.” In Schwartz’s lyrical, wistful account, there’s no sense of injustice or complaint—only a note of resignation. It’s a sensitive way of helping readers understand that, for some, the idea of choosing a career is a luxury. Ages 5–9. [em]Illustrator’s agent: Emily van Beek, Folio Literary Management. (Apr.) [/em]