Monday, November 18, 2019

Come Home, Kitty! Small in the City by Sydney Smith

I know what it's like to be small in the city.

It's beginning to snow and grow dark between the tall buildings. A small child with backpack and wool cap climbs down from the trolley and begins the rest of his trudge homeward. At first he seems to be talking to himself.
People don't see you

and loud sounds can scare you.

There are traffic and construction noises all around.

But the child knows how to navigate those streets. His advice is good.

He advises the unseen listener to avoid a dark alley and to keep some distance from big, fenced-in dogs.

But then we begin to see that there is another listener that the child seems to be advising. He points out safe trees to climb and a steamy dryer vent for warmth, and a church window ledge for listening to music-- and then, a kind fishmonger's shop.
They would probably give you a fish.

Through the increasingly heavy new snowfall, the child stops to put up a poster with a picture of a lost cat, a loved cat who has a full food dish and blanket waiting at home. And then, there's the child's mother, waiting for him and for the cat to come home.
I know you.

You will be all right.

Sydney Smith's new Small in the City (Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, 2019) has the message that knowledge can be protective, that the child and his missing cat can be safe in their familiar surroundings, a reassuring theme for young readers.

Skillfully, on his final page author-illustrator Sydney Smith shows the child's own door, with cat tracks close by in the snow, in shadow, but backed by early blooming bushes for a promising conclusion to this well-told story. Author-illustrator Smith captures the mood of the shadowy, stark cityscape, along with the welcoming places in the neighborhood that foreshadow the hinted-at happy ending. A subtle tale of confidence in self and hope that sustains.

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