Small In The City

By Sydney Smith

 “I know what it’s like to be small in the city”, “The streets are always busy. It can make your brain feel like there’s too much stuff in it.”

 Small in the City, written and illustrated by Sydney Smith, is a beautiful narrative picture book about, what at first seems to be a child who is lost in a city. Smith’s writing is poetic in its restraint. His storytelling is completed by the information shared through his haunting illustrations.

As the young narrator navigates the city streets, she seems to talk to herself, giving advice at every turn.

“Alleys can be good shortcuts. But don’t go down this alley, it’s too dark.”

At first it seems as if she is advising herself, but as the story evolves we realize that she is sending messages of comfort to her missing loved-one. 

“Home is safe and quiet. Your bowl is full and your blanket is warm. If you want, you could just come back.”

Small in the City is a 2019 New York Times/New York Public Library award winner for best illustrated children’s book.


Small in the City is appropriate for students of all ages. Young elementary schoolers felt emotionally stirred by the quest of the main character. Fifth graders were equally moved. One student said that he enjoyed the book because, “You think it’s one thing all along but on the last page it completely changes your mind. ” Another students shared that she like the book because she felt that the illustrations told the story as much as the words.

Teachers can use this book to teach inferring on many levels. Lesson about inferring based on picture clues, inferring character emotions based on evidence from the text, and inferring point of view can be anchored around this beautiful mentor text. 

Another class of 5th graders said, “This book is good for teachers to use to help their students practice inferring about characters.”

Small in the City begs to be read aloud and used again and again as a mentor text for both reading and writing units of study across all grade levels.

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