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Town Is by the Sea

by Joanne Schwartz
Illustrated by Sydney Smith

Published by Groundwood, 2017
48 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55498-871-6

Ages 6-9

A boy describes his day in the town by the sea where he lives, an accounting made extraordinary by its lyricism and its visual accompaniment. “It goes like this…” is the repeated refrain as he details each part of his day. Morning includes butterflies in his stomach when he swings up high; lunch is a baloney sandwich and carrots; in the afternoon he notices the salt-smell of the air when he stops at the graveyard overlooking the sea. Most of the ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations have a muted palette but feel full of light and movement and convey an exceptional sense of place along with the narrative. But there is another repeated refrain: Two consecutive double-page spreads between each part of the day in which the boy takes note of how the sea looks (paintings show its expansiveness and the play of light on water), and thinks of his father at work in the coal mine beneath the sea (paintings dominated by heavy, oppressive dark bearing down on the working men). The boy notes matter-of-factly that his future will be the mine, just like his father and grandfather. But for now readers see he is simply and beautifully secure in the warmth of family and familiarity, and also the light. An author’s note explains more about the setting of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in the 1950s. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center


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