A child navigates the city’s relentless sights and sounds.
The child, light-skinned but with race and gender ambiguous under layers of winter outerwear, pulls the stop-request string inside the bus and trundles into the midtown maw. A savvy kid, but so small within the double-page spread of skyscrapers, commuters, stoplights, and construction. Text appears in the white space between buildings, “I know what it’s like to be small in the city.” Young readers will feel their hearts constrict, as they all know what it’s like to confront a towering, intimidating world. Hand-drawn frames, presented in quadrants, contain both powerful close-ups and wider scenes (taxi taillights, crosswalks, chain fencing, the child’s bobbing pom-pom) that mark time and distance. A page turn delivers full-page pictures of the looming city, with dizzying linework and detail. Cinematic scenes feel at once atmospheric and photorealistic. With snow accumulating and light dwindling, the narrator gives voice to the reader’s concern: “People don’t see you and loud sounds can scare you, and knowing what to do is hard sometimes.” This incisive language distills the hardest part of childhood: the precarious hold small people have on their own agency. A brilliant narrative twist reveals itself at the end of this tender picture book, which stretches readers’ concern painfully as the voice begins warning of dark alleys and dogs, and points to warm churches and free food.
Extraordinary, emotional, and beautifully rendered. (Picture book. 6-10)