Wonderful illustrations and delectable artwork culminate this new title from writer, Joanne Schwartz and illustrator, Sydney Smith, Town Is by the Sea, a beautiful new hardback published by Walker Books last month. Aimed at five an up this is an intelligently contrasting title that hauntingly depicts a piece of mining history.

Canadian, Joanne Schwartz, is the author of several children’s books including Our Corner Grocery Store, which was nominated for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, and has been a librarian for more than twenty-five years, presently residing in Toronto. Sydney Smith is a recipient of several awards including New York Times Children’s Book of the Year, and the Governor General Award for Illustration, and is known for titles such as The White Cat and the Monk and Footpath Flowers.

Whilst inhaling and making the most of a summer’s day, a young boy’s thoughts constantly return to his father, who is digging for coal deep under the sea. The omnipresent ocean and anticipated way of life in a mining town will charm children and affect adult readers, as a young boy, somewhat of a dreamer wakes up to the sound of the sea. He visits his grandfather’s grave after lunch and comes home to a cosy dinner with his family, but all the while his mind strays to his father digging for coal deep down under the sea. The allure of the wide ocean and endless possibility pulls him from the mundane of the mining work, albeit at the back of his mind.

Sydney Smith, the award-winning illustrator of Footpath Flowers, impressively shows the striking contrast between the sparkling seaside day and the dark underground where the miners work and dig, and the contrast of the endless possibility and this mundane. This remarkably subdued and evocative tale brings a piece of mining history to life, with this rather staggering artwork. The notion of a child’s thoughts forever with his father, yearning for him, is within the boundaries of conceivable, and allows children and adults both to consider the hardships of those that have to work in more laborious conditions, under the sea in this instance. It also deals with ideas of working expectations and a family loyalty and bond through labour, whilst also covering the dreamer who explores unlimited options.

A remarkable picture book.

All images courtesy of Walker Books, who have published Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith.

Town Is by the Sea was published on 6th April 2017.