Quill and Quire

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Sidewalk Flowers

by JonArno Lawson; Sydney Smith (illus.)

Kids have such a special view of the world, often finding beauty in things that busy, distracted adults fail to notice. This is the premise of Sidewalk Flowers, a lovely wordless picture book imagined by four-time Lion and the Unicorn Award–winning poet JonArno Lawson and brought to life in pictures by Sydney Smith, acclaimed illustrator of Music is for Everyone, Mabel Murple, and more.

sidewalk flowersThe story follows a little girl as she walks through the city with her father, who is often on his cellphone. Smith’s illustrations start out mostly in black, white, and grey, with only the girl’s red coat and the flowers she plucks from cracks in the sidewalk bringing colour to the first spread. As the narrative advances, Smith injects more cheery hits of colour here and there, highlighting things that children would be drawn to: a fruit market, yellow taxis, a floral-print dress, pretty glass bottles, and so on.

As father and daughter cut through a park, the girl notices a dead bird. She stops, crouching down to take a closer look. The next scene shows the girl catching up to her father in the distance and the bird close up in the foreground, a clutch of flowers resting over its breast.

The girl repeats this act of kindness and generosity as the book continues, bestowing flowers upon an old man taking a nap on a park bench, a neighbour’s dog, and her mom and siblings. The more flowers the girl picks and then gives, the more colour there is in the world – a subtle yet powerful message for young readers.

Indeed, the book provides much for parents and kids to discuss, including death, cultural diversity, and the beauty that can be found in unexpected places. While the emphasis will vary from child to child and family to family, Sidewalk Flowers wraps readers in kindness, tenderness, generosity, and wonder – things we can never have too much of.