Town is By the Sea

GREENAWAY MEDAL WINNER – 2018

Town is By the Sea

written by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith

Age: 4

Interests: ocean, small town life, mining, fathers, work, daily routines, family

In a small mining town by the sea, a boy recounts the events of a typical summer’s day. As he goes about his chores and play, the ocean is always in view, and he thinks about his father mining coal far beneath the water.

This is a quiet, understated story about a boy’s life in the 1950s. Notable more for what’s not said than said, this simple book perfectly captures the rhythms, sights, and sounds of this boy’s life. The watercolour scenes match his narration perfectly, filling in many of the gaps in his telling.

I like how the author has the boy describe his surroundings. She has a good instinct for what a boy would consider worth telling, for example, about the “rickety” playground:

There are only two swings left now, one for big kids and one for babies. There used to be four. One broke, and the other one is wound so high around the top post it will never come down.

The boys thoughts return periodically to the miners, out of sight as they toil deep in the earth beneath the sea. The danger of the work is not stated outright, and nowhere does the boy say he is worried, but the relief he and his mother feel when his father appears at the door at the end of the day is palpable.

The boy knows that someday he, too, will go to work in the mine. His grandfather was a miner, his father is a miner, and he will be a miner. The repeated phrase “it goes like this…” that he uses to describe his day reflects both the predictability of his life and his acceptance of a predetermined future.

This is a very rich text for the senses, and could also inspire a reader to talk about their day too: “My morning, it goes like this…

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rob Vega
    Jul 12, 2021 @ 12:42:54

    Thanks a lot for posting this!

    Reply

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.