June 14th, 2021

Celebrating author illustrator Sydney Smith

This week we are focusing on another brilliant author illustrator taking part in our autumn 2021 tour. Sydney Smith is coming all the way from Canada to give a performance to lucky children and their teachers in Exeter, Devon! Sydney will be reading his stories, talking about how he creates his pictures and drawing live on stage at the Northcott theatre on Tuesday 9th November at 10.30am. Find out how to book here!

Book of the Week: Town Is By The Sea

written by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith

Town Is by the Sea won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2017. It follows a young boy through a summer’s day in the 1950’s. He wakes up to the sound of the sea, goes to the playground, runs errands for his mother and visits his grandfather’s grave after lunch, but all the while his mind strays to his father digging for coal deep down under the sea.

"Sydney Smith’s profoundly beautiful, evocative illustrations are breathtaking and perfectly in harmony with Schwartz’s lyrical text... picture books don’t get much better than this one."
Books for Keeps

Author in focus

Sydney Smith is an award-winning Canadian illustrator and author. He was born in rural Nova Scotia and started drawing at an early age. He has illustrated multiple children’s books, including The White Cat and the Monk, written by Jo Ellen Bogart, and the acclaimed Footpath Flowers, which was a New York Times Children’s Book of the Year. He uses many different media to create his beautifully evocative, painterly illustrations. He's interested in the pace and flow of picture books, using his artwork to create space and moments to digest what is happening in the story, even when the text might be saying something else. His most recent book, Small in the City was inspired by his experience of living in Toronto, and has recently won the 2021 Kate Greenaway Medal.

Enjoy this reading of Town Is By The Sea


A Room With a View

What is the first thing you see when you look out of your window? Draw the view from your bedroom window, or a favourite view from another room in your home. Use the window frame as the border for your picture. You could also draw yourself, looking out of the window, just like the boy in the story.

Memorable Moments

The boy recalls ‘the bright days of summer’, which are beautifully shown in this series of images in the book. Think about your best summer-time memories and draw a picture to represent each one.

Through Sydney’s illustrations we can imagine the feel of the breeze blowing through the window, the sound of the birds swooping overhead, the smell of the salty air. Use each of your senses to recall your special moments. What are your favourite sights, sounds, tastes, smells and textures of summer?

If you like to write poems, you could turn these memories into a poem, using the refrain from the story. Try to include some poetic devices such as personification, alliteration and simile.

I love the summer. It goes like this…
A chorus of birdsong nudges me awake;
Fine golden sand warms my toes;
Gentle waves tickle my ankles;
Ice-creams surrender to the hot sun;
Succulent sausages sizzle on the barbecue;
A warm breeze drifts in through the window;
Like a gentle hug as I go to sleep.

Layered Seascapes

Through its lyrical text and the striking illustrations, Town Is by the Sea introduces us to the sea in its various forms: when it's calm and quiet, its surface sparkling in the sun; when its crashing waves batter the boy’s grandfather’s gravestone; how it looks as the evening sun sinks into it; and in the final pages, how it lies, an inky spread under the dark blanket of night.

Create your own seascapes inspired by Sydney Smith, showing the sea at different times of day or in different weather conditions. Reflect the colours of the sky in the water and use different brush strokes to create texture. Display them as a series of images. Sets of three work best, in either portrait or landscape orientation. The technical term for a set of three images is called a triptych – can you work out why?

For some expert advice on how to paint seascapes, watch a short video of Sydney explaining how he created the illustrations for Town Is By The Sea.

We’d love to see your seascapes, pictures and poems! To send us your work to display in our gallery use the link below, or upload to twitter with the hashtag #BookshowA-Z.

Email us your work for our gallery

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