Town Is by the Sea

np. “One day it will be my turn.”

It is often through grace that a book comes along at the “right time” during my working day. My boys’ week was proving to be a bit hectic, especially with Flower Mart as the culminating event on our Friday afternoon. I was desperate for some “peace” within the library’s walls; my students, I felt too, were kindred spirits in this longing, albeit unknown to them.

0321 Town Is By The Sea

Town Is by the Sea, by author Joanne Schwartz with illustrations by Sydney Smith.

Hence, the reason for this post. Picture books are not the main fare of our library’s program, as my students are older than the typical picture book audience. For days, this books was displayed with no eager hands at the ready. An artist of many years prior to this reincarnation, it is the visual, not text, that sustains me. As each of my three fourth and fifth grade classes filed in that day, this very book awaited them. Music from Pandora’s Deuter Radio played softly in the background as they took their seats. And we began….

The quiet resounded. Each face turned toward me like the sun; eyes devouring the illustrations. Not one boy spoke nor fidgeted.

What followed – our simple conversation – enlarged the heart with empathy. While this book is reflective of Cape Breton in Canada, with the sea and its sounds, it mirrors the feelings of those miners struggling to live in Appalachia. We all recognized the science behind the dire effects of coal mining on our environment and the health of our miners – this was apparent even with my young men. BUT, this book balanced that against the tradition, livelihood, and pride in those generations who worked the mines.


My boys took away a good story and outstanding images. More importantly, for me as their librarian, they took away empathy for a way a life most of them will never know. They took away understanding.

Schwartz, Joanne, and Sydney Smith, illus.  Town Is by the Sea.  Groundwood Books, 2017. Print.


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