Sidewalk Flowers Is a Wordless Picture Book Worth Picking

BookendsCindy: While much of the country waits for huge piles of snow to melt—let alone spring flowers to bloom—readers can brighten their winter world with Sidewalk Flowers, by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith (2015).

Sidewalk FlowersLet’s start with the fact that this wordless book is “written” by Canadian poet Lawson. Yeah, I know, right? We’ll come back to that. The book’s red hooded hero is a young girl walking the gray streets of her town with her father. She spots some yellow dandelions, and suddenly with a page turn there is a brief glimpse of color in the scene: a market stand of colorful fruit and some yellow cabs.  As her father talks on his cell phone, the girl spots more flowers for her growing sidewalk flower bouquet and color dots the gray landscape. Birds flit through the scenes until suddenly a fallen bird receives the first gift from the girl’s handful of flowers … a random act of kindness that is only the first of many. This little girl might grow up to be Miss Rumphius!

Who needs May Day baskets when you can surprise
your dog by tucking flowers in his collar!

Smith’s art is amazing and Lawson’s wordless storytelling gracefully showcases the power of close observation and the celebration of small acts that have worthy impact. Children and adults will have much to examine, ponder, and discuss after reading and carefully observing the scenes in this quiet gem. Who needs May Day baskets when you can surprise your dog by tucking flowers in his collar!

I’m eager for the snow to melt here so I can look for sidewalk flowers—Queen Anne’s Lace is one of my favorites to pick from the roadside.

Lynn: This gorgeous little book won my heart just as quickly as it won Cindy’s. Perhaps a tiny bit comes from the thought of walking down a street that isn’t piled high with ice and snow, but really it’s the fact that this is a wonderfully crafted book, beautifully designed and illustrated. And like all outstanding books, it offers so much to readers.

The messages here are subtle, but will reach readers who take the time to really look at the world like the child in the story. Her cellphone-using father misses it all, sometimes even walking away from his daughter while she doesn’t miss a thing. There’s hope for this father though. His world becomes more beautiful as he nears home. Here, literally, is a tale that reminds us to see and smell the roses while we can. Think about using this as a writing prompt for students of all ages!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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