Along the busy sidewalk of the bustling world, behind hurrying grown-up legs, stoplights and storefronts, the little girl in the red jacket discovers a treasure: flowers. There are dandelions in the concrete crevice of a pole, purple blooms in the sidewalk cracks, blossoms against the brick buildings. As she gathers her overlooked treasures, hints of color begin to pop from the black-and-white illustrations: the colored pattern of a woman’s dress; glass bottles in a storefront window; yellow taxicabs; and little brown sparrows. The little girl shares her bouquet, laying flowers on the breast of a dead bird, tucking them into the collar of a dog and weaving them into her mother’s hair. As the girl and her father travel from the city to the park and home, the world blossoms into full color.
With Sidewalk Flowers, poet JonArno Lawson and illustrator Sydney Smith prove themselves masters of a beautiful, unique art: the wordless picture book. Lawson and Smith—both with multiple awards to their names—are an inspirational team, telling a story so compelling and complete, the reader forgets they are “reading” in silence. Without words to weigh it down, Sidewalk Flowers unfolds naturally and gracefully, letting the reader’s imagination take over; car engines and cell phone chatter fade out of focus as we begin to observe from the child’s perspective. With a gentle, deft hand, Lawson and Smith strike the perfect balance of thoughtful message and childlike wonder.
Like wildflowers in a freeway ditch, Sidewalk Flowers stands out on the bookshelf with its simple message and gorgeous illustration. But perhaps the most special thing about this book is what happens in your world after it leaves your hands.