In the Town All Year 'Round

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
In the Town All Year 'Round Book Poster Image
Few words help kids focus on many details and story lines.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The same backdrops are shown four times in one year so kids can pick out which things are specific to each season, such as pumpkins in the fall and heavy coats in the winter. And with many people and animals moving through scenes, kids can follow different story lines each time they read and read clues to figure out what's going to happen next. Matthew drops his wallet and keys while running, and a girl picks them up. What happens next? They're starting to build a kindergarten in the winter. What do you think it will look like by spring? A woman walks down the street reading a book and not looking where she's going. Uh-oh!

Positive Messages

Many small gestures -- such as wallets returned, presents purchased for parties, fish awarded to cute cats -- show this is a nice place to live and work.

Positive Role Models & Representations

People are usually nice and helpful. However, the occasional person kicks a broken ticket machine or uses grabby hands in a preschool, plus a handful of people smoke around town and drink in bars.

Violence & Scariness

A man slips on a banana and needs a Band-Aid, a car crashes and no one is injured, a ball is kicked through a shop window, lightning lights up the sky in a sudden rain storm. A car catches fire way in the background of one frame.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that In the Town All Year 'Round is mostly wordless oversize book with many characters and story lines in each setting shown in four seasons. It lends itself to multiple readings and lots of discussion about how each setting looks as seasons change and how each thing that happens to a character -- such as a hat lost in one scene -- will have a consequence later (a visit to a hat shop downtown). Expect a handful of smokers peppered throughout the town and two bars serving drinks. Two kids snicker at a painting of a naked woman in an art museum, one woman is shown in her underwear peeking out of a dressing room, and a couple kisses in the street. The worst thing to happen to characters: a small car crash with no injuries and a slip on a banana peel that requires a Band-Aid.

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What's the story?

Four sections, one for each season, start with an introduction to about 15 characters and what they'll be up to basically: "Andrea oversleeps and misses her bus" and "Pedro loves to sing and play his guitar." Then we follow those characters through wordless backdrops, starting with an apartment complex in the country with a bus stop out front and continuing down the road with the bus through the country, past a bustling train station, alongside a construction site for a new kindergarten and the cultural center across the street, around a packed town square, next to a mall and its parking garage, and in front of a scene lakeside with a playground, farm, and cafe. In winter the kindergarten is mostly a patch of dirt, and by summer it's ready for a grand opening with a special lantern parade and concert to celebrate. Along the way people buy Christmas presents, visit an art exhibit, take piano lessons, fix a flat bike tire, feed a donkey, lose a hat, exercise on a balcony, have a birthday party, enter a pumpkin contest, and more.

Is it any good?

IN THE TOWN ALL YEAR 'ROUND is the kind of great, nearly wordless story you'll pore over for hours with kids. There are so many details and stories to take in. Where's the parrot on this page? Will the woman notice that a donkey is nibbling on her produce while she's talking to the grocer? Why is that guy giving a swift kick to a ticket machine? Will that girl who picked up Matthew's wallet and key catch him before he runs away?

Then the season changes and the frames are the same, but not exactly. New questions emerge. Now there's a big dinosaur at the community center. What used to be there? What looks different about the kindergarten building? Which activities are kids doing at the lake? Why don't they have their ice skates on anymore? It's hard to get through more than a season at one bedtime reading so you can test kids' memories while you go. Pretty soon they'll be experts at picking out every detail, building essential learning skills while having a lot of fun.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what the characters are doing. Who's your favorite to follow? Why?

  • What changes each season? Which clues reveal what season it is without looking at the section? When you would expect people to wear heavy coats? When would you expect the shopping mall to be packed with people?

  • There's only a small character introduction each season. Do you like having so few words to follow in a book? Do you think you notice more details without words to follow?

Book details

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