Sidewalk Flowers

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Sidewalk Flowers Book Poster Image
Girl stops to enjoy the flowers in lovely wordless story.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Types of wildflowers that might grow in a city setting. Visual observation of detail in city.

Positive Messages

There's beauty all around us, sometimes in surprising, unexpected places. It's important to take time to notice and enjoy our surroundings. You can share the beautiful things you have with others. People of all races can share neighborhoods and be friends.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The little girl takes time to find beauty in her surroundings. She shares generously with others. The parents are loving, hugging the girl and each other. The neighborhood is racially diverse.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sidewalk Flowers is a wordless picture book that scored a coveted place on the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2015 list. The touchingly tender story, told in a series of panels, shows a young girl wearing an eye-catching red hoodie walking with her dad in a mostly black-and-white cityscape that's based on the author's Toronto neighborhood. The girl spots flowers cropping up in the cracks of the sidewalk and picks them to gather a small bouquet. While her dad, loving but distracted, talks on his cell phone, she lays flowers on a dead bird, on a man sleeping on a park bench, and in a dog's collar, and, when she arrives home, she tucks them into the hair of her mom and siblings. A gentle reminder to stop and smell the flowers -- as well as to share them with others.

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What's the story?

In SIDEWALK FLOWERS, a young girl dressed distinctively in a red hoodie walks home with her father. While he carries the bag with the baguette and chats on his cell phone, she notices wildflowers growing in the cracks of the city streets. She picks dandelions and other weedy flowers, making a small bouquet, then distributes the flowers wordlessly to others. She and her father arrive home to her mom, who lovingly hugs them both, and the girl distributes flowers to her siblings, saving the last posy for herself.

Is it any good?

This delicate wordless picture book needs no text to convey its hushed but powerful message about stopping to notice and share the beauty in life. As a little girl and her father walk home from errands, the girl finds weedy wildflowers sprouting from the cracks of the sidewalk and walls. She picks them, then distributes the flowers to others along her walk. At the start of the book, the art is mostly black and white, so the girl in her red jacket stands out, as do the delicately colored flowers she picks. But as the story progresses, illustrator Sydney Smith adds more and more color. The flowers are humble, including dandelions, underscoring the simplicity and everyday quality of the beauty.

The child's point of view is perfectly portrayed, as is the loving family -- the mom welcoming the girl home with a hug, and the dad patient and gentle, extending a hand for the girl to hold when she runs to catch up. The urban neighborhood is comfortably integrated, carrying an implicit message of diversity and inclusion. Friends and neighbors are people of color, and people on the sidewalk include an Asian shopkeeper and a woman in a hijab.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about nature in the city. Where does the girl find flowers? What other nature do you see?

  • Since there are no words in this story, try telling the story out loud. Try making up your own story in pictures.

  • What things in the pictures are black and white? What's in color? Why do you think the artist chose to color the things he did?

Book details

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