Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith

Published by Groundwood Books

Summary:  The boy in the story describes his house by the sea and what a typical day is like for him there.  While he wakes up and eats breakfast, plays with a friend, and does a chore for his mother, his father is deep underground, working in the coal mine.  At suppertime, his father finally arrives home, and the family eats dinner together, then relaxes on the porch as the sun goes down.  One day, the boy says, it will be his turn to go to the dark tunnels underground.  “I’m a miner’s son,” he concludes.  “In my town, that’s the way it goes.”  An author’s note reveals that the story takes place in a mining town on Cape Breton in the 1950’s, but that the boy’s life is similar to that of children in mining towns in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  52 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  The juxtaposition of the beautiful seascape and the darkness of the coal mines is captured by both the text and the pictures.  The repeating phrases, “And deep down under that sea, my father is digging for coal,” and “it goes like this” as the narrator describes each part of his day describe an unending rhythm, both to his days and to the years of life in this town.  The illustrations do an amazing job of capturing the changing light and shadows as the day progresses.

Cons:  It’s a pretty heartbreaking ending when the boy, whose life seems pretty idyllic, matter-of-factly states that he will become a miner too some day.

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