Sidewalk Flowers

by Jonarno Lawson (Author) Sydney Smith (Illustrator)

Sidewalk Flowers
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter.

"Written" by award-winning poet JonArno Lawson and brought to life by illustrator Sydney Smith, Sidewalk Flowers is an ode to the importance of small things, small people, and small gestures.

Select format:

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review

Bracketed by beautiful endpapers, this ode to everyday beauty sings sweetly.


Starred Review
A quiet, graceful book about the perspective-changing wonder of humble, everyday pleasures.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

A girl in a hooded red coat walks through the city with her father. He leads her home in silence, leaving her to contemplate the world. She spots flowers growing out of sidewalk cracks. Closing her eyes and sniffing each one, she accumulates a handful, then decides they should be given away. Viewers don't see what the girl does; instead, they see the results of her work. A dead sparrow on the sidewalk is left with a reverent bouquet on its chest, the gray scene around it flashing into full color. A man sleeping on a bench gets a couple, as does a dog's collar, and when the girl arrives home, the girl's mother and siblings receive a scattering of blossoms, too. When viewers last see the girl, she still has one flower, and she's still walking. If not for Smith's (Music Is for Everyone) intelligent ink-and-wash panels, his calligraphic pen line, and his delight in sun and shadow, Lawson's (Think Again) wordless story might have been mawkish. Instead, it's a reminder that what looks like play can sometimes be a sacrament. Ages 4-7. (Mar.)

Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

An emotionally moving, visually delightful ode to the simple powers of observation and empathy. A young girl and her father walk home from the grocery store through busy city streets in this wordless picture book. Along the way, Dad is preoccupied—talking on his cell phone, moving with purpose, eyes forward—while his daughter, a bright spot of red in a mostly black-and-white world, gazes with curiosity at the sights around her. In graphic novel-style panels, readers see what she sees: colorful weeds and wildflowers springing up from cracks in the pavement. She begins to collect these "sidewalk flowers" as they make their way past shops, across bustling avenues, and through a city park. Halfway through their journey, the little girl surreptitiously begins giving pieces of her bouquet away: a dandelion and some daffodils to a dead bird on a pathway; a sprig of lilac to an older man sleeping on a bench; daisies in the hair of her mother and siblings. With each not-so-random act of kindness, the scenes fill with more and more color, until the pen-and-ink drawings are awash in watercolor, her world now fully alive and vibrant. With pitch-perfect visual pacing, the narrative unfolds slowly, matched by the protagonist's own leisurely appreciation of her environment. Smith expertly varies perspective, switching from bird's-eye view to tightly focused close-ups. The panel format is used exquisitely; the individual choices are purposeful, and the spaces between panels effectively move the story. VERDICT This is a book to savor slowly and then revisit again and again.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Jonarno Lawson
JonArno Lawson is an acclaimed Canadian poet and writer who has published several works of verse and books for children, including the award-winning Sidewalk Flowers, illustrated by Sydney Smith. JonArno Lawson lives in Toronto with his family.

Qin Leng is a designer and illustrator of children's books. She has received many awards for her animated short films and her artwork. She lives in Toronto with her family.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Groundwood Books
Publication date
March 20, 2015
BISAC categories
JUV029000 - Juvenile Fiction | Nature & the Natural World | General
JUV013060 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Parents
Library of Congress categories
Governor General's Literary Awards
Winner 2015 - 2015
Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children
Recommended 2016 - 2016
Finalist 2015 - 2015
Georgia Children's Book Award
Finalist 2017 - 2017

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!