“A City Aflood in Color, Music and Life”
A review of
by Amy Martin
Review by Chris Smith.
Hardback: McSweeneys/McMullens, 2011.
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The indie publishing group McSweeney’s, long heralded for their creative writing, has recently launched a children’s book imprint called McMullens. The first book published under the new imprint this summer was the lovely Symphony City by Amy Martin, a noted graphic designer whose work has appeared in newspapers across the country, including the New York Times, and on concert posters for notable bands such as Death Cab for Cutie and Band of Horses. The book tells the story of a girl who gets lost in the city on the way to see the symphony and follows the music on an adventure through the city until she eventually arrives home. However, only a very small portion of the story is told in words, and the bulk of it, appropriately, is told through Martin’s superb illustrations. The book is itself a symphony of line, shape and color, swirling through the streets and the air – a flock of golden birds is prominent motif that swoops through the book. Martin’s depiction of urban life is undoubtedly a touch idealized – a city aflood in color, music and life – but like Peter Brown’s delightful recent picture book The Curious Garden, it is a hopeful book that reminds us of the best of urban culture.
Although Symphony City is very different from Katherine Patterson and Pamela Dalton’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon (reviewed above), both books are classic picture books, the detailed artwork of which draws the reader in , captivating her attention in such a way that she could easily spend hours immersed in their pages. They both are the sort of picture books that are worth owning and sharing with our children, and undoubtedly they will be still as amazing and relevant to be shared with our grandchildren. One of the other fun perks of this book, which one might not get to appreciate if merely borrowing this book from a library, is that the book’s dustjacket unfolds to a giant, two-sided poster that features at from the book. Symphony City is a stunningly gorgeous debut for the McMullens imprint; one can only hope that it will set the pace for future releases.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com