Sidewalk Flowers for Syrian Refugee Families

Groundwood Logos SpineIBBY Canada, the Canadian national section of the International Board on Books for Young People, will be providing every Syrian refugee family coming to Canada a children’s book along with a card in English, French and Arabic encouraging children and their families to go to their public library where they will find so many of the resources they will need for their new lives.

Every Syrian refugee family will receive a copy of Sidewalk Flowers, written by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith. In this Governor General’s Award winning 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. It is a wordless picture book with no language barriers, and it can be enjoyed across cultures by children and parents alike.

All royalties and printing costs from this distribution will be donated, and Groundwood will be foregoing any revenues.

You can read the full news release from IBBY Canada, along with further details of the initiative, here:

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Enter to win a Sidewalk Flowers gift package

Today we were thrilled to learn that the fabulous Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith has won the Governor General’s Children’s Literature Award for Illustrated Book. As if that wasn’t enough, mere hours later the wordless picture book was named one of the 10 best illustrated books of the year by The New York Times! We want to share this winning feeling, so so we have a special giveaway for our friends on the internet!

One lucky winner will receive a signed copy of the book and a 17” x 20” poster, along with four pieces of sidewalk chalk for making your own stories, all pictured below:


This contest is open to residents of North America (excluding Quebec). We will accept entries until midnight on Tuesday, November 3rd, and will contact the winner by email on Wednesday, November 4th.

Good luck!

Sorry! Contest closed!

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Sidewalk Flowers: a love letter to Toronto from illustrator Sydney Smith

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When I received an email from Groundwood asking me to illustrate JonArno’s story Sidewalk Flowers, my partner, Maggie, and I had already decided to relocate from Halifax to Toronto for her to study at Ryerson. And I was nervous.

I had tried moving to Toronto nine years before. I worked there in unbearable heat, with a bad case of poison ivy, digging out a basement on Lawrence Avenue for a temp agency that paid you in coins from a vending machine. I hitchhiked back to Halifax immediately.


But this time was different. I was older; I had a purpose and someone to share it with. Immediately, the city was exciting and infinite with so many things to discover. Each day I biked to my tiny studio space in Chinatown from our tinier apartment and I would sketch and photograph the people, the bent bikes, the old buildings, the sparrows, and the streetcar wires. Working on JonArno’s beautiful story, full of tenderness and beauty, forced me to look around at my new home and see how magical it really is. The images I made for this story are my love letter to Toronto.



Sydney Smith was born in rural Nova Scotia, and has been drawing since an early age. Since graduating from NSCAD University, he has illustrated multiple children’s books, including the wordless picture book Sidewalk Flowers, and he has received awards for his illustrations, including the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration. He now lives in Toronto and works in a shared studio space in Chinatown where he eats too many banh mi sandwiches and goes to the library or the Art Gallery of Ontario on his breaks.

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