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

Groundwood Logos Spine

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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