The book that I’ve re-read the most often this year—in fact, the most impactful and resonant book I’ve read all year—is one that doesn’t have any words.
Sidewalk Flowers is a picture book, full of vivid black-and-white drawings with splashes of color. It is those splashes of color that attract your eye, that tell you the story of a child who walks through the city finding flowers in the cracks of the sidewalk and who then shares those flowers, that color, with the rest of the world around her. The story is simple yet poignant, a rumination on observation and exploration in a world where we are so preoccupied with where we are going and what we have to do once we get there.
As an advertisement for flânerie, Sidewalk Flowers is impressive: through the eyes of a little girl, we are reminded that there is so much beauty and life for us to explore, to discover, if we just take the time to notice. The drawings in the book reflect the same ethos; once we stop following the color, or the little girl, we notice that there is so much wonder on each page. The city is full of little intricate beauties, and we just have to take the time to stop and observe them all, both in the pictures of the book and in the world around us.
This is why I’ve returned to Sidewalk Flowers so many times since my first reading, and why the story changes every time that I do. When there are no words to guide my eyes, I’m able to explore the book’s world in my own way, at my own pace. It’s a wonderful world to return to.