A sidewalk narrates its “life” and surroundings in the children’s picture book I Am a Sidewalk.
Based on a story Matt MacGregor wrote as a high school sophomore, I Am a Sidewalk is reminiscent of Virginia Lee Burton’s classic The Little House; but where Burton’s story follows the changes that happen over time around a particular house, MacGregor’s tale focuses on a batch of concrete that becomes a sidewalk.
I Am a Sidewalk begins by showing, through words and pictures, how concrete is made. Once the concrete is set as a sidewalk, a group of animals inform him that “you are the start of trouble.” Indeed, the following pages show the area’s burgeoning development crowding out the animals, who must find another place to live. The sidewalk, nonetheless enjoys its role, surrounded by human activity all year long. Soar, the sidewalk’s eagle friend, eventually returns to tell him that the road is to be widened, and the sidewalk broken up. The book ends with the sidewalk ready to be recycled and happily put to use again.
The book anthropomorphizes an unlikely subject, and the sidewalk is a likeable, good-natured character. Unfortunately, the story also suffers some problems: MacGregor’s text employs difficult terminology involving the preparation of concrete (i.e., “trowel,” “scored,” “fiber additives,” “stamped design,” “aggregate”) without explaining their meanings; the narrative takes an unnecessary detour when Soar explains the Bald Eagle’s American symbolism; and the pages are text heavy, which may prove daunting to young readers. Also, curiously, the animals’ serious plight is glossed over.
The illustrations have a flat, clip art quality to them, with elements like animals and construction workers sometimes varying greatly in size. On one page, an animal leaves footprints in the wet sidewalk, but a couple pages later, they’re gone.
I Am a Sidewalk is a unique subject that may interest some young readers. But it could be much more effective with ample trimming and a better explanation of terms.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.