Book Review: “My City Speaks” by Darren Lebeuf

My City Speaks is a delightful picture book written by Darren Lebeuf and illustrated by Ashley Barron. The story follows a young girl who is visually impaired as she navigates the city with her father. It’s a celebration of sounds, scents, and textures set to the rhythm of a large city.

There’s much to love about this book and the way the words and illustrations tell the story together. The writing is simple and rhythmic—not rhyming, but poetic with the lyrical feel of a beating drum. While the colorful, scrapbook-esque illustrations are detailed, adding texture and visually enhancing the story’s sensory adventure.

It’s also great for beginning readers: simple sentences, easier verbs, an abundance of sight words, and some repetition of non-sight words.

My City Speaks offers kids a glimpse into the life of a differently abled person. Which it does well. But I wish there would have been more to the story. (To be honest, I may have had higher expectations for this book since its primary purpose is sharing the experiences of a differently abled person.)

Overall, young readers will enjoy the sensory adventure My City Speaks offers. It would be a great addition to any classroom, for independent reading practice or as an opener for a larger discussion about what it means to be differently abled and that being different doesn’t mean less.

I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

My City Speaks releases on September 7th and is available for pre-order on Amazon and other retailers.

About My City Speaks

A young girl, who is visually impaired, finds much to celebrate as she explores the city she loves.A young girl and her father spend a day in the city, her city, traveling to the places they go together: the playground, the community garden, the market, an outdoor concert. As they do, the girl describes what she senses in delightfully precise, poetic detail. Her city, she says, “rushes and stops, and waits and goes.” It “pitters and patters, and drips and drains.” It “echoes” and “trills,” and is both “smelly” and “sweet.” Her city also speaks, as it “dings and dongs, and rattles and roars.” And sometimes, maybe even some of the best times, it just listens.

Darren Lebeuf uses his keen observational skills as an award-winning photographer to poetically capture sensory experiences in this charming ode to city life. The rhythmic, lyrical text makes for an appealing read-aloud.

Ashley Barron’s vividly hued cut-paper collage illustrations add compelling visual interest to the text’s descriptions. Though the main character is visually impaired, she travels around the city and enthusiastically enjoys its many offerings, and actively contributes to the lyrical bustle of city life by putting on a violin performance in the park.

The author’s use of limited but evocative language can help children develop an aesthetic awareness and can serve as a perfect jumping-off point for children to use their senses to specifically describe, and appreciate, their own surroundings. The story and illustrations were reviewed by a blind sensitivity reader.

About Darren Lebeuf (Author)

Darren Lebeuf grew up on a humble acreage outside of Edmonton, Alberta, where he spent his days drawing, painting and exploring the outdoors. After studying art and design at Grant McEwan University, Darren started his creative career as an exhibit designer at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.

In 2006 he set off on a world adventure. He lived in Asia for nine years, and became an internationally acclaimed family and wedding photographer. During that time, he began to pursue his long-lost passion for illustrating, and eventually created The Land of Le Beef, an online home for his collection of witty cartoons, yearly advent calendars and other illustration projects. He has written and/or illustrated a number of self-published picture books.

He now lives with his wife and two kids in Vancouver, the city that inspired his first published book, My Forest is Green.

Instagram: @land_of_le_beef
Facebook: @landoflebeef

About Ashley Barron (Illustrator)

Ashley Barron is a multimedia artist who is best known for her paper collage work. She is the illustrator of several children’s books, including Kids Can Press’s Birthdays Around the World and My Forest is Green.

Ashley grew up in the Oshawa/Whitby region of southern Ontario with her parents, younger sister and their many pet dogs and rabbits. Ashley’s love for books was ignited at an early age thanks to her mother, a preschool teacher, who kept an extensive collection of children’s literature in their spare bedroom. Although Ashley was very much an outdoorsy kid, she savored rainy indoor days, which allowed her the freedom to daydream, read and draw pictures to her heart’s content.

Ashley’s love for art and literature followed her into adulthood. She graduated from the illustration program at Ontario Collage of Art & Design in 2007 and has been working as a freelance illustrator ever since.

Ashley lives in Toronto with her cinematographer partner, Kevin. Together they share a bright, plant-filled studio with their three cats.

Instagram: @_ashleybarron

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Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Text for hosting #IMWAYR. Check out the other It’s Monday! What Are You Reading posts!

Published by K.A. Cummins

K.A. Cummins is an award-winning author and artist. Her publications include Havok Publishing, Rattle, Blue Mesa Review, and her middle-grade series, Snow Globe Travelers.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: “My City Speaks” by Darren Lebeuf

  1. Thanks for this post thorough and enlightening post. It seems like there are more books being published these days that deal with being different. I’m now keen on reading all of Darren Lebeuf’s work.

  2. I hadn’t seen this book before, but it sounds lovely! I don’t see many characters in books with vision impairments, and the exploration of the city through other senses sounds wonderful as well. Thanks so much for the great review!

  3. It’s a new title to me & I like the emphasis on what can be “seen” in a wider sense of a city (or anywhere). Thanks!

    1. I liked that aspect of the story as well. The author and illustrator did a wonderful job cultivated a sensory feel within a book. Hope you enjoy it!

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