A Story About a Boy Whose Dad is a Coal Miner Deep Down Under the Sea

“We know so little of the worlds beneath our feet,” writes Robert Macfarlane in “Underland”, where he visits many underlands, also a potash mine under the North Sea. In a book for kids “Town is by the Sea” a boy awaits for his dad to return from a dark coal mine deep under the North Atlantic Ocean. Boy spends his day swinging, playing, running errands, visiting a cemetery by the sea and looking out to sea, waiting.

“Town is by the Sea” by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith, 2017. Photo by Beach Books.

Author Joanne Schwartz notes that “Town is by the Sea” is a dedication to lives lived in the mining towns of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Canada. Even in the 1950s, around the time when this story takes place, young men still carried on the traditions of their fathers and grandfathers and continued the work in the “dangerous and dark reality underground”.

In the book, large spreads with a black world of a coal mine contrast with brightly lit daily life in a town by the glittering sea. It is almost impossible to imagine someone digging deep down under it, but not for the boy. Light emanates from the fabulous illustrations by Sydney Smith. Look!

“First thing I see when I look
out the window …
is the sea.”
“And I know my father is already deep down
under that sea, digging for coal.”
“It’s so sunny today,
The sea is sparkling.”
“Deep down under the sea is
where my father digs for coal.”
“At nighttime, it goes like this…
As I fall asleep I can hear the whooshing back
and forth of the waves. I think about the sea,
and I think about my father.”

“I think about the bright days of summer,” boy tells in the final pages of the book, “and the dark tunnels underground. One day, it will be my turn. I’m a miner’s son. In my town, that’s the way it goes.”

Thank you, Ilze, for donating this beautiful book to the library.

You can borrow “Town is by the Sea” by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith for your kid and Robert Macfarlane’s “Underland” for yourself or maybe the other way round.

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