________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 27. . . .March 18, 2016


City Pictures.

Shirlee Smith Matheson.
Victoria, BC: Wandering Fox/Heritage House, 2015.
223 pp., trade pbk. epub & epdf, $9.95 (pbk.), $7.99 (epub), $7.99 (epdf).
ISBN 978-1-77203-055-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77203-056-3 (epub), ISBN 978-1-77203-057-0 (epdf).

Grades 6-11 / Ages 11-16.

Review by Crystal Sutherland.

** /4


“Come on, let’s go,” Sam said. “I’ve seen everything here.” We sauntered toward the exit, making casual comments on our way out. No sales staff had even approached us.

We wandered down the mall and looked in to a jewellery store window at rhinestone hair clips. “Mom doesn’t like rhinestones,” I said. “She doesn’t want Irene and her matron of honour to wear them for the wedding.”

“Mom’s cool,” Sam said.

We took the escalator down to the main floor and went into the Dairy Queen. We bought cones and went to the outdoor mall to eat them, sitting down on the big concrete planter. The sun was shining, and the day was really warming up. I took off my jacket. “I’m sweltering,” Sam said. “Let’s go.”

“So why don’t you take off your coat?” I asked.

She looked at me and smiled, a funny thin smile.

“Let’s go,” she repeated, and stood up.

Only then did I notice a slight bulge at the side of Sam’s jacket under her arm, which she kept at her side, even as she tried to juggle the dripping ice cream cone and her purse, to get out a pass for the train ride home.


Sherri’s family moves a lot because of her father’s job, but at least this time it’s back to Calgary where they used to live and she already has friends. When they arrive, Sherri texts Emma, who was her best friend when her family last lived in Calgary. Sherri’s disappointed to find out Emma is staying at a friend’s cottage for the summer, but at least she’ll have a friend when school begins. Luckily, Sherri quickly makes friend with her next door neighbour, Sam. Sam has the perfect life: she’s beautiful, rich, and has everything a teenage girl could want. She’s also very kind, giving Sherri clothes that still have tags on them and a barely used Iphone she’s replaced with the newest version. If only Sherri could have Sam’s perfect life.

     As their friendship progresses, Sherri begins to wonder if Sam’s life is as perfect as it appears. Sam is always ready to shop, but Sherri has no money to spend. Even though she has no money, Sherri’s game for anything that gets her away from her little sister and her new best friend and burgeoning scientist, ‘Molecule Man’. Sherri imagines she’ll end up carrying Sam’s bags, not expecting the lesson Sam has planned: that with a careful eye and a good underarm grip, shoplifting can add an element of excitement to any shopping trip, along with expensive items to your closet, without spending a cent. At first, Sherri isn’t sure she wants to take part in Sam’s game but doesn’t feel she has an option when Sam steals a sweater for her: she’s already guilty by association, and so she may as well join in. It will make Sam happy, and Sherri’s little sister Bonnie’s birthday is coming up: stealing the set of walkie-talkies Bonnie and Molecule Man are obsessing over would make shoplifting forgivable, or so she tells herself.

     While Sherri makes Sam proud and doesn’t get caught by the store employees, and makes Bonnie and Molecule Man the two happiest kids on earth, Sherri’s mom knows something is wrong. When she asks Sherri where she got the money for the walkie-talkies, everything unravels. Sherri’s parents make her admit to the police what she did to police and to return the walkie-talkies, thereby ruining her sister’s birthday. When the store is contacted, shoplifting charges are laid, and Sherri finds herself learning a lesson though the court, but Sherri may be repentant for the wrong reasons.

     When first introduced to Sherri, readers will feel her pain in having to leave her old friends and stress about starting a new school in the fall while trying to find new friends to spend the summer with. While City Pictures starts strongly, the author glosses over areas that could make the book much more engaging and move the characters from shallow to interesting. For example, while Sherri feels badly about shoplifting and being punished, both Sherri and Sam feel worse about being caught than they do about breaking the law. The lack of self-reflection makes it difficult to empathize with the main characters.

     The author incorporates a number of issues into the book, including peer pressure, the desire to be accepted, feeling ignored by your parents and what lengths some kids will go to get their parents to pay attention, and reasons youth may decide to steal or shoplift. Unfortunately, the author does not spend time exploring these issues which could make the story much more interesting, and the book far more memorable.

     As they leave court after sentencing, Sherri notices there are several youth waiting their turn for a variety of reasons. This could have been a great opportunity for Sherri to consider the different reasons people break the law: in her case for the rush, in other cases out of necessity. The opportunity for self-reflection and conversation is lost as Sherri turns back to thinking about how unfair it is that she is being punished. The several pages of questions for comprehension and discussion at the back of the book are very basic, and the opportunity for serious discussion is again missed. For someone who is looking for engaging characters they can connect with and care about, or a book that leaves the reader with something to think about, City Pictures would not be the right book. If someone is looking for a quick read, City Pictures would be a good recommendation.


Crystal Sutherland is a MEd (Literacy) and MLIS graduate living in Halifax, NS.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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