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Book Review of Cityscape: Where Science and Art Meet

Title: Cityscape: Where Science and Art Meet

Author: April Pulley Sayre

Publisher: HarperCollins

Copyright date: 2020

Age range: 4 to 8, but could be used for STEAM-related lessons for any age

How has living in a pandemic changed your family? 

For mine, it has been that we’ve become more observant. My daughter said, while on a walk the other day, that she thinks she’s a “noticer.” I asked more about this and she said, “You used to ask me to get the mail and I’d do it as fast as possible. Now, I feel like I walk more slowly and look around more.” 

Sometimes we don’t know what we’ve become until someone puts a name to it. 

Cityscape, by April Pulley Sayre helped make me a “noticer” too. 


Cityscape is all about design, lines, and shapes found in a city. However, with her sparse but specific use of language, Sayre is able to somehow convey the science AND the art. The reader is able to understand that these attributes contribute to design and function. For example, many will infer that the curve of the bridge’s trusses function to support the road, but they also serve as a reminder that transportation to, from, and within a city is essential. 

Repetition in this book is used in many ways. Sayre uses multiple photographs of an example (such as triangles) to broaden ways children might look for the shape, from rooflines to nature.

Sayre used a period after each of the words or phrases, as if to tell the reader to stop, slow down, and have a look around on each page.

It might be strange for older kids who are more used to that idea that a period is used in a full sentence (subject and verb, where are you?), they will also recognize that punctuation is sending them a message from the author to take a breath. 

Alliteration (repeated use of an initial consonant) and punctuation help bring cohesion and rhythm to the book.

The shapes kids learn at home and at preschool are taken to a real-world level as they learn to identify them in the city. 

The use of photographs in bold, bright ways to connect the concepts made us pick up our cameras (er, phones) and hit the streets. Although we live near Indianapolis, we found our small town of Danville to be full of many types of shapes and lines found in Cityscape. Slowing down to notice many attributes of the buildings was interesting and sparked conversation between the kids. While my kids are older, my son commented that it was like a scavenger hunt, which is still apparently cool. 🙂 


Cityscape has earned starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal. 


Additional information found at the end of the book is called “back matter.” Make sure you make time to review!

Additional back matter is featured, and includes what reads like an introduction from Pulley. Her words would make a wonderful introduction for the book to set a purpose for reading- What will we find in the city? Assuming the reader takes a walk through a city after reading, a lengthy list of questions helps to guide the experience, such as:

 “Can buildings be art? 

“Where does all the waste go? 

“Why are many cities found along rivers?” 

“Who plans the cities?”

Sayre includes photo credits (locations, name of building if applicable), along with the page numbers. While I was happy she did, as I wanted to confirm the identification of some of the buildings I recognized, the book is not paginated, so I did some counting. If my children were younger, I would have encouraged them to help me. I would show them how to match the photo credits and locations with the correct photo on the correct page. Learning how to use ALL the parts of a book is important (and pretty easy!).

Additional books by Sayre.

While we were in town, we headed to our library (noticing all the cool architectural features of this Carnegie-built structure) and found similar features in more of Sayre’s books. These would be wonderful additions to your bookshelf or to check out based on seasonal interests. The same structure and concise language is found in her other books. If your child isn’t into the photographs, several books are illustrated instead. 

I couldn’t help but notice that although many of her books focus on one concept, Sayre generates interest in the

From Thank You, Earth, more bold photographs and helpful back matter.

outdoor world with the vibrant art and focus on the beauty of often overlooked animals and objects. Creating curiosity about our environment? A knowledgeable author with a biology degree from Duke? Yes, please! 

We were especially drawn to her book, Thank You, Earth! She uses a similar layout to Cityscape, with a helpful list of activities at the end (preschool teachers, homeschool families, and those looking for some outdoor fun, this is for you!). You can find more of her work (and adventures) on her website.

Did Cityscape spark interest in city life now? Spend time with these great nonfiction texts: 

  • City Signs, by Zoran Milich, Kids Can Press, 2005 (another photojournal!)
  • How Cities Work, by Lonely Planet Kids and James Gulliver Hancock, part of the How Things Work series. 2016
  • The Ultimate Book of Cities, by Anne-Sophie Baumann, Twirl, 2017
  • C is for Cities, by Nikki Grimes, Boyds Mills Press, 2002

Now how about some fiction, where you can look for similarities between Cityscape and these picture books with a city setting! 

  • Small in the City, by Sydney Smith, Neal Porter Books, 2019
  • A Walk in New York, by Salvatore Rubbino, Candlewick, 2017
  • Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, Alice Schertle, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015
  • Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt De La Pena, Penguin Young Readers Group, 2015
Cityscape in our own “city!”


2020 requires all of us to look at our surroundings in a new way. Allow Cityscape to be your mentor text (the example you keep returning to) to create a photo journal, either together or individually. You can even have them printed by a variety of budget-friendly sites like Snapfish and even your local CVS/Walgreens/Walmart. Look for promotional codes for photo books, especially around the holidays. Spending the money to print this type of project would be an impactful way to show that your child’s work matters and that the ability to return to it, whether it’s the following week or 10 years from now, is important. Think through how you’d like to give photo credits at the end, if a table of contents is needed, and the all important “about the author” page.  

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