Downtown Sewertown by Tull Suwannakit

cover image

The front cover is spectacular, full of detail and questions, enticements and wonders as a group of suitcased animals look up hearing feet walking over their heads. What is going on, readers will ask. The first page sees the animals being turfed out of their homes as construction comes closer. The welcomes signs to the new city do not apply to them: the pavements hurt their feet, the people are unfriendly, there are too many cars and a lot of smoke, and having no place to stay, they find refuge in the Downtown Sewer. They are all disappointed with their new home but Mouse prompts them into cleaning it up, certain that all will be right. So the four friends, Fox, Hare, Badger and Mouse set to work mopping, sweeping, scrubbing and polishing until in no time at all a city is built underground and they call it Sewertown. Others join them as the city grows. 

But one day those above ground find the city below and tell the animals that they must leave. 

A young girl stands up for the animals and encourages all to live together finding instead, kindness, friendship and heart.

And they do.

The watercolour and pencil illustrations are lovely, evoking a  time in the near past, reflected by the old suitcases and clothing and the building styles. I love the touches of well known paintings such as Nighthawks (Hopper) and the detail included in each image, encouraging a feeling of involvement in the animals’ plight.

Younger readers will easily understand the theme of being pushed out of your home, as so many examples are seen on the news. Whether it be climate change causing islands being inundated, or war causing people to leave their homes, or civil unrest moving people from their villages or developers moving people from their homes to build apartments for the wealthy, each is an impetus behind people being on the move and in this century it seems to have escalated. 

This is a rhyming picture book with a multi layered story which readers can see as a simple story of the animals finding a new hope or a more complex story of displacement and refugees. 

More information about the author can be found here. Teacher's notes are available.

Themes: Development, War, Refugees, Displacement, Home.

Fran Knight