by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert
illustrated by Dušan Petricic
Annick Press, 2008
ISBN 978-1-55451-120-4 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-55451-121-1 (hardcover) $8.95 (pb) /
$19.95 (hc) 32 pp, colour illustrations, ages 4 – 7
This beautiful picture book captures a small event in a lonely child’s life so exquisitely that it takes your breath away—or maybe it’s my nostalgia for a simpler time when children went outdoors and amused themselves that makes me like it so much. The plot is simple—Matt has no friends in his new neighbourhood, so he begins to draw in the mud outside his home in what looks to be a new subdivision under construction. Soon he has drawn Snake River and Turtle Lake and he creates “Mattland” out of whatever materials come to hand. Without fanfare or comment, another child shows up and hands Matt a popsicle stick. She returns to add more bits and pieces to the landscape, and then when the rains come and threaten to obliterate the increasingly complex Mattland, many hands appear to build dikes and canals to divert the flood. When the sun breaks through, a ring of smiling faces is reflected in Turtle Lake. Although the book was created for young children, all ages will relate to the significance of a moment that can occur in anyone’s life—that moment when you feel out of place and alone, and someone comes along and joins you in whatever you are doing, making everything better. There’s a message here about not needing endless electronic devices in order to have fun, but the ease of connection with other people over a common project is the most valuable lesson illustrated by this story.
This review is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s January 2009 issue.