________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 20 . . . . May 30, 2008

cover Mattland.

Hazel Hutchins & Gail Herbert. Illustrated by Dušan Petricic.
Toronto, ON: Annick, 2008.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $8.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-120-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-121-1 (hc.).

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Alison Mews.

**** /4


He moved some rocks into a jagged row. He could have named them the Rockies, like the real mountains, but he didn't. These peaks needed a name of their own.

"Dog Tooth Mountains," he said.

A huge puddle became the Far Off Ocean. A great flat area, where tufts of grass were trying to push upwards, became the Buffalo Grasslands. In between was a clump of earth that Matt smoothed into a round hill. He stood on Old Baldy and looked down.

"Mattland," he said.


The ability of a creative imagination to overcome a dismal reality is demonstrated in this picture book. Matt's family moves often, and he has just landed in the worst possible environment - a hateful neighbourhood of mud and leftover building materials with no friendly faces in sight. In his frustration, Matt picks up a stick, but instead of throwing or breaking it as he first intended, he draws a line in the mud. The line quickly fills with water and reminds him of the squiggly lines that rivers make on maps, and he is inspired to connect the water-filled line to a puddle which then takes on the semblance of a lake. Matt gets more and more involved in his transformation of the junk lying around into a discernable geography of his "Mattland," and he attracts the assistance of one silent little girl. When the rains come and Mattland is in danger of washing away, unexpected help arrives in the form of many young hands, and we know Matt's welcome to the neighbourhood is assured.

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     Dušan Petricic's illustrations perfectly capture the transformative nature of Matt's imagination. Initially, only Matt is portrayed in colour and the dirty neighbourhood is in shades of muddy brown and grey. Colour in the surroundings is gradually introduced as Matt's fantasy takes hold and as the neighbourhood children begin to notice his construction. Petricic cleverly strikes the balance of depicting the actual objects used while revealing how Matt sees them in his mind. Most children will readily grasp the transference of pinecone needles into railway ties and other such imaginative leaps. Mattland blossoms into full colour on the page as it envelopes the landscape of their minds.

     Mattland is a rich and multi-layered testament to imagination and the collaborative nature of play.

Highly Recommended.

Alison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Centre at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, NL.

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

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