________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 30 . . . . April 9, 2010


Mattoo, Let's Play!

Irene Luxbacher.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-424-1.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 4-6.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4


My Mattoo is a shy cat.
He never wants to play.
I don't know why. I'm a very friendly person.


Irene Luxbacher's picture book, Mattoo, Let's Play!, is a visually interesting, fun and imaginative story about a rambunctious girl and her somewhat timid cat, Mattoo. Boisterous young Ruby cannot understand why Mattoo does not want to join in when Ruby wants to play. When Ruby's friend, Clemente, comes over, he demonstrates to Ruby that Mattoo will join in with games if Ruby tones down some of her noisy behaviour.

internal art

     Mattoo, Let's Play! is cleverly done. Luxbacher's stunning artwork, playful story, and careful word choices complement one another to create an attractive book. The title page depiction of Ruby on a broomstick horse provides a preview of the imaginative play to follow in the book. Ruby uses cardboard boxes as a rocket ship for space flight. Later, her imagination transforms her bedroom into a lush jungle scene. Among other things, a sock becomes a snake, the lamp and lampshade become a giraffe, and chairs become zebras. Luxbacher's evocative word choices add further energy to the book—Mattoo is transformed into the "fiercest creature." The cat becomes a "mysterious" king of the jungle.

     The artwork features the sparing use of colour amidst predominantly black and grey pictures. The shadows add mystery to the story, while the colourful depictions of Ruby suggest her lively personality and draw the reader's eye to her as the up-front, somewhat "in your face" character that she is. The mixed media artwork consists of a combination of acrylic ink and collage. This works well, reflecting and magnifying the differences between Ruby's and Mattoo's natures.

     Despite the many strengths of the book, as a read-aloud to be shared with the young target audience, the story does not flow as smoothly as the books that I consider to be best for reading aloud. The insertion into the pictures of dialogue and words representing the sounds made by Ruby disrupt the flow of the language. The font style (Grumble from Blue Vinyl Fonts) and text placement within the artwork adds visual interest to the book and ties together the text and illustrations, but it does disrupt the language when the book is used as a read-aloud. Other than this one issue, Mattoo, Let's Play! is an imaginative book that children will enjoy. Parents will also find some educative use of the book for the purpose of teaching young children how to interact with the family pet.


Gregory Bryan teaches literacy classes in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.

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