________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 39. . . .June 11, 2010


I Know Here.

Laurel Croza. Illustrated by Matt James.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2010.
40 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-923-8.

Subject Heading:
Saskarchewan-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Myra Junyk.

*** /4



The dam our dad is building is almost finished. By summer it will send out electricity far across the prairies. Soon we will all be leaving.

I follow my brother, kicking the packed dirt. Swirls of dust puff up and turn my rubber boots gray.

This is where I live. I don't know Toronto. I know here.


The young heroine of I Know Here lives with her family in northern Saskatchewan where her father is helping to build a dam to provide electricity for the prairies. When the dam is finished in the summer, everyone will be leaving. The young girl realizes that she is going to miss this wild and beautiful place in the woods. She realizes that she "knows here," but doesn't know the big city of Toronto. With the help of her teacher, Miss Hendrickson, she realizes the powerful memories she will have about her life "here."

internal art     Laura Croza, the author of this picture book, and Matt James, the illustrator, want very young readers to think about the beauty of nature all around them. Laura Croza lived at several different dam sites when she was a child and drew on memories of her move from Saskatchewan to Toronto to write I Know Here. The descriptions of the pristine environment of northern Saskatchewan are skillfully crafted. Readers will be inspired to ask questions such as: How does our environment impact us? What would we remember about our homes if we had to leave them tomorrow? How can we preserve our memories?

      The wonderful illustrations show our heroine coming to terms with her impending move to Toronto. On each page, the colour red is somehow used to provide a unifying element. Our heroine wears red throughout, but several other objects also pick up this element the Canadian flag, the teacher's red shoes, and the "red star" which symbolizes Toronto on the map. Haunting colours reinforce the beauty of the environment. Striking white wolves are shown against a background of the blue forest. The frog caught by her younger sister Kathie is portrayed as a massive green monster.

      The vocabulary of this picture book is simple and easy to understand. At times, however, the narrator speaks in phrases rather than sentences, i.e. "When summer comes." The writer's purpose in using this technique is to reflect the young heroine's inner thoughts. In a classroom setting, this picture book could also be a great tool for engaging students in discussions about Canadian geography, nature, dams, preservation of wilderness areas, change and descriptive writing.


Myra Junyk, a resident of Toronto, ON, is a literacy advocate and author.

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

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