Tag Archives: Matt James

Happy Canada Day 2018!

1 Jul

My mother’s passing has left me reeling. I suppose that is because it was so unexpected. Grief is such a strange emotion and there is no one way to mourn. Two Canadian picture books do an amazing job helping young readers navigate grief and emotions.

The first is The Funeral by Matt James.

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Publisher’s Summary: Norma and her parents are going to her great-uncle Frank’s funeral, and Norma is more excited than sad. She is looking forward to playing with her favorite cousin, Ray, but when she arrives at the church, she is confronted with rituals and ideas that have never occurred to her before. While not all questions can be answered, when the day is over Norma is certain of one thing — Uncle Frank would have enjoyed his funeral.

This sensitive and life-affirming story will lead young readers to ask their own questions about life, death and how we remember those who have gone before us.

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki is more stream of consciousness.


Publisher’s Summary: In captivating paintings full of movement and transformation, Tamaki follows a young girl through a year or a day as she examines the colors in the world around her. Egg yolks are sunny orange as expected, yet water cupped in her hands isn’t blue like they say. But maybe a blue whale is blue. She doesn’t know, she hasn’t seen one. Playful and philosophical, They Say Blue is a book about color as well as perspective, about the things we can see and the things we can only wonder at.

The magic of moonlight

17 Dec

I love this time of year – so dark, but lights everywhere and glittering trees in many windows. It all seemed so magical as a kid. As an adult, it warms my heart and makes me nostalgic.

Here is a lovely book that evoked the same feeling.

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Publisher’s Summary:  In this atmospheric story, a group of kids play hockey on a frozen lake by moonlight. At once nostalgic and timely, this is a gorgeous book that will speak to readers young and old.

On Stan Rogers and Matt James

1 Jul

Happy Canada Day!


One of my favorite Canadian folk singers is Stan Rogers. He had a very distinctive voice and a real talent for writing songs that  had a Celtic feel but captured everyday life. One of his most famous songs is  Northwest Passage.

Matt James has taken Stan Rogers’ song,  illustrated it and placed it in the context of the search for the Northwest Passage.


The book won the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for Illustration and combines art, history and music. It is not a book you would read aloud to kids. Rather, it is more valuable as a classroom resource for an historical  study of Arctic exploration, or when studying issues related to current Arctic issues of oil exploration and global warming.

I often use picture books to get students’ attention, but this combo of song and picture book gives two ways to hook kids’ interest in the Arctic.

Matt James also illustrated I Know Here  and From There to Here by Laurel Croza, which chronicle a young girl’s move from rural Saskatchewan to Toronto. her dad was building a dam and the work was done. It reminds me a little of my youth when we first moved to Northern Ontario, where my dad worked at a hydroelectric dam, then moved back down South. My sister and I noticed when we first moved North, that everyone said “Eh”, in that stereotypical Canadian way. Over time, they got better. When we moved South again, everyone said we said “Eh” all the time.

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 These are both lovely books that anyone who has ever moved can relate to. They would also be great inspirations for kids writing about a before and after part of their life.

So, celebrate Canada Day with some lovely Canadian lit, a lilting tune, or with a cold beverage. I’ll probably do all three.



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