A stirring story about the infectious pleasures of play.

Matt is miserable. The subdivision where he now lives is surrounded by nothing but muddy fields of rocks and sticks. But when Matt ventures out, his imagination kicks in. He draws a muddy, winding line and names it Snake River. A pile of rocks becomes the Dog Tooth Mountains. Just like that, Mattland is born.

Soon a girl shows up with a handful of helpful odds and ends. Piece by piece, ...

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A stirring story about the infectious pleasures of play.

Matt is miserable. The subdivision where he now lives is surrounded by nothing but muddy fields of rocks and sticks. But when Matt ventures out, his imagination kicks in. He draws a muddy, winding line and names it Snake River. A pile of rocks becomes the Dog Tooth Mountains. Just like that, Mattland is born.

Soon a girl shows up with a handful of helpful odds and ends. Piece by piece, she and Matt expand their new world with popsicle-stick bridges and scrap-paper boats. And when a rainstorm finally threatens to wash everything away, all the neighborhood kids appear and help stave off the flood.

Evocative of childhood friendships and with sublime illustrations that brighten in color as the story progresses, Mattland is an inspiring ode to cooperative play.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Matt's family has moved three times, but the new place seems to him to be the worst; there is nothing around but closed doors, mud, water, rocks, and sticks, but Matt fights his anger creatively. The line he draws with a stick in the wet mud he labels "Snake River." He connects it to "Turtle Lake." As he constructs "mountains" and "grasslands," he is making his own "Mattland," complete with roads, farmhouse, a barn, and even sheep. When a young girl appears and offers a Popsicle stick, she and Matt are on their way to an amazing construction, and with the help of the others who join in friendship. Watercolors produce the evolving images on the double-page spreads, soon lifting from grim emotional pessimism to youthful curiosity and inventive naturalism. As we watch, the ground as seen in a bird's-eye view becomes a community, where assorted found objects are buildings, railroad tracks, even boats. The final scene of the children's faces reflected in their little lake supports the sound message of the joy of teamwork. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

K-Gr 2- In this eloquent and beautifully illustrated book, Matt finds himself in yet another new home. Surrounded by an uninspiring landscape and lacking friends, he begins to poke at the mud outside his house. He quickly notices in his marks the beginning of a landscape. Bit by bit, a miniature world unfolds before Matt and readers, assisted by the timid offerings of neighborhood children. When a rainstorm threatens to flood the newly created "Mattland," helping hands appear to route the current safely away. Petricic's understated watercolors are an essential counterpart to Hutchins and Herbert's mature narrative, revealing the promise of new friendships before Matt himself realizes that he is no longer alone. The closing spread of his reflection in "Turtle Lake," surrounded by other children, is a standout. The illustrator skillfully leads readers from gray, nondescript images to a detailed world brimming with color. Children may require the helpful commentary of an adult to fully appreciate this tale, but Mattland has much to offer those who find themselves in a new place, and to creative souls needing inspiration.-Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI

Booklist - Kay Weisman
Matt, lonely and disappointed with the gray, soggy landscape that surrounds his most recent abode, picks up a stick and begins to draw in the mud, eventually creating an entire imaginary world that he terms Mattland. Sparse prose and skillful illustrations that become more colorful as Matt's world evolves highlight this Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award winner and will give young readers a sense of the experience of displacement.
The New York Times - Barbara Feinberg
"Mattland" is successful on all fronts... Described in spare yet evocative prose, Matt's world grows as he finds new things: a piece of tin becomes a barn; fuzzy seeds become sheep... Illustrator Dusan Petricic (who has dedicated the book to "all displaced children") has made each picture only from Matt's point of view; we see only what Matt sees. And by the end of the book, we understand what it means to him to have created "Mattland" -- he's created a home, so he can feel at home.
I love the sparse text and the unique perspective of the images...This is a great book...for talking about an outsider.
Canadian Children's Book Centre
Winner, Marillyn Baillie Picture Book Award
Winner, Marillyn Baillie Picture Book Award
Canadian Teacher
This beautiful picture book captures a small event in a lonely child's life so exquisitely that it takes your breath away... 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... 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554511204
  • Publisher: Annick Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 2/21/2008
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Hazel Hutchins has written dozens of books for children and has won numerous awards, including Parenting magazine's Reading Magic Award. She lives in Canmore, Alberta.

Gail Herbert is the award-winning author of several short stories and poems. This is her first work for children. She lives outside of Toronto.

Dušan Petričić's multiple award-winning illustrations appear in more than 20 children's books, including Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda by Margaret Atwood. He lives in Toronto.

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