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Me and Mr. Mah

Me and Mr. Mah

by Andrea Spalding, Janet Wilson (Illustrator)

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When Ian's parents separate, he moves with his mother to the city, a thousand miles away from the prairie wheat farm he calls home. With no friends and a bleak moonscape of a backyard to play in, Ian has only an old shoe box of objects from his past life to keep him company. But after he peeks through the fence to the lush garden next door, Ian is inspired to start


When Ian's parents separate, he moves with his mother to the city, a thousand miles away from the prairie wheat farm he calls home. With no friends and a bleak moonscape of a backyard to play in, Ian has only an old shoe box of objects from his past life to keep him company. But after he peeks through the fence to the lush garden next door, Ian is inspired to start digging his own little plot. And when he meets Mr. Mah, the old man who owns the garden, Ian is surprised to learn they have a lot in common. Also displaced from the original home he misses, Mr. Mah keeps his own box of memories of his past in China. And as they share stories about their distant homes, Ian finds more than just a new friend—he finally discovers in himself the courage to accept change.

Editorial Reviews

"The honesty and compassion of Spalding's tale will touch yound readers, while Wilson's sensitive and eloquent watercolors capture the special feeling of this intergenerational friendship."
Canadian Book Review Annual
"This lovely story, told in the first person, is a bittersweet tale about how people survive upheaval and change in their lives by linking their past to their future. Janet Wilson's beautiful picture panels, which are dominated by huge nodding sunflowers and swirling earth tones, perfectly complement Andrea Spalding's gentle prose. Recommended."
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" . . . a moving story of a young boy, undergoing the stress of his parent's separation and eventually divorce."
Ruminator Review
"Spalding's story nicely connects characters from different generations and cultures."
"The story deals with the ideas of separation and loss in a gentle but understandable way that children will immediately grasp."
Foreword Magazine
"Artist Janet Wilson brings Andrea Spalding's story to life with her richly saturated water color style. All ages will enjoy the heartwarming tale of two drastically different people coming together in the bond of friendship. The writing of this warm, multi-cultural tale is easy enough for beginners to master and will provide enjoyment for the whole family."
The Observer
"Grief and sadness can transcend cultural barriers."
Times Colonist
" . . . a sweet story of a displaced boy who finds a lush oasis and happiness i a neighbour's garden."
Canadian Literature
" . . . the growing proximity between boy and man is beautifully captured in the parallel narratives of text and image."
The Barnacle Island Journal
"Janet Wilson's vivid paintings add life and colour to the story. They fit perfectly with the text . . ."
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
On the first two-page spread, Spalding and Wilson introduce both the physical and emotional setting of the book. Ian's parents have separated; he and his mother have left the farm and moved to the city; he feels isolated from all that is familiar. The barren yard, enclosed by a wooden fence, physically and symbolically sets him apart from the world. He sees only a man in a Chinese hat working in his garden next door. For a week, Ian digs in the soft earth and plays with his tractor--his main remembrance of his father--and peers through the fence at the gardener. One morning Ian finds a packet of sunflower seeds tucked in one of the gaps of the fence; he in turn puts a chocolate chip cookie in the gap. Thus begins an intergenerational friendship between two lonely people. The friendship builds on their joint love of the earth and their common loss of a loved one--Mr. Mah's wife and Ian's father. Throughout the summer the two bond in a special way, learning much about each other's special people and places as they examine the contents of their treasure boxes. At the end of the summer, Ian and his mother move on, but the friendship between Ian and Mr. Mah becomes more special, and the reader understands that it will only grow stronger. Wilson's expressive watercolors show all the emotions felt by the two friends--the despair, joy, hope, and promise of brighter things to come. Written in simple text from Ian's point of view, the words and illustrations blend to produce a story that is moving for adults and yet could be used as an introduction to the importance of intergenerational friendships. 1999, Orca Book Publishers, Ages 7 up, $14.95. Reviewer: Jenny B. (J. B.) Petty
Ian is grieving about his parents' divorce and his move to the city from the country. He discovers that his new neighbor Mr. Mah has planted a beautiful garden. As the two neighbors develop a relationship, Ian learns that Mr. Mah misses his homeland and family and friends in China. Mr. Mah shares a black lacquer box of memories with Ian; Ian begins to share his feelings with Mr. Mah. Their friendship helps each of them accept change. Beautifully illustrated, with a warm text and reassuring messages, this story of two individuals from diverse cultures and different generations struggling with common issues is very powerful. Perfect for elementary-aged students who are learning to appreciate diversity and accept change. 2000, Orca Book Publishers, $14.95. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: S. Latson SOURCE: Parent Council Volume 8
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-After his parents' separation, Ian and his mother move far from their farm home on the prairie to a large Canadian city. There, Mr. Mah, a Chinese neighbor, introduces the boy to gardening, and they share memories of earlier times and distant places-his neighbor's youth in China, and Ian's childhood on the farm. Each one has a memory box filled with tangible items from those places. After Ian's mother relocates them to a new neighborhood, he comes across his friend's memory box in a secondhand store. He tracks down the old man, who has broken a hip and moved. They renew their friendship, which helps them both cope with life's changes. Each pleasing watercolor painting, rich in blues, greens, yellows, and browns, spills across to the opposite page, softly merging with a smaller illustration. Ample white space surrounds the text. Despite some stilted language and occasional heavy-handedness, this title should be considered for collections needing material on intergenerational or interracial relationships.-Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Product Details

Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.12(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Andrea Spalding immigrated to Canada in 1967 from Manchester, England. After living in Alberta for 24 years, Andrea relocated to British Columbia and lived on Pender Island. Her first children's book, The Most Beautiful Kite in the World, was selected as a Canadian Children's Book Center's "Our Choice." She has garnered awards and nominations ever since. For more information, visist www.andreaspalding.squarespace.com.

Janet Wilson is an award-winning artist and a published author, holding over 50 publishing copyrights in the children's literature field. Her awards include Best Illustrated Book in the United States in 2004 for Jasper's Day, Canadian Information Book of the Year for her artwork in In Flanders Fields, and she is the first non-native artist to be awarded the Native Reading Week Award for her illustrations in Solomon's Tree. Janet is a career artist known for her fine art commissioned portraits and still life paintings. For more information, visit www.janetwilson.ca.

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