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Book Reviews

From There to Here

by Laurel Croza; Matt James (illus.)

The young girl from Laurel Croza’s 2011 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award–winning  I Know Here has moved across the country and, as she wistfully explains, “It is different here, not the same as there.” In Saskatchewan, her family lived in a trailer on a gravelled, unnamed road with a “forest of trees for a backyard.” In Toronto, they reside in a house on Birch Street, surrounded by high-rise buildings. “There,” the kids all travelled in a pack and roamed the hills together. “Here,” the narrator is a lone wolf in the city. Even the night is different, with street lamps “glaring down the dark” instead of stars and the aurora borealis lighting up the sky. Her new life seems to be losing out in comparison until a knock at the door brings the promise of what she didn’t have in Saskatchewan – a friend her own age.

The India ink and acrylic paintings of Governor General’s Literary Award–winning artist Matt James contrast the rural and urban landscapes. Facing pages juxtapose a swirling, turquoise river with a flat, black asphalt highway. Small details, like a toy moose, show how the girl’s memories of the past converge in the present. James’s naive style has an infectious, unfettered energy.

Croza’s spare text captures the narrator’s feelings of displacement with poetic immediacy. Short sentences cut to the heart: “Here. Dad isn’t home until supper. Mom calls it dinner now.” Her visceral descriptions, such as “The carpet. It smells new,” eloquently convey the familiar things the girl has left behind. In lovely, circular fashion, the book ends with the child revisiting her first statement, now with newfound perspective: “It was different there. Not the same as here.”

This sequel offers a realistic account of finding oneself in a new place, along with the comforting assurance that good things can happen in the here and now, not just in the then and there.