Shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Literature and the winner of the 2010 Boston Globe – Horn Book Award, I Know Here is the story of a young girl who will soon move from rural Saskatchewan to Toronto because the dam her father was helping to build is completed. The girl is scared of moving to a big city where she does not know anyone or anything. To help herself come to terms with leaving, the girl draws a picture of everything she knows and loves about her home. She plans to take this picture with her to Toronto to help her remember.
This touching book will speak to children, even if they aren’t familiar with the rural setting described. After all, moving house or traveling far away is a universal theme, no matter where we call home. Although the protagonist is in third grade, the book could appeal to teens as well. The book’s small size and longer text make this a better one-on-one read aloud for younger children. James’s sketchy, painted illustrations imitate a child’s drawing style and are a perfect partner for the text.
I Know Here would be a good inspiration for a writing assignment in school classrooms. Using the text as a model, have children describe the sights and sounds they love on their street. Perhaps they could illustrate their prose.
If you are presenting this book to teens, consider pairing it with Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, a similarly poetic description of a blue collar family, albeit an urban one. Mary Oliver’s poetry would also be a nice choice. I’m thinking in particular of “In Blackwater Woods” from American Primitive.
Reviewed from public library copy