When Matt’s parent move again, this time to a new house in a new subdivision, Matt finds himself with no one – and nothing – to play with. Standing on bare ground littered with scraps of construction materials, Matt sees a stick and feels like breaking it, or hitting something with it, but when he picks it up it feels comfortable in his hand. So Matt draws a line with the stick, one that quickly fills with water, and so is born Snake River, the first feature of a young boy’s imaginary world.
Using rocks and puddles and mounds of earth, as well as the building scraps, Matt creates rivers and lakes, mountains and hills, farms and cities, roads and railway lines. He does it all with the help of the outsider, a girl who appears and offers him first a popsicle stick, and then all of the small treasures that she can find, berry containers, pine cones, metal keys, and broken bits of tile.
Then the rain begins and threatens Mattland until help comes unexpectedly, saving the children’s creation and forming the basis on new friendships.
Mattland is written by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert in words and phrases that slip comfortably from the tongue to create images that evoke the best of childhood. The illustrations, by Dusan Petricic, are wonderful; his use of perspective and colour underscore the central messages of friend making and the imagination.