Written by Laurel Croza
Illustrated by Matt James
Groundwood Books, 2010, N.P.
This is where I live. I don’t know Toronto. I know here.
“Here” is northeastern Saskatchewan and the third grade girl narrating this story has just learned that her family is moving to Toronto. Her father’s job building a dam is almost completed and, while other members of her family are excited about moving, she is not. She knows “here,” the road that runs between the dam and her school, the forest behind her trailer home where she plays, the hill where she toboggans, the creek where her sister Kathie catches frogs, and the wolves, fox, moose, and other animals that live nearby. Toronto, on the other hand, is only a big red star on the map and a place she doesn’t know. Miss Hendrickson, her insightful teacher, suggests the children draw a picture of what they’ve seen, love about “here”, and want to remember and take with them to Toronto. The young girl plans what she will draw and then, after showing Miss Hendrickson, will fold, put in her pocket and take to Toronto. The story ends with a sense of hope for the future.
Written in the voice of the young girl, the depth of the loss she is sensing and experiencing is very real. Her forced journey will resonate with readers who have also had to leave the place they know and love. For readers who haven’t had to move, the story will help them appreciate the place they know all the more.
I Know Here is based on Laura Croza’s childhood experiences. Her father was an engineer who built roads, subways, and dams in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. By the time she was 14 years old, she had moved nine times. Croza (2011) stated, “I was four when I arrived and barely turned seven when I left. And the memories of that time became the nucleus, the heart, of I Know Here…I didn’t do what the little girl in the book does. I didn’t draw a picture of everything I knew and loved and wanted to remember and then fold it up and put it safe in my pocket to bring with me to Toronto. But I remembered.”
Matt James’s acrylic paint and India ink illustrations on panels reflect the setting of the story and, perhaps, the availability of art materials in her one room school. The art is very childlike, with large brushstrokes, and it draws on a rural North American primitive style. The illustrations reveal the world through the young girl’s eyes, including her fears. The endpapers show a map of Canada, from Saskatchewan to Toronto, including some native plants and animals.
I Know Here would work well with a text set on journeys that could include such other books as Brothers in Hope (Mary Williams, 2005), Migrant (Maxine Trottier, 2011), and My Shoes and I (Rene Colato Lainez, 2010). It would also fit in a text set on sense of place with books, such as Monsoon (Uma Krishnaswami, 2003), Recess at 20 Below (Cindy Lou Aillaud, 2005), and I Live in Tokyo (Mari Takabayashi, 2001).
Croza, Laurel. (2011, January-February). I Know Here: Laurel Croza. The Horn Book Magazine, 87(1), p. 25. Retrieved from the Literature Resource Center database December 5, 2011.
Prisca Martens, Towson University, Towson, Maryland