________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 2 . . . . September 12, 2008

cover Mary’s Atlas: Mary Meets Manitoba.

Gwen Smid. Illustrated by Sonia Nadeau.
Winnipeg, MB: Peanut Butter Press (55 Willowbend Cres. R2N 1V2), 2008.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $10.00 (pbk.), $20.00 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-9735579-3-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-9735579-4-7 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Manitoba-Juvenile fiction.
Manitoba-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Carrie Subtelny.

**½ /4

Mary’s Atlas opens to a great title page depicting a map of Manitoba — highlighting park areas and places of interest, but I would suggest including text that states that Winnipeg is Manitoba’s capital city just in case some readers have forgotten this fact!

internal art

      I love the way this story starts with typical sibling teasing! Mary is a prankster and enjoys having fun with her twin brother. But when Mary goes too far, she runs to her atlas to escape as it’s a magical atlas that can take her wherever she wants to go. In a Wizard of Oz fashion, Mary taps her atlas three times to enter any map. This time she is whisked away to Manitoba, but she must first shrink to the size of the page and then vanish “in a flurry of sparks and mist.”

      Here she meets Bou, the bison, who becomes her tour guide and transportation (he can fly!). At this point, the author inserts “factoids” that highlight significant trivia about Manitoba, including the influence of the Cree language. Each page of the text (that Mary is on in her atlas adventure) carries at least one Manitoba highlight.

      It is important to note that Mary’s travels are not only a way to escape her brother’s retribution. Once in the atlas and after meeting Bou, she meets the Golden Boy — "Goldie" — (a Manitoba icon who stands atop the Legislative Building) who needs her help. The North Wind stole Goldie’s torchlight and now Mary and Bou have a problem to solve.

      The tale continues with Mary and Bou following the North Wind until the problem is eventually resolved. During their adventure, they meet many Manitoba animals and visit great places while learning more and more about the province. Eventually, the North Wind is found, and the torchlight is returned to Goldie. At this time, Mary realizes its time to go home and apologize to her brother, but, as she considers this act of humility, she gets a twinkle in her eye which suggests she’s planning another prank!

      As noted earlier, this is a great book for a classroom library or home reference section. The response I received from a 9-year-old boy was that it was bit long and the fantasy elements were somewhat “far-fetched.” I also wonder if Mary is able to make a connection between the pranks she plays with her brother and the prank the North Wind played on the Golden Boy and how sometimes “goofing around” can turn fun into trouble?

      I hope Smid continues on this theme with future tales that allow the characters to explore all corners of the world. It would be especially exciting to take advantage of world events and tie this kind of adventure story with international travel and exploration.

      Finally, the illustrations are really well done. The Northern Lights seem to really dance, the Winnipeg scenes are easy to recognize, and Mary’s facial expressions are delightful. I also like the suggestions listed on the back page of other interesting places to visit in Manitoba that were not highlighted in the story.

      A great tale of magic, adventure, exploration and learning!


Carrie Subtelny is a reading clinician with the Child Guidance Clinic in Winnipeg, MB. Division

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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