May 16, 2017

I Am Canada: A Celebration

Written by Heather Patterson
Illustrated by Jeremy Tankard, Ruth Ohi, 
Barbara Reid, Jon Klassen, 
Marie-Louise Gay, Danielle Daniel, 
Ashley Spires, Geneviève Côté, 
Cale Atkinson, Doretta Groenendyk,
Qin Leng, Eva Campbell and
Irene Luxbacher
Scholastic Canada
Ages 3+
32 pp.
May 2017

With Canada celebrating 150 years since Confederation in 1867, there will be a plethora of books published solely for the purpose of memorializing that historic milestone for our relatively new country.  Though there has and will be sufficient backlash for praising the birth of a nation amidst the traditional habitation of this land by its Indigenous Peoples, I like to think that we can simply celebrate our land as it is, warts and all, as a glorious amalgamation of peoples and cultures.  This picture book, based on the poem by Heather Patterson and illustrated by thirteen outstanding illustrators, does just that.

The poem, written by Heather Patterson in 1996 and originally put to photographic interpretation (Scholastic Canada, 2006) reads as follows (I've separated lines as they appear in this edition; any errors are solely mine):
I am Canada.
I run, I swim,
I skate, I dance.
I skim over snow
on my toboggan.
I have space.
I read, I learn,
I draw, I dream.
I stay out late and see the
northern lights.
I have time.
I watch, I touch, I listen.
I make up my mind.
I decide to build a castle.
I am free.
I am Canada.
I am cool in summer
and cozy in winter.
I am springing in the spring
and floppy in the fall.
I eat pizza and pierogis
and peppers.
I eat meatballs and muffins
and mangos.
I am quiet,
I am curious,
I am friendly,
I am funny.
I explain, I explore, I enjoy,
I share, I sing, I celebrate.
I am Canada.

Each artist prepared a double-spread illustration to correspond with 1-4 lines of the poem and it's a delightful interpretation and showcase of Canada and its artistry by way of its creators, its landscape and its people.
Portion of illustration by Jeremy Tankard
in I Am Canada: A Celebration
by Heather Patterson
Jeremy Tankard, author-illustrator of Grumpy Bird and Hungry Bird, begins with a drawing of children hiking outdoors heading towards a blazing maple tree.  Ruth Ohi, author of recently reviewed Fox and Squirrel The Best Christmas Ever, brings a lightness of touch in style and content with everyone–families, pets, wildlife–enjoying the outdoors.  Plasticene artist Barbara Reid (Sing a Song of Bedtime) lends her craftsmanship to a winter scene of tobogganing, reminiscent of her award-winning Perfect Snow. Transplanted Canadian Jon Klassen (This is My Hat) focuses on his own outdoor scene of a lone house among bare winter trees amidst the wide open spaces of pristine snow, touched by a single child.  

Creator of Stella and Sam and Princess Pistachio, Marie-Louise Gay plays on the imaginative play that comes from books and learning with daydreaming children envisioning clouds of animals and skies of seas.  Danielle Daniel who burst onto the youngCanLit scene with her award-winning Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox honours our northern regions with a display of brilliant northern lights enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike.  Ashley Spires, author of Binky the Space Cat and The Thing Lou Couldn't Do, moves us to the warmth of a summer on B.C.'s shores for rest and recreation on the sand and in the water.

Simplest of all illustrations is award-winning artist Geneviève Côté's depiction of freedom, a child riding a blue loon embellished with a northern, a forested and an aquatic environments.  Her art, seen in her Mr. King and Piggy and Bunny series, has everything about Canada in the subtlest of depictions.
Illustration by Cale Atkinson 
in I Am Canada: A Celebration 
by Heather Patterson
But there's still more.  Cale Atkinson, illustrator of Vikki VanSickle's If I Had a Gryphon, lends his artwork to an exposé of Canada's four seasons and Doretta Groenendyk (A Harbour Seal in Halifax) provides a multicultural smorgasbord for a diversity of peoples and other animals.  (Have fun picking out all the foods displayed. I counted at least 17!) Perfect for the quiet stylings of prolific illustrator Qin Leng (A Family is a Family is a Family) is a spread about a walk in the woods of Mount Royal in the fall.  Eva Campbell, who illustrated Eric Walters' The Matatu, celebrates exploration and fireworks in her illustration.
Illustration by Qin Leng 
in I Am Canada: A Celebration 
by Heather Patterson
The culminating illustration is from Irene Luxbacher (Mr. Frank) and is perfection as the finale, with a blending of landscapes, indoor and out, and the anticipation of travel across this country.
Portion of illustration by Irene Luxbacher 
in I Am Canada: A Celebration 
by Heather Patterson
While Heather Patterson's words set the tone, it's the artwork of these Canadian illustrators that gives them substance and context.  I Am Canada is truly a celebration of all that is right in our country: the land and its people and the lifeblood they create.


A French-language version, Le Canada, C'est Moi, uses Geneviève Côté's illustration for its cover.