Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Me and Mr. Mah

Spalding, Andrea (Author)
Wilson, Janet (Illustrator)
Orca 2001. 32 pages
First published: 1999
ISBN: 9781551431772 (paperback)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, dialogue, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

After his parents’ divorce, Ian moves with his mother to the city, far from the Prairie wheat farm where he grew up. Lonely and friendless, with only a shoebox of objects from his old life to keep him company (sun-bleached cow bones, a toy tractor), he sulks: “We might as well have gone to the moon.” The new yard is as bleak as a moonscape with its “patchy grass and dirt, surrounded by a prison-like fence.” After he discovers a thriving garden next door, tended by an elderly Chinese man, Ian is inspired to plant one of his own, using the packet of sunflower seeds he finds mysteriously wedged in a crack in the fence between their properties. Ian and the old man discover they have more in common than just flowers. Like Ian, Mr. Mah has a special box, filled with personal memories from his past life in China (a letter in Chinese, a photograph of his deceased wife).

Realistic dialogue accompanies detailed watercolour illustrations that enrich and supplement the text, deftly capturing the emotions of the characters, both of whom have experienced loss and displacement.

Teachers and parents will find many springboards for discussion in this touching, simple story about friendship, change and moving on.

  •  

    Do you have a memory box, or equivalent, in which to keep special memorabilia? With a friend, discuss one treasured item and why it is so meaningful.

  •  Discuss how Ian is feeling at the beginning of the story compared to the end. List the things that helped Ian adjust to his new home. 
  •  

    Pretend you are Ian and write a letter to your dad. Tell him about the move, your feelings, about meeting Mr. Mah and the new things you have learned.

  •  

    Discuss the theme of moving to a new country, city or neighbourhood. What feelings are often associated with such a move? If you had to move, what small item would you take with you as a souvenir?

  •  Discuss the theme of friendship. What are some things that Ian and Mr. Mah do to help each other? How does the garden bring these two people together? How could you help someone who has just moved to your school or neighbourhood? What could you do for a friend whose parents are getting a divorce?
  •  

    Find and decorate a special box. Put in objects that hold memories for you. Write a note to explain why each object is special. Share the story of one of the objects with a partner.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Physical Education and Health