From There to Here by Laurel Croza and Matt James is a terrific picture book that would pair perfectly with the Alberta curriculum for the grade 2 social studies unit about communities. It’s the sequel to I Know Here that also fits well with this curriculum topic.
In both books, our protagonist is an observant little girl who looks at the community where she lives.
In I Know Here, she revels in the community she’s a part of in rural Saskatchewan. Her father has been building a dam and all the members of this community are involved in the same project. She loves the forest that’s behind her trailer: the wild animals that she hears and encounters, the dirt packed road lined with trailers of her neighbours, the school with a very understanding teacher and of course, the other kids she’s come to know. It’s a great place to live and to have adventures. When the dam project is completed the community will disperse to pursue employment elsewhere. Our little girl is anxious about the move to the city of Toronto.
In the second book, From There to Here she’s learning about this place and making comparisons between her last home and this new one. There are many differences: her father doesn't come home for lunch, everyone locks their doors, the roads are paved and there are few trees. When living in Saskatchewan all the children played and hung out together doing the same thing because there were so few of them. In Toronto, the protagonist’s brother is off with his friends to some kind of exhibition which she’s too young to attend. Though all these differences are noted and let us know how discombobulated the little girl is, it’s when there’s a knock on the door and new-friend-to-be-made, Anne, is there waiting, that we know that life will be okay.
I did think that the first book’s description of the little rural community very evocative and could feel the girl’s pain about leaving this place behind. The description of Toronto is less suggestive of what it’s like as its being compared to what was left behind. The illustrations give us a better look at this neighborhood in the big city. The second book is about the differences between the two communities but also about resiliency and adjusting to new situations. A new friend will be a big part of this little girl’s new life in Toronto.
A word about the illustrations – wonderful. Very childlike drawings and fanciful use of colour help convey different feelings between the two locations.