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Children's Fiction Imagination & Play


by (author) Hazel Hutchins & Gail Herbert

illustrated by Dusan Petricic

Annick Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2008
Imagination & Play, New Experience, Art & Architecture
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2008
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2008
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 5 to 8
  • Grade: k to 3
  • Reading age: 5 to 8


A stirring story about the infectious pleasures of play.

Matt is miserable. The subdivision where he now lives is surrounded by nothing but muddy fields of rocks and sticks. But when Matt ventures out, his imagination kicks in. He draws a muddy, winding line and names it Snake River. A pile of rocks becomes the Dog Tooth Mountains. Just like that, Mattland is born.

Soon a girl shows up with a handful of helpful odds and ends. Piece by piece, she and Matt expand their new world with popsicle-stick bridges and scrap-paper boats. And when a rainstorm finally threatens to wash everything away, all the neighborhood kids appear and help stave off the flood.

Evocative of childhood friendships and with sublime illustrations that brighten in color as the story progresses, Mattland is an inspiring ode to cooperative play.

About the authors


Hazel Hutckins est l'auteure de plus de 30 livres pour enfants, y compris l'album illustré primé Mattland, une œuvre qui est aussi illustrée par Duan Petricic. Hazel vit à Canmore, en Alberta.


After many years of juggling writing, raising her children, and making a home with her now deceased husband, Hazel spends her days writing full time. Winner of Writer's Guild of Alberta Award for Children's Literature, she has written children's short fiction for Chirp, Chickadee, and Cricket.
When answering where the inspiration for A Second is a Hiccup came from, Hazel comments, "I decided to see if I could find other ways to describe time. When the writing began to flow in poetic form - and when I came up with the engaging title line A Second is a Hiccup - I knew I had begun a labor of love. The book went through many one version I actually brought in centuries and eons! Good grief! But it finally returned to exactly what it should be...immediate, simple and close-to-home. It is my sincere hope that children of all types will enjoy finding and celebrating, among the pages, the many ways they spend their time."

Hazel Hutchins' profile page

Gail Herbert’s first collaboration with Hazel Hutchins produced the award-winning picture book, Mattland. Gail lives with her husband near Cambridge, Ontario.

Gail Herbert's profile page

Duan Petricic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, but loved to pretend that he grew up in Zemun, an old city located just across the river (and now a part of Belgrade). As a boy he did all the forbidden things that children do, but what Duan loved most was to draw. He started drawing at age four and, encouraged by his parents, he never stopped. He found inspiration in everything, and drawing became a way to communicate with the people around him. Two books that were very important to his childhood were an old encyclopedia with lots of pictures and The Boys from Pavel’s Street by Ferenc Molnár. Early on, he was moved by the drawings found within the encyclopedia. As he grew older, he adored many artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer, and Picasso. Duan has been illustrating children’s books for many years. He has received numerous honors and awards for his work, in North America and internationally, including an IBBY Certificate of Honour and an Alberta Book Award for On Tumbledown Hill (Red Deer Press). The Longitude Prize (FSG) was selected as a Robert F. Siebert Honor Book for a Distinguished Informative Book for Children in the US. His beautiful, evocative illustrations for Mattland (2009) by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert garnered Duan the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award from the Canadian Library Association as well as the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. His illustrations for Better Together (2011) by Sheryl and Simon Shapiro were described as “sublime” by Kirkus Reviews. When it came time to reissue Robert Munsch’s Mud Puddle (2012), Duan was Annick’s first choice to reillustrate the classic. The results are a fresh and energetic look that will delight a whole new generation of young Munsch fans. Duan’s latest book, The Man with the Violin (2013), was greeted with rave reviews, including starred reviews in Kirkus and uill & uire. Written by Kathy Stinson, this beautifully evocative picture book tells the true story of world-renowned violinist, Joshua Bell, who conducted an experiment by anonymously playing his priceless violin in the Washington D.C. subway station. Luckily for Duan, his profession is his favorite hobby and he is happy when at work. To young artists he would give this advice: “Think, think, think, think, draw!” Duan lives in Toronto where he is a regular contributor as an editorial cartoonist in the Toronto Star.

Dusan Petricic's profile page


  • Joint winner, 100 Best Canadian Kids’ Books, Today’s Parent Magazine
  • Winner, Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award
  • Joint winner, Best Bets List, Ontario Library Association
  • Nominated, Blue Spruce Award, Ontario Library Association
  • Joint winner, Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children’s Book Centre
  • Winner, Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award, Canadian Library Association
  • Winner, Alberta Literary Award

Editorial Reviews

“A world worth exploring.”

Canadian Children’s Book News, 10/08

“[A] beautifully imagined, beautifully executed picture book.”

Globe and Mail, 03/24/08

“Lovely . . . successful on all fronts.”

Sunday Book Review, New York Times, 11/9/08

“Has much to offer those who find themselves in a new place, and to creative souls needing inspiration . . . eloquent and beautifully illustrated.”

School Library Journal, *starred review, 06/08

“The creation of Mattland is a riveting notion that kids will be keen to emulate.”

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, 09/08

“A rich and multi-layered testament to imagination and the collaborative nature of play. Highly Recommended.”

CM Reviews, 06/08

“Sparse prose and skillful illustrations . . . will give young readers a sense of the experience of displacement.”

Book Links, 01/10

“One of those perfect picture books where text and illustrations brilliantly play off each other.”

Quill & Quire, *starred review, 02/08

Librarian Reviews


Matt’s family has moved three times, but this new subdivision is the most depressing environment he has ever lived in. He is surrounded by mud, water and leftover building materials. There is barely a climbing tree or blade of grass in sight. He knows no one. In his frustration, Matt picks up a stick and draws a line in the mud which fills with water. He decides to call the line Snake River. He then connects the line to a puddle which he names Turtle Lake. A jagged row of rocks become Dog Tooth Mountains, and tufts of grass are given the title Buffalo Grasslands. A new landscape emerges out of the surrounding debris: Mattland.

Matt continues to develop Mattland, now with the assistance of an outsider – a silent little girl who brings him popsicle sticks, pine cones, coloured pebbles and bits of tile. A miniature town springs up as a farmhouse, barn, bridges, houses, stores and a factory are added. When a rainstorm threatens to wash this microcosm away, a group of neighbourhood children, who have been watching from a distance, arrive just in time to help save Mattland from destruction – and to become friends with its chief architect.

Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert have written a moving tale about the power of a child’s imagination and his ability to transform dreary objects into uncommon attractiveness. Readers will empathize with Matt’s loneliness as he enters a foreign, friendless environment, only to transpose it into something quite wonderful.

Du˘san Petri˘ci´c’s watercolour and ink illustrations capture the transformation of a dismal wasteland into almost magical surroundings. The browns and greys of the opening pages evolve into a cacophony of brightness at the conclusion. Through the inventor’s eyes, Mattland no longer looks like the objects it is made from, but what the young boy imagines the objects to be. Petri˘ci´c illustrates from Matt’s viewpoint, the pictures showing his arms in front of him while he is creating this emerging world. In fact, we only see what Matt looks like, when his face is reflected in the waters of Turtle Lake.

The potential of a child’s imagination and the joy of cooperative play make Mattland a world worth exploring!

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Fall 2008. Vol.31 No.4.


Matt has moved three times with his family and he is absolutely miserable because his new home is surrounded by muddy fields full of rocks and sticks. When his imagination kicks in, it leads to his creation of Mattland and making a friend. This story is an inspiring tribute to the power of cooperative play.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2009.

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