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Children's Fiction Friendship

Me and Mr. Mah

by (author) Andrea Spalding

illustrated by Janet Wilson

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Jan 2001
Friendship, New Experience, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2001
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 0 to 5
  • Grade: p to k
  • Reading age: 3 to 5


When Ian's parents separate, he moves with his mother to the city, a thousand miles away from the prairie wheat farm he calls home. With no friends and a bleak moonscape of a backyard to play in, Ian has only an old shoe box of objects from his past life to keep him company. But after he peeks through the fence to the lush garden next door, Ian is inspired to start digging his own little plot. And when he meets Mr. Mah, the old man who owns the garden, Ian is surprised to learn they have a lot in common. Also displaced from the original home he misses, Mr. Mah keeps his own box of memories of his past in China. And as they share stories about their distant homes, Ian finds more than just a new friend--he finally discovers in himself the courage to accept change.

About the authors

Andrea Spalding is a prolific writer for children.
Born in the industrial city of Manchester England, she trained as a teacher. Then, with husband David, Andrea immigrated to Canada in 1967. After living in Alberta for 24 years, Andrea and David relocated to British Columbia and live on Pender Island, one of Canada's Southern Gulf Islands.
Canadian life proved to be rich and varied. Curiosity about her chosen country compelled Andrea to listen to other Canadian immigrants who shared tales that later became her folktale book, A World of Stories.
A love of the outdoors prompted her and David to take their family and travel quintessential Canada. They've skated on frozen lakes, worked on dinosaur digs, and panned for Yukon gold. Andrea has whale-watched on both coasts, enjoyed vineyards and theatre festivals on the Niagara Peninsula, and tapped her feet in Toronto jazz clubs. A highlight West Coast experience was assisting in the carving an Aboriginal Honour Pole with Tsimshian master carver Victor Reece. These experiences provided background for her stories.
Andrea's first children's book, The Most Beautiful Kite In The World, was selected as a Canadian Children's Book Center's "Our Choice." She has garnered awards and nominations ever since. Her fantasy novels - The Summer of Magic Quartet - are avidly read by both children and adults. Her picturebook, Secret of the Dance, is her 30th. Written with Aboriginal Elder Alfred Scow, it has gained accolades from both the aboriginal and white communities.
Andrea gives school presentations across the country, and also teaches writing workshops, and in-service presentations to teachers, librarians, and any one interested in her passion for Children's Literature.

Visit Andrea's website at

Andrea Spalding's profile page

Janet Wilson is an award-winning artist and a published author, holding over 50 publishing copyrights in the children's literature field. She graduated with honours from the Ontario College of Art and Design as a mature student, the mother of two little boys. Janet's love of books combined with a particular talent for drawing children has brought her into the world of "kidlit." Her more realistic style lends itself to interpreting the stories of children's favorite authors in producing picture books. Sensitivity to the nuances of facial expressions helps young readers grasp subjects ranging from dealing with death, the arrival of a new baby, the tragedy of war or just wishing your new dress was a different colour. Her awards include Best Illustrated Book in the United States in 2004 for Jasper's Day, Canadian Information Book of the Year for her artwork in In Flanders Fields, and she is the first non-native artist to be awarded the Native Reading Week Award for her illustrations in Solomon's Tree. Janet is a career artist known for her fine art commissioned portraits and still life paintings.


Janet Wilson's profile page


  • Long-listed, BC Book Prize nominee
  • Commended, CCBC Our Choice
  • Commended, CLA Honour Book
  • Winner, Langley Christian School - Best Canadian Picturebook
  • Short-listed, CLA Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award nominee

Editorial Reviews

"Spalding's story nicely connects characters from different generations and cultures."

Ruminator Review

"A quietly meaningful story."

" Offers seeds of tenderness."

"This sensitive book is mindful of all the senses."

"Wilson's illustrations are...attentive, conjuring the mood of the story, and the motions and colors found in the garden."

Kirkus Reviews

"Each pleasing watercolor painting...spills across to the opposite page."

"This title should be considered for collections needing material on intergenerational or interracial relationships."

School Library Journal

"This lovely story, told in the first person, is a bittersweet tale about how people survive upheaval and change in their lives by linking their past to their future. Janet Wilson's beautiful picture panels, which are dominated by huge nodding sunflowers and swirling earth tones, perfectly complement Andrea Spalding's gentle prose. Recommended."

Canadian Book Review Annual

" . . . a sweet story of a displaced boy who finds a lush oasis and happiness i a neighbour's garden."

Times Colonist

"Grief and sadness can transcend cultural barriers."

The Observer

"Artist Janet Wilson brings Andrea Spalding's story to life with her richly saturated water color style. All ages will enjoy the heartwarming tale of two drastically different people coming together in the bond of friendship. The writing of this warm, multi-cultural tale is easy enough for beginners to master and will provide enjoyment for the whole family."

Foreword Magazine

"The story deals with the ideas of separation and loss in a gentle but understandable way that children will immediately grasp."


" . . . a moving story of a young boy, undergoing the stress of his parent's separation and eventually divorce."

Resource Links

"Janet Wilson's vivid paintings add life and colour to the story. They fit perfectly with the text . . ."

The Barnacle Island Journal

"The honesty and compassion of Spalding's tale will touch yound readers, while Wilson's sensitive and eloquent watercolors capture the special feeling of this intergenerational friendship."


" . . . the growing proximity between boy and man is beautifully captured in the parallel narratives of text and image."

Canadian Literature

Other titles by Andrea Spalding

Other titles by Janet Wilson