Book Review: Me and Mr. Mah


Here's one of my favourite books: Me and Mr. Mah.

Author: Andrea Spalding

Illustrator: Janet Wilson

Publisher: Orca Book Publisher, 1999

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Theme: Intergenerational and interracial relationships, loss, friendship, memories

Synopsis (from School Library Journal): "After his parents' separation, Ian and his mother move far from their farm home on the prairie to a large Canadian city. There, Mr. Mah, a Chinese neighbour, introduces the boy to gardening, and they share memories of earlier times and distant places -- his neighbour's youth in China, and Ian's childhood on the farm. Each one has a memory box filled with tangible items from those places. After Ian's mother relocates them to a new neighbourhood, he comes across his friends' memory box in a secondhand store. He tracks down the old man, who has broken a hip and moved. They renew their friendship, which helps them both cope with life's changes."

Why I Chose This Book: I love that the story is based in Canada and how the author connects the prairies, Victoria and China.  And I love Mr. Mah ~ he's such a sweet, old gentleman. Despite the obvious differences between the two characters, they have much in common and are able to help each other through some tough times. I think it's important for children to know that the most unlikely people can become true friends.

Opening:  I met Mr. Mah the summer we moved. Mom and Dad had split. Dad stayed on the farm and Mom took me to the city, a thousand miles away. We might as well have gone to the moon. The yard was a moonscape -- patch grass and dirt, surrounded by a prison-like fence.  I squinted through a gap in the fence. Next door, a man in a Chinese hat was working in a vegetable garden. There were no kids.


Sunflower art from Deep Space Sparkle.

It would be fun to make memory boxes. You could make your own or you could make a team Memory Box, with the emphasis on kindness and how to be a caring member of your community. Crayola has a lesson plan.

This book is a fabulous tie-in with Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge. You can find some great lessons here.

Grand Conversation (remember that term?)  Me and Mr. Mah cries out for a thoughtful class discussion. You could discuss the pain of parents divorcing, what it's like to grow older, the importance of holding onto special memories, and the joy in having an older friend.

I hope you love this beautiful book as much as I do :)  Thank you, Susanna, for hosting Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Check out all my book reviews for kids!


  1. YAY, another new title for my collection! Sounds divine . . . and who doesn't love Mem Fox's treasures! I hooked up with PPBF this time . . . because of you!

    The Corner On Character

  2. The cover grabbed my attention and drew me in. I love the relationship between a boy and a wise friend he can share his sadness and memories with. I really love this book! Like the memory box idea. Great activities.

    1. The memory box idea is wonderful. I've never tried it ... but I'm going to.

  3. I love Andrea Spalding's books. I have met her a couple of times and she and her husband are both thoroughly delightful people. And they have enjoyed (and are enjoying) such and interesting life together. If you ever have the opportunity for her to do an author visit at your school, I highly recommend her. She captivated 3 classes at our school for an hour - both the kids and the teachers were raving about her.

    rubber boots and elf shoes

  4. You always have the best books to share. I love Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge. I have been reading that book for many years. Love the sunflower art, too!!

  5. I have not heard of this book. It sounds beautiful and I'll look for it at out library. I love the memory box idea! My boys each have a large rubbermaid bin memory box that holds treasures from when they were born up until now. It's so nice to go through them together. Thank you!

  6. This book sounds lovely, Barbara! I'm especially delighted to see a book set in Canada. Thank you for brightening my Sunday with a Perfect Picture Book! (Great activities, too.)

  7. This looks to be a wonderful book! I love to get new book ideas! Thank you!
    Conversations in Literacy

  8. Thank you so much, Barbara! Great PPBF pick. :)
    Love the review and great crafts...another intergenerational important for young children to interact with older much for each side to learn and enjoy. :)

  9. I love the story line! I can't wait to read it. Thanks for the great review.


Thanks for leaving a comment :)