Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

GG Awards Series: The Dirty Dozen with Matt James

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Matt James

Today we continue our celebration of the 2013 Governor General's Literary Awards. We're thrilled to host interviews with this year's winners on Open Book: Toronto and Open Book: Ontario this week and next.

We're speaking to Matt James, winner of the Children's Illustration GG, as part of our Dirty Dozen series, where authors and artists are invited to share 12 unexpected facts about themselves.

The images of Matt's Northwest Passage (Groundwood Books) bring to life singer-songwriter Stan Rogers' iconic lyrics. Striking and evocative, the paintings wowed the jury for their unique, powerful style and as a perfect complement to the dramatic story of the search for the elusive route through the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific. Congratulations, Matt!

  1. I lose things.
  2. Until I met my wife, I ate only brown food; in my mid 20's at a fancy dinner I was unable to identify a green bean.
  3. Many of my friends call me Maughln /mɑ:ɭŋn/.
  4. Once, while strolling through the woods, I encountered a team of huskies and a strangely garbed, elephant-gun-toting, dreadlock bearded, Davy Crockett type character who uttered these words: "WHUDDA WHOooo?"
  5. Crikies! I do a rippah Australian accent there, mate!
  6. I’d rather be standing in a trout stream.
  7.  I have weird thumbs.  They are super bendy and one of them has a piece of my hip in it.
  8. As a child I would watch Star Wars even if it was scrambled and in French. .
  9.  I will trade my paintings for trips to trout streams.  I will also trade you for a guitar and/or many other things to boot.
  10. I really really like lemon tarts.
  11. A tornado ripped through my backyard when I was 6 or 7.  I have tornado dreams.
  12. My dad used to tell me about this jackknife that he’d borrowed from his gramp (whom I never met — and this story was my dad’s way of explaining what kind of a guy he was) in order to fish for trout in a really nice little stream out back behind the barn. The jackknife was new and his gramp didn’t want to lend it to him because he might lose it. But he did anyway (lend my dad the knife) and he did (lose the knife in the stream). For years and years my dad fished for trout in that stream but he never found the knife. His gramp, by the way, was really cool about him losing the knife and I guess that’s why my dad always chose to tell me that story. Years later, after having heard this story many times and having had more than one opportunity to fish for trout in the nice stream behind the barn, I had returned to catch trout with my dad. Having executed a particularly poor cast, I got snagged on a rock and bending to retrieve the hook I spotted a mossy rusted wood handled jackknife half hidden under the rock! I had found it!
  13. But then I took it fishing one day and lost it again.


Matt James is a painter, illustrator and musician. He held his first exhibition in 2003 and has contributed paintings and illustrations to numerous publications. The first two children’s books James has illustrated, Yellow Moon, Apple Moon and I Know Here, were GG finalists in 2008 and 2010 respectively. He is currently illustrating the sequel to I Know Here. He wins his first GG award in 2013 with Northwest Passage, bringing to life the lyrics of Stan Rogers’ iconic song. His other illustration awards include: New Mexico Book Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. Matt James is based in Toronto.

For more information about Northwest Passage please visit the Groundwood Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the Dirty Dozen interviews in our archives.

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