Josepha: a prairie boy’s story - Thao Lam
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Josepha: a prairie boy’s story

Josepha: a prairie boy’s story

Josepha: a prairie boy’s story


My family and I emigrated from Vietnam to Canada in 1981. We settled down in the diverse and growing community of Parkdale. During the early 80’s, Parkdale was home to many immigrants. We were all different, each with our own story of how we came to Canada. Together in school we learned English and the customs of our new homeland. We survived our first Canadian winter and discovered snow for the first time together; dozens of kids starting at the sky in wonder with their tongues stuck out, trying to catch a snowflake.

When winter got too harsh to go outside, our parents would let us run loose in the hallways of our apartment building. Come dinnertime, the hallways would fill with the smell of savory dishes from around the world. Games would come to an abrupt stop as the scent of familiar dishes lured us home for dinner.

There was so much diversity under one roof, but our goals were the same and in a way our journey to Canada was also the same. Leaving behind all that is familiar, families fleeing their home country in order to provide their children with better opportunities, all struggling to start over and to find their place in a foreign land. Keep reading…

Josepha: a prairie boy’s story, written by Jim McGugan and illustrated by Murray Kimber gives a voice to all immigrant children who find themselves isolated in a strange land. Hampered by his broken English, fourteen years old Josepha sits with the primary grades at school and is bullied by his peers. Josepha bears the teasing with a smile. Like many immigrant families, Josepha’s family struggles to makes ends meet and soon he is lured away from school by the prospect of work for a dollar a day. This story is written like a rhythmic chant and should be read out loud. Like the illustrations in the book, there are so many layers; the story deals with isolation, struggle, sacrifice, tolerance, kindness, and generosity, important and vital lessons to learn at any age.

Josepha is probably the most used book from my bookshelves. Like a good recipe book, the pages are earmarked, watermarked, dented, and stained. Every time I paint, I pull this book out. I find Murray Kimber’s use of colour so inspirational; rich intense golds, oranges, yellows and shocking blues. Adding life to the illustrations, the bold brush strokes imitate the swaying motions of the wheat fields and the movement of clouds as they drift across the sky. The texture of the canvas peeks through the layers of paints, adding another element of dimension. With very little detail, Kimber’s brush strokes create solid forms, defining features and somehow capture the strength of character of the people who live and labour on the prairies.

It’s amazing how much of Canada there is still to discover after all my time living here; I have yet to see the prairies. I can only close my eyes and image or flip through the pages of Josepha to see the wide expanses golden wheat fields swaying against the open prairie sky.

Josepha: a prairie boy’s story, a children’s book review by Thao Lam




Author Jim McGugan

Didn’t fined much on our Canadian writer but I did discover he is very involved and committed to education of children. Jim McGugan wore many hats over the years; he was an elementary school teacher, a guidance councilor, an educational consultant, an editor, and a writer.

Illustrator Murray Kimber

Murray Kimber was captivated by the arts at an early age and never stopped drawing since he was able to pick up a pencil. Dreaming of becoming a comic book illustrator, he enrolled at the University of Calgary for fine arts. After a year of studying fine arts, he moved to the Alberta College of Art and changed his majored to visual communications. Murray Kimber is now teaching drawing and media exploration at the school he graduated from, the Alberta College of Art and Design.

I am always tickled pink when an author or an illustrator, takes time out of their busy schedule to reply to a fan mail.

Nice to hear from you. Thanks for contacting me and featuring Josepha on your blog. It’s really gratifying to hear that the story resonates with your experience of being a newcomer to Canada. Jim M’s prose is so eloquent and precise– such a fine piece of writing that really moved me emotionally. It’s also pleasing to hear that it is one of your favourite kids books.
Josepha was my first children’s book and also my first attempt as serial illustration. Most illustrations assignments are only one image but books give me the opportunity to unveil character and setting over a series of images and I really like that. I imagine the process of book illustration as similar to what a film director would do when visualizing a script, only in addition to being director, I am also production designer, costume designer and casting director and to sum degree, editor. I appreciate how a book demands that you really dedicate and immerse yourself in it. I love that degree of commitment to a project.

– Murray Kimber –

To see more of Murray Kimber’s work, check out his website

Publisher Red Deer Press; 1 edition (January 14, 2003)

ISBN-10 088995142X

ISBN-13 978-0889951426