Books by Matt Beam

Released: Sept. 4, 2018

"Friendship gives more strength than any alter ego ever could. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A young victim of name-calling empowers himself by imagining possible alter egos. Read full book review >
CITY NUMBERS by Joanne Schwartz
Released: May 1, 2011

The team that gave us City Alphabet (2009) takes on urban numbers in the same inventive way, still holding readers at a slight emotional distance. Beam takes pictures. He sees numbers everywhere: painted on Dumpsters, printed on cardboard, burnt into metal, carved in stone. This book is not for children just learning their numbers. Instead of presenting a simple 1-20 sequence, it starts with a row of zeros, continue with 1/2, find 2.5 percent in neon in a loan-office window, double-O seven in a metal road plate, 18 kg on a bag of garden rocks. Schwartz adds the utterly clear and utterly brief text: each number spelled out and a description ("Eleven / Spray-painted on cement. / Sidewalk"). The photographs are gritty and textured, always showing the odd angle or the slant light. The numerals as they are printed are a dropped-out image on a white ground: The number nine is the translucent, iridescent blue of the vinyl sticker on a storefront; the final image of a cardboard barcode reflects the same worn and stained paper. Like the first, this is more an artist's book than one for little children, but it does effectively invite readers to enjoy close and repeated examination of the form, shape and whimsy of numbers. (Picture book. 10 & up)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

Even though he thinks the universe is crazy, aimless and chaotic, 15-year-old Steven is composing a letter to his yet-unborn sister Sam, so when she reads it, she'll see, in chronological order, all of the connections and causes and effects in his life. A nerdy science geek who also plays hockey and begins to flirt with a cooler crowd, Steven meets druggie-rocker Byron McCarthy, who introduces him to "god with a small g," who "started this stupid universe with a bang" but left no plan, just chaos. Byron, with the help of Ms. Pac-Man as metaphor for the randomness of the universe, leads Steven to ponder life, family, friends, sex and even Chaos Theory. The contrivance of the novel—as story, "letter or whatever"—works brilliantly, because Steven is an intelligent, likable character with an utterly fresh and original voice. As readers begin to realize the novel might be an extended suicide note, they will be captivated by Steven's journey to find meaning in a universe where only god with a small g is behind it all. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
CITY ALPHABET by Joanne Schwartz
Released: Aug. 1, 2009

Almost an artist's book rather than a book for children, this artfully constructed alphabet book holds its strength in design rather than beauty, although a few of the images are incidentally beautiful. For each opening, the verso holds a capital and lower-case letter, a single word beginning with that letter and a phrase describing the medium of the image in the photograph opposite, in which the word appears: "Ll / Love / Carved in wood. Tree-trunk monument." The letters themselves are dropped out, filled in with a piece of their photograph: The letters Qq are printed in the pattern of the vinyl flooring of the decal shadows that make the word "queen." Beam took these photographs of words in the city of Toronto; the text was written by author and children's librarian Schwartz. The words, as one might imagine, tend to the random—"brute," "evoke," "um." Fascinating, but probably more for young adults than for children. It will certainly have readers seeing their own cities with new eyes. (Picture book. 10 & up)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2008

The mission: Depose the principal without divisions among friends. When the unconventionally named Clouds McFadden arrives as a new student at Laverton Middle School, he recruits Chris Stern and several other eighth-graders in a plot to stand up to the teachers and administrators who abuse their positions of authority. Clouds's increasingly autocratic behavior soon motivates Chris to research his role model, "Lenon" (Chris's yearlong misconstruing of Lenin), leaving Chris to choose between peaceful change and radical revolution. Beam's year of teaching eighth grade helps him to accurately portray the constantly shifting attitudes and friendships that comprise the middle-school experience. Despite building a strong relationship with readers through his fumbling relationship with Susan, his sporadic interest in class and his honest relationship with his parents, however, Chris never develops into a fully realized character. Clouds's unsatisfying personality gaps are easier to fill in, though the divided-family dynamic feels cheap. Though the narrative is mediocre, the theme of peaceful conflict resolution is important in today's acrimonious environment. (Fiction. 12-14) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2007

Using baseball as a guide for dating, Beam, in his U.S. debut, hits a grand-slam. When seventh-grader Darcy Spillman becomes smitten with beautiful and popular Danalda Chase, he hopes to "get to first base" with her. Of course, first he has to ask her out, and Darcy isn't sure Danalda even knows he exists. Normally, Darcy would turn to his Grandpa Spillman for advice, but Grandpa is showing the early signs of Alzheimer's. Instead, he turns to the new girl, Kamna, who suggests that Darcy should try out for the Cheetahs, his middle school's baseball team. That would certainly win Danalda's favor. Unfortunately, when the two finally go out, Danalda lives up to her reputation of being superficial, leaving Darcy unimpressed. It turns out that it's Kamna he'd rather be with. Using baseball terms as his chapter headings, followed by definitions, Beam has managed to write a story that is fresh, funny and appealing to lovers and lovers of baseball, both male and female. (Fiction. 11-13)Read full book review >