The City Speaks in Drums.
The City Speaks in Drums
written by Shauntay Grant
illustrated by Susan Tooke
Nimbus Publishing, 2010
978-1-55109-766-4 (with CD) $26.95
for preschool to Grade 3
Picture Books | Halifax | City Life
Two boys from North End Halifax travel through their neighbourhood into the city that extends beyond. The sights and sounds seem to speak to them in rhythm. They see children playing basketball, a mirthful water-pistol chase, a family barbecue, musicians hanging out, the spoon man tapping rhythms for spare change, the poet "spittin' verses from the highlife cafe." They end at the harbour where they are "poppin' and lockin' hip hoppin'" on the waterfront and watching dancers who represent dancers a variety of ethnicities.
Everything about this book speaks of vitality. Whether it is the electrifying illustrations, the exuberance of the rhythm embodied in the verse, the pleasure of the children seeing their surroundings with the unique awareness of the young, the ingenuity of the effervescent people they meet--all celebrate the joie de vivre of a Canadian city and its culture. Creativity and gladness burst from every page. Truly the drum of this city "is a heart and a soul and a mind all of its own." The free form verse is upbeat, emanating musical energy and joy.
The lilt of the dialect would contribute to a dramatic read-a-loud for the right performer or storyteller. The illustrations are radiant, using real models from the community who are each acknowledged by the artist. Every double-page spread is full of expression and detail, capturing in vivid colour the vigour of the city with its beautiful harbour, familiar landmarks and irrepressible inhabitants.
This is the second collaboration between poet laureate, broadcaster and spoken-word artist Shauntay Grant and illustrator Susan Tooke. Their first, Up Home, won them many accolades and several awards. The City Speaks in Drums is a beautiful addition to any collection. The subject and artwork speak to the free spirit and inner joy in each of us, no matter what our age.
Aileen Wortley is a retired children's librarian in Toronto.