CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 16 . . . . April 12, 2002
Angus lived in a Cape Breton village, right beside the sea. All around him there were boats and water and high hills. Angus's family was musical. Mom played accordion. Dad played whistle. Molly sang songs in a high clear voice, which was beautiful enough to make you cry. Tom played guitar.
Even though his family conveys their appreciation of Angus's contribution to the music, Angus becomes dissatisfied with his humming. He believes it is not "special." The next evening while the family is playing on the wharf, his father tells Angus that he can select a musical instrument to learn how to play. Angus is thrilled, and over the next few days he thinks about his choice. When Angus attends a ceilidh in a nearby village and hears people playing fiddles, he makes his decision! However, when he picks up the fiddle and tucks it under his chin and draws the bow across the strings, Angus makes a sound similar to "the harsh cry of a heron." Angus takes lessons from Murdoch MacDougall, a local fiddle player. Angus is committed to coaxing the music out of the fiddle, and after several months of lessons and practice, Angus joins the family orchestra and plays his fiddle. Angus is filled with happiness!
Angus's growth as an individual and musician is contextualized in Cape Breton's musical heritage. Angus is a perceptive boy who appreciates and respects music - he hears music in his head, and at the beach - the churning of the waves, the sounds of the sandpipers, the sighing of the wind, the squawking of the seagulls and the groaning of the buoy. Angus's resolve to learn the fiddle is admirable, and his family is supportive and patient of his goal.
My one criticism of the text occurs near the end of the story. After Angus joins the family orchestra and plays a wild jig, he suggests they play "Song for the Mira," a sad song with a happy ending. He thinks that the song is like him - "a happy end to a sad story." Although Angus was sad when he could not play an instrument and contribute to the family orchestra, his is not a "sad story." On the contrary, his is a happy story - one that shows the personal satisfaction and happiness that can be derived from setting and achieving goals.
Tooke's illustrations are rendered in acrylic on watercolour paper. Each richly hued double-page spread portrays the active life of the characters in a complementary manner to the story. The characters' physical stances and expressive faces extend the words of the text. In the illustration of the ceilidh, Took has included a well known fiddler - Natalie McMaster. The illustrations are energetic and accurately depict the landscape of Cape Breton. The book is a visual delight.
Pantaleo is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education, University
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.