CANADIAN FOLK SONGS FOR THE YOUNG
Selected by Barbara Cass-Beggs; Illustrated by Debi Perna
Toronto, Ground wood/Douglas & Mclntyre, 1992. 48pp, laminated boards, $12.95
ISBN 0-88894-847-6. CIP
Reviewed by Judy Coulman
Reviewed by Judy Coulman
Volume 20 Number 5
This is a revised edition of folk-songs selected by Barbara Cass-Beggs and first published in 1975. The songs reflect Canada "from sea to sea," east, west, north and south. Native Canadian, Inuit and Metis, as well as our French and British heritage, are well represented. From the wonderful mosaic composition of Canada we unfortunately have a very small representation in an Icelandic lullaby. In the introductory notes, which define folk music and provide a brief overview of folk music in Canada, Alan Lomax states that we have in our country "a museum of musical antiques from many lands." Cass-Beggs appears to have ignored this wealth.
Indigenous songs reflecting our particular history appear throughout the book. I really enjoyed "Funky Jim," which was found in Saskatchewan and tells about collecting gopher tails for bounty from the government in an attempt to keep the rodents from eating the already scarce grain crops during the Depression. The notes with each of the songs provide the reader with a glance at the unique origins: "Funky Jim" was sung to Cass-Beggs by the grandson of the man who created it!
I believe this book would complement an existing collection or would provide an interesting introduction for a family or small group to the joys of folk singing at a reasonable cost. For use in a school library I see some drawbacks. As an anthology, the collection is limited. For use in classrooms some musical knowledge is required: many teachers would be intimidated by the reference to the pentatonic scale. The lack of spiral binding prevents easy use with a piano or other musical accompaniment. For general use, the notes seem to address adults who would be using the songs with children, and yet, the illustrations are obviously designed for children's enjoyment. Thus this book seems to rest somewhere between an adult resource book and a child's pictorial delight, never quite fulfilling either role.
However, I still recommend purchase of Canadian Folk Songs for the Young because it does provide a light and whimsical overview of Canadian folk-songs. The illustrations provided by Debi Perna illuminate the pages with humour and detail. Her use of colour is muted and very appropriate to the setting and temporal reality of these songs. The decision not to colour all the illustrations detracts, however, from the total presentation. Notes provided by the author support the appreciation and enjoyment of the user for each song giving historical and local folkloric details of the origins and use. Possibly, we have here one initial taste, and if we like the flavour we could feast elsewhere.
Judy Coulman is a teacher-librarian/resource teacher for gifted education at the Edward Johnson School in Guelph, Ontario
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