________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 4 . . . . October 10, 2008


Moocher in the Lun: A Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Alphabet.

Tom Dawe. Illustrated by C. Anne MacLeod.
St. John’s, NL: Pennywell Books/Flanker Press, 2008.
64 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-897317-14-3.

Subject Headings:
Newfoundland and Labrador-Poetry.
Alphabet rhymes.

Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.

Review by Alison Mews.

**** /4


Z is for zosweet,
A Beothuck word
For a brownish-in-summer
But winter-white bird.

It’s sometimes called partridge
Or grouse, I suppose,
With feathers right out
To the tips of its toes.

Call it rock ptarmigan,
Others say willow,
But its down won’t be found
In Polly Smith’s pillow:

She vows it is wise,
Old customs to keep,
Since feathers from wild fowl
disturb a night’s sleep.

internal art

In the 1980's, esteemed Newfoundland poet and educator Tom Dawe published Angishore, Boo‑Man and Clumper: A Newfoundland Folk Alphabet (1983) and Alley‑Coosh, Bibby and Cark : A Second Newfoundland Folk Alphabet (1987), both illustrated by Sylvia Ficken and published by Harry Cuff. Now Dawe is back with another fabulous Newfoundland folk alphabet book; this time whimsically illustrated by C. Anne MacLeod.

     The 26 rhyming poems in Moocher in the Lun are liberally dowsed with expressive but baffling terms that were used colloquially in various parts of Newfoundland and Labrador. Dawe highlighted chosen terms alphabetically and composed cunning rhymes about them that are peopled with quirky characters like “Nofty from Knucklebone Tickle” and “Bess on the Hummock.” While some of the unfamiliar terms are defined in the verse itself (as in the example above) there is a handy glossary that defines uncommon words and phrases. Thus, we learn that a “moocher” is a truant skipping school and that a “lun” is a sheltered spot protected from the wind. Although being a Newfoundlander and having encountered many of these terms growing up, I found it necessary to consult this glossary repeatedly as many terms were drawn from other areas of the province and unfamiliar to me. Most of them, too, have fallen into disuse, and it is unlikely you will hear many in ordinary conversation. For this reason, and for the sheer fun of the lore-laden verses, this collection of nostalgic poems is especially welcome.

     C. Anne MacLeod, who also illustrated Dawe’s folkloric picture book Winter of the Black Weasel has matched Dawe’s playful poetry with her own humourous folksy touches, embedding aspects of outport life from an earlier time. Each full-page picture is dominated by the letter being featured in the verse opposite and is drawn to look as though it was constructed of wood. The letter is then a vital element of the picture, sometimes forming part of the landscape and sometimes a structure for her characters to lean against or hide behind. MacLeod’s uncluttered compositions with generous washes of colour immensely increase the book’s appeal.

     While ostensibly aimed at children, this handsome collaboration rich in local language and lore will appeal to all ages.  Recommended purchase for all Newfoundland and Labrador schools and libraries, and wherever interest in colloquial language and folklore exists.

Highly Recommended.

Allison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Centre in the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, NL.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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