CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 2. . . .September 10, 2010.
The City Speaks in Drums.
Shauntay Grant. Illustrated by Susan Tooke.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95 (With CD of Shauntay performing The City Speaks in Drums & Up Home, $26.95.
ISBN 978-1-55109-758-9. ISBN 978-1-55109-766-4 (with CD.).
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.
Review by Crystal Sutherland.
...then cross to the Commons field
run on earth
race 'round tree
see all this hear all this
embrace the city's vibe and
wrap myself in her rhyme
If asked, any child or adult could easily tell you what makes their city special to her/him. For Shauntay Grant, it's the sounds of the city that make Halifax special.
The City Speaks in Drums takes readers on a tour of Halifax and the music, intentional or accidental, to be found on every corner. Residence of Halifax will recognize the streets, locations, and faces; readers from across the board will easily connect with the book and notice how, just as Halifax speaks to the author, their own hometown, large or small, speaks to them as well.
The text is complemented by wonderfully vibrant artwork by Susan Tooke who uses familiar landmarks and a diverse selection of Halifax's residents as models for her illustrations. The artwork complements the text wonderfully and is sure to enhance the reading experience for those who know the city well and provides readers unfamiliar with the city with a sense of belonging by introducing them to real people and places as well as the rhythms that flow through and connect them to each other. Together, the text and artwork provide a feeling of authenticity that could not be achieved using a made-up place with made-up people. Grant's voice clearly comes across as authentic in her writing, and this authenticity extends to her spoken word performance of The City Speaks in Drums.
Both performances are matched with complementary music that augments the listener's experience. The city's sounds are perfectly merged with her voice which is as alive and vivid as the sounds she describes and depicted by the artwork. By bolding the words given special emphasis in her performance Grant makes it easy for readers to read along out loud with her, anticipating and matching stresses in her reading of the text.
The rhythmic flow of the text is extremely effective in recreating, for readers, Grant's sensory experience of the city, teamed with Tooke's artwork and Grant's own performance of the work, makes The City Speaks in Drums an adventure the readers can continue long after the book is read in Halifax and beyond.
Crystal Sutherland is an MEd (Literacy) and MLIS graduate living in Halifax, NS.
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