________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 14. . . .December 7, 2012


Saltwater Joys.

Wayne Chaulk. Illustrated by Dawn Baker.
St. John’s, NL: Pennywell Books/Flanker Press, 2012.
32 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-77117-028-4.

Subject Heading:
Newfoundland and Labrador-Juvenile poetry.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.

Review by Vasso Tassiopoulos.

*** /4



I was born down by the water and
it’s here I’m goin’ to stay.
I’ve searched for all the reasons
why I should go away.
But I haven’t got the thirst for all
those modern-day toys, so I’ll just
take my chances with those
saltwater joys.


Saltwater Joys is a story that celebrates the peace and tranquillity of life in Newfoundland. The picture book is based on the song of the same name by Wayne Chaulk, and the illustrations are by Dawn Baker. In the author’s note preceding the story, Chaulk explains that his collection of photos from Charlottetown, Newfoundland, where he spent his childhood, inspired Baker’s illustrations in the book. Baker’s borrowing the photos resulted in her completing 17 paintings that are featured as the illustrations in the book. The illustrations depict rural country life in Charlottetown, highlighting what life is like at Clayton’s Wharf with readers who may or may not be familiar with the landscape.

     The story is narrated from the point of view of a young boy who cannot imagine living anywhere other than in his world close to nature. The idyllic illustrations bring to life the landscape and kindness of the people who inhabit the town that the narrator loves and holds dear to his heart. The words and the images work together to paint an ideal life on the east coast where peace can be found by the water. The vibrant colours in the illustrations bring to life the spectacular views of the sunsets and the seasons experienced by the young protagonist in his everyday home life in Newfoundland.
internal artThere is one illustration of urban life that is dull in comparison to the vibrant images of rural life throughout the book. Across the two pages which depict the city, the idea of country living as superior to city life is strongly represented. Life in the city is depicted with gray and red tones with some cultural signifiers worked into the image, such as the child in the forefront with an Italian flag on his jacket and a deli in the background, while the city is referred to as “where warm and gentle people turn to swarmin’, faceless crowds.” In another section, historical and socio-political implications may come to mind for adult readers when reading the lines: “This island that we cling to has been handed down with pride. By folks that fought to live here, taking hardships all in stride.” These parts of the story may be disconcerting to some adult readers, but child readers will likely not analyse such details and simply relate to the calm children in the paintings throughout the story who find joy in their peaceful rural surroundings.

     Overall, the book brings forward the beauty of the land by the water that its young and old inhabitants of the town experience. The book is an artistic and nostalgic representation of life in Charlottetown, Newfoundland, and also includes sheet music of the song ‘Saltwater Joys’ by Chaulk that readers can sing along to if interested.


Vasso Tassiopoulos is a graduate of the Master of Arts program in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia and currently works in an assortment of childcare settings in Toronto, ON.

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

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