CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 19. . . .January 18, 2013
Award-winning collaborators Andy Jones and Darka Erdelji have delivered another delightful Newfoundland folktale. Loosely based on “Jack and the Slave Islands” from the Northern Peninsula, this Jack tale finds our unlikely hero in a happier-ever-after situation at the outset, married to the woman of his dreams and successful beyond all expectations. Unfortunately, this very success draws the attention of a sly sea captain who tricks Jack into betting his fortune and losing it. Jack is sent to the Slave Islands, and Mary is turned out onto the street. But Mary is undaunted and shrewdly sets out to recover both Jack and their fortune. Before long, she is Captain of her own sailing vessel and, disguised as a man, she bests the bully and rescues her contrite husband.
There are, of course, many twists and turns in the story and many embellishments, such as the unusual singing Mynah bird named Baxter who plays a pivotal role. Jones has drawn on other classic works for inspiration, including Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and the medieval tale of Frederick of Jennen, and Baxter’s songs are based on Jones’ knowledge of traditional music.
Darka Erdelji’s imaginative folk illustrations enhance and enrich the story. She has great fun creating small images of birds playing, making origami (instructions included) and generally cavorting around the pages. Her whimsical style includes many motifs from Newfoundland culture, and her swirling blues and greens evoke the marine setting.
It is a great pleasure to listen to Andy Jones tell a story, and, happily, his printed stories fill you with the same hushed anticipation from the first sentence. To read this book aloud is to become a storyteller. And for intrepid adults who would like to sing Baxter’s songs rather than read the lyrics, the scores for the melodies, thanks to the help of well-known folk-singer Pamela Morgan, are included at the end of the book.
A worthy follow-up to the acclaimed Jack and the Manger, which won the NL children’s literature award, and The Queen of Paradise’s Garden, this book is lovingly prepared by the same creative team that also includes designer Veselina Tomova and Running the Goat, Books and Broadsides.
Alison Mews is a retired librarian who lives in St. John’s, NL
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