One of Newfoundland and Labrador’s best-known songs makes the transition to the printed page as a children’s picture book. The song crosses over with mixed results.
As one third of the well-loved music group Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers, Wayne Chaulk needs little in the way of introduction — except, perhaps, that he wrote and sings the ballad ‘Saltwater Joys.’
The song is a gentle tribute to what Chaulk recalls as the quiet pleasures and simple comforts of rural Newfoundland and Labrador coastal life.
As for how well the adaptation from adult song to children’s book works, the most honest answer might be “fairly well,” in that the song’s lyrics, as the text portion of the book, are not apt to resonate as clearly with children as they do with their parents or grandparents.
For one thing, the song Saltwater Joys comes from a wistfulness that hints at hard experience gained from living in a city like Toronto or Montreal — or even St. John’s.
The song’s underlying theme is rejection of urban life, and the narrator’s wish to embrace simplicity – even if it means poverty and loss of opportunity.
For children, the book’s primary audience, these concerns are lost in translation because they are beyond the scope of a small child’s experience.
Also, adults may wish to run through the book on their own first – because of the irregular rhyme scheme and structure. The rhythm is there, you just have to find it.
On the upside, Dawn Baker’s bright, colorful illustrations are beautiful and detailed, and suited to the text; they reflect Chaulk’s lyrics lovingly.
And if certain sentiments conveyed in the words are a bit nebulous for children to appreciate, it’s just as true that these meanings can be explained.
The book provides opportunities for adult readers to engage with the child, and bring their own experiences to bear.
Neighborliness; self-sufficiency; working hard, and making your own fun: these are some of the traditional values of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. And they are facets of local life that children certainly can understand very well with a little adult assistance.
Adapting the song ‘Saltwater Joys’ to a children’s book may not strike everyone as entirely natural or essential.
But like the best of children’s books, ‘Saltwater Joys’ encourages sharing between adult and child readers; and there’s certainly no better way to help children appreciate the uniqueness of zour cultural heritage.
NEW AT THE LIBRARY
New Items at the Corner Brook Public Library
Blaze of Glory by Jeff Shaara (Historical Fiction)
13 by Kelley Armstrong (Fantasy Fiction)
Where We Belong by Emily Giffin (Domestic Fiction)
Backfire by Catherine Coulter (Suspense Fiction)
The Wild Queen: the days and nights of Mary, Queen of Scots by Carolyn Meyers (Young Adult Fiction)
The Art of Intelligence: lessons from a life in the CIA’s clandestine service by Henry A. Crumpton (Adult Non-Fiction)
The Pregnancy Project: a memoir by Gaby Rodriguez (Young Adult Non-Fiction)
Not Too Long Ago: stories of a traditional way of life by Garry Cranford (Newfoundland Non-Fiction)
Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: the private diary of a Victorian lady by Kate Summerscale (Adult Non-Fiction)
GCB: the complete first season (Adult DVD)
Source: Jessica Prince, City Librarian, Corner Brook Public Library