THE BOOK SHELF: Lauren Soloy’s Picture Book Celebrates Iconic Folk Song


When Lauren Soloy’s editor asked her if she was interested in illustrating the first picture book adaptation of an iconic Newfoundland folksong, she had no hesitation in saying yes.

By then, Soloy knew the catchy song “I’s the B’y” and could instantly sing the first verse: “I’s the b’y that builds the boat and I’s the b’y that navis her.” But after that, she made a blank. Much like many Canadians, she expects. Many know the song, but not all the verses and probably not the meaning of the lyrics. She became curious, and the more she thought about the project, the more excited she was to create a book that would not only celebrate Newfoundland and its culture, but highlight the importance of song and music in bringing people together. in a joyful way.

“I thought… if I could almost make the book feel like I was going to a concert, as close as possible,” she said in a recent interview from her home in Bridgetown, where she lives with her husband and their two children, aged 10 and over. 13.

Lauren Soloy’s new book, I’s the B’y (Greystone Kids) pays homage to the folk song, written over 100 years ago, and to its Newfoundland birthplace. – Contributed work

With rich illustrations of boats, humpback whales, puffins and dancing children, Soloy’s new book, I’s the B’y (Greystone Kids) pays homage to the folk song, written over 100 years ago. years, and to his birthplace in Newfoundland.

To better understand the lyrics of the song, Soloy turned to the likes of Paul Kinsman, a musician with a vast knowledge of Newfoundland folk music. She discovered that “I’s the b’y” originally meant “I’m the boy”, but is now considered a gender-neutral phrase.

The book includes musical notes for the song, as well as a note from Soloy on the history of “I’s the B’y”, including the meaning of its distinctive words and phrases and places and traditions in Newfoundland. who inspired him.

In October 2020, Soloy returned to the province, a place she had visited several times for her previous work as a wedding photographer. On this trip, she traveled to Twillingate, a small town off the northeast coast of the island, for five days. Some of his illustrations for the book were inspired by the town’s Isles Wooden Boat Museum.

In her book, she also pays homage to circle dancing and its connection to folk songs and incorporates it into her illustrations. To respect the inclusivity of the dance, she incorporates each character an equal number of times throughout the verses and on each chorus page.

“The chorus of ‘I’s the B’y’ is all about the dancing!” writes Soloy in a note at the end of his book. “Folk dancing comes in many forms, including circle dancing. The beautiful thing about a circle dance is that it’s simple, flexible, and inclusive. In a circle dance, we are all equal.

To create the colorful and whimsical illustrations for the book, Soloy – whose first picture book When Emily Was Small was a finalist for the 2021 TD Canadian Prize for Children’s Literature – started with a pencil and made several small thumbnail drawings. During this process, she figured out what she wanted each page to look like. From there, she turned to her iPad and Procreate, a digital illustration app.

“It gives you more flexibility. You can move an image around the page more easily,” she said. “It also means I can work anywhere.”

Sometimes that means among the tomatoes and lettuce growing in the large vegetable patch outside his Bridgetown home.

Soloy’s hope for his new book is that children will get a sense of the beauty of Newfoundland and the strong community that still exists there.

“I hope they’ll be interested in Newfoundland,” she says.

Join Soloy on June 10 at 6 p.m. to celebrate the launch of his book. She will be at the Bridgetown and Area Library, accompanied by her friend and author Angela J. Reynolds. Reynolds will launch, Threshold, his first novel for intermediate level readers. Musician Caleb Miles will be present at the book launch. They will also be at the Berwick and District Library on June 11 at 2 p.m.

City streets are for people

Nova Scotian illustrator Emma FitzGerald – author of Hand-Drawn Halifax – has a new book: City Streets Are for People (Groundwood Books). The book is written by Andrea Curtis, a Toronto cyclist and author of several children’s books, including A Forest in the City.

City Streets Are for People explores sustainable transport around the world, including electric vehicles, public transport, bicycles and walking. In a playful and accessible way, the book invites readers to imagine a future city where these modes are all used together to create a sustainable and healthy place.

A summer at Whitney Pier

Nova Scotia’s first Black Lieutenant Governor’s newest picture book is a love letter to the diverse Cape Breton community where she grew up. One Summer in Whitney Pier (Nimbus Publishing) by Mayann Francis is illustrated by Tamara Thiebaux-Heikalo.

“School is out for the summer, but eleven-year-old Mayann Francis doesn’t have much to look forward to. Her two best friends, Eunice and Betty, will be missing and her older sister won’t let her play on her baseball team, the Hankard Street Crew,” according to Nimbus Publishing.

“But Mayann’s parents won’t let her feel sorry for herself. They remind her how much she enjoys helping them cook traditional Caribbean dishes. Coo-coo with cornmeal, souse with pig’s feet, oxtail, fishcake, johnnycake, coconut sugar cake! Her mother also teaches her embroidery – and it’s while embroidering a project and watching the HSC play that she comes up with a brilliant idea that will bring the whole community together and just might save her the summer in the process.

Francis will celebrate the launch of One Summer at Whitney Pier on June 4 at 2 p.m. in the Cathedral Church of All Saints in Halifax.

Gray Dot Decoding

Join author Nicola Davison for the launch of her young adult novel, Decoding Dot Gray (Nimbus Publishing) on ​​May 19 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mic Mac Aquatic Club in Dartmouth.

The event will include a reading, Davidson in conversation with author Sarah Sawler, as well as refreshments and book signings. It will also be streamed live on the Nimbus Facebook page:


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