Saskatchewan NAC

The Song Within My Heart


The Song Within My Heart - Image 1
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Featuring Saskatchewan Artist(s): Allen Sapp

Paintings by Allen Sapp, Story by David Bouchard

Governor General's Award Winner

2002, 32 pages

This tribute to Cree traditions, spirituality, as well as to the memory of Allen Sapp’s grandmother, his Nokum, Maggie Soonias, won the Governor General’s Award for children’s book illustration. The illustrations are in deed a compelling combination of the traditional and Sapp’s unique vision. They are often dark, slightly sad depictions of life on the reserve during Sapp’s childhood. Happiness is derived from communal activities, not from material possessions. The interior of Maggie Soonias’s cabin is cramped and sparsely furnished, but Maggie fills it with her larger-than-life, loving presence. Sapp’s art is striking for its unusual, intimate angles. You feel that you’re standing within an arms distance of Maggie, or of the men beating the drum at the pow-wows. Or you could be sitting with the other members of the reserve, observing the dancers enacting some ancient tale in their bright costumes and feathers. The images are rich in spite of their simplicity-full of feeling and the texture of a child’s perspective.

The text has a rhythm that brings to mind the rhythmic chanting-the “HEY, hey, hey, Hi hey, hey, hey”-that accompanies the beating of the drum. The narrator recounts how his grandmother taught him to listen and meditate to the sound of the drum. The lesson: to listen to your own heart, to follow your own internal rhythm, is to be true to yourself. The final illustration of Maggie pressing her tiny grandchild to her cheek, entitled “Nokum’s Tender Love”, shows a woman whose hard life did little to dampen her love for and dedication to her family and community.(Books in Canada)

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