Quill and Quire

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Claire’s Gift

by Maxine Trottier, Rajka Kupesic, illus.

In this gentle picture book, an account of the traditional Nova Scotian craft of rug hooking is woven – or should I say hooked – into the slight but touching story of a little girl sent to stay with an elderly relative she’s never met before. A CLA award-winner for The Tiny Kite of Eddie Wing, Trottier uses rhythmic prose, repeating a short verse that helps the rug-hooker focus on her task and some simple French phrases to help capture the atmosphere of Chéticamp in an earlier time. Claire’s unhappiness at being sent to Tante Marie is shown through her silent, withdrawn behaviour; the reader may guess at its cause, but is soon drawn into Claire’s growing interest in Tante Marie’s handiwork. Claire begins to hook a little rug of her own, and the mild surprise of the ending is an affirmation of the bond between women of different generations created through their participation in a traditional art.

Done in oils on linen, Rajka Kupesic’s warm and charming paintings suggest folk art in their sunny atmosphere, simple outlines, and stylized facial expressions. Details of flowers and idealized vignettes of traditional village life echo, without attempting to replicate, the designs of the rugs. Text and pictures work well together in celebrating how, when a craft is done with love, a little piece of your heart may be “tucked in there with the wool.”