I’s the B’y is an exuberant celebration of Newfoundland culture lovingly presented in picture-book form. It’s based on the well-worn folk song that has long been identified with the island’s traditional music and fishing heritage.
Lauren Soloy matches the lyrics of the song with a series of vivid illustrations that reflect in lively detail the unique lifestyle that has developed in Newfoundland over the last two hundred years. The island is celebrated on every page, including the endpapers, which feature seagulls and fishing boats in the daytime and at night. The map on the title page illustrates the famous loop of “Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton’s Harbour / All around the circle,” as well as a series of iconic Newfoundland images, from Vikings to icebergs.
A boisterous group of musicians and fishers skips through the book, including a moose, a codfish, a rabbit, a Newfoundland dog, many puffins, and various humans. The dancers leap and stomp their feet to the music of fiddles, accordions, and guitars.
Soloy has included some notes at the end to explain the Newfoundland expressions and customs that appear in the book. It’s remarkable just how many details have been packed into her illustrations: boat-building, dories, flakes for drying codfish, whales, berry-picking, root cellars, translucent rainbows, and fog. She even has the dancers sitting down to a cold plate with the ubiquitous purple mashed potato and beet salad that shows up at every festive occasion ’round the bay. The observant reader will also spot a natty pair of “drawers” (underwear) drying on a winter clothesline.
This book is best sung aloud with young readers, and Soloy provides the melody on sheet music at the back of the book. It’s an excellent way to introduce children to the unique culture and music of Newfoundland. Soloy has brought new life to the old standby with comical illustrations and an infectious sense of fun.