16 May 2019

by Marny Duncan-Cary, illustrated by Val Moker
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$14.95 ISBN 9-781988-78383

Southern Saskatchewan musician and writer Marny Duncan-Cary has capitalized on her complementary talents: she’s taken the lyrics from a song she wrote in 2002 and has used them as the text for an illustrated book in 2019. It’s a formula she’s successfully employed before (ie: her book/song Who’s That Man? earned a silver medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards in 2010). This time the four-time Saskatchewan Country Music Award winner has transformed her song “Rockstar,” and along with vividly-colourful, full-bleed illustrations by artist Val Moker, Duncan-Cary has produced a lively song readers can hold in their hands.

When one is both a dedicated artist (in any genre) who works from home and a devoted mother, juggling the necessary “me” time and family time can be a serious challenge. (I’ve been there myself; my own answer was to carve a week or two out of every year to “retreat” and work on my writing while my children were young.) In her softcover book “Rockstar,” Duncan-Cary exposes the everyday demands of children, like “Mom, can you get me some juice?” and “Mom, what are we going to do today?” and Moker brings these ordinary days to life with bold images. We see the mother/artist protagonist with pen and paper in hand, black musical notes floating through the pages while expressive children put on socks, play the piano, ask for Mom’s help at the computer, and, in one of my favourite illustrations, eat snacks in a plant and flower-surrounded conservatory.

In short, this is real life. Even the family’s black cat cameos in the illustrations, and as the story progresses-we see Mom in a pink boa and studded “Rockstar” jacket before a dressing room mirror, stepping from a limousine, and performing on stage-the musical notes have themselves become small whimsical characters, colouring on the walls and climbing the kitchen cupboards. It’s domestic chaos, but where there’s a will there’s a way, and life inspires art.

There’s a nod in the text to the music industry’s penchant for the “Young and firm,” to which the author writes “for now they’ll hafta wait for me ’cause I ain’t got the time!” Professional and personal responsibilities are managed in tandem, and one must read the story to get to the “bottom” of why the young characters shout “Mom, I’m done!”

Duncan-Cary, who lives on an acreage near Lumsden, and Regina’s Moker are both artists (with education degrees) who love and write about where they live: Duncan-Cary’s “Music and words convey the heart of her life in southern Saskatchewan,” and Moker’s specialty is western art. I “Googled” the artists and quickly found what I was after: a video of Duncan-Cary performing the songthat inspired the story. An endearing performance of a slightly bluesy tune.

Congratulations to the creators for this fun, relatable, and tangible song, and to Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing and designer Heather Nickel for the bright new package. Thumbs up, as well, to Creative Saskatchewan, who made the production of this text possible.


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