Dancing With Daisy
Dancing With Daisy
"You know how your fingers get when you’re in the tub too long?”
“Imagine if you were in the icy cold saltwater all night long!” Grampy patted his wrinkled cheek. “Daisy and the ocean gave me these fine beauty marks.”
We all stretch the truth now and then, don’t we? Children do it almost automatically when they’re caught doing something forbidden. It’s all part of the learning process - trying not to hurt someone’s feelings, trying not to be caught lying. Stretching the truth excites the imagination and also teaches children that humour can be found in our daily activities.
A tall tale can become a legend in a family or, at best, in society through oral retelling or in written form, with Paul Bunyan being one well-known example. Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Jan L. Coates A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk adds to the canon of tall tales - this time with an adult inventing the story - with the delightful Dancing with Daisy, an enjoyable yarn that a grandpa strings about how he got his wrinkles and bald head.
When young Liam finds an old photograph showing his grandfather as a fine young fellow, dark bearded and handsome, Liam wonders what happened? Grampy has a quick answer - it’s all the fault of a stormy woman named Daisy who was in search of a dance partner - and Gramps declined.
The real Daisy was a Category 1 hurricane that lashed the shores of Nova Scotia in 1962, disrupting telephone service, smashing boats and killing six people who came out to watch the waves at Peggy’s Cove. Its destructive force went down in history.
Gramps has kindly sanitized the sad part of the famous storm. In his version, Daisy unleashes her powers upon him, testing him with waves, winds and wickedness to get him to submit. He won’t, and so that’s why Grampy looks the way he does today.
She lashed me to the tree with sea grass, and her army of seagulls plucked me like a daisy.
One hair at a time.
'Loves me,’ she’d say, and I’d yell, “No!’; then she’d say
‘Love me not,” and I’d yell, ‘Yes!’
By the time they were done, my head was bald as a beach stone, all except for this dandelion fluff.
Liam is at the perfect age when children adore their grandparents and swallow - er, believe everything they tell them. Coates describes Grampy’s struggle with energy and bravado. Who could survive such odds? “Tell me, tell me,” Liam urges, and Grampy keeps one going, even ascribing the presence of icebergs in the harbour to the loss of his teeth at Daisy’s malevolent hands. Good conquers evil in this humorous tale, with a stern lecture.
Prolific illustrator Josee Bisiaillon, Ten Cents a Pound and many more, paints up a lively maritime squall with swirling brushstrokes that buffet poor Gramps hither and yon. Twice a G-G nominee, Bisiaillon conjures up not-fully human Daisy both with ghostly images and by showing her from behind. Bisiaillon uses shades of grey, white, blue and green to good effect in the seascapes while the land is brightly coloured and full of joy.
Coates has written novels as well as picture books. From Wolfville, Nova Scotia, she’s tapped into her Atlantic environs in her twenty-first book which rolls along like a good tale should, and which wraps up with Liam in the loving embrace of his grandfather, just the way a good story should end.
Harriet Zaidman is a children’s and freelance writer in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her middle grade novel, City on Strike, set in the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, was released in April 2019.