Songs in the Shade of the Cherry Tree

Songs in the Shade of the Cherry Tree

A review of Songs in the Shade of the Cherry Tree by Nathalie Soussana

Published on July 4, 2024

Traditional country life is at the heart of the lullabies and nursery rhymes collected by Nathalie Soussana as Songs in the Shade of the Cherry Tree, printed in English and in the original Ukrainian. Those who can sing the famous Mother Goose rhymes by heart may enjoy adding these Ukrainian lullabies to their repertoire – some of which are meant to amuse, and some to caution against the follies of humans and the perils of nature. 

Songs in the Shade of the Cherry Tree
Nathalie Soussana
Illustrated by Qu Lan

The Secret Mountain
$19.95
cloth
20pp
9782898360848

In “Rain, Rain, Come Again,” precipitation is summoned with hot beet soup: “Rain, rain, come again / I’ll make you some borscht / Clap, clap, clap! I’ll put some aside / On a blackthorn branch / Clap, clap, clap!”

A cherry tree asks to come inside from the cold on a winter night in “Night is Falling”: “A happy dream will keep you warm / Dear cherry tree, come join the little one / You’ll be warm in the tiny cradle.” 

In other rhymes, sly cranes swoop down to steal the harvest, and a grey wolf keeps an eye on the small white goat; swallows bring glad tidings, and kittens tip-toe around sleeping children. 

“I Crush, I Crush the Poppies” is a solemn call-and-answer that seeks hope in the face of war: “‘And where is the sea?’ / ‘Overgrown with flowers.’ / ‘And where are the flowers?’ / ‘Picked by young girls.’ / ‘And where are the girls?’ / ‘Menfolk have taken them in.’ / ‘And where are the menfolk?’ / ‘They’ve gone to war.’ / ‘And where is the war?’ / ‘War is no more.’”

Vibrant illustrations by Qu Lan bring the folkloric characters – like the jaunty magpies in babushkas and the fiddling goats – as well as the pastoral scenes into rich colour. As with all The Secret Mountain’s musical books, you can listen to the songs and access the learning guides online.mRb

Meaghan Thurston is a Montreal-based arts and science writer, co-editor of the anthology With the World to Choose From: Seven Decades of the Beatty Lecture at McGill University, and mother to two budding readers.

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