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Children's Nonfiction General

City Speaks In Drums

by (author) Shauntay Grant

illustrated by Susan Tooke

Nimbus Publishing
Initial publish date
May 2010
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2010
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 0 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3


Two boys from North End Halifax explore their neighbourhood and the city beyond, finding music everywhere. At the skate park, by the Public Gardens, down Spring Garden Road, and on the boardwalk, drums and saxophones and dancers and basketballs create the jumbled, joyful, pulsing rhythm of Halifax. Shauntay Grant's playful spoken word-style poem and Susan Tooke's vivid illustrations create a wildly energetic and appealing journey through the big, bright city.

About the authors

Shauntay Grant is a Canadian playwright, poet, performance artist, and children's author. She is an associate professor of creative writing at Dalhousie University, and former poet laureate for the City of Halifax. Her work examines African Nova Scotian and African diasporic history and folk culture, as well as contemporary approaches to literature and performance. Grant’s other honours include a Joseph S. Stauffer Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts, a Robert Merritt Award from Theatre Nova Scotia, a Best Atlantic Published Book Prize from the Atlantic Book Awards, a Poet of Honour prize from the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, and a Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award from the Canadian Children's Book Centre for Africville (Groundwood Books).

Shauntay Grant's profile page

Born in New Jersey, Susan received her professional training from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia and the New School in New York. She moved to Canada in 1980, and has made Halifax, Nova Scotia her home. Working predominantly as a painter, Susan illustrated her first book in 2000, and has received the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration, and the Mayor’s Award for Brave Jack and the Unicorn. Her work is consistently chosen by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre as a starred selection for the Our Choice Award. In describing her artwork, Susan states: "I breathe real life into my images—the sounds, smells, colors, and idiosyncrasies of specific places and the people who inhabit them."

Susan Tooke's profile page


  • Short-listed, Atlantic Book Awards, Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children's Literature
  • Short-listed, Atlantic Book Awards, Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration

Librarian Reviews

The City Speaks in Drums

Two boys from North End Halifax travel through their neighbourhood into the city that extends beyond. The sights and sounds seem to speak to them in rhythm. They see children playing basketball, a mirthful water-pistol chase, a family barbecue, musicians hanging out, the spoon man tapping rhythms for spare change, the poet “spittin’ verses from the highlife café.” They end at the harbour where they are “poppin’ and lockin’ hip hoppin’” on the waterfront and watching dancers who represent dancers a variety of ethnicities.

Everything about this book speaks of vitality. Whether it is the electrifying illustrations, the exuberance of the rhythm embodied in the verse, the pleasure of the children seeing their surroundings with the unique awareness of the young, the ingenuity of the effervescent people they meet—all celebrate the joie de vivre of a Canadian city and its culture. Creativity and gladness burst from every page. Truly the drum of this city “is a heart and a soul and a mind all of its own.”

The free form verse is upbeat, emanating musical energy and joy. The lilt of the dialect would contribute to a dramatic read-a-loud for the right performer or storyteller. The illustrations are radiant, using real models from the community who are each acknowledged by the artist. Every double-page spread is full of expression and detail, capturing in vivid colour the vigour of the city with its beautiful harbour, familiar landmarks and irrepressible inhabitants.

This is the second collaboration between poet laureate, broadcaster and spoken-word artist Shauntay Grant and illustrator Susan Tooke. Their first, Up Home, won them many accolades and several awards. The City Speaks in Drums is a beautiful addition to any collection. The subject and artwork speak to the free spirit and inner joy in each of us, no matter what our age.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Summer 2010. Vol.33 No.3.

Other titles by Shauntay Grant

Other titles by Susan Tooke

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