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Brave Highland Heart

by Heather Kellerhals-Stewart, Werner Zimmermann, illus.

It is the day of the ceilidh (Gaelic for a country dance, pronounced kay-lee), and a young girl helps her family get ready, “sweeping out the hayloft in the barn, stringing colored lights from tree to tree, tossing salads….” She is justifiably proud that she’s old enough to help, especially when her mother says they’d never have been ready for the big party without her. But her brothers spoil her anticipation, telling her she can’t stay up for the party.

In Brave Highland Heart, B.C. writer Heather Kellerhals-Stewart presents a familiar theme – the child old enough to work, but too young to stay up for the fun. She makes the story fresh by setting it on the evening of the ceilidh. Despite this twist the story’s magic flags. The beginning of the book captures the mood and character of the girl perfectly, but in the latter half she sounds suddenly older and wiser. Rather than showing the character’s growth, the shift reflects inconsistency in the author’s voice.

Werner Zimmermann (who illustrated the1996 Governor General’s Award nominee Whatever You Do, Don’t Go Near That Canoe!) skillfully evokes the anticipation, subsequent disappointment, and final triumph of the main character. Early images are infused with sunlight and colour, party lanterns, red and black kilts, and hair ribbons. As daylight fades, disappointment grows in the girl’s face. Her discovery is celebrated with red and gold light, its warmth reflecting her pleasure at finally joining the party. Zimmermann gives Brave Highland Heart its strength, consistency, and, ultimately, its magic.