Family entertainer Charlotte Diamond has released a picture book featuring some of the creatures that the Juno award-winning performer has been singing about since her undergraduate studies in zoology at the University of British Columbia.
The release of Charlotte Diamond’s Animal Friends: A Collection of Songs by Orca Book Publishers coincides with two upcoming concerts for the Pender Harbour Music Society.
Diamond, who moved to Sechelt in 2018, will be performing all-ages shows with her son Matt Diamond at the Pender Harbour School of Music on May 7 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Animal Friends is illustrated by Eunji Jung. The hardcover volume includes compositions from Diamond’s repertoire like Octopus/Slippery Fish and Moose on the Loose. Several numbers—such as Ottie the Otter and Sharks Need Their Fins—also appear on Diamond’s 2015 CD album Diamonds by the Sea.
With the exception of a single pizza-centric publication, Diamond’s literary output for young readers has been dominated by the animal kingdom.
“I went up and down the coastline with my husband when he was doing his commercial salmon fishing,” Diamond said. “I was always studying whatever was around and did a certain amount of free diving and exploring. That’s where a lot of songs come from, like Splish and Splash, all about the ways that animals move when they are swimming.”
As children, her own sons also offered input. While preparing music for her 1988 album Diamonds and Dragons, Diamond’s youngest son complained: “Mom, you know, you’re just not cool enough.”
His mother—who would be inducted to the Order of Canada in 2016 for cultivating creativity in youth—replied, “What would you like me to write about?”
The result was Dicky Dinosaur. “Because rap was starting to become so popular,” Diamond recalled, “I wrote it in a rap rhythm. So anybody who reads it can read it that way if they want, and at the end, say yo!”
The songs of Animal Friends are in English, although Diamond regularly performs in French, Spanish and American Sign Language.
“I find that I just naturally use my hands when I’m trying to express myself,” she said. “So learning proper sign language was really, really important. I noticed that the minute I started to sign a particular song, the kids started to join in. They gravitated towards the movement. That’s why I use a lot of dance and movement in my concerts.”
Animal Friends also ambles into the realm of cryptozoology. Sasquatch proposes an empathetic relationship with the shaggy backwoods biped: “Sasquatch, Sasquatch, we are just like you / Sasquatch, Sasquatch, we get frightened too.”
In Slimy the Slug, even soggy secretions have an endearing purpose: “He leaves a trail of slime behind him, / But that’s the way that I can find him.”
“That was kind of a cry to notice the little things in life,” said Diamond, “to explore the beauty of [slugs] and how they function within our environment.”
Through its survey of Diamond’s lifelong fascination with friendly fauna, the book illustrates the importance of humans’ kinship with all living things.
“I’m an animal,” Diamond said. “You are too. We’re just like our animal friends. They’re not there for us to exploit and use as we choose. We have to protect them. And it’s a two-way street because if they’re there, then we’re protected too.”
Animal Friends is available locally from Talewind Books in Sechelt and the EarthFair Store in Madeira Park. Diamond will also be autographing copies at the Pender Harbour concerts on May 7. Details and tickets are available at penderharbourmusic.ca.