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Bookends: Tales from the Maritimes and one from the woods October 20, 2015

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Tales from the Maritimes and one from the woods

By Dan Davidson

April 8, 2015

– 697 words –

High Water Mark

High Water Mark

The Porcupines’ Quill

151 pages


Nicole Dixon is a teacher, librarian, data organizer and website designer, She lives in Cape Breton and recently spent the winter at Berton House in Dawson as the writer-in-residence. When she’s not working at her day jobs, she likes to write short stories. High Water Mark was her first published collection of stories, though most of the individual items had appeared previously in such magazines as Grain, The Fiddlehead, The New Quarterly and Canadian Notes and Queries.

Her stories are mostly set in rural places and have a touch of the Maritimes about them. Several occur in an imaginary fishing town called Refugee Cove, a setting cobbled together from a number of Nova Scotian towns where Dixon has worked.

These are stories about relationships and people of various ages. Two of them feature Mona, a teacher who may be a central character in another round of stories Dixon is working on. One of them is about the members in an all-girl (or perhaps grrl) band. A couple of them deal with breakups and their aftermaths. Another is about a pair of city mice who move to the country, have a child, and experience some difficulties in dealing with both changes in their joint life. In another a young teenager has to cope with the cracks in her parents’ marriage, while another deals with the impact of deaths in the family on the life of a teenage girl.

These are not all happy stories, but most of them do have a bit of humour in them to leaven the tense relationships, and they don’t all end badly. Some have people coming to their senses just before they go over the cliff. Others have people realizing more about who they are and what they need to do.

This book was short listed for an Atlantic Book Award, a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year award and a CBC Bookie Award. Dixon has previously been the winner of the Bronwyn Wallace Award for Short Fiction.

Sugar white snow

Sugar White Snow and Evergreens

A Winter Wonderland of Color

Poem by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky

Illustrations by Susan Swan

Albert Whitman and Company

32 pages


Some instructional books are quite boring, even if they serve a purpose. This isn’t one of those. As you might guess from the title, it deals with colour (the spelling in the title betrays its American origins). But it does so by telling us a clever little story about an outing in the winter.

Each two page spread features a rhyming quatrain (or part of one) in which one word is printed in the colour that dominates the palette of the illustration.

It begins “The morning sky was steely gray / and hungry as two bears / we sniffed downstairs but couldn’t find / our breakfast anywhere.”

Outside the world looks grey and there are quite a few grey touches in the kitchen.

As the golden sun comes up the family is off on a trip to the woods, where they will seek golden maple syrup.

And so the book carries on, taking us through he activities that they take part in as the day progresses and they make their way to Mr. Sweet’s Famous Sugar Maple Farm. The story poem is clever and comes trippingly off the tongue, made to be read aloud. I found only one line that seemed to need an couple of extra syllables, and I actually added them before I realized they weren’t there.

The artwork is a bit angular, but realistic in a cartoony sort of way, and it really does suit the fun that is inherent in the story. It’s dynamic and active, and the colour choices go well with the words. Some books tell you how the artist works. This one didn’t, but Swan’s website describes her work as digital cut paper and mixed media and, browsing through her portfolios gave me a better sense of why the pictures in this book look quite the way they do.