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Bookends: Tales from Along the Highways February 18, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Klondike Sun, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Tales from Along the Highways

By Dan Davidson

December 19, 2016

– 684 words –alaska-or-bust

 

Alaska or Bust & Other Stories

By Erma Odrach

Crimson Cloak Publishing

379 pages

$25.50 in hardcover

also available in paperback and e-book formats

 

It’s almost a truism that anyone with even a smattering of literary DNA in t

heir genes will probably end up writing about the Yukon if they’ve lived here for a while and then moved away. That’s why there are so many memoirs about the Gold Rush. That’s why Service and London and Berton all wrote about the place throughout their entire careers even when they were in other places, even, as in the case of the first two writers, when they never came back.

So we come to Erma Odrach, who is mining her memories of a three or four year residence in the north. She sent me this book some months back and we struck up a little bit of a correspondence as a result. She was here from 1979-82, living in Whitehorse and a few places along the Alaska Highway, travelling in the territory and in Alaska, living part of the time in a Squatter’s Row cabin, and ending her stay while holding down a job, fittingly enough, at Mac’s Fireweed.

There’s a generational angle as well, sine her daughter apparently lived in Dawson in the summer of 2015 (if have that right) and volunteered at the Dawson City Music Festival.

The thing about Yukon memories, after 30 years or so, is they suffer a little bit of factual drift. Just how much it’s never easy to say, but all those people who met Jack Lon
on here after he was gone, and all those who travelled over the Chilkoot with Robert Service in 1898 are proof of the type of drift I mean.

So there may be things in the 25 stories that make up this collection that don’t sound quite right, but most of them feel pretty good as far as I can tell. Oh, you can’t drive from Skagway to Haines without doubling back through Haines Junction, (see “Chuck Goes to Haines, Alaska, on the Fourth of July”) but that’s a small problem, a
nd one that won’t exist in subsequent printings of the book, or in the email editions.

The stories range all over the areas that can be reached by the major highways in the territory and the state. Some of them overlap a bit in terms of characters, or refer to events in other unconnected stories. There’s an amusing trilogy about the Three French Guys, and “The Runaways” (about kids in a foster home) has a sort of sequel in “Bush Baby Gets Married”. Quite a few of the stories are quite humorous, but there are also a number that deal with abuse, creeping insanity and hard times.

I’ve been reading this book on and off since October. The stories were good for when I just had a short time to sit and I found them quite satisfactory.

 

Train

trainCreated by Mike Vago
Illustrated Matt Rockefeller

Workman

14 pages

$32.95

 

This is an interesting concept book. It is constructed so that the attached small train can be driven around the landscape o each double page spread (seacoast, d
esert, prairie, mountains, small town, large city, and station). The edge of each segment allows you to drive the train around the edge and into the next landscape until you reach the spot at the back of the book that allows you to shut it again. Or, you can drive the train through the tunnel that take you back to the front of the book to do it all again

Should the train slip out of the grooves that are its track, it’s easy to put it back and carry on.

The book seems sturdy enough, It’s hardcover with a cloth backing inside the spine holding the double page signatures in place. There are directions for proper use on the back cover. Even so, it looks like something that you would to keep an eye on while young reader were playing with/reading it.

 

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

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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

$18.95

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

$16.99

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.

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