Knots: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Tying Over 100 Knots, by Gordon Perry (2002)

Nonfiction | 10 to Adult

Knots: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Tying Over 100 Knots, by Gordon Perry (2002)

It’s a time for gift-buying, and I cheerfully admit that most of my home collection consists of nonfiction and reference books that I turn to over and over. I read so much fiction I can’t possibly buy and keep these; the sharing economy that is the public library is my go-to place for that! If you browse my home shelves, you’ll still find lots of books, but they are predominately nonfiction. So here is the first of a couple of good choices for your shelf or as a gift for someone else. Knots is an older title, first published by Whitecap Books in 2002, but I can see why it’s still around. It’s well-illustrated with hundreds of full-colour photos and illustrations to help guide inexperienced hands through useful knots.

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Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America, 2nd ed., by Jonathan Alderfer and Noah Strycker (2019)

Nonfiction | 8-Adult

Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America, 2nd ed., by Jonathan Alderfer and Noah Strycker (2019)

I still remember the thrill of identifying my first new-to-me birds under the tree outside my window, some 25 years ago. One was a spotted towhee, and the other a dark-eyed junco. They are still among my favourite birds. Towhees (pronounced toe-ee) are hard to spot on walks but they sound like a cat so they are easy to identify by voice. Because it covers all of North America, you need to check the range maps – a step that isn’t necessary if you have a book devoted to local birds, of course. I see Richard Cannings has published an update of Birds of Southwestern British Columbia, which I have yet to examine. However, the additional information on identifying each bird makes this book a good choice for those beginning to wonder about all the birds in their yards and on the trail.

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50 Things to See in the Sky, by Sarah Barker, ill. by Maria Nilsson (2019)

Nonfiction | 8 to Adult

50 Things to See in the Sky, by Sarah Barker with illustrations by Maria Nilsson (2019)

Here’s an excellent gift for a new astronomer of any age. I’ve already ordered a print copy for myself. Simple illustrations make it accessible for the youngest readers, and it’s both useful and informative for all new stargazers. Barker opens by recommending you find dark skies at a high altitude if you can, choose a clear night, give time for your eyes to adjust to the dark (so bundle up!), and don’t worry if you don’t have a telescope. In fact, Barker even cautions the reader against buying a bunch of gear to get started – just go outside and look, ideally from an isolated camping spot. She supports this in how the book is organized – sights that are easily found with the naked eye, things that will be easier with a telescope, and “a few things that are trickier still” but can still amaze you thanks to the Internet.

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One Wild Christmas, by Nicholas Oldland (2019)

Picture Book | 3-7

This is the first of two reviews this week to help with your holiday shopping. Canadian Nicholas Oldland has released a delightful addition to his Life In The Wild picture book series (see my review Walk on the Wild Side). Our three pals – a moose, a beaver, and a bear – are ready to celebrate Christmas with decorations, stockings and yummy food when they discover they have forgotten a tree. Out they go in search of the perfect tree, but when they find it, Bear loves it too much to let his friends cut it down. Sharp young readers will figure out the solution before it’s revealed, a lesson in compromise wrapped in environmental ethics.

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Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us About Life, by Jonathan Kay and Joan Moriarity (2019)

Nonfiction | Adult

Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us About Life, by Jonathan Kay and Joan Moriarity (2019)

Holy heck, I love board games! I have a whole shelf of them, packed with childhood favourites like Pay Day, Masterpiece, and Milles Bornes, along with a couple of newer (to me) ones like Firefly (based on the cult TV favourite), Scopa, an Italian card game, and a cool mix of cribbage and Scrabble called Kings Crib. I don’t play as much as I would like, since I’m completed deluded into thinking I have free time that somehow disappears every week thanks to paid and volunteer work, dog walks, and sewing. Oh well. Maybe this winter. Anyway, I was delighted to discover this title on my NetGalley feed, and finally found some time to read it through. It’s essentially a discussion of popular games, both good and bad in the authors’ view, from Pandemic to Monopoly to Dungeons & Dragons and more.

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The Ghost Collector, by Allison Mills (2019)

Fiction | 9-13

The Ghost Collector, by Allison Mills (2019)

Got a ghost? Shelly and her grandmother are ready to help. Like all women in their family, they have the ability to see spirits and catch them. In their hair. Once caught, the ghosts can be set free and sent on their way, to wherever it is they are supposed to be. Shelly’s mum has it too, but she prefers to spend her time with the living. The three live in a happy home, and Shelly is delighted whenever her grandmother lets her accompany her on a ghost job. Sometimes the ghosts are in a house, sometimes they are animals, and sometimes they are quite happy to stick around. Grandmother says you can’t push them till they are ready to go, but often a cup of warm milk does the trick. When a tragedy befalls the family, Shelly finds herself drawing inward, choosing the company of ghosts over the real world.

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Space Exploration: A History in 100 Objects, by Sten Odenwald (2019)

Nonfiction | 13 – Adult

Here’s an interesting take on space – consider how science progressed over time, to get from our prehistoric ancestors’ stargazing to the 21st century launch of the Curiosity rover on Mars and, just this year, the Event Horizon telescope that let us peer into a black hole. This is a fascinating pop-history exploration of the scientific objects that have led us to seriously plan on sending humans to Mars. And Odenwald, a NASA scientist and educator, surprises with his choices – from a 3,600-year-old “pocket planetarium” called the Nebra Sky Disk to a Native American medicine wheel in Montana.

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