Backyard Foraging, by Ellen Zachos (2013)

Nonfiction | Adult

Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Did Know You Could Eat, by Ellen Zachos (2013)

This handy guide to finding food on your walks and hikes was featured in one of my library’s newsletters, on nonfiction. I’m subscribed to several of these great newsletters from the Grand Forks & District Public Library that let you know about new titles on various topics, and also occasionally feature interesting gems you might not know about. This is one of them. The book is a few years old, but offers some great guidance in finding edible shoots, leaves and berries all around you. There are 65 entries, many of them quite familiar, such as the well-known dandelion for its many edibles, from flower petals to roots and leaves, as well as surprising discoveries like the annoying Japanese knotweed (aka false bamboo) that is so difficult to eradicate from your home garden. Turns out its young shoots are a great alternative to those canned bamboo shoots called for in many Asian recipes. While the author is from the American east coast, she has chosen plants that are commonly found across North America, many of them recognizable from the garden, such as bee balm and spiderwort. On hikes, you will probably come across wild garlic and hawthorn berries. Our common saskatoons here in the Boundary Country are also listed, under the new-to-me moniker “juneberries,” Each entry is typically four pages long, and includes lots of full-colour photos. There is information on when to harvest, where to find it, and what parts of the plant are edible, along with helpful guidance on recognizing the plant, what and how to harvest, and how to use the bounty in a meal. There is a helpful introduction that addresses tools for harvesting, offers tips on where to forage, reminds readers to beware of sprays and herbicides in parks and to ask for permission on private property, and how to generally make sure you are making good food choices when foraging. I learned that fruits with a five-point crown (like apples, saskatoons, and even rosehips) are always safe to eat, and to stay away from mushrooms with gills. Appendices include some preserving guidance and basic recipes, resources for further research, and a very good index. My thanks to the Grand Forks & District Public Library for including this title in its nonfiction collection, and grabbing my attention in the newsletter!
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The Lost Words, by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (2017, 2018)

8 to adult

The Lost Words, by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (2018)

Pick up a copy of the Oxford Junior Dictionary and you’ll find the latest technological words like chatroom, blog and voicemail. But you won’t find acorn, buttercup, minnow, panther, and dozens of other natural world words that were cut to make room for the new entries. Robert MacFarlane noticed, and decided to do something. He collaborated with artist Jackie Morris to create what they call a “spell book” in a bid to conjure back 20 of the lost words. Both are British, and there is a decidedly British flavour to the book, celebrating childhood fascinations for conkers and brambles, newts and wrens, weasels and willows, though happily these are words equally familiar to Canadians and Americans, and doubtless in many other English-speaking places.

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50 Hikes with Kids – Oregon & Washington, by Wendy Gorton (2018)

50 Hikes with Kids - Oregon & Washington, by Wendy GortonHiking with kids is one of those activities that sounds easy but is fraught with potential pitfalls. They get tired, bored, cranky, hungry and pouty, unless you plan the excursion with care. Wendy Gorton is committed to helping families get outside, and to that end has compiled a list of 50 hikes in the Pacific Northwest that are sure to get youngsters interested in spending time outdoors. The hikes are all easy to moderate, with no elevation gain over 275 m (900 ft) and none more than 7 kms (4 miles) in length. The book features 32 hikes in Oregon and 18 in Washington. The vast majority are, reasonably, within short drives of the main cities in both states – Seattle, Portland, and Bend, with a few selections on the eastern edges of the states. Read More »

Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories, by L.M. Montgomery (1995)

Short Stories
Christmas With Anne and Other Holiday Stories, by L.M. MontgomeryWith so many demands on our time this month, it can be a challenge to make it a priority to relax and enjoy the sounds, sights, and scents of the holidays. This year I chose a classic Canadian collection by our very own Lucy Maud Montgomery. This collection of holiday stories was put together by Rea Wilmshurst, who found a number of unpublished stories in the late 1970s at Montgomery’s birthplace. She obtained a list of every item Montgomery published (more than 500), and spent years collecting as many as she could. Many of the stories were only published at the turn of the 20th century, in magazines or other formats. The list includes included a number of Christmas stories, the best of which appear here. Read More »

Tales from the Back Bumper: A Century of BC Licence Plates (2013)

Tales from the Back Bumper by Christopher GarrishWhat is it about licence plates that is so fascinating? I still play the childhood game of checking off as many provinces and states whenever we are on a road trip. (Tip – go to national parks and scour the parking lots.) Garrish’s interest has been lifelong, but the book is a project that emerged from his tendency to take a break from his master’s thesis research to explore licence plates in various archives. He launched a website and that led to the book, which includes a foreword by former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, whose government provided the pretty veteran’s plates and the controversial Olympic plates preceding the 2010 Olympic Games hosted in Vancouver. Read More »

The Big Bad Fox, by Benjamin Renner (2015, 2017)

Animal Fiction
The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin RennerInitially thinking this was a picture book and attracted by the cover, I obtained a digital galley from the publisher. Much to my delight, it turned out to be a graphic novel, numbering about 200 pages. Our protagonist is a hapless fox who is seen as no threat at all by either hens or a lazy guard dog. Frustrated and hungry the fox joins forces with a wolf, agreeing to steal eggs and raise the chicks to a tasty size. But the chicks imprint on the fox and he becomes quite attached while they in turn come to believe they are foxes. Given how evil those hens are, this isn’t a bad thing. The plot is enjoyable as the fox struggles to resolve the situation, and schemes his way to a solution. Read More »

The Goat, by Anne Fleming (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
The Goat, by Anne FlemingEleven-year-old Kid moves from Toronto to New York City for a six-month stay while her actor/screenwriter mother works on an off-Broadway production. Teacher Dad is going to work on his own play while homeschooling Kid, which includes daily visits to various NYC museums. They are staying in cousin Doug’s apartment just off Central Park, looking after his dog Cat while Doug is in Europe. When Kid discovers the rumour of a good-luck goat on top of the building, she teams up with new friend Will to find out the truth. Along the way, Fleming switches voices so the diverse residents in the building get to share their stories, including the goat himself! Read More »