DISABLED BODIES We need more books about them page 12
MI’KMA’KI AT 13,500
From where we sprouted page 25
AUTHOR TO AUTHOR Andy Jones interviews Sheree Fitch page 17
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Canada’s sticky, messy history
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Contents Number 83 Spring 2017
Wendi Stewart Goes to Dawson City If a writer is as a writer does, she’s one to watch (and read)
Poetry Captivated by Newfoundland’s Environment The island’s elements, weather, trees and people inspired Alison Dyer Covering Disability There’s a dearth of Atlantic Canadian books about disability Not Your Grandfather’s East Coast Music The spirit of 90s indie rock permanently broadened our region’s sound Shortlists Revealed for the Atlantic Book Awards Nominees showcase a diverse array of talent and theme
Author to Author Tell me a story with your mouth talkin’: actor/writer/storyteller/ director Andy Jones gets to the root of Sheree Fitch’s wonderful wordplay
150? Canada’s sticky, messy history
Mi’kma’ki at 13,500 Ta’n Weji-sqalia’tiek: from where we sprouted
An Overdue Look at Labrador Inuit Art The unique and diverse visual culture that has only recently been recognized as Inuit
Gerald Squires, Newfoundland’s Artist He was like a character from an epic poem, an origin myth of his own creation Big Lessons from a Small School The little Halifax school that could
An Insider’s Story of Canadian Prisons Robert Clark takes on a “culture of collective indifference” around incarceration
Magnifique Morsels A culinary road trip through New Brunswick and Acadie
Thibault Feeds the Palate and Heart
Karen Powell’s Traditional New Brunswick Dishes
Young Readers 49
Young Readers’ Artwork Three winners from our Woozles illustration contest
Learning About Coal Mining How kids can process and learn from Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith’s Town is By The Sea
Anthropomorphic Animals, Cybernetic Tall Tales, Sibling Rivalry, Mature Homosexual Love Lisa Doucet and Lise Brin review some of the season’s most anticipated books for young readers
Can’t-Go-Wrong Children’s Poems An excerpt from the foreword of Sheree Fitch’s poetry collection
The Darker Side of Kidlit (and why it’s a good thing)
40 Reviews 58
Lesley Choyce’s Unlikely Redemption
George Murray’s Good Gospel in a Bathroom Reader
Adrian Smith’s Dark Discoveries of Sexual Abuse
Ray Guy’s Insider Satire of Newfoundland
Kathy Mac’s Battle With Social and Poetic Convention
Bob Kroll’s Bleak Metropolitan Nightmare
ABOUT THE COVER
"I think it’s important to acknowledge that not all parts of Canada turn 150 this year. In fact most of Canada is not 150. It seems kind of ludicrous celebrating something that only four provinces were part of. This absurdity is where this cartoon comes from." Michael de Adder is a nationally recognized political cartoonist and author of the forthcoming You Might Be From Canada If…, his seventh book.
New Books 64
Editor’s Picks Books so good you’ll want to read them again and again
Summertime and the Reading is Easy
GET IN THE KNOW MORE BOOK NEWS, ANALYSIS, REVIEWS Sign up for our newsletter today! atlanticbookstoday.ca Atlantic Books Today
Editor’s Message and in economic arguments like Donald J Savoie’s Looking for Bootstraps, or political think pieces like Ed Whitcomb’s Rivals for Power. Our writers also look at what our art—visual and literary— says about Canada and how we define it at this stage of our history, including the biting satirical cartoons of our cover artist, Michael de Adder. The stories herein are by no means a comprehensive history; this is a magazine about books after all. But the sheer diversity of these books shows that there is still no authoritative idea of what Canada is. Whatever number you use, 150 or 150,000, and whatever your sense of patriotism, history is worth rethinking again and again, right on into Year 150,001, and Year 150,002, and Year 150,003... Chris Benjamin ERRATA
FICTION | MAY
W W W. B R E A K W AT E R B O O K S . C O M
FOUR - LETTER WORDS | CHAD PELLEY
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2017 ALISTAIR MACLEOD PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION
AND TO ALL THE FINALISTS FOR THE 2017 ATLANTIC BOOK AWARDS
NON-FICTION | AUGUST
Last issue we included photos of Ami McKay and George Elliott Clarke. They were taken by the talented Madeleine Kendall at the Lunenburg Lit Festival, not the Foglit Festival as indicated in our caption. We apologize for the error. The financial support of the New Brunswick Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture was essential in making wide distribution possible in that province.
FICTION | APRIL
COOKBOOK | JUNE
NON-FICTION | MAY
CHILDREN | MARCH
SONGBOOK | MARCH
“Canada 150 doesn’t mean much here,” a Newfoundland publisher recently said to her counterparts in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI. The Prince Edward Islander sympathized. Despite that big-deal conference in Charlottetown in 1864, PEI didn’t join Confederation until 1873 and it didn’t show up with a party hat on. It couldn’t afford one really; it was on the verge of economic collapse thanks to railway debt. Inevitably, the publishers’ conversation turned toward the absent Indigenous perspective. Absent from this particular conversation, that is. Many Indigenous voices, including that of Elsipogtog Warrior Chief John Levi, have risen clearly and denounced the idea that colonial history should be feted at all. Beyond the seemingly arbitrary number (150 applies to only four provinces), what does our relatively recent history as a nation tell us about ourselves today? These are questions historian Margaret Conrad and Mi’kmaq pre-contact archeologist Roger Lewis explore in this issue. They draw on a long list of Indigenous and settler writers. They explore how history is being considered in 2017 in books like Jeffers Lennox’s Homelands and Empires
atlantic books today Atlantic Books Today is published by the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association (www.atlanticpublishers.ca), which gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canada Book Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Opinions expressed in articles in Atlantic Books Today do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Board of the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association.
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Year of the Horse by Marjorie Simmons PUBLISHER Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR and ADVERTISING SALES Carolyn Guy email@example.com EDITOR Chris Benjamin firstname.lastname@example.org ART DIRECTOR Gwen North email@example.com
“Through Marjorie Simmons’ spirited prose you can feel the ancient bond between humans and horses.” – Claire Mowat
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INTERN Katie Short Printed in Canada. This is issue number 83 Spring 2017. Atlantic Books Today is published twice a year. All issues are numbered in sequence. Total Atlantic-wide circulation: 100,000. ISSN 1192-3652 One-year subscriptions to Atlantic Books Today are available for $16 ($18.40 including HST). Please make cheques payable to the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association and mail to address below or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for subscription inquiries. Publications Mail Agreement No. 40038836 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association Atlantic Books Today 1484 Carlton Street Halifax, NS B3H 3B7 Phone: 902-420-0711 Fax: 902-423-4302 atlanticbookstoday.ca @abtmagazine facebook.com/AtlanticBooksToday
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Atlantic Books Today
Wendi Stewart Goes to Dawson City If a writer is as a writer does, she’s one to watch (and read) by Cheri Hanson
endi Stewart has always struggled to call herself a writer. The Wolfville-based author often wears the label with unease, but her impostor syndrome took a serious hit in January when she was awarded a 2017 residency at the Berton House Writers’ Retreat. Stewart will live and work from October through December in Dawson City, Yukon at the childhood home of iconic Canadian author Pierre Berton. “It’s so validating,” says Stewart. “The writer who’s following me is Lawrence Hill. I feel like if he’s going, then I must be a legitimate writer, too.” All evidence certainly suggests that Stewart’s literary star is on the rise. Her first novel, Meadowlark, was shortlisted in 2016 for both the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize in literary fiction and the trade fiction Book of the Year award from the Book Publishers Association of Alberta. She has received grants from the Ontario Arts Council and Arts Nova Scotia. Industry colleagues readily sing her praises. Leslie Vermeer sat on the NeWest Press reading committee that voted to acquire Meadowlark in 2014. “I was just transfixed by it,” says Vermeer. “I thought it was one of the most powerful manuscripts that I had encountered at NeWest up to that point.” Vermeer also edited the story of a young girl’s journey to overcome her tragic past, but says Stewart’s well-groomed manuscript required few changes. “It was so accomplished. I know Wendi has done other things in her life, but it was a mature work.” Indeed, Stewart has already lived a full life beyond the page. She was born on a cattle farm near Fort Frances, Ontario and studied at the University of Manitoba. Stewart intended to return home after graduation and work alongside her beloved father, but his sudden death changed her plans. She trained as an accountant, had four daughters and didn’t start writing until her forties. “It just became a healing thing for me,” says Stewart, who studied creative writing at Humber College beginning in 2006 and attended the 2012 Piper’s Frith retreat in Newfoundland’s Piper’s Hole River Valley, where she was mentored by star author Lisa Moore. Aiming to build her literary resume, Stewart began writing short stories that have been published in Cahoots Magazine, Seraphim Editions and The Antigonish Review, among others. A weekly Owen Sound Sun Times column from 2009 to 2013 strengthened her discipline and established the writing practice that created Meadowlark. When Stewart decided the novel was
ready for industry eyes, she emailed it to five literary agencies with a letter of recommendation from Moore. Within an hour, Stephanie Sinclair of Transatlantic Agency had requested an exclusive, one-month review period. Finding a gem in the slush pile is as rare as it sounds, says Sinclair, who was drawn to Stewart’s precise construction and intimate tone and signed her to Transatlantic in 2014. “Her writing is very literary,” says Sinclair, “but it’s also very, very accessible … She speaks directly to her readers in a way that I think really provokes empathy and compassion for all of her characters.” Sinclair recently received Stewart’s second novel—a story of four sisters called Catching Frogs—and says she felt the same electric thrill when she reviewed the final draft. “As soon as I
opened the manuscript, I read the first paragraph and thought, ‘oh, she’s done it again.’” Stewart is now focusing on her third novel, War Paint, which tells the story of a white teacher educated by her Indigenous students. A residential school near Fort Frances looms large in Stewart’s memory as a community aberration and source of pain for her Indigenous neighbours. “I don’t want to presume to tell their story,” says Stewart, “but I really want to be part of truth and reconciliation ... There has to be a way to honour Indigenous people and I think we do that by listening to the truth.” Stewart says she’ll spend the summer talking to residential school survivors and their families—getting permission and learning as much as she can. She will do work-in-progress readings in Whitehorse en route to Dawson City and is staying open to the possibilities the fall residency might offer. While she continues to wrestle with the labels, Stewart has always been serious about the writing itself. “I am really dedicated to this. If you write for yourself and find your own voice, I think you can’t go wrong.” ■
“As soon as I opened the manuscript, I read the first paragraph and thought, ‘oh, she’s done it again.’”
Meadowlark Wendi Stewart NeWest Press
Cheri Hanson is a writer and journalist based in Vancouver. She’s the BC correspondent for Quill & Quire magazine and a freelancer for businesses, creative agencies and major publications.
Atlantic Books Today
Poetry Captivated by Newfoundland’s Environment The island’s elements, weather, trees and people inspired Alison Dyer by Ryan O’Connor
(c) Alison Dyer
hen I visited Newfoundland for the first time some two decades ago, I was struck by many things. Yes, the people were great and I enjoyed multiple nights teetotalling on George Street while listening to the dulcet tones of the late, great Dermot O’Reilly. But even before I made my way ashore, I was struck by the island’s unique environment. The hours-long ferry trip from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port aux Basques provided a lesson in its rugged isolation. On the way to St. John’s I followed Route 1, a beautiful drive if there is one, which also served to reveal the sheer size of the island; a trip up the 430 to the town of St. Anthony, meanwhile, revealed spectacular fjords and the Long Range Mountains. With its inlets and lakes, forests and peninsulas, this was the first time in my life that I was completely captivated by my physical surroundings. I mention all of this because reading Alison Dyer’s poetry collection, I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game, evoked memories of that visit. An award-winning writer whose work has appeared in notable publications including The Fiddlehead, Grain and the Newfoundland Quarterly, Dyer spent her younger days
(c) Alison Dyer Woody Island
in Quebec and England before settling in the Avalon Peninsula. Whether it’s her status as an NBC (Newfoundlander by Choice) or her academic background in physical geography—most likely it’s a combination of the two—Dyer brings the attentive eye of an outsider coming to grips with her surroundings. The collection opens with a quote from acclaimed writer and biologist Rachel Carson. While Carson is best known for Silent Spring, the quote, “Only the most hardy and adaptable can survive in a region so mutable,” comes from an earlier, lesser known work, 1955’s The Edge of the Sea. Both the quote and the source are inspired selections, as The Edge of the Sea is an exploration of coastal ecosystems. While Carson did not have Newfoundland in mind when she wrote these words, they nonetheless are befitting of a rocky North Atlantic island. I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game is divided into four sections. The first, “Bones of Paradise,” features a series of meditations on earth, wind and sky. The language is sparse yet rich in metaphors. My favourite poem in this section, “Snowdrops,” likens the ephemeral nature of the title subject to such things as childhood, “a midnight resolution” and “a cat’s preference.”
Dyer brings the attentive eye of an outsider coming to grips with her surroundings.
The second section, “Apostles of the Boreal,” reads as a loving tribute to the island’s tree species, including “Mountain Ash (the boisterous),” “Balsam Fir (the trustworthy)” and “Red Pine (the memory stick).” The third section, “Why He Rested on the Seventh Day,” features “Hell’s Hand,” a callback to yesteryear when card playing was seen by many religious folk as a surefire way to end up in eternal damnation, and “Ode to the Potato Growers,” a poetic take on farmers’ folk knowledge. The final section, “Near Church Street,” addresses such topics as the island’s weather (in “Wind: excessive,” which contains the collection’s best use of a pun and “Just Another White-out”) and the benefits of buying groceries from the old corner store (“Lament for the Groc & Conf ”). As a tribute to the environment and people of Newfoundland, readers will appreciate it more with each re-reading. ■ Ryan O’Connor Canadian author, environmental journalist and historical consultant. He is the author of The First Green Wave.
(c) Alison Dyer
RON SUCH RONS@FRIESENS.COM T. 1.902.684.0888
I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game Alison Dyer Killick Press
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Covering Disability There’s a dearth of Atlantic Canadian books about disability by Jen Powley
ccording to my rough calculations, about 249,000 people in Atlantic Canada have disabilities, myself included. The number of authors with disabilities of varying kinds is beyond my calculations, but the publishing industry should ask whether disability issues are adequately covered in their books. Though no publisher in Atlantic Canada deals specifically with disability issues, for many it could be part of their mandate. None of Pedlar Press’s titles deal directly with disability issues but Beth Follett, owner and publisher, says, “Many of Pedlar’s fiction and poetry titles address mental and physical disabilities, however indirectly, by having a character struggle with a hegemonic and able point of view. I think at this time in Western history, any book that asks a reader to consider the struggles of others, that challenges egocentrism, that addresses social causes of hardship, is important and relevant.” She feels Pedlar adequately addresses disabilities. The state of disability issues today, as represented in Atlantic Canadian books, is now covered by my book, Just Jen, a new publication from Roseway Publishing, and by Hot, Wet & Shaking by Kaleigh Trace, published in 2014 by Invisible Publishing (which has since relocated to Ontario). Hot, Wet & Shaking is
set in Halifax. Both books deal with the reality of living with a disability but still having the desires that media tend to restrict to the able-bodied. Hot, Wet & Shaking was an inspiration for me. It gave me the courage to include information about my sex life in Just Jen. Roseway publisher Beverley Rach says, “Roseway Publishing’s mandate is to publish literary works related to social injustices and the struggles involved in making the world a better place. We are particularly interested in publishing voices that traditionally have not had access to publishing.” Invisible Publishing approached Kaleigh Trace—through then director Robbie MacGregor—to write Hot, Wet & Shaking after seeing her blog “Fucking Facts.” The book includes details of her journey in becoming herself. Trace describes herself as “a toughas-fuck woman with a disability.” Hers was not the first book on sex and disability in Canada, but it was the first in Atlantic Canada. Trace feels more vulnerable now about the book, which includes explicit details of her thoughts and insights, than she did in 2014. “I think the vulnerability I feel now around the book is about aging and being a different person now than I was as a relatively
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SNICKERDOODLE PHOTOGRAPHY
Jen Powley and her partner, Tom Elliott, with Abie the Cat
“Systemic ableism has done an effective job at making [people with disabilities] less visible to the world in general. Coupled with that, beauty standards very rigidly uphold a white, ablebodied and thin portrayal of desirability.”
Powley and her mother in Halifax Public Gardens
brazen 27-year-old,” she says. Addressing why the public doesn’t see disabled persons as sexual, Trace comments that “systemic ableism has done an effective job at making [people with disabilities] less visible to the world in general. Coupled with that, beauty standards very rigidly uphold a white, able-bodied and thin portrayal of desirability.” Trace thinks that the visible fallibility of disabled bodies—that they fall, that they limp, that their physical form is weak— reminds people of their own mortality. “I think [this] subsequently makes people uncomfortable.” Publishers, rather than taking on a project about a disability, may pass a book proposal to a publisher they feel is more appropriate. Whitney Moran, senior editor with Nimbus Publishing, says, “We in the Atlantic Publishing industry are a tight-knit group, and sometimes if a project comes along that we see as a good fit for one of our peers, we pass that information along either to the publisher or to the submitting author.” That is what happened with my initial submission of Just Jen. Nimbus turned it down, suggesting I go to Roseway. They were right. Roseway chose to publish my memoir. Just Jen will be in bookstores May 1. ■ Born and raised in a small farming community in Alberta, Jen Powley now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Just Jen Jen Powley Fernwood Publishing
Hot, Wet & Shaking Kaleigh Trace Invisible Publishing
Bold New Fiction
and Other Stories
The Unlikely Redemption of John Alexander MacNeil A Novel by Lesley Choyce 9781552669204 $21.00
Set in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia by renowned author Lesley Choyce,
The Unlikely Redemption of John Alexander MacNeil is a compelling, witty and heartwarming novel.
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Atlantic Books Today
Not Your Grandfather’s East Coast Music The spirit of 90s indie rock permanently broadened our region’s sound
icture it: You approach a random stranger on the street in downtown Toronto. You ask them: “If you had to choose only one musical instrument that you associate with Atlantic Canada, what would it be?” I’m not normally a betting man, but if the person you asked to answer that question happened to be aged 50 or above, it’s probably safe to assume they would reply with the word “fiddle.” And rightly so. The instrument is as intertwined with Atlantic Canadian culture as the region’s seafood, saltwater beaches and hospitality. While guitar-based music has always peacefully co-existed with the Acadian, Celtic and folk traditions that echo through virtually every corner of the region, it was in the early 90s that rock bands like Sloan, Joel Plaskett’s former group Thrush Hermit and seemingly countless others showed the world that Atlantic Canada had more to offer than just fiddle music. Helping reinforce that latter notion are two recently released books from the region. With A Distorted Revolution: How Eric’s Trip Changed Music, Moncton, and Me, first-time author Jason Murray connects the dots between his hometown’s perennial underdog status and the inde-
pendent music community it inadvertently fostered. The little city’s independent bands went on to garner regional, national and international acclaim. Leading the charge was Eric’s Trip. Formed in the early 90s, the group was an indie rock band and the first Canadian act signed to the venerable Sub Pop record label, the original home of groundbreaking acts like Nirvana and Soundgarden. Although Eric’s Trip’s original journey spanned a relatively short six-year period, from 1990 through 1996, Murray reveals that the individual and collective influence exerted by the members of the group not only predates the band’s existence, but continues to be felt today, more than 20 years after they first split up. While many groups dream of stardom and the nowantiquated notion of getting signed to a record label and “making it big,” Murray’s book reveals how the members of Eric’s Trip were never quite comfortable with the notion of either. Members of the group share how, despite the good luck they found, they eschewed national tours in favour of making lo-fi recordings in the basement.
PHOTO OF AMELIA CURRAN: HEATHER POLLOCK
by Ken Kelley
Murray’s book provides charmingly intimate insight into Moncton’s music scene and how he fit in as a peer and witness to the artistic greatness in his hometown. It could be argued that it was Eric’s Trip’s somewhat unconventional approach to their artistry that helped give rise to a subset of musical artists in the region who might have otherwise gone unnoticed. Newfoundland folk artist Amelia Curran, for example. Her songbook, Relics and Tunes: The Songs Of Amelia Curran, serves as a lyrical presentation of her acclaimed career to date. The book covers the artist’s works since her 2006 album, War Brides, and includes songs from Hunter, Hunter (2009), Spectators (2012), They Promised You Mercy (2014) and her latest studio effort, Watershed, which was released in early March. In total, the book features the lyrics and accompanying guitar chords for more than four dozen songs. A Juno Award and multiple East Coast Music Award-winning songwriter, activist and mental health advocate, Curran has become a critical darling over the course of the last decade, having toured throughout Canada and Europe, bolstered by a sound that has been described as Leonard Cohen meets Patsy Cline. Curran describes her writing process as being like “a dog with a rope, strangling the living daylights out of a chorus.” The most striking features of the result presented in Relics and Tunes are the unexpected and unique word choices and the vivid imagery Curran paints. While her way with words is nothing short of poetic, what is most revealing about Curran’s lyrics is how they stand in stark contrast to the upbeat, traditional shanties that emanated from the region for decades before. ■
Curran has become a critical darling over the course of the last decade, having toured throughout Canada and Europe, bolstered by a sound that has been described as Leonard Cohen meets Patsy Cline.
A Distorted Revolution: How Eric’s Trip Changed Music, Moncton, and Me Jason Murray Nimbus Publishing
Relics and Tunes: The Songs Of Amelia Curran Amelia Curran Breakwater Books
Ken Kelley is a musician and music journalist in Moncton. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
NO ADMISSION REQUIRED
Atlantic Books Today
Shortlists Revealed for the Atlantic Book Awards Nominees showcase a diverse array of talent and theme by Denise Flint
he Atlantic Book Awards were started in 2009 to celebrate the achievements of Atlantic Canadian writers, illustrators and publishers. Books compete in nine categories ranging from scholarly to children’s. Non-fiction topics are as diverse as politics in Newfoundland and feminism in the modern world. Works of fiction range from a story about a girl surviving her family to one about a cop surviving another day. Established in 2015 and named in honour of the celebrated Cape Breton writer, the Alistair MacLeod Award for Short Fiction is a recent category. Amongst this year’s nominees is St. John’s author Chad Pelley for his collection Four-Letter Words. “I feel like short fiction isn’t appreciated as much as it should be and to have an award that recognizes it is great,” says Pelley, speaking of the award’s significance. But it has a personal resonance as well to the author, who once met Alistair MacLeod in an elevator in Toronto and later dined with him. “The first two novels I wrote were really dark and heavy and with this I let myself go and tried some different voices and tones. To have a jury put me on a shortlist was encouraging. I’m happier with this book than anything else I’ve written.” The Dartmouth Book Award for Non-fiction is for a book that has contributed the most to the enjoyment and understanding of Nova Scotia and its people. This year’s nominees include an illustrated narrative history of day-to-day life on Sable Island in the 19th century and an exploration that hypothesizes there was a Chinese settlement on Cape Breton long before Europeans arrived in the new world. The third entry is Graham Reynolds and Wanda Robson’s Viola Desmond’s Canada: A History of Blacks and Racial Segregation in the Promised Land. It’s especially serendipitous that the book came out and was nominated just as Desmond has been selected as the new face of the ten-dollar bill. “When I started the project a few years ago I had a feeling her story would resonate throughout Canada,” says Reynolds, an academic who is writing for a general audience for the first time. “I think it’s a book that should be read. It’s time for all of us to confront the past and in this case begin a dialogue we haven’t had about race, particularly in this day and age. We have not moved
beyond the issue of race and it’s a necessity to begin to discuss the demons of the past. This is one step in that direction.” Histoire de Galet, the story of a teenaged boy in occupied France during the Second World War, is one of three books shortlisted for the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration. “It’s the first time a French book with a francophone publisher has been up there,” says Marie Cadieux from New Brunswick, who wrote the book and works for Bouton d’or Acadie, the book’s publisher. “It’s really exciting. It has a lot of meaning for us.” As for the book itself, Cadieux says: “It has a particular feel and colouring to it … a sort of black-and-white film feeling. François [Dimberton, the illustrator] got into that spirit. Everything is grey and green and khaki. He captured the feel with just pencils and inks.” The Atlantic Book Awards will be presented at a Gala event on May 19 at the Halifax Central Library. For the complete shortlists and winners visit atlanticbookstoday.ca ■ Denise Flint is a freelance journalist who lives just outside of St. John’s. She currently serves as Outgoing President of the Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Four-Letter Words Chad Pelley Breakwater Books
Histoire de Galet Marie Cadieux Bouton d’or Acadie
Viola Desmond’s Canada Graham Reynolds and Wanda Robson Fernwood Publishing
AUTHOR TO AUTHOR Tell me a story with your mouth talkin’: actor/writer/storyteller/director Andy Jones ( Jack and the Green Man) gets to the heart of Sheree Fitch’s (Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things, Polly MacCauley’s Finest, Divinest, Woolliest Gift of All) wonderful wordplay by Andy Jones
Andy Jones: I was trying to picture what your upbringing was like, wondering where your love of poetry, wordplay, silliness, puns, nonsense and alliteration comes from. Sheree Fitch: I came from a house filled with words. But not the usual way. Neither one of my parents had gone to university. My dad was a Mountie, if you can believe it. And when he went to high school he was a bit mischievous. He got detention, and his punishment was to recite poetry!
And he always said it worked Because he ended up being this law abiding, storytelling Mountie. Once he had us kids he had this storehouse of incredible poems! But he was very irreverent and he would perform them Very dramatically … “O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being, Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, Pestilence-stricken multitude”
Sheree Fitch Atlantic Books Today
And of course we were like four years old— So we didn’t know what that meant. But we loved it. We would always say “Dad! Tell us a story with your mouth talkin’!” He was always making up these tragic stories That would get us crying in our rooms, like “The Girl Who Took Stuffed Animals And Threw Them Into The Snow Bank” And we’d say: “No, Daddy get those stuffed animals back in!” My mother would go by the door and say “For God sakes you got those kids crying again.” My mom and dad were great. My mom came from this family of 12, They were the only Acadian family in Sussex, New Brunswick. Imagine. My grandparents taught themselves English. By the time my mother came along she was told: You have to speak English. I think, partly because she lost her language She had this love of words, and she would sing those funny, lyrical, crazy, tongue-twisty poems and songs from the 1940s and 50s. You know, like: “Mares eat oats and does eat oats And little lambs eat ivy A kid’ll eat ivy too wouldn’t you?” You know that one? And: “Abba dabba dabba dabba dabba dabba dabba Said the chimpie to the monk All night long they chattered away. All day long they were happy and gay, Swinging and swaying in a honky, tonky way.” So I would come home from school and hear my mom, On her hands and knees, I swear to God, Waxing the kitchen floor, with those old bumper waxing things, And we would come in and help her by Sliding across the kitchen floor in our socks. And she’d be belting out those tunes!
They did it because they loved to play with their kids. And they loved singing And rhythm And stories. Now, my dad’s parents had been teachers, They had a house full of books. And I can still remember the first book I read alone, It was at my grandmother’s in the oak tree in the front yard. It was AA Milne’s Down at Pooh Corner “The more it snows (Tiddely pom), The more it goes (Tiddely pom), The more it goes (Tiddely pom), On snowing.” I really was a blessed child— And there was this Grade 2 teacher who said We could write poems! And the first poem I ever wrote was “I’m an itchy Fitch And I live in a ditch In a Mulberry ditch And I look like a witch And sometimes I itch” And she put it in the school fair. And I watched people go by and read it And when they read it they smiled, and I felt: Oh my God something I wrote can make somebody happy! It was like I discovered fire! Andy Jones: Are there storytellers who’ve shaped you? Sheree Fitch: I think I was influenced by many stand-up comedians! I think if I could have been anything else in the world I’d be Carol Burnett! Or Cathy Jones! I love to make people smile and laugh. Laughter is juice. Magical juice. And of course there were definitely poets. I loved AA Milne. And Carl Sandberg:
Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things: Children’s Poetry and Verse from Atlantic Canada Edited by Sheree Fitch and Anne Hunt Nimbus Publishing
“DRUM on your drums, batter on your banjoes, sob on the long cool winding saxophones. Go to it, O Jazzmen. Sling your knuckles on the bottoms of the happy tin pans, let your trombones ooze, and go hushahusha-hush with the slipper sand-paper. Moan like an autumn wind high in the lonesome tree-tops, moan soft like you wanted somebody terrible, cry like a racing car slipping away from a motorcycle cop.” That joyous, raucous wordplay! I thought: I want to do that. I want my reader to go where I go when I hear that. It tickles our brain It can lift our hearts It can make us smile. Why? Why does Snickerknickerbox make kids laugh all over the world? Just when I say Snickerknickerbox.
Polly MacCauley’s Finest, Divinest, Woolliest Gift of All Sheree Fitch, illustrated by Darka Erdelji Running the Goat Books and Broadsides
Andy Jones: Do you think all of your works are really monologues meant to be spoken aloud? Sheree Fitch: I think what I do is an oral tradition. It’s always meant to have The sound of the word Coming through a human voice, I still want them lifted from that page and given and offered and shared. Mouth talkin’. And that’s what I’m thinking now. I just turned 60 this year, Andy. But I have a few more things I want to do. I want to perform more And get out there more. I’m opening a little bookshop, Did you know that? Andy Jones: No. Sheree Fitch: Oh God. I’m opening up a little bookshop!
When I read Samuel Beckett, I remember thinking that my head exploded. Some things explode language! And that doesn’t make sense but it makes sense. I went into the land of absurdity And I never really came out again. Wordplay is Something that I can’t seem To not want to do.
Andy Jones: Where?
If I could stay there, Andy, I’d be happiest.
Andy Jones is a Newfoundland children's author, actor, comedian and former member of CODCO.
Sheree Fitch: Way across on a dirt road in Nova Scotia. The first box of books came today… Sheree Fitch’s bookshop is Mable Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery in River John, Nova Scotia. It specializes in Atlantic Canadian books and authors—all genres—and yes, children’s books. The grand opening is July 3.
Atlantic Books Today
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150? Canadaâ€™s sticky, messy history by Margaret Conrad
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PEI Legislature, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, from George Fischer’s Canada: 150 Panoramas.
hat is this place called Canada? The second largest country in the world geographically, it is difficult to grasp the whole. Some peoples and provinces are nations unto themselves and resentment against the dominant centre in outlying regions runs deep. Even agreeing on a founding moment in Canada’s past can be a challenge. While 1867 works quite well for the four original provinces in Confederation (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec), it tends to obscure significant developments before that date and discount other areas of northern North America that have been absorbed into this improbable experiment in empire building. As a result of our different perspectives, not all Canadians feel moved to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial. Indigenous peoples have served notice that they find little to celebrate in 150 years of Ottawa’s rule and the Parti Québécois has made plans to counter Ottawa’s program of “comfort history” with a series of events showcasing “the Other 150” for Quebecers. Together, the books reviewed here, five of them aimed at a broad popular readership and three taking an academic perspective on Confederation, reflect the diverse points of view that lie at the heart of Canada’s complex identity. At the outset, I should acknowledge that I am a co-author of several Canadian history textbooks and have been guilty of some of the errors that caught my
eye in these publications. I will not obsess about such transgressions but, in the interest of historical accuracy, let me point out: the name “Canada” is derived from an Iroquoian, not Algonquin, word for “village”; the French colony on the St. Lawrence was known as Canada, not Quebec; the Acadians were not deported to the French colony of Louisiana, though a great many ended up there; the majority of the Black population in the Maritime Provinces are descendants from immigrants who arrived after the American Revolution and the War of 1812, not by the Underground Railroad in the mid-19th century; there are three Maritime Provinces, not four; representatives from Newfoundland were not present at, or even invited to, the Charlottetown Conference in 1864; the Prairie region may have been acquired peacefully from its corporate owners but certainly not without violence for its Indigenous inhabitants, as the Red River and Northwest uprisings attest; and Canada did not achieve “independence” in 1867—far from it. In the 20th century our political leaders gradually weaned the country from British oversight in such important matters as citizenship, defence, foreign affairs and legal appeals, but it was not until 1982 that Canadians could amend their constitution without an act of the British Parliament. In A Number of Things: Stories of Canada Told Through Fifty Objects, creative writer Jane Urquhart offers thoughtful Atlantic Books Today
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Together, the books reviewed here ... reflect the diverse points of view that lie at the heart of Canada’s complex identity. observations on Canada’s material culture. She fixes not only on obvious symbols such as canoes, cod and the rope that hanged Louis Riel, but also on less iconic items such as bird feeders, Innu tea dolls and LM Montgomery’s figurines of Staffordshire dogs. Instead of using photographs to illustrate the text, she invited Scott McKowen to produce exquisite scratchboard engravings, which give the book a satisfying visual cohesion. Urquhart argues that the lack of certainty about Canadian identity has allowed for multiple points of view and a greater-than-average adaptability, useful tools in the country’s kit box for survival and also for living comfortably with a list of objects, which, as the author readily concedes, could easily have been entirely different. Like Urquhart, historian Charlotte Gray takes a selective approach in The Promise of Canada: 150 Years—People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country, profiling nine Canadians who, she believes, made a difference and together capture the essence of Canada’s evolving identity. She chooses Father of Confederation George-Étienne Cartier and mounted policeman Sam Steele to exemplify Canada’s founding political nationality based on English-French duality, federalism and “peace, order and good government.” Artist Emily Carr and political economist Harold Innis are selected for their contributions to our understanding, artistically and economically, of the impact of the land in shaping the emerging nation. Following the Second World War, Canadians became more politically conscious and committed to social justice as exemplified by Tommy Douglas, Margaret Atwood and Bertha Wilson. This leaves Elijah Harper and Preston Manning to represent the unfinished business relating to First Nations and Western Canada. In the last chapter, Gray focusses on Canada’s current cultural diversity with brief nods to Lise Bissonnette, Douglas Coupland, Shadrach Kabango, Naheed Nenshi and Annette Verschuren. While readers may quibble with Gray’s choices, Looking for Bootstraps: Economic Development in the Maritimes Donald J Savoie Nimbus Publishing
her insightful biographies make good reading and work well as a way of explaining Canada’s trajectory. Only one person in Gray’s volume, businesswoman Annette Verschuren, born in North Sydney, has roots in any of the four Atlantic Provinces. Testimony, if any were needed, to the region’s invisibility in the Confederation enterprise. Happily, place is the framework for George Fischer’s Canada: 150 Panoramas, an unapologetic celebration of Canada’s landscape in stunning colour photographs of, and brief commentaries on, each province and territory. Unless one is keen to see ecological disasters, rural poverty and threatened species, this book is impossible not to like and it should have broad appeal. In 2004, when four out of five Canadians lived in urban centres, 89 percent of the respondents to a national survey felt it was the “overwhelming vastness of the landscape” that defined their country. This book showcases this vastness at its best and sunniest. Yet another way of seeing Canada is through the political satire of Michael de Adder, one of the country’s most admired and prolific cartoonists. Born in Moncton, de Adder cut his artistic teeth while attending Mount Allison University and quickly garnered accolades, among them the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists’ Golden Spike Award in 2006 for the best cartoon killed by an editor. The Halifax Daily News, for which de Adder worked from 2000 to 2008, refused to publish his spoof on Pope Benedict XVI’s election, which showed the white smoke signal from the Vatican chimney in the form of “the finger,” with the caption “Cardinals Send a Message to Moderate Catholics.” In 2016, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton hosted a retrospective of de Adder’s cartoons, curated by his admiring Mount Allison professor Virgil Hammock. The accompanying catalogue Drawing Conclusions: The Political Art of Michael de Adder includes short essays on de Adder, the history of cartooning and a timely reflection on the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. An inspired and courageous cartoonist, de Adder has attracted his share of venom but he continues to take no prisoners, poking fun at Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau with equal enthusiasm. I look forward to de Adder’s contribution to our sesquicentennial, You Might Be From Canada If…, a volume in MacIntyre Purcell Publishing’s “You Might” series. The aforementioned publications are largely upbeat in tone. The same cannot be said for two of the books discussed here: Donald J Savoie’s Looking for Bootstraps: Economic Development in the Maritimes and Raymond B Blake’s Lions or Jellyfish: Rivals for Power: Ottawa and the Provinces—The Contentious History of the Canadian Federation Edward Whitcomb James Lorimer & Company
Lions or Jellyfish: NewfoundlandOttawa Relations since 1957 Raymond B Blake University of Toronto Publishing
STAMP ILLUSTRATED BY SCOTT McKOWEN
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Newfoundland-Ottawa Relations Since 1957. These authors parse the structure of Canadian federalism and find it wanting when it comes to the Atlantic Provinces, whether they joined Confederation in the 19th century or, as was the case for Newfoundland and Labrador, succumbed to the continental drift only in 1949. Donald J Savoie, Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and Governance at the Université de Moncton, has spent most of his adult life trying to solve the problem of Atlantic Canada’s economic underdevelopment. Earlier in his career, he served as senior policy advisor in the Department of Regional Economic Expansion and he was influential in convincing the Brian Mulroney government to establish the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency in 1987. Savoie has written extensively and with brilliance on federalism and regional development. Though offered appointments to prestigious universities in Great Britain and the United States, he has chosen to stay in the Maritimes. “I am a Maritimer to the core,” he claims in his preface. In 2006, Savoie published what he argued was his last book on regional woes, Visiting Grandchildren: Economic Development in the Maritimes, but he is back again, compelled by a sense of urgency in the face of current challenges. Looking for Bootstraps includes a summary of the scholarship on the Maritime condition in Confederation and explores in revealing detail Savoie’s experiences as a consultant to politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa. While he initially had confidence in political solutions to the region’s underdevelopment, he has moved away from this position, arguing that “the local homegrown private sector is our region’s best bet.” To highlight this direction, he dedicates his book to KC Irving, who also made a conscious decision to stay in the region to fulfill his ambitions (at least, it should be noted, until Canada’s tax regime prompted him to take up residence in Bermuda). Coming dangerously close to blaming the victims for their plight, Savoie suggests that Maritimers may well be responsible for failing to find the bootstraps they need, unwilling as they are to support Maritime Union as a means to achieve a better outcome in power struggles with Ottawa and lacking the courage to fight for a reformed Senate that could more effectively address regional needs. I remain unconvinced that Maritime Union, a reformed upper chamber and local capitalist leadership are enough to ensure a brighter tomorrow, but Savoie’s implicit assumption that political solutions can still make a difference is reassuring. Visiting Grandchildren: Economic Development in the Maritimes Donald J Savoie University of Toronto Press
A Number of Things: Stories of Canada Told Through Fifty Objects Jane Urquhart Harper Collins Canada
The focus on these reforms to address the contemporary paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty echoes the situation on the eve of Confederation. Although the Maritime delegates attending the Charlottetown Conference in September 1864 abandoned the idea of regional union, they fought hard a month later in Quebec City for greater representation in the federal parliament. Any demand that the smaller provinces be accorded an equal voice, either in the Senate or in the House of Commons, was a deal breaker for delegates from the Province of Canada, who were determined to dominate the new federation. And this they did. In 1867, their name, their capital, their civil service, their currency and their militia policy were imposed on Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Philip Girard has argued, in one of the fine essays on Confederation published at ActiveHistory.ca, that the Maritimes were in effect “annexed to Canada.” This was in fact the case for much of the rest of the country outside of the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes heartland. The difficulty facing smaller and less wealthy jurisdictions in larger federations and in the world generally is underscored by Newfoundland and Labrador’s experience in Confederation after 1949. Although Canada’s newest province eventually followed the path well-trodden by the Maritimes, its feisty premiers were much less likely than their regional counterparts to take federal fiat lying down. The Promise of Canada: 150 Years – People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country Charlotte Gray Simon and Schuster Canada
Canada: 150 Panoramas George Fischer Nimbus Publishing
Atlantic Books Today
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You Might Be From Canada If… Michael de Adder MacIntyre Purcell Publishing
Historian Raymond B Blake explores the province’s pitched battles with Ottawa, beginning with Joey Smallwood. Smallwood took John Diefenbaker’s government to task for its limited interpretation of Term 29 of the union agreement. Blake follows Smallwood’s path all the way to Danny Williams, who walked out of meetings, lowered Canadian flags and threw hissyfits in order to secure better deals from Paul Martin and Stephen Harper on equalization payments and offshore resource royalties. During negotiations with Ottawa in 2004-05, offers to concede full royalties initially came with strings attached, which bore striking resemblance to the indignities recently suffered by Mediterranean countries in the Eurozone: the new royalty regime would be capped so that Newfoundland and Labrador’s per capita fiscal capacity would not exceed that of Ontario. The smaller province would be required to run a balanced budget. And the agreement would have an eight-year time limit. Other provinces, meanwhile, were hot on the trail of increased transfer payments. Among them was Ontario, which in 2005 quietly received $5.75 billion to address its claim that it paid more than its fair share into the federation. Blake’s analysis of the 1969 Churchill Falls power agreement with Hydro-Québec offers additional evidence to show that bootstraps are difficult to pull when one hand is held in a vice grip. Well-researched and passionately argued, Lions or Jellyfish is essential reading for anyone interested in how the politics of regionalism really works.
As Edward Whitcomb demonstrates in Rivals for Power: Ottawa and the Provinces—The Contentious History of the Canadian Federation, the Atlantic Provinces are not unique in their confrontations with Ottawa. This book provides valuable information on the context in which the policies discussed by Savoie and Blake played out, underscoring the flexibility of what is, by any measure, an unwieldy system of governance. Whitcomb concludes that the Fathers of Confederation got most things right when they laid the foundations for what is now one of the oldest and most successful federations in the world. He is, of course, correct in this assumption. Most nation-states experience uneven internal power relations and Canada is no exception. What might have been discussed in more detail in the academic books reviewed here are the ways in which the Atlantic Provinces influenced federal-provincial relations. Of particular interest to readers of this magazine are the negotiations leading to the Constitution Act, 1982. In a rare moment of creativity, the Atlantic Provinces collaborated with Manitoba and Saskatchewan in entrenching Article 36, which consolidated some of the values informing the regional development policies and welfare state measures put in place since the 1940s. Article 36 enshrines equalization payments, introduced in 1957. It also commits federal and provincial governments to promoting equal opportunities for the wellbeing of Canadians, furthering economic development to reduce disparity in opportunities and providing essential public services of reasonable quality, to all Canadians. It was clear in the 1980s and remains true today that the Atlantic Provinces serve as an embarrassing reminder to the rest of Canada that unfettered market forces often fall short. Since the gap between rich and poor is manifested not only across regions but also in class, ethnic and gender relations, it is important to support an activist state to encourage a better balance in the distribution of the nation’s bounty. Notwithstanding the challenges, Atlantic Canadians are fortunate in 2017 to be part of a country as rich and politically engaged as Canada. It offers security in hard times, opportunities outside of regional boundaries and sometimes within and—in theory at least—subscribes to the values of equal opportunity and social well-being. The interests of poorer jurisdictions inevitably take a back seat to more powerful ones, but Atlantic Canadians could well embark on their own sesquicentennial project, one designed to make faster progress on the goals they helped to enshrine in the Constitution. ■ Margaret Conrad is author of several influential Canadian history books including a leading textbook on Atlantic Canadian history. She is Professor Emerita at the University of New Brunswick. Her take on Confederation is posted at margaretconrad.ca. For more essays and book reviews on Canadian history, visit atlanticbookstoday.ca.
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MI’KMA’KI AT 13,500 Ta’n Weji-sqalia’tiek: from where we sprouted
LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA, REPRODUCTION COPY NUMBER C-122444
by Roger J Lewis
Shubenacadie Grand Lake, 1853–54
s the 2017 celebrations that extol the virtue of Canada’s past, present and future steal upon us, it is imperative that we take a moment to reflect upon and reconcile a 13,500-year history experienced by Mi’kmaq with the notion of Canada 150. Atlantic Books Today
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This narrative attempts to explain the need for reconciliation and serves to provide a chronology of a Mi’kmaq place in Nova Scotia. Jeffers Lennox suggests in Homelands and Empires: Indigenous Spaces, Imperial Fictions, and Competition for Territory in Northeastern North America, 1690–1763 that maps are a tool from which to project historical knowledge, but they also exemplify power and dominance of one culture at the expense of another. Historians have consistently pointed out that the Mi’kmaq occupied well-defined sites year after year but there has been little effort to delineate these sites. In fact, colonial correspondence rarely identified geographical areas occupied by the Mi’kmaq. This responsibility has fallen upon the shoulders of the few pre-contact archaeologists practicing in this province. If history is grounded in chronology and periodization, then the concept of Ta’n Weji-sqalia’tiek: From Where We Sprouted serves to enlighten us about the Mi’kmaq place in history. Dr Bernard Francis, Mi’kmaw linguist and Elder, explains that Ta’n Wejisqalia’teik: From Where We Sprouted expresses a dynamic relationship between Mi’kmaq and their ancestral landscape—a landscape integral to the cultural and spiritual psyche of the people. The Mi’kmaw verb infinitive, weji-sqalia’timk, is a notion deeply engrained within the Mi’kmaw language—a language that grew from the ancient landscape. It expresses the Mi’kmaw understanding of their being rooted here. The Mi’kmaw exclusive form weji-sqalia’tiek means they sprouted from this land much like a plant sprouts from it.
THIS LAND DID NOT LET ME GO As I write this essay, I cannot help but reflect upon the recent loss of a community elder, Virginia Ann “Geno” Knockwood, a cherished matriarch in the community. We remember her not in books, but in our hearts. Winona LaDuke eloquently writes in The Winona LaDuke Chronicles: Stories From The Front Lines In The Battle For Environmental Justice, “I have now more winters behind me than before me. It has been a grand journey. I am grateful for the many miles, rivers, places and people of beauty … this land did not let me go.” Mrs Knockwood also had many winters behind her and enjoyed a splendid journey. She saw her life in the context of the plant that sprouted from this place—Mi’kma’ki. Like Winona LaDuke, she knew that this land and her people’s history did not let her go. Each of us creates our own memory of history. It is important to keep this in mind. There are two horizons of history in Mi’kma’ki; one a 13,500-year Mi’kmaq experience and the other a colonial experience. One is no less or more important than the other. Sparing the reader a prolonged Mi’kmaq pre-contact history lesson, suffice it to say that the people were settled along all 42 principal rivers of Nova Scotia. The earliest evidence of human occupation in Mi’kma’ki can be found at Debert (13,500 years). Blended on the landscape and along its many rivers are a myriad of other Mi’kmaq use-andoccupancy areas, representing a long tenure of human activity
PHOTO: SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY
As Jeffers Lennox notes in Homelands and Empires, Moses Harris’s “porcupine map” of 1749 is dominated by wildlife and imperial symbols, rather than actual geography.
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dating from 13,500 years ago to present, or, from Sagiwe’k L’nuk (Ancient Ones) to Kiskukewe’k L’nuk (Today’s People). The Mi’kmaq were autonomous on these rivers and used multiple plans and strategies that could be extended or modified to exploit multiple resources in a succession of habitats. The attraction was the seasonal and overlapping availability of resources found in each. The reciprocal relationship that existed between them and the environment also influenced how they organized themselves socially, economically and technologically and, from a broader perspective, impacted settlement and mobility patterns. Jeffers Lennox notes that maps and mapmaking reveal much about the politics, personalities and ideas behind their creation, as well as the physical territory they claim to represent. He notes that geographic knowledge, in its broadest sense, informs us of political decisions, influences imperial relations and shapes how we come to understand government, allies and enemies. Before the arrival of the colonialists, maps and artificial boundaries had never defined Mi’kmaq territory. It was defined by geography or physiographic determinants, the most significant being water divides and watersheds, which gave rise to a realistic Mi’kmaq cultural landscape that was more homogenous than variable. All rivers in Nova Scotia are the vehicles through which Mi’kmaw culture and history was and continues to be transmitted. Something as simple as standing along a riverbank, from which you were removed in 1821 to an “Indian Reserve,” still evokes experiences and memories. A cultural landscape is premeditated by a specific group of people and evolves over time. In fact, the cultural landscape may still be evolving. Landscapes derive their character and meaning from human responses. They also contain invaluable information about the histories and character of the people who first used it and were eventually displaced from it.
Daniel Paul: Mi’kmaw Elder Jon Tattrie Pottersfield Press
Canada 150 is not about the Mi’kmaq experience. Our identity was not shaped by Confederation 150 years ago, but rather by Ta’n Weji-sqalia’teik: From Where We Sprouted—13,500 years ago. Cultural landscapes have spiritual associations. Specific landscape features, such as “grandfather and grandmother” rocks, come to mind. These features occur often on a landscape but are invisible to those unfamiliar with them. These are sites where offerings were left to ensure good fortune of travel, harvest and health of the people. The Mi’kmaq established the characteristics of the cultural landscape of Mi’kma’ki 13,500 years ago—long before the arrival of Europeans. It can be seen in the names they used to describe places of importance. The Mi’kmaw language, being descriptive in nature, details activities and events that occurred over the landscape. The language describes places to hunt, fish and gather other resources, as well as places of spiritual significance. Lennox notes that Indigenous homelands existed as lived spaces where they resided, hunted and traded—places through which they travelled and from which they developed a sense of community among and between themselves. He also speaks of a contested landscape. Yes, treaties ended colonial conflicts but they also ignored, as Lennox points out, Mi’kmaq territorial rights and saw to the assertion of imperial authority over the Mi’kmaq and their lands.
The Winona LaDuke Chronicles Winona LaDuke Fernwood Publishing
Homelands and Empires Jeffers Lennox University of Toronto Press
Atlantic Books Today
As a pre-contact archaeologist who just happens to be Mi’kmaq, I have travelled this province’s many rivers, extensively examining the Mi’kmaw cultural landscape. I can appreciate the seven words written by LaDuke, “this land did not let me go,” and Lennox’s assertion of Mi’kmaq homelands as lived spaces. My personal experiences on the landscape evoke emotions. I can think of no better way of expressing that experience than by using this poem entitled: THANK YOU ANCIENT BROTHER MAN As man, today, I greet you ancient brother man and point with gratitude to these artifacts you made in eons past. The signature of man’s slow rise on each and every tool, on each point, and axe. We can sense the human impact still. Who smoked this pipe? Who played this flute? Who used this hoe? Who threw this spear? And was it made for deer or foe? As man today, I kneel upon a mountain circled flat to feel ancient ashes yellow and see a kinship gift for which you have left for me. I grasp within my hand a perfect tool, so long ago chipped carefully from stone and now but for the timing of our fates it might have been my own. I touch with care its edges keen and fine. For once where you once placed your thumb there I now place mine! (Nora Bromley 1973)
c. 1791, watercolour by HN Binney, possibly of current Tufts Cove, Dartmouth, NS. Rivers were and are the “vehicles through which Mi’kmaw culture and history was transmitted.” OPPOSITE PAGE: Winona LaDuke is one of the world’s most tireless and charismatic leaders on issues related to climate change, Indigenous and human rights
“TERRA NULLIUS” If we consider the stories of Daniel Paul and Winona LaDuke, as well as the writing of Jeffers Lennox, are we prepared to ask ourselves a profound question as we move towards Canada 150 celebrations? Considering an acknowledged 13,500-year Mi’kmaq experience on the land, when and how did Mi’kmaq ancestral lands become the property of somebody else? The English “terra nullius” doctrine suggested that Indigenous people were not settled. It supposed where Indigenous people did not cultivate the land and neither did they parcel it up, it followed that the lands were empty. The Supreme Court of Canada stated that the terra nullius doctrine (that no one owned the land prior to European assertion of sovereignty) never applied in Canada, as confirmed by the Royal Proclamation of 1763. To add to this conversation, Wilbur Zelinsky (1921-2013), a cultural geographer, proposed the “Doctrine of Effective Settlement,” which essentially declared that the first ethnic group to sustain a viable self-perpetuating settlement in an area established the characteristics of that landscape. If we embrace these types of assumptions, a pattern unfolds. The concept of Ta’n Weji-sqalia’tiek: From Where We Sprouted serves to enlighten us of the Mi’kmaq place in history. What we know of the Mi’kmaq today is to a great degree constructed, shaped and guided by the notion of colonialism. The forerunner to colonial Indian policy in Mi’kma’ki arises from the fall of Port Royal in 1710. As Lennox suggests, the task of establishing the boundaries of a British colonial Nova Scotia, which up to that point did not exist, began in earnest. Early Peace and Friendship Treaties (1726, 1752, 1760/61) signed between the British and the Mi’kmaq nations are indicative of the level of influence the Mi’kmaq retained over their lands. However, as LFS Upton wrote in 1975, by the year 1783 the Mi’kmaq were no longer to be courted or feared. David McNab would later argue that 19th-century Indian policy served to “insulate” the Mi’kmaq and confine them to reserves established in Nova Scotia as early as 1821. By 1841, McNab points out, “Indian Policy” was more regional in practice but firmly established four alternatives to the “Native question” including extermination, slavery, insulation and amalgamation. By 1844, Moses Perley, Superintendent of Indian Affairs of New Brunswick, was successful in passing an Indian Act in this region. This, McNab points out, turned out to be a colossal failure. After 1867, the responsibility for First Nations was delegated to the Dominion government, pushing the Mi’kmaq further into a state of destitution. In 1873, Native peoples in this country had to deal with a national Indian policy—the Indian Act, as we know it today. That period from the late 18th century onward has been an incessant struggle for the Mi’kmaq. Frustrated by their conditions and encroachments upon their limited land base, the
COURTESY OF THE NOVA SCOTIA MUSEUM, ETHNOLOGY COLLECTION
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Mi’kmaq petitioned regularly to the colonial office in Halifax and Whitehall in London, but with little promise of resolution: To His Excellency John Harvey, K.C.R. and K.H.H., Lieut. Governor of Nova Scotia: The Petition of the undersigned Chiefs and Captains of the Micmac Indians of Nova Scotia, for and on behalf of themselves and their tribe humbly showeth: That a long time ago our fathers owned and occupied all the lands now called Nova Scotia, our people lived upon the sides of the rivers and were a great many … tired of a war that destroyed many of our people, almost ninety years ago, our Chief made peace and buried the hatchet forever. When that peace was made, the English Governor promised us protection, as much land as we wanted, and the preservation of our fisheries and game. These we now very much want … before the white people came, we had plenty of wild roots, plenty of fish, and plenty of corn … the skins of the Moose and Carriboo were warm to our bodies, we had plenty of good land, we worshipped “Kesoult” the Great Spirit … be not offended at what we say … but your people had not land enough, they came and killed many of our tribe and took from us our country … you have taken from us our lands and trees and have destroyed our game … you scare away the fish … you have made dams across the rivers so that the Salmon cannot go up, and your laws will not permit us to spear them … in old times our wigwams stood in the pleasant places along the sides of the rivers … these places are now taken from us … we have never been in a worse condition than now … our old people and young children cannot live … where shall we go, what shall we do? We will ask our Mother the Queen to help us … we beg your Excellency to help us in our distress …, and help us that we may at last be able to help ourselves. (Translated and written for us by our Mal-waa-laa-weet and Commissioner [Abraham Gesner] at Chebucto, the 8th day of February 1840. Pelancea Paul [François Paul], his mark A CROSS [Chief at Shubenacadie] Colum Paul [Goreham Paul], his mark A PIPE [Captain at Shubenacadie] Piel Toney [Pierre Antoine], his mark THE SUN Louis Paul, his mark A HEART Cobliel Bonus [Gabriel Bonis], his mark A TREE Saagaach Meuse [ James Mius], his mark AN ARROW [Chief at Bear River] Louis Luxie [Louis Alexis], his mark THE MOON [Chief at Yarmouth?] Sabatier Paul [Xavier? Paul], his mark A CANOE Piel Morris [Pierre Maurice], his mark A PADDLE Pelancea Paul [François Paul], his mark A SPEAR
HISTORICAL AMNESIA Jeffers Lennox alludes to it but Daniel Paul and Winona LaDuke speak more openly of what is called “historical amnesia.” Author and professor of social policy John Clarke, in his 2012 paper, “Historical Amnesia: Linking Past, Present and Future in Politics and Policy,” explores problems associated with historical amnesia. He states there is an intrinsic problem tied to forgetting our past and ultimately how knowledge and history is produced. He notes the value in and lessons to be learned from our past. History can be ugly and unpleasant but it educates us. Clarke also notes that it does not serve us well to surrender the past to glorify the present. Canada 150 is not about the Mi’kmaq experience. Our identity was not shaped by Confederation 150 years ago, but rather by Ta’n Weji-sqalia’teik: From Where We Sprouted—13,500 years ago. Alfred Taiaiake and Jeff Corntassel, in their 2005 article “Being Indigenous: Resurgences against Contemporary Colonialism,” point out that we are indigenous to this land and there are challenges in being Indigenous today. The dilemma faced by Mi’kmaq people and likely all Indigenous peoples in Canada today is that we still live within the constraints of a more modern form of colonialism. The new buzzwords in the 2017 academic world are “Indigenization” and “decolonization.” Yes, there has to be a shift in how we think of Indigenous people in this country. But we as Mi’kmaq people have to reconstruct our own past, our being and our presence on this land, on our own terms and from our own perspective. As Taiaiake and Corntassel suggest, that is the only way we can make sense of the historical conundrum that most people would prefer to push under a rug. One would hope we have matured enough, in 150 years as a country, to share timeless bonds of a common history. ■ Roger J Lewis is a Mi'kmaq historian and research archaeologist, a Curator of Ethnology with the Nova Scotia Museum and a member of the Indian Brook Mi'kmaq First Nations community. He specializes in pre-contact Mi’kmaq land and resource use.
Atlantic Books Today
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An Overdue Look At Labrador Inuit Art The unique and diverse visual culture that has only recently been recognized as Inuit by Ray Cronin
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n the art world, it can often seem that every possible avenue of expression has been explored and studied to the point where there really is nothing new under the sun. In exhibition after exhibition, curators re-present the known and re-examine the over-examined. Often this is a result of audience demand—people want to see Impressionist paintings, Abstract Expressionism or Pop Art. They want the familiar re-packaged to make it palatable. As a result, exhibition seasons can seem to be the eternal return of the same. It is refreshing, then, to be presented with something that is truly a first—a book (and exhibition) that presents an aspect of visual culture to wider Canadian audiences that has never been presented before. SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut, an exhibition organized by the Rooms Provincial Art Gallery in Newfoundland, brings together the work of 47 Inuit artists from Nunatsiavut, the self-governing Inuit region of Labrador. This work represents the visual culture of the most southerndwelling Inuit peoples in the world, a culture that has developed on the coast of Labrador and that has long had interactions with European culture, from the Vikings to Moravian missionaries. As a result, the visual culture is more hybrid than that of their northwesterly cousins and uses a wider variety of materials, such as wood and grasses not found above the tree line. It is only recently that the work of artists from this region has been recognized as Inuit. When Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, the provincial and federal governments could not agree on which level of government was to be responsible for the Indigenous peoples in the new province. While this dispute played out in the ensuing decades, Canadian Inuit art became a world-recognized phenomenon. But artists and artisans in Labrador were not recognized as being part of this “brand.” As Heather Igloliorte points out in her excellent introductory essay, the artists were not only unrecognized and unsupported, they often were accused of being inauthentic—of faking their own culture. It wasn’t until 1990 that the Labrador Inuit were permitted to use the “Igloo” brand on their work, belatedly certifying it as authentic Inuit art. Despite this, the people of Nunatsiavut continued to make art and craft and did so at the highest levels. Whether they were making useful day-to-day items such as boots, mitts or parkas or working in the more traditional fine arts of drawing, carving, painting and printmaking, these artists have made a unique contribution to Canadian visual art. The book is divided into four sections, each one looking at a distinct generation of Nunatsiavut artists: Elders, Trailblazers, Opposite page: MICHELLE BAIKIE The Hunter, 1998 digital photograph on paper
MICHAEL MASSIE Grandfather I Have Something to Tell You, 2004 anhydrite, bone, bird’s-eye maple, mahogany, ebony
SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut Heather Igloliorte (with contributions from Jenna Joyce Broomfield, Aimee Chaulk, Christine Lalonde and Barry Pottle) Goose Lane Editions / The Rooms Corporation
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GILBERT HAY Inuksuk, 1981 lithograph
BILLY GAUTHIER Song from the Spirit World, n.d. caribou, moose antler, serpentinite
Fire Keepers and The Next Generation. The sections are introduced by one of the contributing writers, who are curators, artists and arts administrators, all with much experience in the world of visual arts and crafts. While there ends up being some repetition in these introductory essays, the collective weight of the texts serves to provide useful context for each section of colour plates. And it is the colour plates that are the heart of this book. Each artist is featured in at least two pages, often more, with one fullpage illustration and a biography page with smaller images. In each of the four sections the reader is introduced to artists from all over the region, presented alphabetically. In the first section, Inutukait/Elders, Jenna Joyce Broomfield, an Inuk throat singer and educator from North West River, presents a selection of the works of the community’s Elders, the people who embodied the traditions brought forward by the other three generations represented in the book and show. Approximately two-thirds of the 15 artists represented in this section have passed away. All of them were active in making art and craft in such a way as to influence the younger generations that followed. The next generation, AkKusiuttet or Trailblazers, is represented by artists in their 50s and 60s and it is in this generation that we see carving, printmaking and other more familiar forms of Inuit art appear. A few of these artists have achieved significant recognition in their careers, including the jeweller Michael Massie and the sculptor and printmaker Gilbert Hay. As Aimee Chaulk, editor of Labrador’s Them Days magazine, explains in her essay,
many of these artists left Labrador to study art in the south and returned to help further the cultural development of Nunatsiavut. The artists that were the students of this generation are grouped under the heading Ikualattisijet/Fire Keepers. With an introductory essay written by National Gallery of Canada curator Christine Lalonde, this section features artists who have lived and worked within the context of the larger market for Inuit art, and the debates of the 1990s about what made Inuit art “authentic.” The final section, made up primarily of emerging artists, is called Kingullet Kinguvâtsait or The Next Generation. These artists, many of whom have attended art schools in the south and currently live outside of Labrador, show the way that traditional forms have been adapted by succeeding generations to address their creative concerns. Photography, painting, film and video and fashion outnumber the traditional crafts of basket making or the art of carving. Whatever media these young artists use, their respect for and awareness of the roots of their traditions are
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Fifty years of Canadian art history is lumped under “The Group of Seven” … a story that is endlessly retold, despite all of the other artists and arts communities that were active at the same time. apparent. Barry Pottle, an educator, artist and administrator (one of the generation of Fire Keepers) provides a succinct introduction that talks about the challenges facing young Inuit artists and the efforts they and their communities make to keep their cultural traditions vibrant and relevant in changing times. What emerges from SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut is a portrait of a community within which self-reliance, a respect for tradition and a willingness to push back against preconceptions are all valued and pursued. This book is an invaluable resource to anyone interested in art in Canada. Canada tends to write history from the centre. Adding an Atlantic accent to our national history is a constant battle. Fifty years of Canadian art history is lumped under “The Group of Seven,” for instance, a story that is endlessly retold, despite all of the other artists and arts communities that were active at the same time. One of the most fascinating things about SakKijâjuk is learning that the same centralizing impulse was at operation in the history of Inuit art. Thankfully, with this beautifully produced book, that history is being expanded. The art and craft of Nunatsiavut is taking its proper place in the conversation. ■ Ray Cronin is a senior arts professional with more than 25 years’ experience in multiple aspects of museums and creative industries. Most recently the CEO of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Cronin led that institution for seven years. MICHAEL MASSIE Untitled (Homage to Kenojuak) (detail), ca. 1980 lithograph collage on paper
Atlantic Books Today
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Gerald Squires, Newfoundlandâ€™s Artist He was like a character from an epic poem, an origin myth of his own creation by Ray Cronin
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erald Squires (1937-2015) was a Newfoundland painter, a title that describes both his culture and his practice: a Newfoundlander who painted pictures, a painter who painted Newfoundland. His long career is the subject of a new book by Stan Dragland, a friend who undertook this project at the request of Squires’ estate. That Squires, a passionate advocate for all things Newfoundland—and an inveterate critic of “come-from-aways” being brought in as experts to tell Newfoundlanders about themselves—chose as his biographer a writer and editor who retired from Ontario to Newfoundland in 1999, is the first of the many complexities revealed by the book. Dragland ably conveys Squires’ awareness of his contradictory stances towards the culture of the rest of Canada, and, in fact, of the rest of the world. Gerald Squires, which I read in an advance copy, promises to be a mammoth book, 240 pages in my electronic version, with dozens of images of the late artist’s work, from his earliest pieces to the last he made before his death in 2015. The portrait that emerges is of an artist with a strong sense of mission, someone willing to endure material hardships and to work as hard as circumstances demanded to make a go of it as an artist where he chose to live—Newfoundland. Squires believed strongly in his community and was a constant booster of cultural activities of all sorts. A fervent Newfoundland nationalist, at least in his younger years, he nonetheless befriended many artists and writers who had moved to Newfoundland from across Canada, the United States and Europe. Squires was born in Newfoundland but raised in Ontario, where his parents moved seeking work. His first art training was there and for a short time he attended the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. It was in Toronto that he had his first success as an artist, showing with some acclaim at a commercial gallery in the early 1960s. Eventually working full time as a commercial artist for the Toronto Telegram, Squires seemed set in Toronto. However, a sixmonth sojourn on his birthplace, Exploits Island, a painting trip he wrote about for his paper, put paid to any chance of Squires remaining in Ontario. Within a few years, he had moved his young family to an old lighthouse at Ferry Landing, returning home to stay. Those early years are well conveyed in Dragland’s book, which is made all the richer by full access to Squires’ papers. He was a prolific writer of his ideas and thoughts, even his dreams, in sketchbooks and on loose sheets of paper he called “table scraps.” Once settled, Squires became one of the loudest voices in support of the art and artists from Newfoundland, which rightly views itself as a distinct society. One of the strongest facets of this book is the way Dragland conveys Squires’ acerbic, often bitter battles about local culture with a balanced, albeit loving, approach. The biographer has the advantage of hindsight and a first-hand knowledge of the mellowing effect age and success had on the artist. Not that Squires ever rested on his laurels. He was ambitious for recognition as a Newfoundland artist at home and beyond Newfoundland as well.
TOP OF PAGE: Down at Red Indian Lake ABOVE: Wetland OPPOSITE PAGE: The Sentinel Works by Gerald Squires, used with permission from Pedlar Press.
This is one of the pitfalls of all regionalisms, of course. Local success goes only so far—there is always a desire to be recognized beyond one’s home, to test oneself against the best that the world has to offer. Squires, beloved and famous at home, never did achieve the national or international recognition he thought he deserved. The world, after all, rarely comes to us; we must go to it. The kind of recognition most artists crave tends to be found in the centres of the art world. An artist stubbornly, joyfully and productively ensconced in Ferry Landing, Newfoundland, was unlikely to attract the attention of critics and collectors from the larger world. Isolation, of course, does not mean irrelevance. Dragland writes of the constant tensions at play in any regional art. There is no sense, however, that Squires’ was a career of missed opportunities. Quite the contrary, based on the work illustrated in the book from his time in Toronto, it is safe to say that Newfoundland made his career. His work is unabashedly and Atlantic Books Today
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unashamedly local. He strove, in a career spanning four decades, to convey the essence of Newfoundland to himself and to his fellow Newfoundlanders. Stan Dragland’s essay is broken up into several sections that look exhaustively at aspects of Squires’ long career. In sections with titles such as “Duende,” “Poetry” and “Vision,” he dives deep into Squires’ work and writings, situating the art in the long conversation of western art history. Dragland does not take a critical approach; he does not step back to assess the work of Gerald Squires. He is much more like a guide taking us on a journey through the life and work of this remarkable character, conveying the wit, passion and commitment of the artist with directness and sympathy. Squires comes across as a figure from epic poetry, a character from an origin myth. Dragland considers Squires a great artist and he makes his case with compelling candour and exhaustive research. While this book can seem very long, it is leavened by the humour and selfawareness of Squires’ own words. That tone of honesty is one that Dragland sets and maintains throughout the book.
Squires, beloved and famous at home, never did achieve the national or international recognition he thought he deserved. The world, after all, rarely comes to us; we must go to it.
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The book also features a piece of writing by the novelist Michael Crummey, three short word portraits that succinctly present a picture of living, breathing Gerald Squires, an admired friend and esteemed colleague. Throughout Gerald Squires, the reader is treated to a layered and complex picture of an artist who is presented almost as an embodiment of the aspirations, the success and excesses of the Newfoundland arts community. This is the kind of book that can only come out of a local culture that is confident and aware of its strengths and weaknesses. While it is unlikely that this is the book that will make Gerald Squires a household name in Canada (how many artists are household names in this country anyway?), Stan Dragland makes clear why Gerald Squires is a household name in Newfoundland. In so doing he made this reader, at least, envious of the culture that created, and was created by, such an artist. â–
ABOVE: Spirit of the Beothuk OPPOSITE PAGE: Mary of the Barrens Works by Gerald Squires, used with permission from Pedlar Press.
Gerald Squires Stan Dragland (With an Appreciation by Michael Crummey) Pedlar Press
Ray Cronin is a senior arts professional with more than 25 yearsâ€™ experience in multiple aspects of museums and creative industries. Most recently the CEO of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Cronin led that institution for seven years.
Atlantic Books Today
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Big Lessons from a Small School The little Halifax school that could by Paul W Bennett
Every second year, older middle schoolers of the Halifax Independent School participate in an exchange with a Francophone school.
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ne of the most popular children’s books of all time is the 1930 Platt & Munk classic, The Little Engine That Could. The mantra of that Little Blue Engine, “I think I can,” also conveys a child-like buoyant optimism in the face of life’s obstacles. Almost 90 years—and a short 1991 video—later, the story also carries an alluring message about the power of small initiatives to drive much bigger things. Halifax schoolteacher Molly Hurd’s new book, Best School in the World, a personal testament to her own life’s work at the Halifax Independent School (HIS), conveys much of the unbridled optimism found in that legendary children’s book. After more than 20 years teaching at and then heading the school, the author is bursting to share one of Canadian education’s better kept secrets. That is, the story of how students, teachers and parents, working together, built a model “progressive education” school worthy of emulation elsewhere across Canada. Like most Atlantic Canadian independent schools, HIS still flies under the radar after 45 years of existence in a public education world. Originally a truly experimental elementary school housed at Dalhousie University, it is today a thriving, fully independent private school affiliated with the Atlantic Conference of Independent Schools. With its explicit progressive, child-centred and caring program focus, the inside story of HIS is sure to shatter widespread and poorly founded stereotypes about starched-shirt and plaid-skirt private schools. Hurd is a well-read and thoroughly informed career educator with an unabashed commitment to so-called educational progressivism. When she arrived at the Dalhousie University School in 1992, she writes, “my education about education truly started.” She was completely swept up in Dalhousie Education School professor Ruth Gamberg’s exciting foray into “Theme Studies” in the classroom. Over two decades at the school, Hurd watched, year after year, “refugees” from the Halifax Regional School Board system
Education progressives like author Molly Hurd tend to decry all forms of standardized student assessment and idealize the Finnish education system.
Best School in the World: How Students, Teachers and Parents Have Created a Model that Can Transform Canada’s Public Schools Molly Hurd Formac Publishing
BELOW LEFT: Drumming group at the spring music concert BELOW RIGHT: Serving ice cream at la Crémèrie
Atlantic Books Today
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Making papier mâché to create props for the school play
What if the end to racism started right here in Atlantic Canada? Redemption Songs How Bob Marley’s Nova Scotia Song Lights the Way Past Racism
by Jon Tattrie Pottersfield Press www.pottersfieldpress.com 978-1-897426-87-6 $21.95
The Ultimate Father’s Day Gift The Nova Scotia Book of Fathers New for 2017 from Pottersfield Press Edited by Lesley Choyce & Julia Swan Includes Anne Murray, Frank Cameron, Lenore Zann, Daniel Paul, Alexander MacLeod, & 15 more Nova Scotia authors.
not only “fit right in” but also “thrive” in a truly “progressive” school. Tuition fees at Halifax Independent remained roughly equal to the cost per student in the public system, so she saw “no reason why the public schools couldn’t provide this kind of holistic, childcentred education.” It rankled her that the public system seemed to be moving in a completely opposite direction by becoming more centrally controlled, bureaucratic and test-driven in its school-level delivery of services. Hurd’s school history gives relatively short shrift to the school’s fascinating origins. It was actually founded by the Dalhousie School of Education in 1992 as a “laboratory elementary school” to serve as a site for its elementary teacher training program. With about 30 students aged 5 to 11, the school employed one teacher and two parttimers and offered a unique “themebased” curriculum that attempted to model “student-centred learning.” Prior to Hurd’s arrival, during the 1980s under Gamberg and B Anne Wood, the school expanded, changed its name to Dalhousie University Elementary School and promoted its more formalized “Thematic Approach” to primary education. It lasted as a Dalhousie lab school until 1992, when the province began consolidating the teacher education faculties. At that point, active and engaged parents struck out on their own, converted it into the Dalhousie Co-operative School, then the HIS. Former school head Molly Hurd is thoroughly versed in the “Thematic Studies” philosophy, which has now morphed into what is termed “integrated inquiry teaching.” She is at her best explaining, in considerable detail, how HIS exemplifies best practice in “progressive education.” Reviewing her chapters on integrated literacy, “hands-on” mathematics, creative arts, second-language learning, whole child socio-emotional learning and authentic student assessment, one is struck by how much it conforms with
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the core ideas espoused by the great American progressive educator John Dewey. The HIS philosophy remains fairly consistent with that implemented by Dewey (and his wife) between 1894 and 1904 at his own creation, the University of Chicago Laboratory School. It also finds echoes in the recent wildly-popular TED Talks on schools and creativity by the Britishborn education guru, Sir Ken Robinson. As an experienced educator, Hurd speaks with considerable authority on the critical importance of teacher autonomy, trust and a school culture of collaboration. With its relatively small size, Halifax Independent enjoys great advantages and, unlike some schools, takes full advantage of it with individualized, project-based learning. Instead of being slaves to provincial curriculum mandates, teachers there are remarkably free to design and deliver their own customized teaching units. Hurd’s Best School in the World exhibits an idealism that is admirable, particularly after all those years of teaching. Her pride in the school is understandable, but may lead to seeing the school world through rose-coloured glasses. Teachers at the school are reportedly happy, so teacher autonomy must mean more to them than salary levels. Tuition fees are reasonably low at Halifax Independent for one reason not referenced in the book: the low teacher salaries. It would be extremely rare, as well, if engaged parents in such a parent-run, independent school, did not, on occasion, overstep their bounds and interfere with what goes on in the classroom. Hurd’s time at HIS coincided with a major shift in the focus of the public education system. From 1992 to the near present, globalization and its educational stepchildren, student testing and public accountability, were on the ascendency. Hurd saw her school as a bulwark against the worst excesses of what is labelled by critics as the GERM (Global Education Reform Movement).
Teaching students that the author describes as “fallout” from the public system provides a unique vantage point from which to assess the state of education. Education progressives like Hurd tend to decry all forms of standardized student assessment and idealize the Finnish education system. Since students in Finland topped the 2006 Program of International Student Assessment tests 10 years ago it has been fashionable in Canada to latch onto that model. In some respects HIS does exemplify best practice found in Finland’s peruskoulu schools, providing the first nine years of education in one building. With its selective admission, it may actually outperform the Finnish schools. The irony, of course, is we will never know definitively without administering those much dreaded standardized student assessments of 15-year-olds. Small schools like Halifax Independent deserve the kind of exposure and attention found in Hurd’s personal testament. When students regularly proclaim that HIS is the “best school in the world!” it is worthy of further investigation, particularly in Nova Scotia education, where few make outsized claims. Small schools are often safe spaces where big ideas are planted and grow to fruition. In the wake of a prolonged 18-month Nova Scotia teacher contract dispute, a divisive 3-month work-to-rule and provincial back-to-work legislation, the timing is right for a book about an alternative to the current data-driven model of public education. For the first time in two decades, the pendulum may be moving back in the direction of the very model trumpeted in Hurd’s Best School in the World. ■ Paul W Bennett is a Halifax author, education policy researcher and former school head. One of his recent books, The Grammar School: Striving for Excellence in a Public School World, also reconstructed the story of an Atlantic Canadian independent school.
New Books from New World Publishing Late Fall 2016 – Summer 2017
CANADA 150 BOOK
From 14thColony to Confederation 1749-1867 A. D. Boutilier- 9781895814668
- 19.95 Social history of colonial Nova Scotia (all Maritimes plus Maine in 1750 - 80s) – role of each Governor and the wealthy elite to bring prosperity to the colony (& themselves) and later through alliances, wars,larger-thanlife personalities, to sponsor unions (Maritime, Canada): humorous, poignant, analytical, political. Informative/educational – optional e-book
THREE WALKING TOURS
Historic Halifax Streetscapes Then and Now, v.1 - Barbara DeLory – 9781895814514 –14.95 126 colour photos, maps . . . tours of downtown Halifax: Barrington, Hollis, Argyle, Parade Square, Spring Garden Rd., South Park to Bell . Architecture, history, redevelopment. Impress your friends with your knowledge! Optional/identical e-book.
Oak Island Unearthed, 3rd Edition 9781895814583-John O. O’Brien -22.50 Launched world-wide May 2017: International Editions: new chapters, new shafts! 1000 year-old mysteries: new Foreword, website; Aztec & Maya civilzations; updated theory, new photos. Watch author onTV series. e-Pub3
TRIPLE AWARD WINNER
Scapegoat, 100th Anniversary Edition, Joel Zemel - 9781895814620 – 34.95 Definitive, compelling - first 2017 book on the Halifax Explosion: explore legal aftermath, 3 scapegoats, new chapters + 220 photos; ships in harbour, RCN College; . . . explosion timeline. Noted & indexed.
Atlantic Books Today
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An Insider’s Story of Canadian Prisons Robert Clark takes on a “culture of collective indifference” around incarceration by Greg Marquis
Down Inside: Thirty Years in Canada’s Prison Service Robert Clark Goose Lane Editions
riting on Canada’s prison system tends to fall into three categories: academic works in criminology or sociology (based on theoretical literature, interviews and the results of public inquiries and investigations), more popular works by journalists and freelance writers, and autobiographical efforts such as the classic Go-Boy! by the late Roger Caron, originally published in the 1970s. Caron was not a guard but a repeat criminal. Academics, whose work contributes to tenure and promotion and in part is designed to attract research grants, tend to write for other academics, although their books can have an impact on policy-makers. Writing by journalists and freelance authors can veer towards sensationalism, focussing on the dramatic, feeding or reinforcing public stereotypes that prisons are violent, drugridden and controlled by gangs. Given the size of the system and the fact that it holds inmates sentenced to two years or more for crimes like murder, most authors have focussed on federal corrections. Down Inside: Thirty Years in Canada’s Prison Service is an insider’s account of three decades spent working in federal corrections. Robert Clark has produced an informative and well-written book that is a barometer of Canadian corrections from 1980 until 2009, when he retired, disillusioned with what he calls “a culture of collective indifference.” Clark’s first experience of being “down inside” was at the Millhaven Institution at Bath, Ontario, when he was a student at Queen’s University. The Toronto-born Clark was an education student who needed to find a volunteer service credit. He chose the maximum-security facility a few miles west of Kingston, where he played hockey with hardened offenders and hung out in the gym and weight training area. Early on, Clark learned that if you treat inmates with respect and compassion, they will usually return the favour. Clark’s account is never judgmental of even the worst offenders, although he admits that his long-established faith in rehabilitation was shaken by taking part in parole hearings where victims or their families confronted perpetrators of murder and sexual abuse.
He is more critical of certain political and institutional agendas that have shaped the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). For example, there is the “blue wall” mentality of many correctional officers and managers that makes them reluctant to address wrongdoing by staff. And the internal dynamics of many prisons is such that following all rules and bureaucratic procedures creates a lot of work. Human nature prefers to resist and cut corners. In addition to offering analysis, Clark entertains with an array of interesting characters, including career “cons” with whom the author shared a bond, an overly cautious and perpetually worried manager nicknamed “Dr Doom” and a young escapee who was shocked that Clark personally called his mother when he was on the lam–a call that appears to have contributed to the prisoner turning himself in. Although he discusses serious issues such as violence, drugs and suicide, the author avoids sensationalism and provides a detailed account of how maximum-, medium- and minimum-security institutions really work. Clark’s last position before retiring was deputy warden of the Regional Treatment Centre, a mental-health facility located inside Kingston Penitentiary, where many of the inmates had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. As Clark notes, many federal inmates have mental-health challenges, a situation compounded by the confining environment of prison. Most of these prisoners go untreated, contributing to long-term problems for not only themselves but also society in general. And the keepers can also be affected by conditions “down inside.” Working in corrections at any level can be stressful and hard on personal relationships. In the author’s opinion, there were plenty of reasons for those working in the system to be optimistic in the 80s and 90s, when there was a genuine interest in rehabilitation. Things began to change with the election of the Harper Conservatives and their tough-on-crime agenda. Clark, like many in the know, predicted that when applied to corrections these policies would actually increase recidivism by ex-offenders. And he was particularly puzzled at how quickly CSC management, who had built their careers on the rehabilitation agenda, embraced “an abrupt and wrong turn in correctional philosophy.” Overall, this is a critical, but fair and compassionate insider’s view of a relatively unknown sector of our society. ■ Greg Marquis is a professor at the University of New Brunswick Saint John, where he teaches courses on Canadian and criminal justice history. He is the author of four books including Truth & Honour: The Death of Richard Oland and The Trial of Dennis Oland and The Vigilant Eye: Policing Canada from 1867 to 9/11.
Gâteau à la mélase/molasses cake Visit atlanticbookstoday.ca for recipes and food reviews.
Magnifique Morsels PHOTO: NOAH FECKS
A culinary road trip through New Brunswick and Acadie
his is a magazine not only about books, but about local. We want Atlantic Canadians to take interest and pride in their literary works, their intellectual analyses. In this summer season, we urge you to hit a local beach with a paperback by a local writer and perhaps a local brew. But, please, mes amis s’il vous plaît, let’s not forget the only acceptable sin: food!
Thanks to community-supported agriculture programs and farmers’ markets, locally produced ingredients are getting easier to find. And Atlantic Books Today is happy to provide some locally produced recipes, here and at our website, atlanticbookstoday.ca. Here we’ve got you covered for an authentic Acadian savoury dish and a special New Brunswick sweet. Our thanks to authors Simon Thibault and Karen Powell for their kind culinary contributions. Atlantic Books Today
Thibault Feeds the Palate and Heart by Karl Wells
these sleuthing adventures. The author’s curiosity is infectious. Most dishes will be familiar to Atlantic Canadian cooks: pickled beets, boudin noir (blood sausage), meat pies and molasses cookies. Others employ unusual ingredients, like tamarind from the tropics, along with explanations of how and why such things became ingredients in Acadian recipes. Thibault displays a predilection for classic techniques that might be thought too labour-intensive today. Yet, how to render leaf lard, making head cheese from a pig’s head and other traditional methods, used through generations, are some of the most interesting parts of Pantry and Palate. Even if pig heads aren’t that easy to come by nowadays. (At least, they aren’t in my neighbourhood.) Heartwarming admiration and deference is shown frequently towards mothers and grandmothers in Pantry and Palate. Thibault understands that without their dedication, ingenuity and skill, it’s doubtful Acadian cooking would have become the varied and delicious cuisine celebrated in this fine collection of recipes and stories. ■
Pantry and Palate Simon Thibault Nimbus Publishing
FRING FRANGS/ POTATO PANCAKES Serves 2–3
6 large potatoes
1 tablespoon flour
butter * 3 tablespoons minced onion, or ½ tablespoon salted onions (optional) salt and pepper to taste * Use as little or as much as you would like. 1. Grate potatoes using the largest holes in your grater. 2. Remove the excess liquid and starch by placing the grated potatoes into a muslin bag or kitchen towel. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 3. Place the potatoes into a large bowl, and sprinkle in the flour. (If you’re adding onions, this is where you do so.) Mix it in by hand, so that you can feel when all the potatoes have been well covered with the flour. 4. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Using your hands, fashion pancakes that are about ¼ inch thick, and about 2–3 inches wide. Add butter to your skillet, and fry the pancakes in it. 5. Once the ends have turned golden brown, flip the pancakes over and cook for another minute or so. 6. Serve immediately with pickles, more butter or whatever suits your fancy. Keep any extras hot in a warm oven.
PHOTO: NOAH FECKS
PANTRY AND PALATE IS MORE than a cookbook. It’s a story. A story thoughtfully told through prose and recipes. Author Simon Thibault’s painstaking interpretation of decades of ink-smudged, handwritten family notes and imprecise formulas reveals the unique essence of Acadian cuisine. Unique, because it was largely shaped by 18th-century French culture, the imagination of a maritime people and ingredients of the Maritimes. Although the book contains fewer than 50 recipes, each has been lovingly excavated like the individual fragments of a shattered, ancient serving bowl and reconstructed or reinvented thanks, in large part, to Thibault’s intuition and culinary knowledge. Each recipe is easy to follow and understand. Thibault is nothing if not passionate about his subject. Like a culinary Sherlock, he appears dogged in his pursuit of answers to perplexing questions of how and why. I enjoyed being taken along on
Powell’s Culinary New Brunswick Roadmap by Karl Wells
Flavours of New Brunswick Karen Powell Nimbus Publishing
AS A CHILD, I MADE SUMMER visits to rural New Brunswick. A favourite aunt and uncle lived just outside Fredericton. They were avid gardeners and grew so many vegetables in New Brunswick’s rich soil that they were able to can much of their harvest for year-round consumption. My aunt would pry the lids off Mason jars containing everything from rhubarb chutney to runner beans, usually to augment a buffet laid out for visiting relatives or neighbours. I cherish those taste memories, of the preserves, newly harvested vegetables, fresh pork, plump chickens, rich seafood and baked delicacies—like wild blueberry pie. Many of the recipes in Flavours of New Brunswick, by Karen Powell, might have been made by my aunt Mabel, or the
thousands of other cooks who’ve made their own versions of the book’s Fundy Fog Pea Soup, Hearty Lobster Chowder and Fricot à la Poulet since that first cooking kettle hissed over the dancing yellow flames of a crackling fire on the St. John River shore. Ninety-five percent of the dishes in Flavours of New Brunswick will appeal to most palates. A handful may not be your cup of tea. Still, it’s gems like the warming Winter Corn Chowder, Stuffed BBQ Salmon and Autumn Apple Crisp that will win over most. Some, like me, may confess a weakness for the unconventional Apple Oatmeal Deep Dish Pie (with Skor bars). Flavours of New Brunswick serves as a useful resource for newly minted home cooks, especially ones with an interest in honest, traditional New Brunswick dishes. Powell’s book is a roadmap, taking the culinary traveller on a trip through junctures in time when home cooking was practiced three times a day, seven days a week and when food was unabashedly tempting, always delicious and guilt-free. ■ Karl Wells is an award-winning food writer and restaurant critic for The Telegram in St. John’s, host/producer of One Chef One Critic and a restaurant panellist with enRoute magazine.
Looking for endless reading?
BLUEBERRY COD ON CITRUS RICE Ingredients: 2 pounds of fresh cod fillets, cleaned 2 cups large fresh blueberries, rinsed 1 cup apple juice 1 cup chicken broth 1 cup lemon juice ½ cup lime juice ¼ cup sugar ½ teaspoon nutmeg ¼ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped salt and pepper to taste Method: 1. Preheat oven to 400º. 2. Place fish in 9 x 13 casserole dish. Cover and set aside in refrigerator. 3. Mix all remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. 4. Remove from heat and mash berries with a fork or potato masher. Strain the mixture through a sieve or cheesecloth, reserving ½ cup for the citrus rice recipe, below. Pour the rest over the fish. 5. Bake 25 minutes. Ingredients (citrus rice): 2 cups uncooked rice ½ cup reserved berry mixture fresh berries and/or lemon slices, for garnish Method: 1. Prepare rice according to package directions, substituting ½ cup of the liquid required with the reserved berry mixture. 2. F luff with a fork, and serve with fresh blueberries and lemon slices.
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boo ks lli n g
“Murray is one of the few poets publishing aphorisms in English today, and Glimpse proves he is also one of the best.”
rio us ly
Chocolate River Publishing
— Quill & Quire on Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms THE HELL OF IT ALL
“A solidly plotted mystery that should entertain old-school hard-boiled crime fans looking for a new author.” — Booklist
Young Readers’ Artwork Three winners from our Woozles illustration contest
he littlest people are the biggest readers. While print sales of adult fiction are dropping, the “juvenile” market is growing rapidly. Forty percent in the last decade. If young people are the future of reading, the future is now. We at Atlantic Books Today wanted to pay homage to our biggest little readers. This issue features our most extensive young reader’s section to date. (You can find more young reader reviews at atlanticbookstoday.ca.) We also asked young readers to show us what books mean to them. Three submissions that really spoke to us are featured here. We too have flipped for books, our hearts veritably exploding with the joy of words, dreaming of a house, yard and tree full of books. Each artist will receive a free Atlantic Canadian book.
By Azalea Dambergs, Age 8
By Sophie Burke, Age 11 By Ginny McDormand, Age 12
Atlantic Books Today
Learning About Coal Mining We know the benefits of reading to our kids; here’s how you can help them process and learn from Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith’s Town Is by the Sea by Heidi Tattrie Rushton
Town Is by the Sea Joanne Schwartz Illustrated by Sydney Smith Groundwood Books
hether you are living in a big city, on rural farmland, amid suburbia or in a small mining town in Cape Breton, there is usually a daily routine that reflects your life and the people around you. In Town Is by the Sea, written by Joanne Schwartz and illustrated by Sydney Smith, we peek into a young boy’s life as the son of a coal miner in 1950s Cape Breton. For him, it is ordinary to wake up in the morning knowing his father has already gone to mine coal under the sea, while he lives his life in the salty ocean air above, playing with friends and doing chores and errands, waiting for his father to return at the end of the day, tired and covered in coal dust. As the boy goes about his routine, his mind constantly drifts back to his father, working hard under the sea, and the knowledge that someday this will be his destiny. The book is written in a dreamy prose that makes the reader feel like they are following along with him as he goes about his tasks. The illustrations connect with the prose in that ethereal tone and the engaging images will intrigue and captivate children and adults alike. This story makes a wonderful book to start a conversation with children who are descendants of coal miners, or to introduce children to the history of coal mining in the Atlantic region. Reading-extension activities are ways for children to explore books, digging deeper into the story and how it may or may not connect to their own lives.
Most children today don’t know a lot about coal, so a natural story-extension activity is to teach children how to research, using the internet or non-fiction books, about what coal is, how it is mined and different uses for it. A mining experience can be simulated for young children using a bin filled with pre-crushed dark cookie crumbs that look like dirt. You can even melt black chocolate over marshmallows and coat them in cookie crumbs to look like lumps of coal to include in the bin. Hide various items throughout the crumbs and then create a list (with photos if the children can’t read yet) for them to record their findings. Give children small plastic tools like picks, hoes and shovels and have them “mine” through the “dirt” to find the treasures. As they find the items, have them note on the list what it is they found and then dig for some more. Talk with the children about the hard work involved in coal mining while digging for the treasures.
CREATE YOUR OWN DAY-IN-MY-LIFE BOOK
As we travel through the boy’s daily life, it naturally prompts a conversation about how his life is different or the same from other children’s lives and the significant role his father’s job plays in his life. Encourage children to create their own book, inspired by the protagonist’s story, to capture a moment in time in their typical daily lives. Work with the children to document a day; have them journal it if they’re old enough or write it down for them if they’re younger. Have them include small details about the smells and sights they see and who or what their thoughts drift to during the day. After the day, help them write it out as a story, with a different activity on each page.Then have them draw a picture (or take photos as you go if they’re younger) to correspond to the activity. When it’s complete, bind it together and include a title page with them as the author and illustrator. Compare it to the boy in the story’s day. Talk about the things that are different, the things that are the same, what they would like to do that he does and what they would like to do differently.
MORE READING-EXTENSION ACTIVITIES If you want to explore coal and coal miners’ lives even further, there is an experiment online to create crystals from coal (education.com/activity/article/Colorful_Crystals_Coal). Take
a trip to the Coal Miners’ Museum in Glace Bay. Or listen to music from Men of the Deeps and talk about how they formed. See atlanticbookstoday.ca for more extension activities.
Heidi Tattrie Rushton is a parenting journalist and consultant in Halifax.
Atlantic Books Today
Anthropomorphic Animals, Cybernetic Tall Tales, Sibling Rivalry and Mature Homosexual Love Lisa Doucet and Lise Brin review some of the season’s most anticipated books for young readers
audience, kids will enjoy poring over the pictures and watching this story of friendship and adventure unfold visually.
Row Bot BA Knowles MacIntyre Purcell Publishing “Oh Bot/No Bot/Poor, Poor Robot!” So begin the travails of the earnest and intrepid Robot protagonist of this playful picture book romp. After watching his boat sink into the sea, Robot plants a tree, watches it grow and chops it down to build himself a boat. In the process he ruffles the feathers of the crow, who had happily settled himself in the tree and now appears none too pleased as he watches Bot set sail. Bot is not as oblivious to the crow’s feelings as it seems. After many highs and lows on the water, when he finally makes it to shore, he buys a present for crow to make amends. Way to go, Bot! This book features simple line drawings that ably depict Bot’s seafaring saga. Young readers will easily follow Bot’s journey and enjoy the spare but exuberant text that trips lightly and joyfully off the tongue. Sprightly and energetic, the lively wordplay is also fun for adults to read aloud. While the reference to Jacques Cousteau will be largely unappreciated (and baffling!) to the book’s intended
Moose’s Roof Jennifer Maruno, illustrated by Laurel Keating Creative Book Publishing When Moose stumbles upon a newlyconstructed picnic pavilion at the park, he is struck by the fact that all his friends seem to greatly admire the roof of this structure. “How do you know so much about roofs?” he asks them. So Squirrel, Beaver and Bear explain how they each build their own roofs to protect themselves from the elements. Moose decides that he ought to have a roof over his head too. The helpful trio build one for him, on top of his antlers. But with all those branches, leaves and stones on his head, Moose soon discovers that he can’t sleep or eat or walk without stumbling. His wellmeaning friends offer their own advice but ultimately Moose discovers for
himself that the sky over his head is the very best roof for him. In the tradition of all good animal tales, Maruno’s delightful picture book features a cast of amiable animal characters who work together to try to help a friend. As children delight in Moose’s saga, they will also be surreptitiously introduced to some basic information about squirrels, beavers and bears. Each of these creatures draws from their own personal ways of doing things to come up with suggestions for Moose. Bear recommends Moose try taking one long nap instead of worrying about trying to lie down to sleep every day, while Beaver advocates using one’s tail for balance. Moose’s realization that he is different from his friends and needs to find his own solution to his dilemma provides a gentle reminder to the book’s young audience of the important truth that we aren’t all the same and that’s okay. However, much of the story’s appeal lies in its illustrations. Laurel Keating gives the animals delightfully animated expressions with an economy of lines capturing the good-natured spirit of the story and a sense of playfulness. While the colour palette consists largely of earth tones, there is still abundant colour in the illustrations and the woodland landscape is simply but aptly rendered. Together, Maruno and Keating have crafted a warmhearted and winsome tale with a subtle but significant message.
REVIEWS complements the accompanying text. Her use of colour and light, along with sketchy pen and ink outlines, are cheerful and energetic while the simply drawn facial expressions ably capture and depict the character’s emotions.
Elliot and the Impossible Fish Rebecca North, illustrated by Laurel Keating Creative Book Publishing Elliot is a little boy with a big dream! He longs to catch the world’s biggest fish, so when his father tucks him into bed Elliot begs his father to take him fishing. And not just on the lake. Elliot’s father is a fisherman who goes fishing in the deep ocean, which is where the truly gigantic fish can be found. And that is precisely where Elliot wants to go! Alas, he is too little. But he makes a wish and soon finds himself on the ocean, ready to achieve his goal, with a little help from animal friends. One by one they share their own ways of catching fish, though none seem quite right for a small boy. Maybe, just maybe, with his very own fishing rod and a little patience (not to mention a vivid imagination) he’ll catch the biggest fish ever. Sweet dreams, Elliot! Rebecca North’s charming tale of childhood longing is earnest and authentic in its depiction of Elliot’s grand aspirations and his heartfelt desire to accompany his father in pursuit of his lofty goal. The subsequent dream sequence in which the animals offer their advice adds just the right amount of whimsy, with the ending providing an element of surprise and wonder. Laurel Keating’s softly rendered coloured-pencil illlustrations have a cartoon-like quality that perfectly
Cammie Takes Flight Laura Best Nimbus Publishing At last, Cammie Turple’s dream has come true. She has left her tumultuous life with Aunt Millie, the local bootlegger in their small town of Tanner, Nova Scotia, to attend the Halifax School for the Blind. Excited about this chance to make a fresh start, Cammie soon discovers that it’s not that easy to forget about the past. First of all, there is her secret plan to track down the mother who abandoned her as a baby. Then Aunt Millie calls her with the surprising news that Ed, her father, is planning to get married and wants to adopt her. More shocking still is that Aunt Millie doesn’t want him to. As she tries to make some sense of these various aspects of her life, Cammie writes long letters to her best friend Evelyn back home in Tanner and looks forward to the day when she will see him again in person. But will things with Evelyn ever be the same? In this touching sequel to Flying With a Broken Wing, author Laura Best continues Cammie’s story, this time focussing on her search for identity and quest to confront the ghosts of her past. Cammie is convinced that she needs to
find her mother and demand answers. But what she ultimately learns gives Cammie, and readers, much to ponder about family and forgiveness. Set at the Halifax School for the Blind, Best captures a strong sense of the post-Second World War era and vividly depicts the atmosphere of the boarding-school setting. While Cammie expects that all the girls will be instant friends, united by their shared disability, she soon discovers that a school for the blind is no different from any other school with its mixture of personalities and rivalries. However, she also comes to realize that she herself can be quick to judge, and that sometimes you have to take a chance and accept the friendship being offered. A moving story with multiple surprises for Cammie and readers.
Goth Girl Melanie Mosher Nimbus Publishing When Victoria Markham is caught making graffiti, she finds herself assigned to community service as part of a team designing and creating a mural for a local construction site. She initially resents the idea of having to work with this ragtag group but gets caught up in the project and finds herself falling for Zach. She can’t believe he likes her goth-girl look and still sees the person she is beneath the makeup. That’s more than she can say about her mother, who doesn’t see Vic at all. Vic finds her mother has been lying to her about her father, who is sick and
Atlantic Books Today
wants to meet her. Her world feels out of control as she tries to be true to herself in the face of life-changing events. Mosher’s debut novel for young adults features several themes that will resonate with teen audiences. She realistically portrays the emotionally charged relationship between Vic and her mother and the ongoing tension between them. She calls attention to the fact that as Vic resents being judged, she needs to be conscious of judging others too quickly. While Vic reaches some painful realizations about Zach, readers may wish that the development of their relationship could have been more fully explored, along with some of the other weighty isssues that the book tackles in its 160 pages. Nevertheless, the messages that it conveys are relevant and meaningful.
It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! Wendy McLeod MacKnight Sky Pony Press After a somewhat disastrous family vacation in Old Orchard Beach (thanks to Tracy Munroe’s little brother Lester and his numerous allergies), the Munroe family are back home in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. Tracy can’t wait to spend the last two weeks of summer with her best friend Ralph. When they find a mysterious bag of money hidden in a dugout at the local ball field, Tracy becomes convinced that they should figure out who it belongs to and become heroes, rather than turning it over to the police. So begins their quest to solve the mystery!
Unfortunately, Lester (aka Pig Face) insists on helping. Their investigations lead to some heated encounters with various friends and neighbours, including Zach, the sophisticated newcomer who’s staying next door, as well as Tracy’s nemesis, Jasmine Singh. Ultimately, the mystery of the misplaced money is resolved and the spunky trio learn some valuable life lessons. First-time author Wendy McLeod MacKnight has crafted a thoroughly delightful tale of friendship and summer fun. While the mystery ends up being a bit of a bust for the well-intended trio and their attempt to prove themslves as serious detectives fails spectacularly, this charmingly earnest threesome make some significant discoveries. MacKnight perfectly captures her small-town setting and the myriad relationships among people who’ve known each other all their lives. Most notable is her heartwarming depiction of the friendship between Tracy and Ralph, and Tracy’s utter devastation when she realizes her actions may have jeopardized this friendship. As well, the typical sibling relationship between Tracy and Lester is realistically depicted, capturing all of Tracy’s annoyance and frustration with her irksome younger brother but also the fierce, unbreakable bond between them when she learns that he is in trouble. The secondary characters are fairly nuanced and realistically depicted, making the story feel more authentic and relatable. Touchingly true-to-life, this book offers profound insights on the importance of being yourself, being brave enough to admit your mistakes and determined and resourceful enough to try to make everything right. Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore. She shares her passion for children’s and young adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.
Ils sont... Michel Thériault, illustrations by Magali Ben Bouton d’or Acadie Ils sont is a French-language picture book by New Brunswick singer-songwriter Michel Thériault, adapted from his 2008 song “Roger et Mathieu.” Loosely inspired by friends of his, it's a warm depiction of two vieux monsieurs (old gentlemen) who live in the narrator’s town, whose relationship began as friendship when they were boys and evolved into the happy, comfortable love they share in their cosy country home. Magali Ben provides textured watercolour images of their comfortable retired life: working in the garden, making music, fishing, sleeping in a hammock. Curious animals abound—a pleasing element for a child’s eye. The poetic text is spare, merely hinting at the troubles Roger and Mathieu have experienced in their lives without naming them, leaving plenty of opportunity to look over the illustrations and reflect over what these may have been, what their lives might have looked like throughout those years. This is definitely not an action-filled story, nor does it aim to be. This is a loving portrait of two characters, a character sketch built on tenderness and affection. Ils sont beautifully approaches the topic of homosexuality for a younger audience—the story simply evokes the love between two people and the quiet happiness that comes from being together for many, many years—a love story that is precisely just like any other. Lise Brin is a librarian, mother and former arts administrator based in Antigonish, NS.
Can’t-Go-Wrong Children’s Poems An Excerpt from the Foreword of Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things: Children’s Poetry and Verse from Atlantic Canada
Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things: Children’s Poetry and Verse from Atlantic Canada Edited by Sheree Fitch and Anne Hunt Nimbus Publishing We almost never notice the extent to which our language is drenched in, is composed of, figures of speech which depend on our already sharing values, assumptions, connections, with each other. And, most centrally, recognizing the sharing; knowing, without anyone saying it, that the speaker is expecting you to recognize her language as intending something, as being the utterance of someone whose mind is deeply like your own. Who knows that you know that she knows. And where does the ability to use language that way come from? Consider a toddler, a parent, a book. Consider how the toddler, in order to understand what is happening at all, has to come to feel the relations between the voice of the mother, the
voice of the author, and the marks on the page. As the mother and the toddler share the surprise of the turned page, the bounce of the new and unexpected word or idea, the three become one experience, and the child’s understanding of how experience of other human beings’ experience can be shared through that page. And so, what about a book of poems? A book of poems coming from our shared social context, written without the academic assumption that to be “good,” poetry needs to be nearly incomprehensible without the help of a scholar or critic or teacher? A book using language that can build on that assumption that we already share experience of a world, of how that world is connected together and how people act in it, to extend and deepen our ability to use language to participate in that world together? So when Mom reads you, or when you read yourself, something like Bill Bauer’s amazing “Tantrum Poem,” you know, and learn, that everyone can share the complex amusement at the small child’s refusing to eat something everyone else agrees is just fine, and imagining the absurd consequences. Contemplate how wonderfully complicated that experience is. It’s the voice of someone else, a stranger, someone named Bill Bauer, pretending to be a child, and it’s dad’s voice, or perhaps now your own, taking the same language on, knowing that it’s play, that there is no child with a wad of meat stuffed in a cheek, knowing that it’s funny, and at the same time understanding
just how it would be to be that child, imagining how, 35 years from now with the meat still there, “everyone / Will say, and won’t I be glad when they do, / What cruel parents he must have had / To drive him to do such a thing as that.” The richness of that social experience—of that understanding, tolerant amusement— is deeply humanizing. But what about a book of poems “from Atlantic Canada”? To engage with the voices far from us, the voices of the world, we begin with the voices near to us, the voices of Mom and Dad, the voices of family, the voices of neighbours. And the voices of our shared cultures and surroundings. The recognition of our own experiences can be shared, can be made into metaphors, can become opportunities to share our life with others. Find a poem at random and you come upon Elizabeth Brewster’s springtime girl who “abandoned / rubber boots too early,” who is picking her way “delicately / over the small islands of mud and ice.” Open the book. Pick a poem at random. You won’t go wrong.
Dr Russ Hunt is Professor Emeritus in the English Department at St. Thomas University. He was one of the first to introduce children’s literature as a credit course in an English Department.
Read more excerpts at atlanticbookstoday.ca.
Atlantic Books Today
The Darker Side of Kidlit (and why it’s a good thing) by Sarah Sawler
ake a quick glance at a shelf full of picture books and you’ll see lots of bright colours, rhyming and alliterative titles and happy looking children. Sometimes, the content matches the cheerful, simple covers perfectly. But, children’s literature is often complex—tackling social and political issues as well as history and morality. Lemony Snicket gets it. Just look at the first page of The Bad Beginning from A Series of Unfortunate Events: In this book, there is no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle. This is because not very many happy things happened in the lives of the three Baudelaire youngsters. And he’s right. The Baudelaires have it tough—in the first book alone, they’re orphaned when their parents are killed in a fire and then forced to live with an abusive man they’ve never
met before. Snicket’s writing is tongue-in-cheek, making the heavier themes stand out a little more than is common in middle grade literature. While those themes might be a little more obvious in his work, political and social commentary appear regularly in kidlit. The Land Beyond the Wall by Veronika Martenova Charles is one recent example. This picture book tells the story of a girl named Emma who lives on the Eastern side of the Iron Curtain. The tale begins when her parents are arrested and she’s sent to live with an aunt who hardly speaks to her. Emma misses her parents and finds solace in drawing, but her aunt scolds her when she catches her and sends her off to do chores. Emma’s life changes when she sneaks down to the harbour in the middle of the night and boards a ship that eventually takes her to Halifax. But before that happens, the author certainly doesn’t shelter her young readers from Emma’s harsh reality. The book’s opening passage is bleak but evocative:
Once, the world was divided by a big wall. On one side the sun rarely shone. Fields lay bare, towns and villages were grey, and shops were empty. People spoke in whispers because they were afraid of each other. They could not even trust their friends. Nobody was allowed outside the wall. When Emma asks her aunt if she can go to art school, her aunt’s response quickly alerts young readers to the fact that something horrible has happened to Emma’s parents, although they’re never told exactly what. “Don’t even think about it,” Aunt Lily said. “No school will take you after what your parents did. Now go and sweep up the floor in the attic.” Once Emma leaves, the story follows her across the ocean, through storms and seasickness, fear and loneliness. When Emma reaches “the land on the other side of the ocean,” she’s safe, but she still has barriers to overcome. The hardest part is adjusting to a new language in a place where no one understands her native tongue. But as Emma settles in, life gets better for her—the world is no longer grey and silent; it’s colourful and comfortable. Someone gifts her a paint set and she uses it to explore a nearby park, painting marigolds, roses and lupins. When a little boy compliments her picture and she understands his words, she finally starts to feel like she’s settling into a new home. Ultimately, The Land Beyond the Wall is a story of bravery, hope and determination. And although Charles uses ageappropriate prose and shields her audience from the specifics of her main character’s predicament, the political and social messages are clear: all people deserve to be free, art is important and the world is often unfair. What we tend to forget is that children are complex too. Yes, they’re innocent and that innocence should be protected. But anyone who has or works with children understands that kids are always thinking about serious stuff. They overhear our political conversations and tell their friends (slightly garbled) versions of them. They have worries and fears that manifest as nightmares shared with parents in the middle of the night. They worry about death, peer rejection and greenhouse gases. We could try and shelter kids by not writing about these things, but they’re already thinking about them. Kidlit is a great way to explore and process their thoughts and concerns. Neil Gaiman once addressed children’s responses to dark content while discussing Coraline, his middle-grade book about a girl who discovers an alternate version of her family on the other side of a small door. Throughout much of the
The Land Beyond the Wall Veronika Martenova Charles Nimbus Publishing book, Coraline’s alternate mother is trying to sew buttons onto her eyes. Horrifying, right? Maybe not. According to Gaiman, that might just be your adult perspective. In an interview for BookSense.com, Gavin J Grant asked Gaiman how children were reacting to the book. Gaiman reponded by saying that he was getting “two completely different reactions from two completely different reading audiences.” He went on to explain: “Reading audience number one is adults. Adults completely love it and they tell me it gave them nightmares. They found it really scary and disturbing and they’re not sure it’s a good book for kids, but they loved it. Reading audience number two are kids who read it as an adventure and they love it. They don’t get nightmares and they don’t find it scary. I think part of that is that kids don’t realize how much trouble Coraline is in–she is in big trouble–and adults read it and think, ‘I know how much trouble you’re in.’” On the one hand, children have enough awareness to consider and understand serious issues. On the other hand, they are shielded by their lack of life experience and ability to fully understand how bad things can get. This may seem contradictory—and, in a way, it is—but when they’re ready to emotionally grapple with an issue, they won’t hesitate. But if they aren’t emotionally ready, because of a lack of experience or maturity, chances are good that the heavier parts will go right over their heads. Which makes kidlit an excellent avenue for exploring political, social and cultural issues in a safe, accessible way. Sarah Sawler is a children's and young adult book reviewer and the author of 100 Things You Don’t Know About Nova Scotia.
Atlantic Books Today
Reviews Lesley Choyce’s Unlikely Redemption
The Unlikely Redemption of John Alexander MacNeil Lesley Choyce Roseway Publishing John Alexander MacNeil, who lives alone on the “sunset side” of rural Cape Breton, is a feisty, difficult man, a sharp-tongued crusty old Scot, but he transcends caricature or cliché. He has an egotistical rooster named Pierre Elliott Trudeau and a chicken named Margaret Thatcher and in the winter he keeps them in his house. Every election he votes for himself as a write-in candidate. At 80, John Alex has started worrying about losing his driver’s license and losing his mind, especially since the day he kindly stopped his car to offer a ride to a roadside mailbox. His life is greatly complicated when Emily, a pregnant teen, comes to John Alex’s cabin in the woods for a haven. Emily is shunned by her folks and
expected to flee to Halifax in shame, to hide and save her family from it, but John Alex decides to shelter her and so both of them risk ire of hostile parents, town gossips and even the law. There are many other threads, but much of the story depends on this pregnancy and impending birth and much hinges on those who turn out to be unexpected and generous allies and those old acquaintances and neighbours who plot against the pair. This is a book of grudges and a book of forgiveness, contrasting human warmth and the warmth of maple firewood against the cold of ice storms and censure, fear and guilt. John Alex has a very folksy voice but this is also a philosophical book pondering the many cycles of summer and winter, pregnancy and fertility, death and birth and past and present. And it is a book of ghosts. John Alex’s wife Eva is dead 30 years but seems very much alive, visits John Alex often and hovers over the action like Banquo’s ghost, offering advice and memories and love. Even Emily hears the ghost speaking to John Alex one night. When driving, John Alex finds himself in thought and in the wrong lane, forcing a local egg truck to veer off the road. Eggs fly into a pasture but in a comic touch, many eggs miraculously survive intact while riding perched on the backs of fleeing cattle. Eggs (and of course chickens) are a repeated image in these pages, somehow tied up with the meaning of life: perhaps the egg is being held up as a perfect creation, an image of fertility, growth, nutrition, strength, survival and adaptation. Young Emily finds that she enjoys watching chickens in the living room now that she has no access to television; indeed she prefers them to television’s numbing effects.
The shape of the egg may also suggest Jungian integration and wholeness, with echoes of Robertson Davies and Fifth Business. In Emily and John Alex’s conversation, a chicken and egg kind of question arises, one that applies to people of all ages: do you try to change the world or does the world change you? This book shows that both kinds of changes can and will happen. A different kind of question arises near the novel’s end: Will John Alex be left alone when Emily leaves? He dreads this, now used to company; plus she has given him purpose. Emily does have to leave him to make her life elsewhere but in a slight twist John Alex is not left alone or bereft; instead he discovers a new female companion, a happy ending for this old man by the sea. Choyce’s chapters meander a bit at times, perhaps in imitation of our narrator’s wandering mind, but this is a lovely saga of learning, kindness and forgiveness. Despite the disputes and lawsuits and cameos from the RCMP and Social Services and even a brawl featuring a priest from Cameroon, The Unlikely Redemption of John Alexander MacNeil is a benevolent book, a spiritual book in many ways. Cape Breton is famous for grudges but by the end the sun is out over the sea and hapless bagpipes heard down the hill are in tune for once, the local piper finally finding all the right notes. ■ Mark Anthony Jarman is the author of 19 Knives, My White Planet, New Orleans is Sinking, Dancing Nightly in the Tavern, Knife Party at the Hotel Europa and Ireland’s Eye. He teaches at the University of New Brunswick.
There’s an Aphorism for That: George Murray’s Quick is Good Gospel in a Bathroom Reader
Quick George Murray ECW Press George Murray has made a poetic career out of astute obeservations. His second collection of aphorisms, Quick, lands somewhere between philosophy and intellectual humour, gospel and a good bathroom read. Being an aphorist is a rare pursuit in the days of experimental poetry. Aphorisms are curt, almost terse statements, and Murray is like a master Tweeter. The first time we met was several years ago, over coffee at the since defunct Hava Java in St. John’s, when his first book of aphorisms, Glimpse, now a bestseller, hit the proverbial shelves. In returning to his aphoristic endeavours and latest collection, I can’t help but see the aphorism as almost an oracle.
“Events without consequence are called acts; events with consequence are called memories.” While he ruminates with pithy statements like, “Myths are built out of ears by mouths” and “Everything is a lie, but everything points to the truth,” Murray’s Quick can be read in one sitting. This very quickness of the collection, part Chinese fortune cookie, part wisdom pocket, should not be mistaken for lack of depth. Murray’s work honours longlived resolve. It is preferable to bite off small morsels of this book, savour each aphorism like something sacred, delicious. While the enlightenment exudes, my favourite moments of Quick are when Murray blends humour with poetics. Poetry can be very funny. Like any universal truth or hard-hitting observation, there’s an element of frankness, a certain clear-lined honesty required of humour. Consider lines like, “Time knows how to heal all wounds because time inflicted them,” “There is a personal style to how the soul wears its body; even more so for how the body wears its soul” and “When seeking mystics it’s always best to avoid those advertising their services.” Despite his background as editor of BookNinja, a poetry website, his current role as poet laureate of the city of St. John’s and his extensive bibliography since 2000 (including Diversion, Whiteout, the aforementioned Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms, The Rush To Here, A Set of Deadly Negotiations, The Hunter, The Cottage Builder’s Letter and Carousel: A Book of Second Thoughts), Murray still holds a few secrets. In the pursuit of truth, which is far more mercurial than noble, he writes, “The secret no one wants to know isn’t a secret.” Murray’s always been a bit of an academic renegade; his devotion is to the page. Quips like, “Language is a dead language” and “Observations and discoveries are separated only by Ph.D.s” will either infuriate or enthrall scholars. Or inspire envy. While he offers relationship advice (“Only in finance, art, and first marriages
Like any universal truth or hard-hitting observation, there’s an element of frankness, a certain clear-lined honesty required of humour.
does the advent of good enough reveal the lack of better” and “Love is a reduction of the number of lives separating two people”), by far the most apt for a particular ex-relationship dynamic is: “The trick to loving a narcissist is to always have a mirror on your shoulder.” There’s something familiar, almost a knowing in reading a good aphorism. Part of Murray’s exploration was taking accessible poems like “Howl” and “In a Station of the Metro” and toying with them. Murray reminds us of his duty: “Poets are humanity’s autocorrect” and “The heart is a canary in the mind’s coalmine.” Despite living in Newfoundland for over a decade, the Atlantic Ocean and dialect of the East Coast rarely find their way into his work. He’s not interested in writing about place, necessarily, yet it seems to creep in. Murray writes, “In graveyards by the sea, the inscriptions on tombstones must be carved extra deep” and “Wilderness beings at the outer edge of routine.” Whatever mood or stage of life you find yourself, there’s an aphorism to shift or affirm your focus. It’s not necessary to read a full poem or go on and on. As Murray notes, “Every moment of your life is all your life.” ■ Shannon Webb-Campbell is a Mi’kmaq poet, writer and critic. Her poetry collection, Still No Word, received Eagle Canada’s inaugural Out In Print Award. Atlantic Books Today
Adrian Smith’s Dark Discoveries of Sexual Abuse
Finding Forgiveness Adrian Smith Acorn Press Adrian Smith grew up in a house full of secrets. Born in 1961 to churchgoing parents in small-town Prince Edward Island, he had what appeared to be a fairly normal life. His namesake father, an aloof man who favoured intellectual pursuits over the more “manly” hobbies of sports and drinking, had considered the priesthood before opting for a career as a child psychologist in the employ of the public school system, while his mother was a dutiful homemaker. The youngest of two boys, the author grew up adoring his father while also doing his best to fit in with his peers. In many ways, this book tells the story of growing up and finding one’s place within rural Prince Edward Island for the two Adrian Smiths. The story takes a decidedly different turn after the father’s death in 1988. While going through his father’s belongings, the author found photographs and written materials that led him to realize his father had
lived his life as a closeted homosexual. Having grown up in what he admits was a homophobic environment, the author went through an array of emotions, ranging from hurt and anger to eventual acceptance, with the latter only coming after years of therapy and introspection. Reconciling his father’s spirituality and apparent devotion to the Catholic liturgy proved difficult and led to many questions concerning his own sense of faith. As the nephew of a priest, this crisis of faith proved particularly disruptive for the author. For many years Adrian kept his father’s secret. In part this was due to the stigma associated with homosexuality, but it was also out of fear of how this news would affect his aging mother. (While his parents slept in separate beds, the author believed his mother was oblivious to her husband’s true sexual orientation.) Following her death he began to open up, first to those closest to him and eventually to the broader community. He grew to appreciate the situation his father had faced, being born into a religious family in rural Prince Edward Island at the outset of the Great Depression, as well as the limited options available to him. With this, the sense of betrayal he once felt was replaced by an understanding of difficult choices. Besides, he reasoned, it was better to focus on the good he was told his father had done for the community working with troubled youth in the school system. As the author came to grips with his father’s secret life and began the long road to addressing his reaction to this, sinister allegations emerged. As he shared his plans to write a book about his father with friends and family, multiple allegations of child molestation were levelled. Instantly, the narrative changes from the sadness of repressed homosexuality in a society that did not accept it to the realization that his father, a seemingly pious man who worked with children for a living, was apparently guilty of such heinous actions. This book was written as part of Adrian Smith’s healing process.
As a book that addresses homosexuality, mental health, child molestation and the two Adrians’ relationship with the Catholic Church, Finding Forgiveness will undoubtedly raise eyebrows. Throughout, he attempts to understand why his father made the choices he did, the role of societal norms in all of this and how he was affected personally. It is, at times, very difficult to read due to its raw emotion and subject matter. Not only does the author address his quest to understand his father, he also provides an incredibly frank look into his own life and his ongoing difficulty with intimate relationships. Finding Forgiveness presents a rare glimpse into the long taboo subject of homosexuality in rural Prince Edward Island. As a book that addresses homosexuality, mental health, child molestation and the two Adrians’ relationship with the Catholic Church, it will undoubtedly raise eyebrows. Uncomfortable but important conversations are sure to follow. Many questions are raised in Finding Forgiveness and many remain unresolved. Such is to be expected in a work heavy on soul searching and selfevaluation. One thing is certain: whereas Adrian Smith was raised in a house full of secrets, his life today is quite literally an open book and it makes for a most provocative read. Ryan O’Connor is an author and historical consultant from Prince Edward Island, and author of The First Green Wave.
Ray Guy Satirized Newfoundland as Only an Insider Could
Ray Guy: The Final Columns 2003–2013 Ray Guy, edited by Brian Jones Creative Book Publishing That Far Greater Bay Ray Guy Flanker Press
Newfoundland and Labrador has its own political realm and doesn’t necessarily adhere or attach itself to Canada’s rules or logic. These are lands and waters of their own and columnist Ray Guy devoted his writing career to the province, its humour, hard knocks, political spheres and relentless weather. Edited by Brian Jones with a foreword by Michael Harris, Ray Guy: The Final Columns 2003-2013 spans the rise and fall of former premier Joey Smallwood, Brian Tobin’s ignorance, weather woes and small town politics, and gets away with calling St. John’s “Sin City Upon Cesspool.” Born in Come By Chance, Guy’s mix of satire and humour depicts the very crux of Newfoundland and Labrador
and the realities of its outport-versusurban politics, Anglican-versus-Catholic judgments and townie-versus-baymen divides. While writing for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, theatre and even the silver screen, Guy studied journalism at the Ryerson Polytechnic Institute and for many years wrote for the St. John’s Evening Telegram, Atlantic Insight and the Newfoundland Quarterly. He became a household name, taking stabs at Joey Smallwood in a weekday column with The Telegram. Some of these columns became That Far Greater Bay and were awarded the Stephen Leacock Award, an annual literary prize for the best book of humour published in Canada. Guy was awarded an honorary doctorate by Memorial University in 2001. He died of cancer at the age of 71 in Spring 2013. Guy’s legacy lives on through a lifetime of prose, decades of published and collected satirical columns. By far my favourite of Guy’s work, “Life Lessons from Bell Island,” from December 2006, contextualizes the spirit of a place very near. He writes, “my first impression there on this huge table high above the water was that the rest of the world ceased to exist. The place was self-contained. Bell Islanders were selfcontained—surely, if there was any better place to be, they’d never heard of it.” Wafts of nostalgia washed over me as I read of his annual visits to Bell Island and how the place disorients and reorients. “Pink will always be the colour of Bell Island to me,” he writes, noting the grey-red mud surrounding the mines. Guy writes of the mass exodus of Bell Islanders to Cambridge, Ontario, which struck a chord, as my grandmother was from the little bell-shaped island and she moved up with her sisters. Half a dozen of them piled into a seatbelt-less car from Wabana and made their way to the Mainland. Apparently, my grandmother screamed at the top of her lungs merely being a passenger down the twelve-lane Highway 401. Once they arrived, her sisters decided they were homesick and drove back home to Bell Island the next
Guy’s humour shines in every column and his wisdom is both grandfatherly and brattish.
day. But my grandmother, self-contained as she was, stayed. The thing about revisiting Guy’s columns: his work embodies what it means to be a Newfoundlander, the various angles. His humour, quick wit, nostalgic rhetoric and personalized insight into the island remain relevant. Guy even makes the weather something worth reading about. His meditations on Canada’s switch to metric and musings on winter seem apt as I write this review with a sunburn from Toronto and the Avalon Peninsula gets slammed with another snowstorm on the first week of April. Currently, St. John’s harbour is covered in massive ice floes. “Thanking God we’re surrounded by water does us no good at all once April comes. That same water slows down the brisk jump into spring they get on the Mainland,” Guy writes. “They’re slapping on the sunblock in Toronto and we’re still slipping and sliding down Signal Hill … it’s crucifixion by contrast.” Guy’s humour shines in every column and his wisdom is both grandfatherly and brattish. He wrote about Newfoundland as an islander, a heartfelt insider’s take, and yet with a critical seabird’s view. Intimate and observational, Guy understood the complexities of a province that enchants and traumatizes, exploring the dark underbelly, false truths and inflated political perceptions. Yet it remains a place worthy of a lifetime of writing. Shannon Webb-Campbell is a Mi’kmaq poet, writer and critic. Her debut collection of poetry is called Still No Word. Atlantic Books Today
Kathy Mac’s Battle With Social and Poetic Convention
Human Misunderstanding Kathy Mac Fernwood Publishing Kathy Mac’s latest book, a collection of three long poems, is sequenced, polyphonic, multi-textual in character and focussed on the disjunction between intention and action in the administration of justice. The book is subtitled Poems, but only at intervals does it feature the standard conventions of modern verse: line-breaks, melody, metaphor. These “prose-poems” draw upon and incorporate large chunks of prose from various sources into the text. For example, the first piece, “Omar Khadr is not Harry Potter,” an extended comparison between these troubled adolescent protagonists includes numerous quotations from George W Bush, US soldiers involved in the capture of Khadr, US Congressional statutes and committee hearings and the UN Convention Against Torture, balanced by appropriate quotations from the JK Rowling series and a paraphrase of some of the antics of its cast of characters. The inventiveness of this original concept, conflation of contemporary boy-hero Harry Potter with a Canadian teenager imprisoned for years at the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison, is enhanced by the variety of characters chosen from the children’s books—Sirius Black, Voldemort, Dudley Dursley, Draco
Malfoy—and serves as foil to significant others in Khadr’s life. The poet makes terse, ironic asides throughout, which develop into a dialogue between authorial voices in the Osama-bin-Laden-as-Voldemort section of “Omar Khadr’s Extended Family Is Not Harry Potter’s Extended Family:” Hmph. At least you can’t say that Osama bin Laden was Voldemort. Yes, I can. No, you can’t. Yes, I can. Voldemort is the evil mastermind of the Potterverse! Osama bin Laden was the evil mastermind of the terrorist world. The wry humour evident in the selection of conversational snippets working at cross-purposes is very effective. But I want more of this. It’s a clever strategy, poet as orchestrator of verbal collage, but the volume of quotation and paraphrase of the Rowling material and various “news” sources overwhelms the poetic voice. The central section, “Enquiries Concerning Human Misunderstanding: Theory, Speculation, Practice” is the strongest section of the book for the same reason. Here, each numbered piece includes a brief opening quotation from 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, followed by two responses from the poet. The first, an analysis of the politics of a contemporary relationship in prose, is addressed to an absent lover/exlover—musings on their rare connections and many misconnections. The second response consists of short bursts of the imagery set in italics: exquisite jewels of a brooder’s solitary walks in the rain, hoping to run into her old love somewhere. From the fourth section, “Skeptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding, Part II,” here’s the “Speculation” and “Practice:” This is one consistently observable effect I have had on you: you sleep well
beside me. (But. In your experience, my type hurts. [and hurts, and hurts.]) at each threshold, lower the umbrella, enter, exchange rain and exhaust for coffee and smoke. check all tables. return to the doorway. raise the umbrella. Here, Mac’s voice alternates between wry honesty and lyrical effusion, between romantic introspection and pain. The final long poem, “A Case/E Case,” is a raw, wide-eyed inquiry into two controversial Canadian court cases involving sexual assault, one in Manitoba in 2005, the other in BC in 2008, interspersed with “illustrative quotes” from Marie de France’s 12th-century lay, “Bisclavret.” The multi-voiced interplay of preamble, re-enactments, testimony and victim impact statements encodes the poet’s corrosive vision of life in the Canadian court system for victimized Canadian women. Here’s a section from “Victim Impact (Alice)” that shows Mac’s gut-level diction insisting on the stark truth: (Adem said. He said.) I’ll get you out. I’ll get you paid. First though; Lay. Down.” (Play dead.) 2. Then Adem said to his buddies: “Do what you want with her.” Human Misunderstanding is an ambitious and challenging fourth book for an Atlantic Canadian poet who is dedicated to bending conventions of literary practice in terms of what constitutes a poem and to questioning the values of justice for women and the disadvantaged in a post-modern global society. ■ Michael Pacey is a New Brunswick poet. He is author of Electric Affinities, The First Step and Anonymous Mesdemoiselles.
Bob Kroll’s Bleak Metropolitan Nightmare
The Hell of It All Bob Kroll ECW Press “He had parked with the Jetta aimed at the harbour mouth, giving himself a postcard perspective of the naval base, two islands, and the concrete and glass of the downtown. He looked without seeing Halifax as the ‘vibrant and safe capital city by the sea’ promoted by the tourist board … He saw what the cops see: the hard side, the ugly side, the side unreported in the press.” No city can possibly claim to be perfect. Doubtless the municipality of Halifax, Nova Scotia is no exception. Despite its reputation as being a beautiful and outwardly friendly place to visit, Halifax cannot possibly be as idyllic a destination as tourism commercials would have us believe. Yet you’d be hardpressed to find a depiction of a major Canadian city as unremittingly bleak as the metropolitan nightmare author Bob Kroll makes of Halifax. The Hell of It All, the second in a planned trilogy of TJ Peterson mystery crime thrillers (after The Drop Zone), is another two-fisted descent into urban
chaos. Like the first novel, Hell is a dark, densely plotted, sink-or-swim tale. Kroll is not afraid to throw you headfirst into the deep end. Peterson is a former police detective in a bad state. Forced to retire (after events in the first novel), he now spends his days working crimes under the table for his former partner. While running down a rumour of a 30-year-old murder, a past lover tracks Peterson down and begs him to find her daughter, a drug addict who has taken up with a local pusher. Unwilling yet unable to turn her down, Peterson quickly finds himself trapped in a byzantine puzzle that leads him through the dark depths of Halifax, filled with crack houses, prostitution, money laundering and more. Drawing on the classic hardboiled influences of Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald, as well as modern crime authors such as George Pelecanos and Canada’s John McFetridge and Robert Rotenberg, Kroll thrusts us into a stylized, dialogue-heavy crimescape where every statement hides an angle and no one is to be trusted. In this world, a minor criminal is described as “the kind who talks speed but cruises twenty clicks under the limit,” a face “looked like it could cry on sunny days” and a man gets tossed down a flight of stairs and “deserved every step he hit.” Numerous nefarious characters with names like Sammy O, Turtle and the Runt hurry through the pages. It may take a little patience with the tough-guy cadence of Kroll’s narrative to fully chart the ins and outs of Peterson’s sleuthing. As much nasty pleasure as there is to be found in Kroll’s Halifax, he hasn’t quite mastered the style of his criminal writing forebears. Often the story becomes a case of an author telling rather than showing, not trusting the action to make the point clear. This burdens characters with unwieldy soliloquys such as: “There used to be something that made us obey the law. Not because it was the law, but because it was the right thing to do. But now there’s nothing keeping people from
Kroll thrusts us into a stylized, dialogueheavy crimescape where every statement hides an angle and no one is to be trusted.
doing whatever they want. Nobody cares about anyone else but themselves.” At one point, Peterson tells a pair of homeless teenagers, “I was a homicide detective. A cop for more than twenty years. What comes with all that time on the job is instinct. You get a feeling about what people know and what they don’t know. Now I’m retired. I have nowhere to go and nothing to do.” It’s one thing to define Peterson as a character through action and circumstance, another entirely to have him summarize himself in such a clunky fashion. Luckily, the mystery itself is solid, the plot machinations logical and Peterson is an engagingly pessimistic (if thoroughly miserable) protagonist. Kroll understands that no matter how complicated the mystery it’s the personalities populating the pages that keep readers coming back. He takes pain to root his story in character as much as plot and finagles Peterson through the requisite twists and turns of this labyrinth with aplomb. The Hell of It All may stumble occasionally, but it’s a solid crime thriller that leaves the reader wanting more. And also, arguably, less enthusiastic about visiting Halifax. ■ Corey Redekop is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, New Brunswick. His novels include the award-winning Shelf Monkey and the award-nominated Husk. Atlantic Books Today
Editor’s Picks The Water Beetles Michael Kaan Goose Lane Editions Kaan’s mature debut, based on his father’s memoirs of youth in Hong Kong, offers Tolstoyesque metaphors on violence and turmoil. From the first page, Kaan’s simple, longing prose dissects the human condition: “Like everyone else, [this beetle] is at war, which means its every move is inevitable and prescribed.” Barrelling Forward: Stories Eva Crocker House of Anansi Press Crocker’s stories are like autopsies, dissecting events, objects, rituals and peering intently at them from all angles. But the result is so pretty it seems effortless, finding beauty in the mundane, delivered via short, metered phrasing. Not a word is wasted here. Life on Mars Lori McNulty Goose Lane Editions McNulty covers an array of styles and sub-genres, realism to fable, always with a nod to the strange and surreal, often with an exhilarating quality of desperation. She’s earned praise from Alexander MacLeod, who says her stories “pound with an energy that is simultaneously physical and philosophical.”
The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes Bridget Canning Breakwater Books What felt like a reflex—hurling a can of coconut milk at a gunman’s head—has made Wanda Jaynes a media sensation and upended her life. This is the highly anticipated debut novel from Bridget Canning, one of Newfoundland’s most promising new writers. Scars and Other Stories Don Aker Pottersfield Press Don Aker probes deep with his flawed characters, whose scars aren’t always visible, their injuries often much deeper. The acclaimed young adult author will surprise you with his insights on smalltown culture and how pain and fear motivate and change us in unexpected ways. Five Crows Silver Vernon Oickle MacIntyre Purcell Publishing It’s rare that Atlantic Canadian fiction runs quite this dark, but the fifth in Oickle’s internationally acclaimed Crow series takes readers into every parent’s worst nightmare. “Mystical grit” might make an apt title for this bent on the mystery genre. The crows are key to relieving the slow-building tension.
Short for Chameleon Vicki Grant HarperTrophy Canada For all those times your real family isn’t good enough, wouldn’t it be nice to hire a rent-a-relative? This is the LOL-funny premise of Grant’s latest YA book, and only her wacky but believable characters could pull it off. It’s a quick read but there is depth here too. Road Signs That Say West Sylvia Gunnery Pajama Press Three teen sisters drive west and back to Nova Scotia, escaping memories of a friend’s suicide and experiences of sexual harassment. Despite the weight of the themes Road Signs is funny and full of heart, with skillful depiction of the hooks and barbs of sibling rivalry. Rez Rebel Melanie Florence James Lorimer & Company “Suicide among young people, especially in Indigenous communities, is a problem that needs talking, writing, and reading about,” says author Melanie Florence. The voice she uses, that of a determined young man who refuses to accept the status quo is believable, direct and engaging.
Icarus, Falling of Birds Harry Thurston and Thaddeus Holownia Anchorage Press Thurston’s verse and Holownia’s photographs commemorate the centenary of the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the thousands of birds killed in 2013 by a 100-foot gas flare in Saint John. The images are morbidly beautiful and haunting. The language is frenetic pulsing, rhythmic song and mournful lament. Canticles I by George Elliott Clarke Guernica Editions Dramatic monologues detail the transatlantic slave trade and its propaganda and resisters. Clarke has raised the dead to give us Dante on Chris Columbus among others, a textured mash-up of historical voices in verse. Or, as Terrance Hayes puts it, Clarke has captured the “syntax of humanity.” The Nova Scotia Book of Fathers Lesley Choyce and Julia Swan, Editors Pottersfield Press “Dad appreciated the wit and cleverness of a good Weird Al Yankovic parody,” writes Alexander MacLeod. Daniel Paul’s father proclaimed at 97, “It’s time for me to get the frig out of here!” Anne Murray’s dad, a physician, helped victims of Springhill mining disasters. These dads rock.
As the Old Folks Would Say: Stories, Tall Tales, and Truths of Newfoundland and Labrador Hubert Furey Flanker Press Renowned media personality and live performer Hubert Furey has won three tall-tale contests (if you can believe that) and finally has a book of recitations on the rural life of yesteryear Newfoundland. Delightful stories of courting, cooking, preaching and hunting. Adventures of a Grenfell Nurse Rosalie M. Lombard Flanker Press Originally selfpublished in 2014, Newfoundland’s Flanker Press loved the book enough to publish a revised edition with fresh content and images. Lombard’s enthralling adventures as a travelling nurse are reminiscent of a Tintin adventure in their harrowing nature. Her life is a wonder. The Sea Was in Their Blood: The Disappearance of the Miss Ally’s FiveMan Crew Quentin Casey Nimbus Publishing Reminiscent of The Perfect Storm, Casey combines sleuth-like instincts with immersive storytelling know-how to piece together the tragic tale of the crew of the Miss Ally, which sank with no survivors in February 2013.
Seven Grains of Paradise: A Culinary Journey in Africa Joan Baxter Pottersfield Press Baxter’s books celebrate the beauty of African nations and peoples often neglected in Western narratives of poverty. Here she focuses on a rich farming heritage and tremendous variety of cultural cuisine from farms, kitchens, markets and restaurants, guided by African food lovers. Robert Bond: The Greatest Newfoundlander Ted Rowe Creative Publishers Robert Bond, the first prime minister of the Dominion of Newfoundland, is an enormous figure in Newfoundland history and was a tortured and complicated man. Rowe gives us a longoverdue biography of the reclusive man and lifelong bachelor who went 30 years without losing an election. Doctors in Denial: How the Canadian medical profession has been captured by Big Pharma Joel Lexchin (Foreword by Dr. Brian Goldman) James Lorimer & Company Are doctors addicted to the perks— dinners, trips, training sessions—offered by multinational pharmaceutical companies? How does that hurt Canadian patients? This is the true story from an emergency physician. Atlantic Books Today
Summertime and the Reading is Easy by Phil Moscovitch
Best Nova Scotia Beaches Allan Billard, photography by Donna Barnett Formac Publishing
Atlantic Salmon Flies Jacques Héroux Goose Lane Editions
Crystal Crescent Beach
only fly-fished a couple of times but I was fascinated with the range of flies and materials—from tinsel to squirrel tail. Shrubs of Nova Scotia is a new edition of Raymond Fielding’s 1998 guidebook. Fielding wrote the text and did the black-andwhite illustrations. The book has a couple of purposes: helping people identify shrubs they encounter in the wild and encouraging gardeners to grow native shrubs in their gardens, starting them from cuttings or seed. Fielding helpfully groups the plants into categories easy for the amateur to grasp, with names like “Shrubs and small trees with maple-shaped leaves” and “Crawlers, creepers and trailers.” The descriptions of the plants go beyond the practical, capturing Fielding’s passion for the subject. Finally, there’s baseball. Local ball fields are brimming with kids. Minor league registrations are way up thanks to the Blue Jays effect: having a Canadian team that contends for two consecutive years suddenly gets people interested in the game again. If you’re looking for some between-innings reading, Jim Prime’s Tales from the Toronto Blue Jays Dugout offers short chapters, arranged by player. While the book promises that you’ll “relive the greatest moments in Blue Jays history!” I appreciated it for the quirky little stories, like Kelly Johnson being turned away at the border after being traded to Toronto because he forgot his passport, and how lovingly Mark Buehrle treats his gloves. For the diehard fan, the book is an opportunity to remember former greats and not-so-greats. For new fans, it’s a fine introduction. ■ Phil Moscovitch is a writer and radio documentary-maker living in Halifax. He cheers for the Jays but aches for the Expos.
Shrubs of Nova Scotia Raymond Fielding Nimbus Publishing and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
Tales from the Toronto Blue Jays Dugout Jim Prime Skyhorse Publishing
PHOTO: DONNA BARNETT
ne of the things I love about life in this part of the country is how passionate people get about summer. When I lived in Montreal, summer was great, but it got hot and sticky and stinky and by the time fall rolled around you were ready for a change of season. Atlantic Canada is different. We have what my friend Paul Maybee calls “six months of the day before spring,” followed by a short, often foggy summer. But once that summer hits, people embrace it with ferocity: swimming, hiking, biking, fishing, walking the shoreline, getting out onto sports fields, hitting patios and beer gardens and watching movies outdoors. This year, a crop of new books touch on some favourite summer passions. Allan Billard’s Best Nova Scotia Beaches is the follow up to his 2015 bestseller, Beaches of Nova Scotia. This is a book that’s designed to be used and not just read. It’s small enough to take with you and filled with practical information. Fact sheets offer tips like the best features of each beach, along with cell reception, accessibility and availability of toilets. Beyond the practical, two things make this book stand out. First, there is Billard’s writing. He doesn’t just offer travel tips. Instead, there are poetic descriptions, natural history and closely observed descriptions of local flora and fauna. And Best Nova Scotia Beaches features gorgeous photography by Donna Barnett. Put this book in your bag and head to one of the 27 beaches it features—even if it’s too cold to swim. Sticking with the water, summer is also salmon season and Atlantic Salmon Flies by Jacques Héroux has it covered. This bilingual book is for the fly-fishing enthusiast. It’s not going to teach you fishing techniques, but it gives you an encyclopedic look at dozens of salmon flies, each carefully created by one of the book’s seven fly tiers. And it’s beautifully photographed. I’ve
L.M. Montgomery and War Edited by Andrea McKenzie and Jane Ledwell Paperback, 256pp, 15 photos
“… a delight to read. The use of biography, journals, and historical context is admirable.” Holly Blackford, Rutgers University
M C G I L L - Q U E E N’S U N I V E R S I T Y P R E S S
A Grand Adventure The Lives of Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad and Their Discovery of a Viking Settlement in North America Benedicte Ingstad Cloth, 472pp
“Researchers had long puzzled over whether the descriptions in Scandinavian sagas of Viking voyages to Vinland were in fact true. Deeply fascinated by these accounts, Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad set out to solve the mystery. The author presents their superb detective work in a deft, engaging way. This book is a classic.” Heather Pringle, author of In Search of Ancient North America: An Archaeological Journey to Forgotten Cultures
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Com fort food from aroun d the globe that can be prepared by any home cook From Canadian Instagram sensation,
Dennis The Prescott
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