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Books make the best gifts

Book reviews
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Photo courtesy Harbour Publishing

Last Sunday, Dec. 1, 100 people crowded into the Pender Harbour School of Music for the book launch of Milk Spills & One-Log Loads: Memories of a Pioneer Truck Driver, by Pender Harbourís Frank White.† White, who is 99-years-old, addressed his fans before reading a short excerpt from his memoirs.

You donít get to be 99 years old without learning a few tricks along the way. Nonagenarian Frank White divulges wisdom and foibles in his first book from Harbour Publishing titled Milk Spills and One-Log Loads.

The book is billed as the memories of a pioneer truck driver. In fact, a good third of the book will appeal to those not in the least interested in trucking as it describes a way of life in small town Abbotsford and 1930s Vancouver ó with stories such as what a housewife (his mother) had to do to keep five kids in food and clothes during the Depression, and how people died (his father) from diseases that could likely be cured today.

Stories abound about butcher shops, the pungent smell of taverns frequented by milk truck drivers and a stand of majestic trees that lined the highway in Whalley, clear cut long ago. Somehow, hearing the stories of the 1920s and Ď30s from someone still alive makes them more real, like a hand reaching out from the past. Whiteís history is the history of the province.

After his marriage to Kay Boley in 1939 and their start on a life raising pigs, White discovered the new age of trucking ó log hauling from the forests of Vancouver Island. His stories of mighty timber loaded on rigged trucks that thundered down perilous mountainsides became celebrated yarns, and they were published in early editions of Raincoast Chronicles by his son, Howard White (Harbour Publishing).

The numerous photos drawn from city archives and White family albums reveal the Lower Mainland in its infancy. Whiteís vernacular style is an easy read, engaging and humorous. The book is available in hard cover from bookstores for $32.95.

For the aspiring gardener

Beauty by Design, Inspired Gardening in the Pacific Northwest is an obvious and wonderful gift for the gardener in your life.

Authored by Bill Terry and Rosemary Bates of Sechelt, it describes the aesthetics and plant life of 11 coastal gardens. Itís an odd number, but perhaps the gardening couple themselves make up an even dozen since it is their literary abilities that capture the beauty of these green oases.

These are not your average landscaped yards ó the gardens described will raise the bar for amateurs and inspire brown thumbs with the desire to do better.

Here you can read about painter Eva Dienerís garden tucked away on a rural road near Sechelt or visit the fairy tale cottage of garden guru Des Kennedy and his wife Sandy on Denman Island.

You donít have to live in the country to cultivate gorgeous greenery. Glen Pattersonís lush rooftop garden is in downtown Vancouver. These are artists obsessed with their works in nature. Perhaps the best comment comes from Robin Hopper of Metchosin, near Victoria. ďI am a potter and a gardener. I am a gardener and a potter.Ē Two sides of the same coin.

Beauty by Design is jam-packed with colour photos and is published by Touchwood Editions for $24.95. ††††

For the eclectic reader

Looking for something truly different? One of the most unusual books to come from the Sunshine Coast in a long time, Comrade Stalinís Baby Tooth, was published by MW Books, a small Garden Bay operation run by William Gelbart. Wlodzimierz Milewski is the bookís designer.

In this hard cover, colourful book, Russian born author and former literature professor Marina Sonkina appears to channel the 19th century satirical writer Nikolai Gogol to produce a strange story of a child with a talent for chess who lives in Merry Limp, a village peopled by eccentric characters.

The 1940s Soviet leader Stalin figures prominently, and in an offbeat preface, Sonkina gives the western reader some background into the feared tyrant, including an account of his absurdities and his passions.

The book is richly illustrated with posters proclaiming Soviet propaganda messages. Ruddy-cheeked farm women and muscular men in overalls fulfill the plan and urge the glorious Soviet Union to its triumphant victories. They are unique in the world of poster art; they may seem funny to us now, yet they remain powerful images.

Comrade Stalinís Baby Tooth is available for $29.95.

Editorís note: Next week, Books as gifts, part two ó more teen adventures of Buddy Williams, a culinary journey with a Ukrainian flavour and up close with cougars.

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