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Books make the best gifts: part two

Book reviews
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Author Kenneth Budd with WinterFree.

Author Ken Budd is on a roll by publishing his third book in two years, titled WinterFree, in his Adventures of Buddy Williams series.

Avid readers of the series — and I am one of them — will recall that though these books are intended for a teen audience, they offer huge nostalgic interest to any adult who grew up in the 1950s or even early ‘60s. The author captures the mood of the times perfectly — an era when kids played hockey on frozen rivers and the biggest treat was to choose a comic book from the Smoke Shop. Budd’s writing is evocative — his description of prairie blizzards will send shivers through readers. 

The boy hero, Buddy Williams, goes through some dark times in the winter of Book 3. His grandfather, also his father figure, has died and the family misses him most when they spend their first Christmas without him. Then Buddy has a falling out with his good friends Riel, the stocky Métis kid, and Mokey, the small chubby kid. The author takes on some issues that teens faced at that time and are current today. Buddy messes up his first kiss. Then, he is drawn into an evangelical religion and must learn to find his own spiritual path. He faces the attitudes of white people to the First Nations when he once again meets his old friend Joe Starblanket.

WinterFree follows SummerWild and FallGently, and is available for $16.95 at Windows on the Water, IGA Gibsons and Talewind Books. A study guide suitable for school use will be available in January.  

Ukrainian Romp

More Kapusta or Cabbage: A Mother and Daughter Historical and Culinary Journey is another cookbook romp with Ukrainian-born Jennie Choban taking the lead, and daughter and former pastry chef April-Ria Qureshi of Gibsons providing some of the recipes.

Mother Choban has led an interesting life. She escaped with her family from Stalin’s terror in the Ukraine at the age of four, and they lived in a displaced persons camp until the family’s emigration to Canada. One of her best stories in the book is not about these unstable beginnings, but how she took on the Canada Revenue department in court on behalf of self-employed writers.

The recipes cover some useful tips: how to get full flavour from your borsch (beet soup) and how to get your kids to eat peas. (Answer: You can’t!) It’s a diverse array that includes everything from chocolate ganache to cabbage rolls. Choban writes in a folksy style, without much attention to punctuation or precision, which sometimes distracts or can leave the reader puzzling. What are “twigs of parsley,” for example? Overall, it’s an entertaining and tasty read.

Up Close With Cougars

The Cougar, from author Paula Wild (Douglas & McIntyre) will either make you fear or admire the animal — or both.

The subtitle is Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous, and that about sums it up. Did you know that the cougar (also called puma and mountain lion) can jump 5.5 metres straight up from a standstill? Or that cougar attacks on humans have increased greatly since the 1970s as we have pushed further into the cat’s habitat?

Full colour photos of the animal depict its muscular, tawny body and its huge paws that pad silently through the forest. Several pictures show the animal in full flight, possibly leaping onto the back of a goat to bring it down and munch on its heart and liver. But Wild also gives reassuring history, particularly the experience of naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton who, after sleeping under the stars one night, awoke to find cougar tracks around his bedding. He was unharmed but the horses were gone.

Wild incorporates history, colourful accounts of hunters (including the story of Bergie, the Sunshine Coast’s “cougar lady”) and how to counter an attack. It’s a fascinating book available in hard cover from local bookstores.

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