Tells all, sees all: books about our community

You've got to like an author that begins a book of family history with a note to his relatives explaining that he is writing his own memory of events - and he welcomes the flak he will get from them.

First time author Ray Phillips is determined to tell it all - the colourful language and barroom episodes, the brotherly feuds, the gory accidents and the harsh wilderness living of his family, the Kleins, in The Little Green Valley, the Kleindale Story (Harbour Publishing).

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Kleindale is an estuary area where today is situated a school, golf course and Lions Park. The level land suitable for farming contrasts with the rocky slopes of nearby Pender Harbour. It was the timber that first attracted the pioneering Kleins to the area and they continued to log, but the good farm land and Bill Klein's oyster operation in the aptly named Oyster Bay, kept them there.

The Klein family originated in Germany and first arrived in Pender Harbour by way of New Orleans, Washington State and Surrey in the early 1900s.

Inspired by his father's handwritten history, Phillips has made use of notes from his Aunt Florence and much research in old photo albums to tell his story. The photos are a good addition to the book - many of them feature the Klein boys logging among giant trees. You can always tell which ones are the Kleins - they stand taller than anyone else. Phillips describes how when his gun-wielding, moonshine-brewing Uncle Charlie Klein died, the family had to dynamite the Kleindale cemetery site to make the grave bigger for him.

Many of the stories are also larger than life, but they are believable and told with a storyteller's touch. You will wish you could have known Grandma Klein who healed the sick with homespun remedies, or you could meet the pet deer called Bambi that wreaked havoc on the neighbour's strawberries.

Phillips also tells about the mysterious stranger who arrived in Pender Harbour to birth her illegitimate baby far away from her family's judgemental eyes. A local woman, Maxie, took her in and the stranger, Elizabeth Smart, lived in Uncle John Klein's log cabin where she wrote a famous book, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.

Other local families figure in The Little Green Valley, their stories told in brief vignettes: from the market gardeners and contractors to the unhygienic butcher, to the bus driver that the kids dubbed Mr. Absolutely. Phillips acknowledges the value of preserving local history as has been done most recently through a previous publication, The Women of Pender Harbour, and by the establishment of an archive. Let's make history, Phillips says, and he offers to contribute any income from the sale of this book towards that goal. The book is available for $24.95 at local bookstores.

The second edition of The Sunshine Coast, From Gibsons to Powell River, is that rare find among glossy, hard cover books of photographs destined for the coffee table. It's a darn good read. This much needed update to the previous edition describes the area we call home and gives a little history, a bit of geography and many anecdotes, while capturing a sense of life on the Coast.

The text is by award-winning author and publisher Howard White who has lived and worked on the Sunshine Coast since 1950, and has been gathering stories ever since.

The photographs are stellar and encompass Langdale to Lund. They are new from the previous edition, and are primarily by Dean Van't Schip whose camera sees all. The book also includes work by Keith Thirkell, Allan Forest and Darren Robinson, among others.

The photos depict gorgeous scenery and aerial views, but also emphasize detail: a pine mushroom pushing through the forest floor, a Pacific tree frog changing colour or a spot prawn lying on a dock. They also capture people at work and play: artists in their studios, log boomers, totem carvers, gardeners, skiers, kayakers and those who dance in the Creek Daze parade.

The Sunshine Coast is available for $34.95 from Harbour Publishing.

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