Category Archives: Books

Bear Town

Playing hockey can be a great experience for kids. Hockey teams can help community pride flourish. Hockey can bring people together.  Playing hockey can also be an awful experience for kids. It can batter civic pride. It can divide people.  Bear Town by Fredrik Backman looks at both the negative and positive sides of hockey.  It is set in Sweden but could happen any place where people love the game.  

bear townIn Bear Town hockey gives an immigrant kid a place to belong, helps a boy without a Dad find a father figure, gives meaning and purpose to the life of an old man, provides camaraderie for a hockey phenom whose parents don’t have time for him, and inspires hope in a dying community. 

In Bear Town hockey creates a culture that entitles young men to think they can treat others violently. Hockey inspires vandalism and blackmail and fosters a locker room mentality that isn’t respectful of diversity. Hockey tears families apart and makes people feel hopeless. 

Bear Town is suspenseful.  It tells a story that will engage you completely. If  hockey has ever played a role in your life as a fan, parent or player it will make you think about that experience in new ways. 

Other posts…….

Thanks Terry MacLeod

The Shady Area Between Violence and Non-Violence

Healthy Environments?  


Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Sports

A Kindred Spirit

I was having lunch in a Steinbach restaurant last week when a woman approached me. I recognized her right away as the mother of one of my students from many years ago.  Her son had made such an impression on me that I had taped a photo of him in my journal during the year he was my grade four student. The reason I remember him so well is because of something that happened while I was reading aloud Anne of Green Gables to the class.  We had just finished the chapter where Anne tells her adopted father Matthew  she believes the two of them are kindred spirits. The little guy pictured below came up, tapped me on the arm and whispered “You know Mrs. Driedger I think you and I are kindred spirits too.”  It was the highest compliment I could have received and I’ve never forgotten that moment.  

The boy’s mother who came over to me in the restaurant last week told me about her son’s stable career, his happy marriage and the fact that he was now the proud father of twins.  She even showed me a photo of his two tiny newborns. I was glad to hear my kindred spirit was doing so well.  

Other posts…..…..

Stopping by Woods

Kids and the Flood of the Century

The Children are Watching and Listening and Wondering



Filed under Books, Education

My Childhood Reading Heaven

Revisiting the Good Will store on Princess Street

The GoodWill store on Princess Street in Winnipeg was a place of wonder and delight for me as a child. The store has changed somewhat since I used to visit there in the 1960s but one thing hasn’t changed. On the far wall just where they’ve always been, are rows and rows and rows of books from the floor to the ceiling. The shelves of the Good Will Store were one of my main sources for reading material when I was a child. We lived in Steinbach which didn’t have a public library till 1973, the year I turned twenty. Our Steinbach church didn’t have a library yet, in fact we didn’t even have a building. We met for services in a school basement.  The old Kornelson School where I first attended classes in Steinbach didn’t have a library either and Steinbach didn’t have a book store.  Perhaps because I had been read to often when I was a child, I grew up loving books and read voraciously. On family trips my Mom would tell me to get my nose out of my book and look at the scenery. Here I am setting off for my first day of school with a book in hand. I could read before I started grade one. So what was a girl who loved to read and had no access to books in her home town to do? My reading salvation lay at the Good Will store.  On trips to Winnipeg my Mom often made a stop at Good Will and patiently waited while I picked out books to read. Books were 5 cents each.  On my birthday my Grandma and Grandpa always sent me a one dollar bill in my birthday card. That was 20 books! Should I choose a Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Box Car Children, Elsie Dinsmore, Bobbsey Twins, or another book in the Anne of Green Gables series or Little House series? I was in heaven in the GoodWill Store! All those books! The Good Will store on Princess Street offered me reading salvation as a child. I’m glad kids today have many more options for gaining access to books. 

Other posts……..

Who Do Family Stories Belong To?

Agatha Christie’s First Trip on the Orient Express

Lesson Not Required



Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Childhood, Winnipeg

A Different Kind of Daughter

Sometimes you have to go in the wrong direction to find the right one.

Start looking around.  You might notice a fork in the road. I see them all the time myself. Open your eyes.

I know that many people have many ways to reach one God. I like to know what they all are. Everyone must find the way for themselves or they will be lost.

Believing in luck is a curse. I just believe.

Getting down on your knees will not make you more pious.  Your brightest temple exists with you.

I kept a pencil in hand to make notes as I read A Different Kind of Daughter by Maria Toorpakai.  The father of the main character has so many astute observations and insights and I didn’t want to forget them. A Different Kind of Daughter is a memoir of a girl growing up in Pakistan and becoming an accomplished squash player. She escapes the Taliban and comes to Canada where she continues to play squash and has started a foundation to help educate girls in countries like hers where they experience oppression. 

I think Maria’s father is definitely the hero of this story. He goes against all the laws in his country often risking his job, safety and family connections  to be sure his daughters will have fulfilling meaningful lives pursuing their passions and dreams. 

Not only is Maria’s father her number one supporter he is also a great dispenser of wisdom as the quotes above illustrate.  Her father’s words and example continue to inspire Maria now that she is apart from her family.  They will inspire you too. 

Other posts………

Must We Live in Fear? 

A Train Introduces Me to a Fascinating Woman

I Think I’ve Found Another Maeve Binchy

Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Harry Potter and Eminem

This week people have been celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Harry Potter. It reminded me of an article I wrote about the Harry Potter books in 2000. It was by debut column as a regular writer for the Faith Page of the Winnipeg Free Press.

I wrote about two events in Toronto’s Skydome.  On October 23, 2000 J.K. Rowling read excerpts from her book Harry Potter to 20,000 school children in the Skydome and on October 25, 2000 singer Eminem played a show there to a packed house of enthusiastic teenagers.  Many religious groups had been criticizing both Rowling and Eminem. The year my column debuted, Eminem and JK Rowling were two of pop cultures most famous icons.  

Religious groups were accusing Rowling of championing witchcraft and Eminem was being taken to task because his songs often promoted violent acts towards women.  In my column I suggested the Rowling books should not cause concern for parents but they would do well to read the frightening and disturbing Eminem lyrics and then decide whether they might be suitable for their children. 

The main point of my article was that parents had a responsiblity to be informed about the books and recordings that engaged their children, and be willing to discuss the content of that literature and music with their kids.   That’s as true today in 2017 as it was when my column was written in 2000.

Other posts………

Why Are Adults Reading Teen Fiction?

A Little Inspiration From the James Taylor Concert

Lynch Family and Lead Belly

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Childhood, Music

Where I Live Now

I was sorry to miss the Sharon Butala reading at McNally Robinson in April. Luckily my friend Esther shared her copy of Sharon’s new book Where I Live Now with me, so I have been savouring Sharon Butala’s wonderful writing this past week.  

where i live nowWhere I Live Now describes how Sharon began a new chapter of her life after her husband died and she made the transition from her isolated farm on the Saskatchewan prairie to a condo in Calgary. Many of Sharon’s words really resonated with me. 

Sharon writes……..”When I was a child we moved a lot, yet I don’t ever recall the sense of having lost a home, because wherever we went ……..”home” still went with us everywhere, as long as we were together. “

By the time I finished high school my family had called seven houses “home” but I too don’t remember feeling a sense of loss about leaving those places although experiences in each remain very vivid to me. As long as I was with my family I was home.  

Outside our house on Beaverbrook Street in Winnipeg, ready to go to the lake with my Auntie Millie and her children. I was seven. 

When Sharon moved to Calgary she thought…… “my connection with nature would be only in my strolls along asphalt paths through manicured parks with hundreds of other people.”  Sharon was surprised to discover several wilderness areas close to her home where she could enjoy the beauty of the natural world. 

We felt the same way when we moved to Hong Kong thinking it would just be a place of skyscrapers and pavement and hordes of people. We discovered to our delight great wilderness areas perfect for hiking within easy distance of our apartment and school. 

Wilderness hiking with my students in Hong Kong.

Sharon also writes about a trip she and her husband made to Slovakia to discover the place her husband’s father had come from. She describes it “as the most fascinating of all our trips.”  

Dave and I have traveled extensively but I would have to also say that “the most fascinating of all our trips” was the one we made to Ukraine to find the birthplaces of Dave’s parents and my grandparents. 

I stand beside the tombstone of my great, great grandfather Daniel Peters in Nikolaipol Cemetery Ukraine

Where I Live Now helped me think about how my past experiences can inspire me to remain truly alive as I age. 

Other posts……….

Nature in the City

The Crazy Man

The Station of Tears

Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Two Nests

I just finished reading two books called The Nest and they couldn’t be more different. The first by Cynthia D’ Aprix Sweeney is a cautionary tale for adults about self-sufficiency and the folly of counting your eggs before they are hatched.  Three siblings must decide what to do when their oldest brother makes a horrible mistake that jeopardizes the inheritance they were to receive in their middle age from their parents. They’ve all rather foolishly planned their futures around that money.  The siblings aren’t living what I thought were very meaningful or productive lives and their relationships weren’t healthy. They whined and felt sorry for themselves.  These Americans with their sense of entitlement helped me understand why so many of their countrymen and women feel left out of the American dream and resent those who have inherited access to it. I found it very difficult to like the characters in Sweeney’s The Nest

On the other hand I really liked the young boy Steve at the heart of The Nest by Kenneth Oppel.  Oppel is a children’s author. I’ve read his book Silver Wing aloud to many classes of elementary school students. The main character in Silver Wing is a bat. The natural world plays a role in The Nest as well. Wasps are the antagonists.  Steve is the protagonist who must save a new baby brother suffering from all kinds of medical issues. Steve has problems of his own to battle before he can come to the rescue.  While I liked this book I found it to be pretty dark and scary and I am not sure I would recommend it for anyone under twelve.  I admit my patriotic bias in my evaluation of this book because Kenneth Oppel is a popular Canadian author and The Nest is illustrated by Jon Klassen an equally popular Canadian in his field.

Other posts……..

Getting to Know Emma Donoghue in Person

Who Do Family Stories Belong To?

A Book That Mirrors A News Story

Leave a comment

Filed under Books