Tag Archives: books

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



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Filed under Books, Childhood, Winnipeg

A Novel So Long It Took Us Through Eight States

small-great-things-hc-400wDave and I have been listening to Jodi Picoult’s novel Small Great Things on our drive back to Manitoba from Arizona.  It is a loooooooooong book!  Nearly sixteen hours of listening.  Jodi always addresses a social issue in her novels  and presents ethical dilemmas for her readers to consider. The issue in Small Great Things is racism and the ethical dilemma is faced by a black labor and delivery nurse named Ruth. She has been told by her supervisor not to touch the baby of a white supremacist couple Britt and Turk Bauer after they complain about having a black woman care for their baby. But the newborn goes into cardiac arrest when Ruth happens to be the only staff person in the nursery. She must decide whether to try to save the baby’s life or follow the orders she has been given not to touch the child. Due to her decision she is fired and charged with murder in the baby’s death. 

Jodi Picoult is known for her meticulous research and this book helps you learn almost too much about how newborns are cared for in hospitals, how court cases are researched, the incredibly scary world of white supremacists in America, and the effects of racism on communities, society and individuals.  Jodi says in an afterword she did not write this book so much to show the burden African-Americans carry because of the color of their skin, but rather to show white Americans how racist they are, even if they think they aren’t. 

I was concerned about how the book would end because Jodi can sometimes give you a surprise ending that is troubling and unsatisfying.  I kept telling Dave what I was worried would happen. This book did not end the way I predicted and left some of my questions unanswered but I was satisfied with it. 

Jodi’s books always have multiple narrators and this story is told by Ruth the nurse, Turk Bauer the white supremacist and Kennedy McQuarrie Ruth’s lawyer. Perhaps because I was listening to it rather than reading it, I sometimes felt that Jodi repeated too many things in her consecutive narratives instead of always moving the story ahead as quickly as she might have.  I did think the novel could have used a good edit and as I listened kept thinking of parts I would have slashed.  

Still this was a good story that kept us engaged as we drove through eight different states. In fact listening to this story set in America while driving through America added to its appeal and made it even more thought-provoking. 

Note: The title comes from a quote by Martin Luther King

 If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way

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Sing You Home- A Book Set to Music


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Book Pilfering and the Bassoon

book collectionI had a lovely morning yesterday.  Went to a friend’s home.  He is moving to a condo in Halifax after owning a home in Winnipeg for many decades and needs to get rid of most of his book collection, which occupies the walls of several rooms. I was able to pilfer some wonderful titles!  I only took my back pack and one grocery bag along so I wouldn’t be tempted to take too many books.  I needed to ferry them home on the bus. I asked my friend if it wasn’t hard for him to part with all his wonderful books, but he said strangely it wasn’t and was giving him a certain feeling of freedom. I was glad to help with that. 

millenium concert seriesI got off the bus at McDermot Avenue and popped into the Millennium Centre for their Tuesday noon hour concert series.  The treat in store for me was a program of music with Kathryn Brooks on the bassoon, Madeline Hildebrand on piano and Beverly Wang on the oboe.  The bassoon was the featured instrument and I learned it is called ‘the clown of the orchestra.’ In Kathryn Brooks’ hands it was hardly clownish but rather a thing of beauty. I gained a whole new appreciation for the bassoon. My only disappointment during the terrific concert was that because the musicians were on the same level as we were, we couldn’t see their faces or hands as they performed.  On the last piece a trio for oboe, bassoon and piano by Jean Francaix, Madeline’s fingers must have been literally flying across the piano keys and I wish I could have seen them! There are six more concerts in the series. I hope to take in more!

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Haunted by Ghosts- The Millennium Centre

The Magic of Tidying Up

A Musical Weekend


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Filed under Books, Music, Winnipeg

My Book Flood

all-the-light-we-cannot-seeRemember the Christmas Book Flood? At the end of December I blogged about an Icelandic tradition called The Christmas Book Flood. A raft of new books are released every November and this gets the whole country reading and talking about books in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Since it is a tradition for everyone to receive a book for Christmas the book discussions go on throughout the holidays as well.  I thought it was a wonderful idea!  red butterflySince I was heading off on a two month holiday right after Christmas I had my own personal flood of books ready for reading.  Here’s a list of books I’ve read in the past two months. 

 All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doeer   

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant   +

 A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler  +

 Red Butterly by Amy Sonnichson   # *

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult +

The Weight of Water by Wally Lamb +

enslavement melinda friesenEnslavement by Mindi Friesen   #*

Of Two Minds by Perry Nodelman and Carol Matas #*

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven #

Orphan-Train-Cropped1Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline   #

Missing in Paradise by Larry Verstraete   #*

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion    +

empty_cover_cover_final Empty Cup by Suzanne Costigan    # *

#- indicates a book aimed at the middle years and young adult audience. Since I’m trying to write for that age group I’m trying to read more books written with them in mind. 

*- indicates a book I read primarily because I have some kind of personal connection with the author

+ – indicates a book I read because I’ve read others by the same author and enjoyed them

the goldfinchThat leaves only two books I read just because I’d heard they were good books.  I’ve reviewed The Goldfinch and it wasn’t my favorite.  My favorite book on the list would be All the Light We Cannot See.   I learned so much about locks and radios and history and what its like to be blind.  I knew right from the start the book’s two main characters would find each other and could hardly put the book down till I’d found out why and how. 

So that’s my Flood of Books. I know in the coming months as I go back to work for the university and the art gallery and take on a curriculum writing project I’ve just signed a contract to complete there won’t be as much time to read. But I think I’ll start right now collecting a new flood of books for my next vacation. Any suggestions? 

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Remembering Maurice Sendak

The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another…………His mother called him “WILD THING!” and Max said “I’LL EAT YOU UP!” so he was sent to bed without eating anything. 

maurice sendak's best sellerThose are the first sentences in the book Where the Wild Things Are, winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal for children’s literature. When they were small my sons loved Where the Wild Things Are so much I had to read it over and over and over. Although it’s probably been more than twenty years since I read it last, I can still recite almost all of the text from memory.  


Maurice Sendak, the author of Where the Wild Things Are died today. Although he was most famous for Where the Wild Things Are I was equally passionate about some of his other books. 

When I taught kindergarten and grade one I used the rhymes from Sendak’s book Chicken Soup With Rice to help children learn the months of the year.  Sendak had created a funny illustrated poem for each month and the children and I chanted them together. I can still recite many of these too. Sendak’s interesting drawings and lyrical text were easy to remember.

I’ll never forget the stir this book of Sendak’s caused when it arrived at the elementary school where I was teaching. The story is about a little boy who has a dream he is helping to bake a cake. On a number of pages in the book he is nude and his penis is showing. Our school librarian solved the controversy about whether to put the book on the library shelves or not, by drawing in and coloring little pairs of pyjamas on the boy on all the pages where he was naked. 

My very favorite Sendak book however is Pierre. There is nothing that frustrates a teacher or parent more than a child who constantly says, “I don’t care.” That is exactly what Pierre does.

“What would you like to eat?”

“I don’t care!”

“Some lovely cream of wheat?”

“I don’t care!”

“Don’t sit backwards on your chair.”

“I don’t care!”

“Or pour syrup in your hair.”

“I don’t care!”

 Sendak makes sure Pierre learns his lesson. Pierre meets a lion and his “I don’t care” refrain results in him being eaten alive. Luckily a doctor gets Pierre out of the lion’s stomach……. but after his ordeal he never says “I don’t care” again. It reminds me a bit of the Jonah and the whale story in the Bible. 

Some people have criticized Sendak because his books are on the dark side and involve rebellious children and scary monsters. But his characters and story lines are no more frightening than those of many fairy tales in which witches kidnap children to fatten them up for eating, and a little girl in a red hood gets gobbled up by a wolf and a naughty child trespasses in the home of three bears.
I saw the movie Where the Wild Things Are based on Sendak’s book in 2009 and even had my picture taken with my face in the hood of Max’s wolf suit. I didn’t like the movie. The book is great but the film makers tried too hard to stretch the story into a movie and lost the audience’s interest along the way. 
Maurice Sendak  was quite a crusty fellow,  the epitome of a crumudgeon. The last time I saw him was in January on the Colbert Report when he told Stephen Colbert, ” I don’t write for children. I write and then someone says, “That’s for children.”  Sendak also said he didn’t write to make children happy or make life easier for them, admitting that while he didn’t really like people, he did like children better than adults. 
Maurice Sendak has left a lasting legacy in children’s literature. 
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