25th Trillium Award

Focus On: Thunder Bay - The Recommended Reads

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Hiking Lake Superior Shores Photo: Barry Wojciechowski

By Erin Knight and Megan Philipp

A writer who is drawn to Thunder Bay is a writer who thrives in the peace that the encroaching wilderness can offer. Ontario's northern forests and lakes have inspired writers across the province, but the ones who call Northwestern Ontario home will never be lacking in the sense of wonder necessary to the art. If you're looking for a book or two to pack with you on your canoe trip or if you need something to set your mind free, then look no farther. Poetry, memoir, children's picture books, novels and photography are all well-represented by the great minds of Thunder Bay.

A Brief Time in Heaven (Dundurn Press), by Darryl Blazino

In A Brief Time in Heaven (Dundurn Press), Thunder Bay resident and outdoorsman Darryl Blazino tells stories of his adventures in the canoe country of northwestern Ontario. This collection of personal stories highlights the best and worst occurrences of 12 years? worth of adventures that happened in the area, including encounters with wildlife, the danger of being out in the wilderness and the challenges of wilderness camping with children. The book depicts the wonder and beauty of a land that the author has returned to again and again. Illustrated with stunning photography, this book would be a great summertime read if you?re aching for the isolation and beauty of northwestern Ontario.

The Incredible Journey (Scholastic Canada), by Sheila Burnford

Originally published in 1961, The Incredible Journey (Scholastic Canada), a children?s novel written by Port Arthur author Sheila Burnford, follows Luath, a young Labrador retriever; Tao, a Siamese cat; and Bodger, an old bull terrier — three pets that have been separated from their family and are struggling to find their way back to them. Travelling through the heart of northwestern Ontario, the three companions face dangerous wild animals, injury, starvation, exhaustion and an approaching winter. And it?s only together that they have a chance of survival. This summer, take the opportunity to introduce yourself to this Canadian classic, or to rediscover it all over again.

The Beggar?s Garden (HarperCollins Canada), by Michael Christie

Longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize, The Beggar?s Garden (HarperCollins Canada), written by Thunder Bay-born author Michael Christie, is a collection of nine short stories that feature a diverse group of interconnected characters. Set in Vancouver?s Downtown Eastside, these darkly comedic stories follow a bank manager, retired Samaritan, mental patient, web designer, car thief and others, as they search for something missing in their lives, whether it is a home, drugs, love or forgiveness. A highly celebrated book, The Beggar?s Garden is considered a powerful debut that?s not to be missed.

And Baby Makes More (Insomniac Press), by Susan Goldberg, essayist, co-editor (with Chloe Brushwood Rose)

In recent years, queer couples who desire having a family of their own have turned to donors to help them have children, whether it is by acting as a surrogate or through the donation of sperm. But, what happens when they use a known donor? What are the effects on non-biological parents when a known donor is part of the picture? And Baby Makes More (Insomniac Press) is an insightful collection of personal essays that answers these important questions and more. Thunder Bay resident Susan Goldberg edited this fascinating book, which brings together essays by donors, biological and non-biological parents and their children. Filled with a variety of points of view, the essays are at times funny yet heartbreaking, offering insight into these unique families and their challenges. And Baby Makes More shares a unique perspective that helps to express how queer families are recreating themselves.

What Boys Like and Other Stories (Biblioasis), by Amy Jones

What Boys Like and Other Stories (Biblioasis) is a short fiction collection by Thunder Bay author Amy Jones. A Metcalf-Rooke Award-winning collection, this book follows a group of misfits and outsiders, including a mother and child in poverty, two friends separated by distance and time, sisters trying to find their place in their family and lovers who are growing apart, who are in love/hate relationships with their city and with each other. What Boys Like and Other Stories is unsentimental in its tone as its characters deal with love, lust and loss in the crazy world around them. This is a unique collection by a talented author.

Amy Jones was Open Book: Toronto's Writer-in-Residence for October 2009. Read her blog here.

First Voices: An Aboriginal Women's Reader (Inanna Publications), edited by Patricia A. Monture and Patricia D. McGuire

First Voices: An Aboriginal Women's Reader (Inanna Publications) is an essential collection of essays by and about Aboriginal women. Edited by Patricia Monture and Thunder Bay educator and storyteller Patricia McGuire, First Voices attempts to address the complexity of Aboriginal women's identities, experiences and relationships. Readers will find poetry and photography alongside profiles of Indigineous women and insightful essays on subjects such as activism, land use and the legal system.

Kiss Me (I'm a Prince) (Fitzhenry & Whiteside), by Heather McLeod and Brooke Kerrigan

Heather McLeod is a singer/songwriter and a former host of CBC Radio Thunder Bay. Her first book is the charming illustrated children's book Kiss Me (I'm a Prince) (Fitzhenry & Whiteside). This story turns pervasive princess obsessions upside down. When the spunky and independent Ella encounters a frog who claims he's a prince, she decides against releasing him with a kiss. Living with a talking frog would be much more interesting than living like a princess! With its original story and spellbinding illustrations by Brooke Kerrigan, it's easy to see why Kiss Me (I'm A Prince) was chosen as an Honour Book for the 2012 Blue Spruce Award.

Strength and Struggle: Perspectives from First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Peoples in Canada (McGraw-Hill Ryseron), edited by Rachel Mishenene and Pamela Rose Toulouse

Strength and Struggle: Perspectives from First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Peoples in Canada is published as part of McGraw-Hill Ryerson's iLit Collection of supplementary student resources for high school English courses. Rachel Mishenene, who co-edited this important collection along with Dr. Pamela Rose Toulouse, is an educator, writer, artist, activist and PhD student living in Thunder Bay. Strength and Struggle is designed for a Grade 11 curriculum, but its unique perspective and the breadth of understanding that it offers makes it fascinating reading for anyone interested in the Aboriginal experience.

The Tale of Sir Dragon (Kids Can Press), by Jean E. Pendziwol

Written by Thunder Bay resident Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Martine Gourbault, The Tale of Sir Dragon (Kids Can Press), part of the Dragon Safety series, is the perfect starting point for any child?s first forays into the discussion surrounding bullying. A little girl and her dragon friend set out from Camp Camelot in search of a quest, only to be confronted by a bully who says that the dragon can?t play knights because he?s too big and green. No one but the little girl supports the dragon, so she petitions to the king and they all discover that everyone has a right to play, no matter what they look like.

Sweet Seas (Fitzenhry & Whiteside), by Mark Schacter

Thunder Bay-born photographer Mark Schacter has always felt the pull of the Great Lakes, especially the majestic north shore of Superior. Sweet Seas (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) is his stunning collection of photographs that aim to capture some of the awesome beauty of these immense bodies of water that are at once teeming with development and industry yet still inescapably sublime. Schacter's photographs truly express these dual personalities of the Great Lakes. Sweet Seas will be the treasure of any library.

Read Open Book's interview with Mark Schacter here.

Thirst (Fitzhenry & Whiteside), by Catherine Taylor

Fans of The Hunger Games will enthralled by Catherine Taylor's post-apocalyptic fantasy, Thirst (Fitzhenry & Whiteside). Meet Mara, a young girl who knows no other home than the threatening wasteland of Regnboda. But Mara is no ordinary teenager: she learns she that she has a destiny that just might prove to be the salvation of her people. When her guardian dies and Mara must face the journey alone, she is tested to her very limits. She needs to convince her community that their lives are worth more than the repression the face — but how?

High on the Big Stone Heart (Dundurn Press), by Charles Wilkins

Charles Wilkins is one of Thunder Bay's most spirited and admired writers. His grave-digging memoir, In the Land of Long Fingernails (Penguin Group Canada), was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award, the Toronto Book Award and the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. While that book chronicles his years in Toronto, Wilkin's also writes passionately about the wild landscapes that inspire him. High on the Big Stone Heart (Dundurn Press) is a love letter to Canada's Boreal forests. In this collection of essays, Willkins writes about the caribou, northern Quebec and Lake Superior. He introduces us to trapper Murray Monk and boat builder Barney Giesler, and spins tales about NHL stars Bill Barilko (the Toronto Maple Leafs player who met his end in James Bay) and Maurice "Rocket" Richard. Take High on the Big Stone Heart with you into the wilderness or to escape the city in your mind alone.

With special thanks to the City of Thunder Bay for permission to publish this photograph by Barry Wojciechowski.

Buy these books at your local independent bookstore or online from the publisher, at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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