Summer holiday book buys in Ontario


Mark and I were not able to travel overseas last summer, therefore our trip to Manchester UK, the Isle of Man and Jokkmokk, in northern Sweden, had to be cancelled. Nevertheless we managed to take three small vacations within Ontario. During those trips of course I visited second-hand bookstores and came home with four books. The rest of them–the Pelee Island titles–I was only able to buy on-line after our visit since the island museum and shop were closed.

I was happy to find Hurricane Hazel by Betty Kennedy from 1979:

I knew this book was a classic account of the natural disaster. Last year after I read another book on the same subject, Hurricane Hazel: Canada’s Storm of the Century I decided to try to find this book.

The island-lover in me loves stories about life on faraway oceanic dots, and my latest interest is the St. Kilda archipelago, the westernmost of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides:

I find it tragic how the insular community had to leave the islands in 1930, not because they were forced to by government decree, but because the struggle to survive had taken its toll on the residents with disease and lack of food supply. St Kilda and other Hebridean Outliers by Francis Thompson from 1970, in the David & Charles Islands series tells their story.

One section I never fail to visit is the languages. In the smaller bookstores I usually find only old French and Spanish dictionaries, but on these trips I picked up two books featuring Canada’s indigenous languages. At Bay Used Books in Sudbury I found English-Eskimo / Eskimo-English Dictionary by Arthur Thibert from 1976:

It was published by the Canadian Research Centre for Anthropology at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. It was revised from its first edition in 1954 yet even in 1976 the term Eskimo didn’t seem derogatory enough to revise the title. When I paid for it the cashier let out a mild shriek; we both recognized that the term would never be used today. The dictionary talks about the Eskimo syllabic, which we know as Inuktitut. The words were transliterated into the Roman alphabet. By the way, there were eight different words for snow, ranging from “snow (newly drifted)” to “snow (on clothes, boots etc.)” to “snow (for melting into water)”.

Book lovers know that one of the joys about shopping in second-hand stores is that you never know what you’ll find. Although I can’t remember what city I was in when I bought this (since I visited so many stores) I do recall that the store was tiny with barely a languages section to speak of:

Kanyen’keha Tewatati (Let’s Speak Mohawk) by David Kanatawakhon Maracle was a short introduction to the language, with chapters on pronunciation, nouns and adjectives, and verbs and pronouns.

During my time on Pelee Island I saw many books about the island in the place where we stayed, the Wandering Dog Inn. They had a small bookcase full of island history. I also read about other books in my research on the island. Unfortunately the Pelee Island Museum and Heritage Centre were closed due to the pandemic, so most of the books I had seen in our inn were only available through mail order. I enjoyed perusing the inn’s collection and ordered the following titles:

Ronald Tiessen was an island historian who wrote a novel The Pelé Harbour for Odd Birds, which takes place on Pelee. The novel was autographed yet the date on this self-published edition was 14 June 2017. Although it was originally published in 2016, that was the year of Tiessen’s death. Is my autograph a forgery?

A Bicycle Guide to Pelee Island by Ronald Tiessen is the fifth edition from 2000. Bill Sawchuk provided illustrations for 62 landmarks and historical sites. A map indicated where each landmark was located, to make exploration easier. It would have been nice to have this book while Mark and I were cycling all over the island.

A Brief History of the Pelee Island Lighthouse by Ronald Tiessen and Irena Knezevic was published in 1999. The authors used original documents in the compilation of this book and there is a flavour of nineteenth-century lightkeeping throughout the text.

Pelee Island, Shipwrecks and Rescue by Ron Tiessen was published in 1992. The rusted staples lead me to think that this must be a first printing. Tiessen wrote about the hazards around the islands and the wrecks and rescue responses.

The Story of Pelee by Noah Garno had no publication date but was originally published in 1954. No chapter titles provided but island history covered over 63 pages in pocketbook size.

Point au Pelee Island: A Historical Sketch of and an Account of the McCormick Family, who were the First White Owners on the Island by Thaddeus Smith was originally published in 1926 and is a 1996 reprint. Note the title on the cover ends with “…First White Owners of the Island” while the title page itself says “…on the Island”. I will have to read this to find out which one applies. Microscopic text must have been copied from the original layout.

The Pelee Project: One Woman’s Escape from Urban Madness by Jane Christmas was available with a different cover, featuring the island lighthouse. I found an earlier imprint on-line with the original cover.

Pelee Island: human and natural history; guide to a unique island community is 72 pages filled with colour photos and text. You could learn so much about the island by reading the photo captions alone.

Pelee Portrait: Canada’s Southern Treasures is a long, landscape-format book filled with glossy photos, many of which occupy a full page. It is a softcover “coffee-table book” that doesn’t scrimp on text. There’s even a short chapter on Canada’s southernmost point of land, Middle Island.

I found Pelee Island: Then and Now while researching historical books on the island. I did not see it while there. The book listed no author, unless the three surnames on the front cover are the authors. No year of publication was evident but judging from the stylized maple leaf on the cover and throughout the book, thus must be a Canadian centennial publication from 1967. My copy even had an old island ferry schedule wedged between the pages. An adult fare from Leamington used to cost (in 1967?) $1.50 and autos were $5.00 one way. The destination on the island was Scudder Dock. The book’s 28 chapters dealt with subjects such as mail service, vine-yards (spelled with a hyphen), fishing, and biographies of historical figures.

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