Inspired by the North

December 2, 2016

I was asked by Back Roads Bill for a list of books that would be great gifts for those who live in Northern Ontario. He wanted to share these books during his regular segment on CBC Morning North with Markus Schwabe so I curated a library that have obvious links to our north and its environment but also books for all of us!

Here’s our conversation December 6, 2016 on CBC Morning North: Books for the Back Roads.

a back roads library

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a memoir for the ADVENTURER in your life


Anyone who was fortunate enough to spend an evening with Adam Shoalts at The Canadian Ecology Centre’s inaugural Earth Day Book Talk in April knows that the age of exploration is not over.

You’ve heard the phrase: where there’s a will, there’s a way. Well consider the iron will of Adam. He is an explorer and a trail blazer trained as a cartographer, historian and archeologist. Basically he can do it all!

ALONE AGAINST THE NORTH is his determined story of finding the Again River. What Shoalts discovered as he paddled downriver appeared in no satellite imagery or map: a series of waterfalls that could easily have killed him. Just as astonishing was the media reaction when he got back to civilization. He was crowned “Canada’s Indiana Jones” and was feted by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and congratulated by the governor general. Shoalts had proved that the world is bigger than we think.

He writes a gripping and often poetic classic adventure story of single-minded obsession, physical hardship, and the restless sense of wonder that every explorer has in common. Shoalts’s story makes it clear that the world can become known only by getting out of our cars and armchairs, and setting out into the unfamiliar, where every step is different from the one before and something you may never have imagined lies around the next curve in the river.

I hope this true life adventure story inspires you to make your own discoveries in nature.

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a reference book for the wanna-BEE KEEPER

THE BEE BOOK from DK Canada

I’m buzzing about this lavish, comprehensive, practical & inspirational bee-utiful book that should fly straight into your house and build a hive in your child’s classroom!

This big (8”x10”) book that’s richly illustrated with full-color photographs throughout, covers everything you need to know to start your own backyard hive, from setup to harvest. Practical beekeeping techniques are explained with clear step-by-step sequences, photos, and diagrams so you’ll be prepared to establish your own colony, deal with diseases, collect a swarm, and much more.

A comprehensive gardening chapter features planting plans to fill container and border gardens, bee “hotel” and habitat projects, and an at-a-glance flower gallery of bees’ favorite plants. The Bee Book also shows you how to harvest honey, beeswax, and propolis from the hive and use these ingredients in 38 recipes for home remedies, beauty treatments, and candle-making.

Discover the wonder of bees in nature, in your garden, and in the hive with The Bee Book, bound in a beautiful gold-foil and texture cover and perfect for gift-giving.

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for families & educators who want to inject VITAMIN N into their kids!


We all experience weather! It is a universal topic that parents and educators can use to help children engage with nature, regardless of where they live. There are 32 outdoor activities that give children ages 4 to 12 ways to explore the real science behind everyday weather phenomena. Through creative, fun, and engaging projects, children will expand their knowledge, be encouraged to ask questions, and engage their curiosity about the world. Integrating kid-friendly art and experimentation with scientific explanations that are easy to understand but still give kids credit for being clever and capable.

Best part of this book is that it gives parents the tools they need to clearly explain the science behind each activity: A perfect tool for the growing movement of parents and educators who are focused on getting children outdoors where they can interact with the natural world

Don’t mourn a rainy day; instead, use it as a leaping-off point for outdoor adventures! I love this book because it encourages creativity, questioning, and a spirit of curiosity–perfect for budding naturalists.

Full of accessible information about weather science and the way things work, this hands-on guide to exploring the natural world will inspire a sense of wonder and adventure–no matter what the day brings. Let the weather take the lead and never be bored again! Paint in the rain, send kites soaring in the wind, build ice orbs, and become a snowflake scientist–let the wonders of nature inspire your next adventure.

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for KIDS of all ages who want to know more about stuff.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Kids Almanac 2017, Canadian Edition

The world’s best-selling almanac for kids is back. Targeted to ages 8 and up.

This Globe and Mail bestseller is packed with incredible photos, tons of fun facts, crafts, activities, and fascinating articles about animals, science, nature, technology, and more. New features include a special section on animal friends; an updated “Fun and Games” chapter filled with all-new games, jokes, and comics; a new “Dino Myths Busted” feature; all new weird-but-true facts, crafts, and activities; a new special “15 Facts” feature in every chapter; updated reference material, and much more

ThisNATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Kids Almanac 2017, Canadian Edition has media features for mobile devices, including videos, photo galleries, and interactive games.

AND there’s a HELP WITH SCHOOLWORK feature where Educational experts give learning tips in homework help sections throughout the book.

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for the MAPLE SYRUP lover

MAPLE by Katie Webster

Ever since Back Roads Bill gave me a big jug of maple syrup I’ve been looking for a variety of ways to use it as I have to confess I don’t like pancakes.

Did you know that maple syrup is paleo, vegan friendly & naturally gluten free so most everyone can enjoy maple syrup and many of the 100 recipes in the book.

Have you eaten breakfast today? If not, try one of these recipes from the book: Maple Cranberry Walnut Granola, Steel-cut Oats Banana Walnut Bowls or Maple Sweet Potato Coffee Cake.

At lunch dip into Soups, Side Dishes, and Salads like Carrot Ginger Soup with Maple Yogurt, Slow Cooker Chicken Thigh Hot Pot or Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup.

For dinner the Main Courses include Maple Wheat Pizza Dough, simple Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs or Vermonter Quesadillas with Maple Cream.

And of course there’s Desserts like Maple apple crumb pie, for Christmas some Maple Shortbread Cookies or Maple lemon squares.

PLUS there’s Drinks including Maple Peach Old Fashioned and a Mapletini! A jar of maple syrup is a great gift BUT a jar of maple syrup with a beautiful, comprehensive cook book about what to do with it is even better.

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a must read

WENJACK a novella by Joseph Boyden

Chanie Wenjack died 50 years ago in October 2016: The Ojibwa boy froze by the side of Northern Ontario train tracks after running away from a residential school. Although his death resulted in Canada’s first inquiry into the practice of removing indigenous children from their families, the 12-year-old’s story isn’t common knowledge.

This novella is written by Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Joseph Boyden and beautifully illustrated by acclaimed artist Ken Monkman, Boyden feels that this powerful book should be read even in grade school. He doesn’t think grade seven or eights are too young to read the story, but grandparents aren’t too old to read this book.

Boyden “wants us as Canadians to understand the fuller history of our country, to take it upon him or herself to learn beyond what you weren’t taught in school. And the importance of that. It’s not so we feel guilty or bad for what people we never met did, it’s beyond that. It’s how do we come together as a nation and move forward together.”

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for Bills’s stocking:


This is a Cryptid Coloring Book and Field Reference Guide containing 20+ illustrations of legendary and mythical creatures known as cryptids.

What’s a CRYPTID you ask?! A cryptid is any creature that may or may not exist. Their existence has been reported, but there has not been any proof they are real. For example, the Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, and more. This unique coloring book is both informative and fun. Details on these mysterious creatures are laid out in a field guy sort of way alongside wonderful illustrations of how they might look like.

Back Roads Bill is a kid at heart so this book is perfect for him but also young children will appreciate the fun of taking a coloring book page and making it their own. A great stocking stuffer as it offers creativity and an outlet for their own imagination during the holidays.

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books are naturally a great gift

Books are natural a great gift! No batteries required One size fits all & a book is a gift that keeps giving after the story is finished!

created by robertson mcclure