________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 19 . . . . May 11, 2007


Starbuck Valley Winter. (Junior Canadian Classic).

Roderick Haig-Brown.
Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 1944/2002.
272 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 1-55017-247-6.           

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4


But even the new thought didn’t make Don altogether happy. He wasn’t exactly miserable- he hadn’t any real reason for being miserable and he had several good reasons for being happy- but he had so darn much figuring to do that for the moment the world seemed just too big to cope with. Everything was going on at once and nothing was happening, and from somewhere in the revolving, oppressive mix-up he had to find what he was going to do during the winter. What he decided would later have its turn in deciding what he would do and how he would do it next spring, when the fishing started up again.


We all have our eye on something. Don wants the Mallard. This up-for-sale-boat holds a lot of promise for a 16-year-old prospective fisherman. Don is convinced he can earn the boat money himself by trapping martens out in Starbuck country. His deadline is March. If Don gets the money to Phil Eastey by the end of March, the Mallard will be all his.

     First published in 1943, this prequel to Saltwater Summer is about living off the land and learning from the land. Don lives on his aunt and uncle’s farm in British Columbia. He digs potatoes, separates milk, and tries to make life easier for himself and his aunt and uncle. Tired of hauling water to the house all the time, Don designs and builds a water wheel for the farm. This device brings much wanted running water right into the house! In the summer, Don fishes to earn some money. But now the winter is upon them, and Don needs to earn money- enough money to buy that boat. Determined to never set foot in the local sawmill, a place where his aunt wants him to work, Don plans to make his money trapping. With enough money to buy the commercial fishing boat, Don can continue to work independently after the winter months, all the while making a lot of money fishing. With help from his friend Tubby Miller and some much needed trapping advice coming from an unexpected source, Don does make it through the winter. And he comes out of the woods with much more than furs.

     In the woods, Don is constantly battling the elements and his own doubts. Outside the cabin, there are cougars and wolves with which to contend, blowing cold storms to endure, and a mysterious stranger who is coming too close to camp for Don’s liking. Don is doing a lot of growing up in the woods. He finds ways to be resourceful, means to solve his problems, and a way to confront conflict. Sometimes, he thinks back to what his uncle has taught him, but a lot of the times, it’s Don who figures out how best to continue on.

     Although Don is deemed responsible enough by his Uncle Joe to hunt for the family, his Aunt Maud has a harder time trusting Don and his ideas. But this former city boy from Washington steadily proves he can take care of himself, his friends, and even the farm! Many problems Don encounters on the farm and in the woods he solves with a level head. But at the end of the season, when Don pulls out of the woods, it’s Aunt Maud who gets to help Don out. Her actions confirm for Don that she has come around in her thinking!

     This wilderness adventure book can offer readers a look into the past. Even though the circumstances surrounding Don are different compared to what teenagers experience today, they will recognize and identify with Don’s thoughts and feelings about growing up and his need to be self-sufficient and free.


Tanya Boudreau is a Youth Services Librarian and Resource Librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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