Give the Gift of Wonder

Wonder-struck morsels to help readers appreciate the great lottery win that is life

Ah yes:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

The closest we come is books. Is it sacrilege to paraphrase Blake thusly?

To see a World read a book
And a Heaven, read a book,
Hold Infinity inside a book
And Eternity, also in a book.

Yes, yes that is sacrilege. But hopefully you’re getting the point, that only books are capable of shrinking distances infinite and times eternal into the finite heft of pages in your hand. And thus, they contain–this here is science–the highest wonder per square inch (WPSI) of any known substance. Good authors use wonder like a baker uses butter.

And so, here are nine delicious, that is wonder-struck, morsels to help readers appreciate the great lottery win that is life:

Africville
Shauntay Grant, translated by Josephine Watson
Bouton d’or Acadie

Much has written of the travesty of the City of Halifax’s greedy and self-interested destruction of the African-Canadian community of Africville, and there is surely much more to be written. Shauntay Grant’s Africville, now available in French translation, is wonder-struck because it takes a child’s perspective of the strong and vibrant community that once was, and the resilience of its survivors and descendants, who still celebrate that community and its heritage.

Mammals of Prince Edward Island and Adjacent Marine Waters
Rosemary Curley et al
Island Studies Press

From the Little Brown Bat to the Sowerby’s Beaked Whale, this book highlights each species in illustrated detail that evokes wonder and appreciation. It also outlines the continued need for conservation. In the 20th century, many marine mammals were so rare–due to prior centuries of human exploitation–that any sightings or strandings on PEI were recorded. The expansion of forest cover and the continued efforts of local wildlife and conservation agencies, along with the use of new and refined study techniques, continue to improve our ability to understand and protect the native mammals of PEI. Mammals is full of appreciation for those efforts.

Cape Breton’s Christmas, Book 7
Various Authors
Breton Books

Nothing says wonder quite like the holiday season. This is a book of 50 Christmas stories from the heart of Cape Breton. Now a genuine holiday tradition, this seventh book of lasting memories and terrific storytelling will continue to delight young and old throughout the year. Preserving priceless moments, this is a book of intimate adventures, indoors and out—of the kind usually remembered only briefly at Christmastime, and then gone. Gathered to be read again and savoured, Cape Breton’s Christmas is an all-new and lasting book to enjoy and to share.

NL Snowmageddon 202o
Nick Cranford
Flanker Press

There are two wonders here: the sheer quantity of snow from one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s worst blizzards in history, on January 17, 2020, and the people who went through the week-long state of emergency that followed, proof that Newfoundlanders are made of stern stuff.

As True As I’m Sittin Here
Ronald Caplan
Breton Books

Every one of these stories is filled with wonder–wonder at life’s absurdities and the joys people in communities take in sharing wit, whether to pass time, face adversity or simply share the joy of living. These are stories that shorten the road, lighten the work and fill the pauses between tunes. They were collected by the godfather of storytelling, Archie Neil Chisholm, in settings where good stories are born and thrive—kitchens and living rooms throughout Cape Breton Island. Gleaned from the CBC radio show “Archie Neil’s Cape Breton”—now in one riotous book—a treasury of the stuff that makes life worth living.

Ova Aves
Thaddeus Holownia
Anchorage Press

One of the most wonder-inspiring photographers of Atlantic Canada has teamed up with one of the most wondrous poets of our region, and they’ve enlisted the help of the most wonderful subject: the natural world. This large-format chapbook includes 13 full-colour reproductions of Holownia’s photographs, accompanied by 13 poems by Nova Scotia naturalist and poet Harry Thurston. A stunning integration of image, text, and typography, the book is typeset in Walbaum and printed offset on HannoArt paper.

Planet Digby: Future Landscapes
HMS Smith
SSP Publications

HMS Smith’s prodigious photographs inspire expansive temporal and geographic questions: What will our planet look like 100 years from now? A thousand years from now? Ten thousand years from now? They invite you to gaze and wonder, offering a breathtaking glimpse into the future.

More Ghost Stories of Nova Scotia
Vernon Oickle
MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Vernon Oickle’s vignettes are proof positive that Neil Gaiman was right: “Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses.” An addendum: when it involves the unexplainable, it evokes a strong sense of wonder. These titillating tales will make your spine tingle, and delight lovers of eerie local lore.

Great Cape Breton Storytelling
Ronald Caplan
Breton Books

From a lifetime of collecting, Ron Caplan offers tales from the rare complex of Cape Breton Island. From a grim sealing trek to a mother’s courage in a windstorm, to memories of drunken hens, to a shark attack. Mackerel fishermen bag a huge tuna and an itinerant butcher chases a wild cow. The book includes fables from the island’s Czech, Pakistani and Lebanese heritage in among stories from the Gaelic, French and Mi’kmaq traditions. A slice of wonder for everyone.

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