Books to read in the snow
Three books rich with Minnesota heritage, culture
“Canoe Country” by Florence Page Jaques; illustrated by Francis Lee Jaques; originally published in 1938, republished in December 2021
“Snowshoe Country” by Florence Page Jaques; illustrated by Francis Lee Jaques; originally published in 1944, republished in December 2021
“Canoe Country” and “Snowshoe Country” were reprinted and released in December 2021 — more than three-quarters of a century after they were originally published. Both are written by Florence with illustrations by Francis. These real-life accounts are compiled like a diary - written from Florence’s first-person perspective. “Canoe Country” contains entries that begin with their planning in February and the start of their voyage in August until the end of their trip in September. “Snowshoe Country” begins with entries in October and runs through January. They are both tributes to one of Minnesota’s greatest treasures.
Reading through “Canoe Country,” you see Florence's inexperienced self fall in love with the landscape and magic of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) before it was even established as the BWCAW.
“Snowshoe Country” shows a real look at winter life in the BWCAW. Florence’s descriptions are mesmerizing. She introduces readers to the people who make that area home year round in the 1930s and ‘40s. She gives valuable insight into the requirements of survival for this special area. Readers get to meet a variety of creatures too, some majestic and some very adorable.
Almost every other page contains a pen and ink illustration by Francis. Some are single creature portraits and others are perspective-perfect landscapes with rippling water and textured rocks. They add great visuals to both books.
As this is a reprint of books written in the 1930s and ‘40s, there are some references and language that are not appropriate today. The publisher chose to keep this language in its original form paying homage to its literary heritage. I take less issue with this than other books I have written about. This is because the target audience of these books are adults and not children who most likely will understand the time in which these words were written and the intended meanings of the author. However, I don’t glance over these words lightly and do not view them as acceptable uses today.
“Canoe Country” and “Snowshoe Country” teach something about the value of all life and the magnificent in the simple. These books have me excitedly planning my first canoe trip to the area for (hopefully) this summer — something I think all Minnesotans should experience.
Florence Page Jaques was born in New York in 1890. She was a poet and nature writer and collaborated with her husband on eight books. She died in 1972.
Francis Lee Jaques was born in 1887 and spent his childhood in Aitkin, Minn. His nature and wildlife art is internationally renowned and featured in collections at the Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He died in 1969.
“Canoe Country” and “Snowshoe Country” are both available online from University of Minnesota Press ( www.upress.umn.edu ), Amazon, Barnes and Noble. Previous prints are available in person at the Rochester Public Library.
“Winter’s Children: A Celebration of Nordic Skiing” by Ryan Rodgers; published December 14, 2021, by University of Minnesota Press
“Winter’s Children” is filled with (nearly) everything one could want to know about Nordic skiing and its heritage in Minnesota. It contains great detail about those who turned a pair of skis into a competitive sport and made it something more than a tool for everyday life.
This book is packed with details from the changes in ski design to the rise and fall of skiing’s popularity. It contains the shift in expectations and women’s changing roles in skiing, the flourish of skiing after World War II and the successes and reinventions this sport has gone through.
There are photographs and artwork on almost every page and Rodgers shares his extensive skiing experience to make this book very comprehensive.
This is a great read for sports enthusiasts, avid skiers or Minnesotans interested in this culturally rich sport. As a Minnesotan, born and raised, I may have to give skiing another chance after reading it.
Ryan Rodgers is an avid skier and freelance writer with work published in “Backpacker” and “The Sun,” among many other magazines. He has served as a past board president for the Standing Cedars Community Land Conservancy and lives with his family in northern Minnesota.
“Winter’s Children” is available online at University of Minnesota Press, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is available in person at the Rochester Public Library.
Book Nook is a feature that highlights books from Minnesota authors. Got a recommendation? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Book Nook."