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Washington Reads (Fall 2003) - Washington Territorial Days

The Northwest Coast

The Northwest Coast, or, Three Years' Residence in Washington Territory, by James G. Swan, is recognized by antiquarian bookman George Tweney as "one of the great classics of Pacific Northwest Americana." James Swan was an early settler in the Washington Territory, and is considered one of its most colorful pioneers. In 1852, he left the world of commerce in Boston and became an oysterman, historian, naturalist, and author in Shoalwater Bay (today known as Willapa Bay). His interest in the Native Americans of the coast and his life among them, provides us with cultural insights concerning Washington Territory life. From flea infestations to the destruction of an entire forest by oystermen celebrating the Fourth of July, Swan’s writings reflect the colorful past of the area. Accounts of tragedies that resulted from the smallpox, syphilis, and liquor introduced by the white man are included, as well. (Adult)

James Swan, Cha-Tic of the Northwest Coast

James Swan, Cha-Tic of the Northwest Coast: Drawings and Watercolors from the Franz & Kathryn Stenzel Collection of Western American Art, by George A. Miles, presents 115 original drawings by James Swan. This is a remarkable visual record of the Western frontier as experienced by Swan. Swan's artistic abilities drew the attention of the Makah tribe, who nicknamed him "Cha-tic," the painter. The book includes colorful botanical watercolors, early drawings of the Olympic Peninsula, and illustrations of tattoos and marine life. Swan was a versatile man, and this collection of illustrations opens a window to life on the Northwest Coast during the 19th century. (Adult)

Ghost Canoe

Ghost Canoe, by Will Hobbs, is a novel of adventure and suspense set in 1874 Washington. Fourteen-year old Nathan McAllister is the son of a lighthouse keeper on Tatoosh Island. The young sleuth uncovers a murder-mystery, which is woven into the story of his life among the Indians. He adopts many of the Indian ways, including learning to fish and hunt with his mentor, Lighthouse George. The two piece together a mysterious shipwreck, a murdered captain, someone hiding in the caves around the coast, stolen supplies and money, and a mysterious stranger. These all roll into an exciting tale based on historical fact. (Young Adult)

Boston Jane, Wilderness Days

Boston Jane, Wilderness Days, by Jennifer L. Holm, tells the story of impulsive Jane who strives to become a proper young lady. There is humor and excitement as Jane finds her pioneer spirit and reluctantly sheds her finishing school decorum in the wilds of Shoalwater Bay in the Washington Territory in 1854. The book, part of a trilogy, is a witty combination of adventure, friendship, romance, and historical fiction. (Young Adult)

Ghost Canoe and Boston Jane: Wilderness Days are enjoyable reads for children ages 9 and up. They are true to the tribal history and the real life incidents of the white settlers. These works of historical fiction incorporate pieces of tribal history and real life incidents in the lives of white settlers. The mystery and the beauty of the Northwest corner of the world are captured in each, and both will entice readers to find more books by these authors.

Where Do I Sleep?

Unable to find a Territorial children's book which is still in print and noteworthy, I have taken the liberty of selecting a delightful book which features animals the pioneers discovered upon arriving in the Washington Territory. Where Do I Sleep? A Pacific Northwest Lullaby, written by Jennifer Blomgren, and illustrated by Andrea Gabriel, is a beautifully illustrated and colorful lullaby book. Illustrations, in pastels and vibrant natural colors, cover each oversize page. Each rhyme answers the question of where the animal sleeps in gentle rhythmic stanzas, describing both the natural habitats and the sleeping habits of the animals of the Pacific Northwest. (Children)