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Kristine Scarrow: Books to Get Away With

Books to take you away—or to take away with you when you're taken away, even.

Book Cover If This is Home

Across the country, very slowly, spring is creeping in. It's becoming the season for weekend getaways, trips up to the cabin to escape into another world for a while. And is there any better time than this for reading? In her list for us, YA author Kristine Scarrow, whose new book is If This Home, recommends a stack of books to take you away—or to take away with you when you're taken away, even.


My husband and I bought a small cabin at a popular northern Saskatchewan lake last summer. It’s a shack, really, and when we bought it, it looked as though it had been largely abandoned for several years. With its peeling paint and breezy interior, it wasn’t the idea of anyone’s dream but ours. Nestled in the trees on a huge lot, all we could picture was us cozying up in our own relaxing retreat. Thankfully it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Besides swimming in the lake, staring at the stars, and sitting by the fire, with gobs of elbow grease and the magic of big box home improvement stores, our little cabin in the woods is turning into the magical vacation spot we’ve dreamed of. Part of that dream is bringing stacks of books and burning through them while nestling in a hammock under the trees. Here is a list of books that make for perfect lazy-day reads.


Book Cover Home Truths

Home Truths, by Jill MacLean

A nominee of a Red Maple award, Home Truths is a first-person narrative following Brick MacAcoy, a teen who is abused by his father, but who also bullies others. His mother is self-absorbed, and he is often the one that takes care of his four-year-old sister. He dreams of one day leaving the small Nova Scotia town he lives in, but in the meantime, he must find a way to defend himself from his father and plan out how he will ultimately save himself. I love how the author examines the cycle of abuse, the bigger story behind those who bully, and how someone can gain their personal power and control in what feels like an out-of-control situation.


Book Cover North of Normal

North of Normal, by Cea Sunrise Person

I could not put this novel-like memoir down. Reminiscent of The Glass Castle, Cea Sunrise Person recounts her wild childhood in the Canadian woods with her anti-establishment, alternative lifestyle family. Rabbit snaring, squatting in vacant places, and being without friends while drugs and free love reign, this intelligent child starts to realize that perhaps this isn’t a “normal” life after all. The author has just released a follow-up to this memoir, titled Nearly Normal, which chronicles more of her life after this book, as she examines how her unusual childhood continually impacts her life. A skilled and compassionate writer on a difficult subject matter, I’m sure her follow-up will be as riveting as the first.


Book Cover The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom

Set in the 1700s, The Kitchen House is the story of Lavinia, a white orphan who lives and works with the slaves in the kitchen house of a tobacco plantation, and who considers them family. Lavinia tries to make sense of the two very different worlds she’s a part of, and her choices are not easy. This book chronicles a disturbing time in history, and although it deals with tragedy, it also focuses heavily on family relationships and loyalty. A great read to get lost in.


Book Cover Hatchet

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen

A Newbery Award winner, Hatchet is a story of survival about a thirteen-year-old boy, Brian, who is stranded in the Canadian wilderness when the pilot of the small plane he is in has a heart attack and dies. In a physical sense, Brian must learn how to survive against all odds, but it’s his emotional transformation that really saves him. Because I feel the most grounded when in nature, I love the idea that one can find inner peace and strength in the outdoors. We often don’t know just how strong we are until we’re faced with the impossible. I love the thought that we might just surprise ourselves.

Book Cover Yellow DOg

Yellow Dog, by Miriam Korner

Yellow Dog is a charming middle grade book that takes place in a small, remote northern Saskatchewan community. As an act of redemption after a prank gone badly, Jeremy meets Yellow Dog and learns not only how to dog sled from an old man in the community, but learns more about family and friendship in the process. Being that the story takes place in the same wooded terrain and only a few hours from where my cabin is situated, learning more about dog sledding and northern living is fascinating. It makes me feel like I’m just a tiny part of it myself. Additionally, as a dog lover and owner of two of them, I love a book that pays tribute to these amazing animals.


Book Cover SHelter

Shelter, by Frances Greenslade

In the 1970s, Maggie and Jenny grow up in the backwoods of British Columbia until their father dies and they are left to an acquaintance by their mother. Another book set in Canadian wilderness, the setting is gorgeous and full of detail. The cover alone is stunning. It’s a story about family secrets and loss, but ultimately, the strength of two sisters as they try to make sense of what it means to be family.


Book Cover Secrets from a Hutterite Kitchen

Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen, by Mary-Ann Kirkby

In the follow-up to her first bestseller I Am Hutterite, Mary-Ann Kirkby gives us a further glimpse into the mysterious and fascinating community and the supportive environment that communal living can bring. Warm and engaging, this book is hunger inducing and will give you the urge to bake buns or cake or make soup and revel in the sweet smell of comfort food made with love. What better way to enjoy your cabin time than sitting with a book eating homemade goodness that harkens back to a simpler time.


Book Cover And Then It Happened

And Then It Happened, by Michael Wade and Laura Wade

This laugh-out-loud middle grade fiction series features stand-alone stories that chronicle three boys whose harebrained ideas land themselves in quite the predicaments. Although the books are guaranteed to interest even the most reluctant reader, my family’s favourite place to read these stories is around the campfire. We’ve been known to take the books out when we have visitors, and the quick, mischievous tales always bring belly laughs to the crowd.


Book Cover The Couple Next Door

The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena

A list of books to read at the cabin wouldn’t be complete without a suspense novel to heighten the creepy feelings of a forest at night. A rollicking, fast-paced read with many twists and turns,The Couple Next Doorwill leave you wondering what happens behind closed doors. This is one of those books that you’ll read in one sitting, and everyone loves a book that they can’t put down.


Book Cover If This is Home

About If This Is Home, by Kristine Scarrow

Much like the main character Brick in Home Truths, sixteen-year-old Jayce takes on more responsibility as a teen than most. Jayce has been largely responsible for her four-year-old sister while their single mom works two jobs to keep them afloat. When their mom is diagnosed with cancer, Jayce tries to find the father she’s never really known in the hopes that he can help them, only it doesn’t quite turn out as she planned.

Jayce and so many of the main characters in the books featured on this list are trying to find their way in the world while facing incredible challenges. How they ultimately rise above their circumstances makes for some pretty great reading, no matter what neck of the woods you’re reading from.


Kristine Scarrow has worked with the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association and now teaches writing and journaling as a healing art. She is the author of Throwaway Girl, which the Winnipeg Free Press called a “darkly realistic” story of the failings of the foster child system. Kristine lives in Saskatoon.

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