Walk in Wascana, A

18 July 2019

A Walk in Wascana
Written by Stephanie Vance, Ilustrated by Wendi Nordell
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$14.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-40-6

Saskatchewan resident Stephanie Vance clearly loves Regina, the city she grew up in, as she’s made it the subject of her first book. A Walk In Wascana is an homage to Saskatchewan’s capital and specifically picturesque Wascana Park, with its natural beauty; various winged and four-legged creatures; and also diverse manmade features, including fountains, a boathouse, and the Kwakiutl Nation Totem Pole (a gift, she explains, that is from British Columbia). Vance has teamed with Alberta artist Wendi Nordell to create a delightful softcover homage to the park. The rhyming text and bold, full-colour illustrations on each page are exactly what young ears and eyes enjoy at “storytime,” though the book could also be a pleasant memento for anyone who has lived in or visited Regina.

The story sees a young blond boy exploring the expansive park. A playful bunny seemingly beckons the child to follow it through the paths and “grand green trees.” Readers will recognize the variety of birds and waterfowl on the lake, including sparrows, pelicans and mallards, and adults can make a game of having children point out all the Saskatchewan images, ie: the provincial flag flying above the Saskatchewan Legislative Building, and the Western red lily – Saskatchewan’s provincial flower.

There are also references to one of the provinces greatest features: its “living skies,” and the artist is to be commended for her depictions of clouds that billow above the backdrop of mixed trees. A partial map of Wascana Centre is included, as is a note on how Regina, “once prime bison-hunting territory for Indigenous peoples,” got its Cree name, oskana kâ-asastêki, or, as its more commonly known, Pile O’Bones.

What interests me most about this story is how it demonstrates that just walking in nature-without any other humans-can be an entirely wonderful experience. The child is fascinated with a muskrat and “trilling songbirds.” As he sits beside the water “where all these beings thrive,” he discovers that “[his] heart and senses come alive” and he learns that “nature makes [him]
calm inside.” This is the message the book successfully imparts, and in our fast-paced, high-tech world-where even children suffer greatly from anxiety-it’s a message worth sharing in many formats. The boy is completely happy on the grass “just being [himself] /under a leaf-lush canopy.”

Another message that shines through is that diversity is a positive. “From many peoples’ strength we grow,/as surely as the wind will blow.” (Saskatchewan’s provincial motto is Multis e gentibus vires-from many peoples, strength.)

Interestingly, the artist has chosen not to show the boy’s facial features. She presents him in slight profile images (from a back perspective), and once standing far away on a bridge, so his features are undefined. Why? Perhaps because “place” is the focus of the story, not the boy.

Parents, grandparents, older sibling or guardians could share this book with youngsters and follow it up with a walk outdoors, encouraging the children to really experience where they are, and to discover how it feels to be there.


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