WA-List » WA-Books: Issue 1

WA-Books: Issue 1

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Review
Issue #1
In this issue we share 3 reviews, mention 7 other books, and highlight 2 independent bookstores.

WA-Books is WA-List’s glimpse at books — recently published or coming soon — about Washington State and the Northwest spirit it embodies.


A Ticket to the Pennant: A Tale of Baseball in Seattle by Mark Holtzen; Illustrated by John Skewes.

Sasquatch Books. To be published: April, 2016. 32 pages. For ages 4-8. ISBN: 9781632170033

TicketToThePennant_9781632170033Seattle is caught up in a baseball pennant race but the stretch run doesn’t involve the Mariners and the star of the story is a boy named Huey. Welcome to 1955, when the Seattle Rainiers were the biggest team in town. They need only one more win against the Los Angeles Angels to clinch the Pacific Coast League title. Huey has as a prized ticket to that game. No, wait! Where is it? The ticket is missing! Huey goes looking for it, retracing his steps all the way to ballpark. His is a diverse neighborhood, united by baseball. He hears the game coming from radio sets all along the street as he talks with and helps the neighbors he encounters. He’s concerned about missing the game but he never loses his cool. The ticket is somewhere.

A Ticket to the Pennant is a children’s picture book with colorful, retro-style illustrations. For young readers the story is about anticipation, looking for a cherished lost item, and remaining cool under pressure. For adults it is a glance into a lost world: the setting is still Seattle, but it’s Sicks Stadium rather than Safeco Field, Leo Lassen instead of Dave Niehaus or Rick Rizzs, and Fred Hutchison is the name on a manager’s uniform instead of a hospital. Despite the seemingly alternate universe of 1955, baseball is still baseball and going to a big game is still exciting to young fans. Many things have changed in sixty years; some things haven’t.

Shelf Appeal: Children will like this book for the interesting pictures and the familiar experience of being unable to find something important. Adults will enjoy reading it to them for the nostalgia of a Seattle past they might not have known.


Columbia River Gorge Railroads. Images of Modern America by D.C. Jesse Burkhardt

Arcadia Publishing. Images of Modern America. Published: March, 2016. 96 pages; 161 color images. ISBN: 9781467134828

Columbia River Gorge Railroads_9781467134828Two sets of railroad tracks cut through the beautiful Columbia Gorge on opposite sides of the river. It’s a juxtaposition of powerful machines and even larger scenery. A new book by D.C. Jesse Burkhardt celebrates the grandeur of the landscape and an enduring fascination with trains. The photographs and captions that fill the thin volume tell the story of the modern rail lines: the Burlington Northern Sante Fe on the Washington shore and the Union Pacific rolling parallel in Oregon. These companies of today are the result of competition and the corporate mergers of the past. Their histories are offered in captions — paragraphs accompanied by photographs — that are ideal for browsing.

Most of the book’s photographs are in color, most were taken in the last 25 years, and many are the work of the author. You begin to sense his familiarity with each locomotive, car, insignia, color scheme, and curve of the rails. Over the course of the book, he shows freight cars, hoppers, containers, centerbeams, passenger cars, dinner trains, locomotives, and cabooses. The trains haul grain, coal, gravel, trash, military vehicles, and lumber. They arrive at depots. An unlucky few have accidents. In one photo two locomotives — separated in age by nearly 100 years — pass each other on adjacent tracks. They are the old and the new, both still going strong. [Note: While this book is primarily contemporary pictures, you can see historical photographs in the Burkhardt’s earlier Railroads of the Columbia River Gorge; Arcadia Publishing, 2004.]

This isn’t simply a train book. The heart of this collection is the author’s pairing of trains with the spectacular Columbia Gorge. There are images of high basalt cliffs, mountains, waterfalls, and the mighty Columbia River itself. Somewhere in each of those landscapes a train rolls through, charges out of a tunnel, pushes through snow, or races along the river bank. We wished only that some of the more beautiful photographs were larger in order for us to see every detail. While he never takes us aboard, the author is forever watching the trains go by. This book is a train-watcher’s holiday.

Shelf Appeal: Railroad aficionados will enjoy the fact-filled captions and many scenic train images in this thin volume.


Ancient Places: People and Landscape in the Emerging Northwest by Jack Nisbet.

Sasquatch Books. Published: May, 2015. 256 pages. ISBN: 9781570619816

Ancient Places

Jack Nisbet, the author of Sources of the River (Sasquatch Books, 1994), is back with a collection of essays about the landscape and natural history of the Northwest. Each chapter tackles a different topic, united by the central theme of humans interacting with natural forces and natural landscapes. The book includes the story of one man’s effort in 1902 to salvage the 15-ton Willamette Meteorite and the subsequent battle over its ownership. There are also discussions about the quiet discovery of a rich Eocene fossil bed in the Okanogan Highlands, the cataclysmic Ice Age Lake Missoula floods, Native American artifacts, mining tramways, a terra-cotta plant, the big 1872 central Washington earthquake, and several other tales from the geological, botanical, and biological history of the Northwest.

Nisbet draws from his own experiences, field work, and explorations. He often writes himself into the investigations for first-hand perspectives. Each essay is told in a loosely meandering narrative style similar to oral storytelling. Nisbet often gives no clear indication at the start where his tale will lead and does not necessarily arrive at any particular conclusions. Along the way, however, he manages to steer his way through interesting material about our interesting region. The essays are more about the journey than the destination.

Shelf Appeal: This book will appeal to amateur naturalists and anyone interested in the natural history of the Northwest. It also makes a fine companion to Nisbet’s earlier book Visible Bones: Journeys Across Time in the Columbia River Country (Sasquatch Books, 2003).


WA-LIST LIKES NORTHWEST BOOKS   and   LOCAL INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES
We’ll include a few bookstores in each issue of WA-Books. These are unpaid courtesy mentions.

KING’S BOOKS | 218 St Helens, Ave Tacoma, WA 98402 | 253-272-8801
WILLIAM JAMES BOOKSELLER | 829 Water St, Port Townsend, WA | 360-385-7313


Other recent and upcoming book titles:

26 Songs in 30 Days: Woody Guthrie’s Columbia River Songs and the Planned Promised Land in the Pacific Northwest by Greg Vandy with Daniel Person.

Sasquatch Books. Published: April, 2016. 208 pages. ISBN: 9781570619700 [Look for a review in the next issue of WA-Books!]

Sequim-Dungeness Valley by Katherine Vollenweider.

Arcadia Publishing. Images of America. Published: December, 2015. 128 pages. ISBN: 9781467134040

Pend Oreille County by Faith Sheila McClenny.

Arcadia Publishing. Images of America. Published: November, 2015. 128 pages. ISBN: 978-1467134200

Classical Seattle: Maestros, Impresarios, Virtuosi, and Other Music Makers by Melinda Bargreen.

University of Washington Press. Published: October, 2015. 368 pages. ISBN: 9780295995120

Sea and Smoke: Flavors from the Untamed Pacific Northwest by Blaine Wetzel and Joe Ray.

Running Press. Published: October, 2015. 272 pages. ISBN: 9780762453788

In the Path of Destruction: Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens by Richard Waitt.

Washington State University Press. Published: January, 2015. 413 pages. ISBN: 9780874223231

Seattle Memories: The Early Years, A Pictorial History by The Seattle Times.

Pediment Publishing. Published: 2015. ISBN: 9781597255752

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