Starbuck Valley Winter



Starbuck Valley Winter

by Roderick Haig-Brown

Age: 10 +

Interests: hunting, wilderness survival, winter survival, animals, canoeing, Canada, British Columbia

Harbour Publishing: 1944

272 pp.

By the same author: (the sequel to this book) Saltwater Summer

Don Morgan is 16 and itching to get out on his own to make a living in the woods. His aunt and uncle want him to spend the winter working in the local fish cannery, but he’d rather go into the back country with his best friend Tubby and trap marten all winter. Since Don is impressively responsible and sensible, as well as being a skilful hunter and woodsman, the grownups are soon convinced and the two boys set out on their adventure. Things don’t go as well as planned, at first. The traplines aren’t yielding results, and the boys are suspicious of their nearest neighbour Lee Jetson, who once killed a man, according to the gossip back in town.  When Tubby has an accident Don must make some serious plans to get him home, and is surprised when Jetson comes to his aid. Through this and further adventures Don shows his responsibility and good sense at all times, and has a very successful season in the bush.

The story of another era in the Canadian woods, this yarn should delight anyone who is interested in wilderness survival and/or hunting and trapping. Of course this book isn’t about sport or trophy hunting, but about hunting to stay alive and make a living. Don has been taught by his uncle only to take what is needed, and to do it sustainably, with an eye to future seasons. Don’s love of the land, and the incredible beauty of the wilderness settings are vividly described, and one can fully understand his desire to explore the most remote regions of B.C.

Don is extremely mature in his abilities and knowledge, in fact he sometimes seems too stiff a character, he’s so ridiculously capable for a sixteen-year-old. Happily though, the author reveals Don’s interior thoughts, where he still has the passions, wild schemes, confusion and self-doubt of a typical teenager. Don’s most difficult challenges aren’t physical but mental, as he must make life-and-death decisions: how to best help his injured friend, and whether or not he should trust the shifty Lee Jetson. The biggest reason Don has for venturing into the bush is that he simply wants to live his own life in his own way, which should speak to teens of any era and situation.

This is a realistic tale, not crammed full of high action but rather more measured and sensible. Don’s daily chores and mundane tasks are related alongside the more exciting run-ins with cougars and wolves; we see him building a water wheel for his aunt and uncle, gearing up for his trek, and repairing the wreck of a cabin. The story may seem a little tame to modern readers, but there’s still much to enjoy here. Starbuck Valley Winter is a well-written, engaging read for anyone interested in wilderness survival and hunting.

(this title available at


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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