Budd is the author of SummerWild and its follow-up FallGently, both part of a four-part series called The Adventures of Buddy Williams. The books chronicle one year in the life of a young prairie boy in the 1950s, drawing heavily upon Budd’s own fond childhood memories for inspiration.
“They are literally excerpts from my life, fictionalized with my imagination adding other elements and experiences and things to create the ultimate series,” Budd said. “I guess you might call it a fictional memoir.”
Readers in Prince Albert will have the chance to catch Budd at the Gateway Mall on Saturday, Aug. 18 when the author will make a personal appearance at the Coles bookstore from 10 a.m. to noon to sign books and promote the release of FallGently. It is part of a whirlwind tour that will take him through 15 communities in 28 days.
Given the similarity of their names, the protagonist of the series, Buddy Williams, is a clear cipher for the youthful Budd. The first novel, SummerWild, depicts Buddy’s summer adventures exploring the wonders of Pelican Lake with his friends and family.
Nature is one of the key themes of the series.
“If anything comes out of my writing,” Budd said, “it is my hope that kids today … will get away from a screen and maybe pick up a book to read — and even more importantly, will go out and explore nature, as we all did when we were kids, with our parents simply saying, ‘Go out and play,’ and then would invite us to get lost and not come home until it was time for a meal.”
Although poking fun at himself for embodying the stereotype of an older person who bemoans the state of “kids today,” Budd nevertheless pointed to a real contrast between the unsupervised play of his boyhood and the tightly regimented schedules of 21st century children.
“Today kids are being transported by their parents, as if the parents are taxi drivers, moving them from one organized sport to the next,” he said. “When they do get free time, they plop down in front of a screen somewhere and don’t interact, and so they’re getting obese and losing touch with our environment.”
I guess you might call it a fictional memoir. - Kenneth William Budd
While the books are targeted at young readers, their vivid depiction of 1950s prairie life has also attracted a much older audience for whom Budd’s work reminds them of their own idyllic youth.
Numerous episodes in the book are pulled straight from the author’s boyhood. SummerWild’s “antagonist,” a 30-pound northern pike named Slackjaw, is based on a memorable fishing experience the young Budd had at Big Island Lake. Another section recalls his ill-fated attempt at making a jump on water skis that ended in a painful belly flop.
Budd does not sugarcoat the past. His inclusion of the native character Joe Starblanket in SummerWild, based on a boy he befriended and learned a great deal about nature from, allows the author to address the racism prevalent at the time. But his more general impression is of a simpler, more innocent age.
“There were no drugs — not saying that alcohol is not a drug, but alcohol was for adults and kids never even thought about whether or not they could have a sip or steal a bottle,” Budd said.
“There were no inherent dangers. We didn’t have to worry about necessarily being scooped up by some pedophile and being dragged into the bush somewhere. We left our doors open when we slept at night. Neighbours knew each other and helped each other out. It was a far different time socially and it is my belief that technology has helped shred that apart a bit, where you can live in the city now and you don’t even know who your neighbours on either side are, let alone across the street.”
The remaining two books in the Adventures of Buddy Williams series, WinterFree and SpringRush, are due to be released next spring and fall respectively.