I think any wood will do--I was a beginner not that long ago--guess the thought they're trying to convey is that the harder woods may "catch" and potentially cause pain and consternation.
I'd start with whatever you want to get between centers or in the chuck and get used to the toolrest and presentation of the tool--make a mess, but learn in the process.
If it helps- I started with "regular" chisels but currently use mostly carbide tipped tools now--It's a time thing for me.
Safety first! Head and eye protection is a must, and stay out of the line of fire.
Wood carving is turning which doesn't spin around.
What woods can you find?
Best wood is likely the cheapest/free, don't fall in love with what you do.
By the end of the first day, you will be or should be confronted with the issue of keeping your tools sharp. Otherwise, quit now.
Softwoods (pine/spruce/etc) will be OK but you need to do ring counts, don't fool with punky wood as it shows 15 rings/inch or fewer. Western Red Cedar, at 50+/inch, is as hard as birch.
Hardwoods make you pay more attention to tool edge sharpness.
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