My Good Friend, Grandpa Story by Elaine Sharfe, Illustrations by Karen Sim Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $9.95 ISBN 9-781927-756713 You don’t have to be a grandparent to appreciate Saskatoon writer Elaine Sharfe’s illustrated children’s book, My Good Friend, Grandpa. Indeed, anyone with a heart will adore this beautifully-rendered tale about a boy’s strong connection with his b...

Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! by Allan Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Leslie Vermeer $15.95 978-1-927756-53-9 Allan Kehler wants you to find your joy. At a more down-to-earth level Kehler — a Saskatoon-based counsellor and speaker — wants to help people manage their stress. But more than that, he wants us to start really living. To that end, his timely new book Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! succeeds in deliverin...

The Sixth Age by Kay Parley Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Leslie Vermeer $19.95 978-1-894431-85-9 The Sixth Age is a gentle comedic novel about a few months in the life of Allie Dutton, a poet, former farm wife, and practical prairie woman. Allie lives in a cooperative residence for aging creatives – emphatically not a nursing home, thank you very much – situated in the wondrous Qu’Appelle Valley. When some ...

I Am Free by Del Suelo Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $24.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-50-8 When I began I Am Free – Saskatchewan writer, wanderer, and musician Del Suelo’s “slow-art” project that combines text and an audio CD in a compact hardcover package – I was perplexed. What was this? Autobiography, I surmised. But by the second essay – or chapter, or linked story – a plot evolved...

Don’t Lick the Flagpole: A Spiritual Quest for Meaning, Identity & Purpose by David Banman Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-46-1 David Banman’s inspirational book, Don’t Lick the Flagpole: A Spiritual Quest for Meaning, Identity & Purpose, delves into the glory and mystery of God – whom he also refers to as the “Designer/Creator” – and it also fervently delivers the aut...

Li’l Shadd: A Story of Ujima by Miriam Körner and Alix Lwanga, illustrated by Miriam Körner Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $29.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-48-5 Saskatchewan’s history is so multi-culturally rich that there are, admittedly, elements of it that I’ve scarcely even considered. Take, for example, the first African-Canadian pioneers, including the trail-blazing Dr. Alfred Schmitz Shadd (d.1915...

Time After Time by Gaye Smith Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-49-2 Before I even opened Time After Time, a colouring book (for mature colourers) by Lipton SK artist and all-round creative powerhouse Gaye Smith, I did some internet research. That may seem strange, for here I was about to review a book without text …shouldn’t it be, like, easy-peasy? I was vaguely aware that adult...

The Two Trees Written by Sally Meadows, Illustrated by Trudi Olfert Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $14.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-43-0 I love receiving new books to review, but sometimes I can’t get to them immediately. Before I had a chance to dive into The Two Trees, a children’s book by Saskatoon writer\illustrator team Sally Meadows and Trudi Olfert, my visiting friend, Flo, picked the book off my kitche...

Wascana Lake Through 4 Seasons by Sheena Simonson Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $34.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-40-9 When I learned I was reviewing the hardcover photography book Wascana Lake Through 4 Seasons, I thought: Cool, after I’m done, it will make an excellent gift for someone. I’m a born-and-raised Saskatchewanian who now lives on Vancouver Island, and let me tell you, folks, Sheena Simonson’s wond...

What Do You Do All Day? by Miriam Hoffer Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $21.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-25-6 Before reviewing Miriam Hoffer’s book What Do You Do All Day?: Women’s Stories of Retirement, I considered perceptions of retirement, then realized, through reading, how different perceptions often are from the realities. Do you view retirement as a desert of time? A period of loneliness, failing healt...

Shaping a World Already Made

University of Regina Press / 24 August 2016
Shaping a World Already Made: Landscape and Poetry of the Canadian Prairies By Carl J. Tracie Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $27.95 ISBN 9-780889-773936 The respectful and sweeping premise for Shaping A World Already Made – the brainchild of author/cultural geographer Carl J. Tracie – is to “make meaningful observations about the interconnected themes of poetry, landscape, perception, paradox, and mystery on the [Canadian] prairies.” In his examination of the poetry of place, Tracie seeks to view the prairie landscape “through the lens of poetry,” and asks how the physical elements impact on poets and their work, and how their representation of the landscape influences readers’ (“residents and outsiders”) vision of this land. A self-professed fan of poetry,...

Burning In This Midnight Dream

Coteau Books / 19 August 2016
Burning in this Midnight Dream by Louise Bernice Halfe Published by Coteau Books Review by Kris Brandhagen $16.95 9781550506655 Burning in this Midnight Dream by Louise Bernice Halfe is a book of poetry contrasted by photographs, centered around the Truth and Reconciliation process. In her preamble, Halfe states that the book is intended to “share more of that truth. Think of all the children, and weep. Children fed to pedophile priests and nuns. Children whipped and starved. Families and communities destroyed […] courtesy of the Canadian government. Courtesy of the Canadian public.” Halfe bravely records her memories, of being at residential school, the effect it had on herself and others, and how those experiences have stained life afterward. She struggles between reluctance and desire to share her knowledge. In the acknowledgements,...

Hanna’s Letter

DW Ulmer / 17 August 2016
Hanna’s Letter by Darren Ulmer Published by DW Ulmer Publishing Review by Leslie Vermeer $9.95 978-0-99502421-2 It’s said that books are a way to start a social conversation. That’s certainly the case for Darren Ulmer, author of the children’s book Hanna’s Letter, which follows a child living through her parent’s serious illness. Ulmer wrote the book to give families a resource to talk about and prepare for the effects of life-threatening illnesses. When Hanna finds out that her father has throat cancer, her world turns upside down. She feels sad and helpless until she realizes there’s one person who can help: Santa Claus. Her selfless letter to Santa, which forms the centre of the book, represents an important step in her journey, and her family’s, through a cancer diagnosis and recovery. We see Hanna’s fear, her wistfulness, and ulti...

My Good Friend Grandpa

My Good Friend, Grandpa Story by Elaine Sharfe, Illustrations by Karen Sim Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $9.95 ISBN 9-781927-756713 You don’t have to be a grandparent to appreciate Saskatoon writer Elaine Sharfe’s illustrated children’s book, My Good Friend, Grandpa. Indeed, anyone with a heart will adore this beautifully-rendered tale about a boy’s strong connection with his beloved grandfather, and, as in all the best writing, the author skillfully evokes emotion without regressing into sentimentality. Want to write your own children’s book? Reading and studying great books is the best way to learn, and I’d definitely recommend Sharfe’s well-written story to anyone who has an emotional children’s story to tell. The tenor is spot-on here. Sharfe...

Small Displays of Chaos

Coteau Books / 4 August 2016
Small Displays of Chaos by Breanna Fischer Published by Coteau Books Review by Kris Brandhagen $12.95 9781550506617 Breanna Fischer’s book Small Displays of Chaos is about a girl from Saskatoon SK who develops an eating disorder during her last two years of high school. The main character, Rayanne Timko, assigns herself a fitness goal as part of a grade ten gym class project. She likes this because tracking calories appeals to her. In the beginning, her goal is “eat healthier, exercise more.” She earns the highest score for the assignment, but when it is over, she doesn’t want to stop. Fischer really gets inside the head of her character, juxtaposing action with stark, confessional journal entries. “Today I will count. Today I will starve. I will turn into myself like an imploding star. Just like yesterday.” As her obsession turns into...

Children of the Broken Treaty

Children of the Broken Treaty: Canada’s Lost Promise and One Girl’s Dream by Charlie Angus Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $27.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-401-8 Unbelievable. Appalling. Horrific. These are adjectives that could be used to describe the contents of Children of the Broken Treaty: Canada’s Lost Promise and One Girl’s Dream. This book will make readers feel uncomfortable. It’s designed to have that effect. Discomfort is the first step to justice, and justice is the first step to recovery and reconciliation. Member of Parliament Charlie Angus pleads throughout his book that Canada’s treatment of Aboriginals is a national shame. Those most severely affected are the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, part of Treaty 9 territory. Many homes are without running water, plumbing, or electricity. E...

Reinvesting in Families

Reinvesting in Families by Dorothy Badry, Don Fuchs, H. Monty Montgomery, and Sharon McKay, eds. Published by University of Regina Press Review by Leslie Vermeer $39.95 ISBN 978-0-888977-352-3 Healthy families make healthy communities. The inverse is also true: when families struggle, the community suffers. Reinvesting in Families: Strengthening Child Welfare Practice for a Brighter Future, a collection of research edited by Dorothy Badry and colleagues, argues that on the prairies we need new, evidence-based social work practices to help families and communities be strong and healthy. The book takes a big step toward identifying practices that work and asking questions about future improvements. Reinvesting in Families is part of a series developed by the Prairie Child Welfare Consortium (PCWC). The University of Regina was a founding...

The Sky Was 1950 Blue

JackPine Press / 7 July 2016
The Sky Was 1950s Blue Written by Katherin Edwards, Design by Melissa Haney Published by Jackpine Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $30.00 ISBN 978-1-927035-22-1 Jackpine Press recently released The Sky Was 1950 Blue-a collaborative chapbook written by Katherin Edwards and designed by Melissa Haney-and I received #51 of a limited edition of 75 copies for review. Limited edition, handmade books are Jackpine’s foray, and each time I receive one I’m excited to see how the author and designer-often one and the same-have reconciled content and construct: concepts are such interesting animals. Edwards’ colourful title comes from an Ian Tyson lyric, and the 1950s are represented here not only in the saddle-stitched book’s hue and interior drawings, but also in the fact that each poem includes a year (between 1950 and 1959) in its title. I op...

Goodbye Stress, Hello Life!

Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! by Allan Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Leslie Vermeer $15.95 978-1-927756-53-9 Allan Kehler wants you to find your joy. At a more down-to-earth level Kehler — a Saskatoon-based counsellor and speaker — wants to help people manage their stress. But more than that, he wants us to start really living. To that end, his timely new book Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! succeeds in delivering insights and strategies anyone can use to make changes in their lives and embrace their full humanity. Almost everyone can use some help dealing with stress. So many of us feel an excess of tension or anxiety in our lives, whether from workplace conflict, relationship troubles, money problems, or some other source. Kehler starts his book by explaining what stress is and unpacking some myths surr...

Homecoming

JackPine Press / 1 July 2016
homecoming Written by Zondra M. Roy Published by Jackpine Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $30 ISBN 978-1-927035-20-7 Sometimes the lines between genres blur. As I began reading Zondra M. Roy’s chapbook, homecoming, I thought: looks like poetry, feels like a first-person essay. This isn’t poetry filled with similes, metaphors, alliteration, and finely-crafted images, this is a straight-up story (with line breaks) that shouts This is how it’s been, I’ve made mistakes, and I’m grateful for the people and activities (like performing hip-hop) that’ve helped me along the way. The Dené/Cree/Métis writer left home at thirteen and she doesn’t hold back on her life’s gritty details as she writes of bouncing between various homes in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick (“for a few months”), and British Columbia. Actually, the word ho...

Featured Reviews

Shaping a World Already Made
University of Regina Press / 24 August 2016

Shaping a World Already Made: Landscape and Poetry of the Canadian Prairies By Carl J. Tracie Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $27.95 ISBN 9-780889-773936 The respectful and sweeping premise for Shaping A World Already Made – the brainchild of author/cultural geographer Carl J. Tracie – is to “make meaningful observations about the interconnected themes of poetry, landscape, perception, parad...

Burning In This Midnight Dream
Coteau Books / 19 August 2016

Burning in this Midnight Dream by Louise Bernice Halfe Published by Coteau Books Review by Kris Brandhagen $16.95 9781550506655 Burning in this Midnight Dream by Louise Bernice Halfe is a book of poetry contrasted by photographs, centered around the Truth and Reconciliation process. In her preamble, Halfe states that the book is intended to “share more of that truth. Think of all the children, and weep. Children fed to pedophile prie...

Hanna’s Letter
DW Ulmer / 17 August 2016

Hanna’s Letter by Darren Ulmer Published by DW Ulmer Publishing Review by Leslie Vermeer $9.95 978-0-99502421-2 It’s said that books are a way to start a social conversation. That’s certainly the case for Darren Ulmer, author of the children’s book Hanna’s Letter, which follows a child living through her parent’s serious illness. Ulmer wrote the book to give families a resource to talk about and prepare for the effects of life-threat...

My Good Friend Grandpa

My Good Friend, Grandpa Story by Elaine Sharfe, Illustrations by Karen Sim Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $9.95 ISBN 9-781927-756713 You don’t have to be a grandparent to appreciate Saskatoon writer Elaine Sharfe’s illustrated children’s book, My Good Friend, Grandpa. Indeed, anyone with a heart will adore this beautifully-rendered tale about a boy’s strong connection ...

Small Displays of Chaos
Coteau Books / 4 August 2016

Small Displays of Chaos by Breanna Fischer Published by Coteau Books Review by Kris Brandhagen $12.95 9781550506617 Breanna Fischer’s book Small Displays of Chaos is about a girl from Saskatoon SK who develops an eating disorder during her last two years of high school. The main character, Rayanne Timko, assigns herself a fitness goal as part of a grade ten gym class project. She likes this because tracking calories appeals to her. I...

Children of the Broken Treaty

Children of the Broken Treaty: Canada’s Lost Promise and One Girl’s Dream by Charlie Angus Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $27.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-401-8 Unbelievable. Appalling. Horrific. These are adjectives that could be used to describe the contents of Children of the Broken Treaty: Canada’s Lost Promise and One Girl’s Dream. This book will make readers feel uncomfortable. It’s designed to have that ...

Reinvesting in Families

Reinvesting in Families by Dorothy Badry, Don Fuchs, H. Monty Montgomery, and Sharon McKay, eds. Published by University of Regina Press Review by Leslie Vermeer $39.95 ISBN 978-0-888977-352-3 Healthy families make healthy communities. The inverse is also true: when families struggle, the community suffers. Reinvesting in Families: Strengthening Child Welfare Practice for a Brighter Future, a collection of research edited by Dorothy ...

The Sky Was 1950 Blue
JackPine Press / 7 July 2016

The Sky Was 1950s Blue Written by Katherin Edwards, Design by Melissa Haney Published by Jackpine Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $30.00 ISBN 978-1-927035-22-1 Jackpine Press recently released The Sky Was 1950 Blue-a collaborative chapbook written by Katherin Edwards and designed by Melissa Haney-and I received #51 of a limited edition of 75 copies for review. Limited edition, handmade books are Jackpine’s foray, and each time I r...

Goodbye Stress, Hello Life!

Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! by Allan Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Leslie Vermeer $15.95 978-1-927756-53-9 Allan Kehler wants you to find your joy. At a more down-to-earth level Kehler — a Saskatoon-based counsellor and speaker — wants to help people manage their stress. But more than that, he wants us to start really living. To that end, his timely new book Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! succeeds in...

Homecoming
JackPine Press / 1 July 2016

homecoming Written by Zondra M. Roy Published by Jackpine Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $30 ISBN 978-1-927035-20-7 Sometimes the lines between genres blur. As I began reading Zondra M. Roy’s chapbook, homecoming, I thought: looks like poetry, feels like a first-person essay. This isn’t poetry filled with similes, metaphors, alliteration, and finely-crafted images, this is a straight-up story (with line breaks) that shouts This i...