The Weeping Chair
Thistledown Press / 18 December 2012

The Weeping Chair by Donald Ward Published by Thistledown Press Review by Hannah Muhajarine ISBN 978-1-927068-00-7 The sixteen stories found in The Weeping Chair by Donald Ward cover a wide range of highly imaginative situations, ranging from humorous to heartbreaking, from cognizant chickens to the criminally insane, from Saskatoon to outer space. Many of the stories present a deceptively normal situation, such as traveling on a train, preparing dinner, or ordering coffee, which quickly evolves into something fantastic and profound. Ward turns the mundane ever so slightly, giving the reader a new and illuminating perspective. The stories are full of interesting characters, some more eccentric than others. Ward is able to quickly sketch out these people and bring them to life using just a few words: “She was wearing a black, floor-length cape today,” he writes, “high-collared, like some anthropomorphic creature from a children’s tale.” His dialogue is both witty and truthful, and he skillfully captures the brief relations formed between strangers in day to day life. Some stories are hilariously quirky, others are deeply moving, and some are both. The humour is often dark, as with the observation “Death is the ultimate treatment for a sleep disorder.” There are…

The Sailor and the Christmas Trees
DriverWorks Ink / 18 December 2012

The Sailor and the Christmas Trees: A True Story by Deana Driver Illustrated by Catherine Folnovic Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Keith Foster $14.95 ISBN 978-192757002-9 Although a prolific writer with five books and more than 2,000 articles in Canadian newspapers and magazines to her credit, this is Deana Driver’s first children’s book. It is a true story, told in simple language a child can easily understand. The story revolves around John Hanlon, a wireless operator in the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II. His ship, HMCS (His Majesty’s Canadian Ship) Royalmount, was protecting convoys bringing supplies to Britain. Knowing that on the return trip he would be at sea on Christmas Day, Hanlon and three other sailors cut down a few evergreen trees to decorate their frigate. When they found out that another ship was carrying children to safety in Canada, they got close enough to shoot a line across it. One of the trees was then pulled over. “Those children’s eyes were so big as they watched that tree bobbing along the line from our ship to theirs,” Hanlon recalled. “Those children started cheering.” Fifty years later, at a reunion in Calgary, Hanlon met a woman…

Redcoats and Renegades
Thistledown Press / 18 December 2012

Redcoats and Renegades By Barry McDivitt Published by Thistledown Press Review by Hannah Muhajarine ISBN 978-1-897235-97-3 Barry McDivitt’s young adult novel Redcoats and Renegades is a tale of thrilling adventure, made all the more interesting because it is based on true events. It follows the story of Hamlet Hamlin, who claims to be the first person the Mounties ever arrested. As a young pickpocket, Hamlet falls under the ‘renegades’ side of the title, but ends up joining the Mounties, semi-voluntarily, on their march West. At the time of this story-the early 1870s-the North West Mounted Police was still young. It was created after the purchase of the Northwest Territories from the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Mounties were charged with protecting the First Nations people from American whiskey and fur traders, and at the same time establishing a stronger Canadian presence in the newly-acquired land. The Mounties faced opposition not just from the Americans, but from Sioux and Blackfoot as well. Many characters, Hamlet included, express their doubt in the ability of the Mounties to bring order to the lawless West, expecting them to be massacred instead. Hamlet’s perspective is fresh and entertaining. He sees the ridiculousness of some of the…