Born Resilient

Born Resilient: True Stories of Life’s Greatest Challenges by Allan Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $17.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-02-4 Born Resilient: True Stories of Life’s Greatest Challenges is the third book I’ve reviewed by Saskatoon writer, counsellor, and motivational speaker Allan Kehler, and it’s my favourite. In this non-fiction book about suffering, hope, and resilience, Kehler introduces each chapter then allows some of the people he’s met on his own journey to take the stage. We hear from men and women who’ve each hit rock bottom in some way, and learn how, in their own words, they climbed out of their individual valleys. Perhaps nothing’s more powerful than candid personal testimonies. In sharing theirs, the writers lend others hope that they, too, can turn their lives around. The book opens with a foreward from an ex-NHL goalie who, like the author, confesses that he’s “seen the dark side” (addiction, mental illness) and has “risen above”. In his usual clear writing style, Kehler explains that his motivation for writing this book came from a young woman who’d suffered an abusive childhood. She silently revealed the scars on her forearms, and Kehler’s response was “Scars are…

To Trust Again: Finding Hope After Loss

To Trust Again: Finding Hope After Loss Text and Illustration by Colleen Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783062 It’s amazing, really, how many folks – upon learning that I’m a writer – assert that they have a great idea for a book they are going to write … someday. I know most of these books are never written, but they could be. And they could be published, too. Companies like Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, in Regina, are turning the dream of publishing one’s own stories, whether fiction or nonfiction, into reality for scores of writers. YNWP is a quality “hybrid” publisher. Its website explains that it offers: “an inexpensive means for storytellers to publish their works, producing books with a prairie flavour—either in creative source (author/illustrator) or in subject matter”. Established in 1998 by Heather Nickel, YNWP provides editing and production services for creators “whose stories might otherwise not be told”. Thanks to YNWP, scores of professionally produced books have now found their way into the world to delight and illuminate readers. Saskatoon’s Colleen Kehler’s an ideal example of one who’s recognized the value of publishing with YNWP. The writer/artist is…

My Health in Hand Healthcare Organizer

My Health in Hand (Healthcare Organizer) by Debbie Cancade-Schmidt, Shauna Baumann, and Sheila Warner-Johanson Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $24.95 ISBN 9-781927-756812 Do you envy those who seem ultra-organized? They can find whatever they need immediately, because they’ve taken the time to establish a system. We all know how easy it is to lose track of important information – you know, appointments scribbled on scraps of paper, or receipts from the drugstore. Wouldn’t it be great to have one handy place to store all this critical healthcare material? I believe it would, and thus I’m pleased to hold in my hands my brand new system: My Health in Hand, a practical and user-friendly healthcare organizer. The trio of women who thought up the idea for My Health In Hand, a sturdy, coil-bound record-keeping book that would fit in a purse or glove compartment, must have had quite the brainstorming sessions, for they seem to have considered everything one needs to manage healthcare details. Users begin by completing the “My Profile” pages, with spaces for critical details like hospitalization number, next of kin, and your doctor’s phone number. Beyond the usual information, the authors provide…

Little Bear

Little Bear Written by Elaine Sharfe, Illustrated by Karen Sim Published by YNWP Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $9.95 ISBN 9-781988-783086 Do you remember being a child and wishing you were a teenager? I sure do. I was particularly envious of a teenager named Cindy, who carried Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum in her handbag, and whose long, blonde hair swished when she walked. I wanted to grow up and have a handbag, a purse, and hair that reached to my waist, too! Saskatoon writer Elaine Sharfe’s growing collection of illustrated children’s books now includes a story about a cute bear cub who can’t wait to grow up and really ROAR! Sharfe’s figured out the formula for creating stories that the youngest children will want to read–or have read to them–time and again, and Karen Sim’s illustrations–full bleeds on every other page–are a perfect complement to the text of Little Bear. Using the Rule of Threes re: repetition, we journey along with Little Bear, the book’s impatient star, as he wakes up each day and asks his mother “Am I Big Bear yet?” Little Bear encounters three friends–each a different species–and, as it’s taking too long to become Big Bear, he asks…

Behind the Moon
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 2 February 2018

Behind the Moon Written and Illustrated by Elsie Archer Published by YNWP Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783079 I’m highly impressed when a creator can effectively write and illustrate his or her books, thus my metaphorical hat is tipped to Elsie Archer, author and illustrator of Behind the Moon, an inspirational children’s picture book that delivers the autobiographical story of two sisters – Marjorie and Elsie – who were children during the terrifying time we know as the Second World War. An illustrated book only truly succeeds when both text and images are on par. The story must also convey original ideas. I’ll begin with Archer’s imaginative writing. Hand in hand, the sisters stand beneath the night sky and the elder sister, Marjorie, explains to Elsie that the moon is “the door to heaven,” and the stars “are actually holes that God poked through the sky with His fingers”. A few days later, during the full moon, Elsie exclaims that the “door to heaven is wide open”. As only a child might, Elsie thinks this is wonderful because now “the angels can go back and forth without getting squished!” The sisters demonstrate a strong faith in God. They…

Angel Blessings
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 23 January 2018

Angel Blessings Written and Illustrated by Marilyn Lachambre Published by YNWP Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 9-781988-783093 Quite coincidentally, I read the illustrated children’s book, Angel Blessings, the first title by Kamsack, SK writer and illustrator Marilyn Lachambre, on the one-year anniversary of my younger brother’s passing; at the end of this review, you’ll read why this is significant. In this attractive hardcover released by Regina’s Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, Lachambre rhymes her way through All Things Angel: who and what they are, and the many ways they bring us comfort, protection, and inspiration. The rhyming text will be appealing to young ears, as will the soothing sentiments, ie: “Angels are with you day and night …. keeping you in their loving sight,” and “They’re always with you, through joy and sorrow—protecting and guiding, today and tomorrow”. I could see this uplifting book being used as a nighttime prayer for young children. Its Christian emphasis and calming words would be a wonderful way for children to fall asleep, ie: “Even at bedtime when it’s time to sleep, they will stay with you while you slumber deep. As you lie quietly in bed tonight, know that Angel wings are…

Assortment, An: Darkly Delicious Literary and Visual Oddments
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 8 December 2017

An Assortment: Darkly Delicious Literary & Visual Oddments by Marie Elyse St. George Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-83-6 The enticing title of Marie Elyse St. George’s latest book says it all. Delve into this tickle trunk of poems, stories (both fictions and truths), drawings, paintings, and cartoons, plus a tribute to now long-passed writer Anne Szumigalski, and you’ll indeed find something darkly delicious to make you smile, laugh, and think. Saskatoon’s St. George has earned an esteemed reputation as both a visual artist and a writer, and a career highlight’s been her 1995 poetry and art collaboration (with close friend Szumigalski) Voice, which resulted in both an exhibition at the Mendel Art Gallery and a book which garnered the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1995. She’s also collaborated with poet Patrick Lane, provided art for the covers of numerous literary journals and books, and published an award-winning memoir. While reading An Assortment: Darkly Delicious Literary & Visual Oddments, I procured an image of a young girl skipping through a field of wildflowers, plucking blossoms here and there for an atypical bouquet. This image was no doubt hastened by the book’s…

Living Skies
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 24 November 2017

Living Skies by Craig Hilts Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $54.99 ISBN 978-1-988783-05-5 There’s nothing like lightning, baseball-sized hail, and tornadoes to get one’s adrenaline pumping. There’s also nothing like a serene sky after a rain to calm a viewer. Craig Hilts, in his hardcover coffee table book Living Skies, has experienced both. He invites readers to look skyward and enjoy a visual feast of pigmentation and textures, especially noticeable in the swirling colours of the aurora borealis. Some photos spread across two-pages, providing a panoramic view of prairie horizons. Occasionally Hilts combines two similar photos, merging them so precisely on facing pages that the combined photos appear as one seamless image. His more than 150 colour photos range from scenic landscapes to the tumult of angry skies. Sometimes the scenery can seem so calm while storm clouds churn above. No wonder Saskatchewan has earned the title, Land of Living Skies. Hilts notes that a green sky, eerie to behold, is usually a warning of an impending tornado and/or severe hail. He’s experienced the rapid-fire force of baseball-sized hail smashing into his vehicle, but fortunately the protective shielding he developed offered some protection. No stranger…

Frostbite

Frostbite by Wes Funk Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 9-781927-756980 When Saskatoon’s Wes Funk died in 2015 at age forty-six, he was well-known and admired in the local writing community. He’d self-published novels and a chapbook of poetry and short stories, hosted a weekly series, “Lit Happens,” on Shaw TV, and mentored beginning writers. YNWP’s posthumously released Funk’s final book, Frostbite, which contains the novel of the same name, plus a novella-“Rocket of the Starship”-in one handsome package. Funk’s set both stories in Saskatoon and there are no shortages of landmarks to help locate the worlds in which his protagonists-both with cool names: “Deck” from the novel; the novella features “Dare”-roam. Deck Hall, a recently fired accountant and recently separated forty-year-old, lives in City Park, and his estranged wife is a nurse at Saskatoon City Hospital. The Bessborough Hotel, Midtown Plaza, Broadway Bridge, the Senator, Amigo’s Cantina and Diefenbaker Hill are locations that help set the stage for the aptly-named “Frostbite.” As the book opens, Deck has just finished his fourth bartending shift in a week, and he returns, wearily, to the Star Wars memorabilia and the companionship of his bulldog, Muffin,…

Lily in the Loft

Lily in the Loft by Carol L. MacKay Illustrated by Val Moker Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Allison Kydd $14.95; ISBN 978-1-927756-91-1 (softcover) Though reading some children’s picture books is an exercise in tolerance for adult readers, others have immediate appeal for both adult and child. MacKay’s Lily in the Loft, a story of hope, disappointment and ultimate reward, is an example of the latter. To a child it suggests the importance of dreams and determination, while to an adult—especially if that adult is a prairie writer—it’s richly evocative and an important historical document. The narrative of Lily in the Loft revolves around a young girl named Frances. Frances loves to write, and the story captures the vulnerability and desire of a beginning writer—or indeed of any writer. “Am I any good?” the young protagonist asks herself. “What if they don’t like what I write?” Frances is fortunate in that she has a mother and an aunt who support her dreams. She also lives on a farm, where nature and animals are part of her world and feed her creative imagination. MacKay obviously knows this world and gives the reader just enough of the setting without distracting…