I Tumble Through the Diamond Dust

I Tumble Through the Diamond Dust Written by Edward Willett, Illustrated by Wendi Nordell Published by YNWP Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 9-781988-783178 Prolific Regina writer Edward Willett took a great idea and ran with it, and the result is his first collection of poems, I Tumble Through the Diamond Dust, a collection of twenty-one fantastical poems with illustrations by his niece, Albertan Wendi Nordell. That initial great idea? It began with former SK Poet Laureate Gerald Hill’s 2016 “first lines” project, in which he e-mailed the first two lines from poems by two SK writers each week day in April and invited all Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild members to use them as springboards for new poems. Willett embraced the challenge, and the result is this creative, entertaining, and occasionally spine-tingling collection of poems that no one but Willett – well-known for authoring sixty books, including twenty science fiction and fantasy novels – could pull off. Willett claims a life-long love affair with poetry, but admits he’s not known as a poet. The man is a story-teller, through and through, thus it’s not surprising that each of these poems tells a miniature story, many with an apocalyptic or space-based…

You Can Count on the Prairies

You Can Count on the Prairies Text and photos by Leila J. Olfert Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $12.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-11-6 I’ve been reviewing books in various genres for the last few decades, and I can say without reservation that You Can Count on the Prairies, the hot-off-the-press illustrated, children’s counting book by Leila J. Olfert, has been my quickest read yet. What can one say about a twenty-nine page book that contains only seventeen words, and sixteen numbers? Well, as it turns out, rather a lot. Olfert, a former preschool teacher and avid textile artist and photographer, has taken a prairie icon – the grain storage bin – and used it as the central image in this finely-produced SK-based book for youngsters. Beginning with zero, the first page features a close-up photograph of golden grain stalks against a blurred field and sky backdrop. The next page reveals a single grain bin, as perfectly round and centred on the page as the field surrounding it is flat. Four birds are perched at the top, where an auger would pour the grain in. As the numbers on each page climb, so do the number of…

When The Trees Crackle with Cold Activity Book

When the Trees Crackle with Cold: A Cree Seasons Activity Book By Bernice Johnson-Laxdal and Miriam Körner Review by Michelle Shaw Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing $12.95 ISBN 9781988783161 Created as a companion activity book to the award-winning When the Trees Crackle with Cold: A Cree Calendar, this book could equally stand alone as a wonderful introduction to the Cree language and culture for readers of all ages. The first book by co-authors Bernice Johnson-Laxdal and Miriam Körner was a beautifully illustrated narrative of Bernice’s Cree childhood in northern Saskatchewan. The narrative of their book is based around the Cree calendar, which consists of six seasons divided into twelve moons, and Bernice’s family’s activities associated with each moon. The activity book follows the same format with simple projects which deepen and complement the reader’s understanding of each of the activities described in the first book. Each page is black and white with a full-page illustration on one of the facing pages. Activities include making your own toy dog team, creating your very own geese flying in a V-formation, growing your own tomato plants, and even instructions on how to make your own moose call. There are also word searches…

Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing

Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing By Angie Counios and David Gane Review by Michelle Shaw Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing $19.95 9781988783130 Regina’s death toll is once again on the rise as Angie Counios and David Gane launch their third Shepherd and Wolfe mystery, Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing. Tony and Charlie are now in Grade 12 and still recovering emotionally and physically after the dramatic events of the summer (see Shepherd’s Watch). But a serial killer is roaming the Queen City murdering and dismembering his victims; and even though Tony’s parents warn the boys not to get involved in any more mysteries, they can’t resist investigating. Detective Gekas, herself still recovering from the previous summer’s adventures, is put in charge of the serial killer murders. As the boys investigate, the killings come heartbreakingly close to home, and Tony is guilt-stricken to think that their actions may be responsible for the killer’s latest choice of victim. Although the story is satisfyingly wrapped up, the final chapter of the book ends on a cliffhanger. Which means that once again I will be waiting very impatiently for the next book in the series! This book is thicker and slightly darker in tone than…

Journey to Joy

Journey to Joy by Christalee Froese Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-12-3 “I’ve always wanted to keep everything, do everything and be everything,” Christalee Froese explains in her book, Journey to Joy: The Transformation of a Life . . . 21 Days at a Time. This excessive weight of taking on too much lands her in a psych ward where, as she puts it, she models hospital gowns – the ones that don’t fasten up in the back. While there, she has an epiphany. Upon her release, Froese spends twenty-one consecutive days focusing on one goal, to find joy in what she does. She then spends twenty-one days of each succeeding month focusing on a new goal, like peace, faith, relaxation, travel. She tries her own versions of yoga poses, such as the Wobbly Flamingo and the Awkward Elephant. When her goal focuses on pets, she cares for five fluffy newborn kittens which she repeatedly assures readers she’s not getting attached to. Froese is supported in her recovery by her husband Lewis and young son Logan, as well as by neighbours and professionals. After a miscarriage and unable to conceive another child, she…

When The Trees Crackle With Cold: A Cree Calendar

When the Trees Crackle with Cold: A Cree Calendar By Bernice Johnson-Laxdal and Miriam Körner Review by Michelle Shaw Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing $12.95 9781927756935 Winner of the recent Saskatchewan Book Awards Children’s Literature Award, When the Trees Crackle with Cold: A Cree Calendar is a beautifully written and illustrated narrative of the author’s Cree childhood in northern Saskatchewan. Bernice Johnson-Laxdal comes from a large family of 14 children and grew up in the predominantly Métis community of Ile-a-la-Crosse, which is situated along one of Western Canada’s major fur trade routes. From an early age Bernice was involved in her family’s traditional activities: gathering, growing and preparing food, hunting, trapping and making clothing. Most of these activities were (and still are) dependent on the seasons of the year. The book beautifully combines story and image with Körner’s playful watercolors skillfully enhancing the simple word pictures. The narrative is based around the Cree calendar which consists of six seasons divided into twelve moons, which reflect the traditional knowledge of the natural cycle. I found the concept so much more enriching for my soul than the traditional Western calendar! I loved the way each of the 12 moons reflects the…

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…