Sibling Shenanigans
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 14 September 2016

Sibling Shenanigans by Marjorie Cripps, illustrated by Val Lawton Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $12.95 ISBN 9-781927-75706 I can’t imagine a better title for first-time author Marjorie Cripps’ collection of stories for young readers than what she’s chosen, Sibling Shenanigans. This fun and ably-written series of short tales features likeable siblings Amanda and Mitchell, who get along exceptionally well with each other, their parents, and their beloved Grandma. The senior’s a central character (and sometimes accomplice) in several of the ten pieces. Saskatchewan-born Cripps is a retired school librarian whose love of quilting is evident in many of the stories. Using different styles – some stories are written in First Person, others in Third Person; some are realistic, others fantastic – and an upbeat tone, Cripps welcomes us into the active lives of young Amanda and Mitchell, beginning with the latter’s spectacular adventure in a “runaway stroller”. Cripps shares anecdotes about sleepovers, birthdays, Christmases, pet dogs, camping, and a family move from one side of Vancouver to the other. I appreciated how easily the author’s pen swung between real life and fantasy, making both feel credible. In “Barkley on Wheels,” we learn that Grandma…

Launch Lead Live

Launch Lead Live by Dr. Dawn-Marie Turner Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Leslie Vermeer $24.95 978-1-927756-47-8 Maybe you’re an employee who’s been accused of resisting organizational change—let’s face it: many of us have been. Or maybe you’re a business executive who believes most employees actively resist organizational change. Whatever your role in your organization, whatever business or service you’re in, in her new book, Launch Lead Live, Dawn-Marie Turner has something to say to you: employee resistance to change is a myth. Change is the one commonplace in business: for most organizations, it’s change or fail. But constant change—to technology, systems, processes, staff roles, even staffers themselves—has a real cost. As Turner observes, “Organizations are struggling to survive under the weight and expense of what feels like overwhelming, but necessary, change.” So a book that can help reduce the costs of change—not just financial, but also human—is very welcome. Turner proposes that leaders demystify change by making it meaningful to the people it affects and motivating them to move through the stages of change. Turner describes such efforts as “Building readiness instead of trying to manage resistance.” Leaders support readiness by developing an organization’s capacity to change….

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 starts and ends on just the right notes, immediately establishing the characters’ close relationship by simply stating it: “Noah and Grandpa Ed had been good friends for as long as Noah could remember. Grandpa Ed said they had been friends forever.” Nanaimo illustrator Karen Sims ably demonstrates this tight bond via full-colour images that show the young, big-eyed boy and his loving grandfather involved in activities that range from watering plants at the family cottage to enjoying treats…

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 surrounding stress. Turns out humans actually need some stress to thrive. But too much stress hurts us at physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual levels, and we don’t always recognize our own pain. Kehler then introduces a variety of tools with which to manage stress and offers stress-management tips that are easy to use — easy but surprisingly effective. Some of the topics Kehler…

The Sixth Age

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 of the residents – actors, musicians, painters, and writers – decide to “put on a show” for the locals, Allie is drawn into the action despite her better judgement. Of course chaos ensues. Residents are falling ill, having accidents, getting lost. Government bureaucrats visit the residence, threatening to break up the community. And then Allie meets a carpenter who makes her wonder about love and second chances. Author Kay Parley’s gang of elderly back-to-the-landers beautifully reflects the ethos of the mid 1970s. Although Parley wrote the manuscript decades ago, it has only recently been published, and its arrival is timely. The novel touches on issues relevant to many readers, but Parley herself felt the novel would reverberate with the Baby Boomers who are now beginning to retire….

I am Free

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 and it began to read more like a novella. Knowing the genre of a text isn’t critical to its enjoyment, but as both a writer and reviewer I’m perhaps unfairly keen to “name that genre”. I quickly came to appreciate the blurred lines and the vagueness (ie: we never learn which Saskatchewan city the story’s set in), especially as they emulate the dream-like text. I turned to the author’s own website (www.delsuelo.net) for explication, and learned that Del Suelo (aka Eric Mehlsen) describes the text portion of his mesmerizing book\CD combo as a novel. The CD’s ten songs correspond to their same-named chapters. In Del Suelo’s words: “The songs and prose lean on each other in a way that together create a sense of depth that I’ve…

Don’t Lick The Flagpole

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 author’s treatise on why he’s a Christian but remains ardently anti-religion. The Manitoba-born author and longtime primary school teacher makes several strong claims regarding God’s purpose and kingdom, humanity’s purpose, personal beliefs about Jesus, and why the writer’s so wary of “religion” – aka “the contemporary church” – in his first book. This is tricky territory, no doubt about it, and it will not rest easy on all ears. Even Banman’s reference to God as “Him” and the use of words like “mankind” (rather than “humankind”) will undoubtedly deter some potential readers, but for those interested in the God vs. religion debate, the writer – who also possesses a Master’s in philosophy – presents some interesting ideas, and often uses Biblical passages to support his arguments. The book is well-written. The…

Li’l Shadd: A Story of Ujima
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 2 February 2016

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), for whom two Melfort streets and a northern Saskatchewan lake are named. Dr. Shadd shared an affinity with First Nations’ folks, “due to the similarity of their experiences with colonization and racism,” and the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum – with the assistance of other funders and sponsors – has brought just one of Shadd’s success stories to light in the delightfully-illustrated children’s book, Li’l Shadd: A Story of Ujima. The title character, Li’l Shadd, represents Garrison Shadd, the real-life son of the good Dr. Shadd, who’s also recognized for his work as a politician, teacher, farmer, journalist and friend. Garrison was actually five years old when his pioneering father died, so the story itself is slightly fictionalized. The plot concerns the child accompanying his father (via horse-drawn wagon) to tend to the baby girl of a…

Time After Time
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 5 November 2015

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 colouring books had become a hot new phenomenon, and I wanted to know why. Turns out it’s about de-stressing. What I learned is that like reading, or doing jigsaw puzzles, or knitting, when we focus on the activity of colouring it calms the mind and takes our focus away from worries, while simultaneously stimulating motor skills, senses, and creativity. There’s a crossover with mindfulness and mantras: “Activities in which the brain is engaged just enough to stop it whirring, but not so much that the concentration is draining.” (The Guardian) The writer of a June 2015 article (in The Guardian) reported that “Five of Amazon’s top 10 last week were adult colouring-in books, as were six of Brazil’s top 10 non-fiction list. Last year in France,…

The Two Trees
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 4 September 2015

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 kitchen counter and read it. “What did you think?” I asked. “Loved it,” Flo said. “It brought tears to my eyes.” Any children’s story that can move an adult to tears is one I don’t want to wait another moment to read. I took the softcover book to my deck and in the few minutes it took to engage with the sensitively-written and pastel-illustrated story – about the relationship between two brothers, and the younger’s difficulty with the elder’s inability to socially interact “normally” both at home and school – I too, experienced the proverbial lump-in-throat that signifies an emotional connection’s been made. “Wow,” I said, “what a strong metaphor for ‘otherness’”. “I know,” Flo said. “And that word at the end, ‘almost’ … that’s what got me.”…