Rescued
DriverWorks Ink / 24 August 2017

Rescued by Janice Howden Reviewed by Michelle Shaw $13.95 ISBN 978192757031-9 Rescued is a deceptively simple book that works on many levels. On the surface, it’s a story about Hawkeye and his brother Freddie, two abandoned Tibetan Terriers, and their search to find a “Forever Home”. Underlying the story is the true account of author Janice Howden’s adoption of her rescue dog Rahj from the Saskatoon SPCA. Janice has been a long-time supporter of the Saskatchewan SPCA. For many years her husband Lloyd worked as an animal protection officer for the organization and she’s heard lots of stories over the years, both good and bad. So when she decided to adopt a dog it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. She first drew up a checklist to make sure she chose a dog that would suit their family. For one thing, she knew she wanted a dog that didn’t require long runs at dawn. “Not my lifestyle,” she says firmly. “I wanted a smaller dog, one with whom I could enjoy cuddles on the sofa while I watched TV or read.” After months of checking the SPCA website, Janice found two Tibetan Terriers who were about six months old…

Rescued
DriverWorks Ink / 22 December 2016

Rescued by Janice Howden Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $13.95 ISBN 978-192757031-9 Before reading Rescued-Saskatoon writer Janice Howden’s touching story for young readers about a dog’s journey from a puppy mill into the arms of a loving “forever home” family-I’d never heard of Tibetan Terriers. As their name implies, these shaggy-coated dogs originated in the Himalayas, and their “big round feet act like snowshoes in the deep snow.” They’re intelligent, determined, and affectionate, and, as Howden proves in this hybrid story-part non-fiction, part fancy (as told by the canine protagonist)-they can be inspirational. Howden’s combined her passion for promoting pet adoptions from animal rescues, her love for the puppy Hawkeye (later renamed Rahj) she adopted from the Saskatoon SPCA, and her writing skills into a story that works well between the genres of fiction and nonfiction. After an italicized introduction into what lead to Hawkeye’s adoption, she switches to storytelling mode. Here Hawkeye takes over the narration, and this little guy’s feisty. He says the story thus far is “being told rather badly by the human,” and he goes on to share how he and his meek brother, Freddie, were evicted from the kennel (aka puppy…

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…

Through Flood and Fire
Coteau Books / 17 March 2016

Through Flood & Fire by Anne Patton Published by Coteau Books Review by Michelle Shaw $9.95 ISBN 9781550506402 As a relative newcomer to Canada, my knowledge of the history of my home province is primarily gleaned from helping my daughters’ with their homework. So I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to lose myself in a “first-hand” account of Saskatchewan’s history, as told through the eyes of ten-year-old Dorothy, the protagonist of Through Flood & Fire by Anne Patton. Dorothy and her family leave England en route to the Barr Colony in Saskatchewan in 1903. That story is told in the first book in Anne Patton’s, Barr Colony adventure series, Full Speed to Canada. Through Flood & Fire picks up the family’s story in the little village of Saskatoon. Dorothy and her family are headed out across the prairies to establish a new settlement. After numerous adventures they eventually settle in the area surrounding the town of present-day Lloydminster, named after the man leading their community, The Reverend Mr Lloyd. I loved the fact that the book is loosely based on an actual story of a young girl called Dorothy, who was “plucked from her familiar urban life in…

Ghost Most Foul
Coteau Books / 27 August 2015

Ghost Most Foul by Patti Grayson Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $10.95 ISBN 9-781550-506143 I was able to devote almost unbroken hours to reading Ghost Most Foul by Manitoba writer Patti Grayson, and good thing: I was so swept up in this compelling juvenile novel I wanted to charge through it like an athlete storms through opponents to win a game. For starters, Grayson really knows how to begin a book. The brief prologue hints of a plane crash, a basketball game, and a disruptive ghost. How’s that for disparate elements? My interest was immediately piqued. The credibly-voiced protagonist, Summer, is a rising basketball star at her junior high school. She’s perceptive, caring, and enjoys a pleasant home life, but we learn that Summer has also experienced pain. She was an “easy target” for jeering bullies in elementary school due to a “crazy growth spurt” which put her a head taller than some of her classmates. Summer loses sleep over hurtful comments like “‘How’s the weather up there?’” Like many who are bullied, she tries her best not to attract attention. Summer both idolizes her inspirational coach and feels a very strong connection to her, as…

Red River Raging
Coteau Books / 11 February 2015

Red River Raging by Penny Draper Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $10.95 ISBN 9-781550-505849 It’s a dull, wet day and I’ve nowhere to be but home-hurray!-because today I’ve had the distinct pleasure of reading Penny Draper’s novel Red River Raging cover-to-cover, and it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Coteau Books published Red River Raging as part of its Disaster Strikes! Series, which includes six other Draper titles. After reading this latest book, I certainly see why Coteau keeps Draper on its publication roster: this “Juvenile Fiction” is a terrific story, skillfully told, and I’m happy to sing its praises to readers of any age. The back cover copy whet my appetite for this gripping Manitoba-flood-based, coming-of-age story. Thirteen-year-old Finn is the only child of Vancouver scientists, and while his parents are off to Russia, their reluctant son’s exiled to the rural, St. Agathe MB home of his cookie-baking grandmother and crusty-but mysterious-great grandfather. Finn quickly makes friends at school, including Clara, who becomes his girlfriend (and has an interesting side-story herself); and Aaron, who “got run over by a bale of hay” and is in a wheelchair. When a major flood threatens, Finn initially feels “It’s…

Back to Batoche
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 24 December 2014

Back to Batoche by Cheryl Chad Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Alison Slowski $12.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-20-1 Back to Batoche is a funny, light-hearted story about three kids who travel back in time to Batoche on the eve of the Battle for Batoche, the famous battle between the Riel Resistance and the North West Field Force. This novel sees the great battle from the point of view of the three Dory children who are the main characters of this story, so while the subject matter is serious in nature, it would not fail to keep the young reader in question engaged and amused by the children’s travels and adventures. “A century is only a spoke in the wheel of everlasting time.” – Louis Riel The novel begins by introducing the Dory siblings, Max, Liam, and Kaeleigh, who go on a trip with their grandmother to see Batoche Historic National Park. Upon arrival at the majestic National Park, the three siblings go on a tour of the landmark church and other sites around Batoche, and meet a strange and mysterious Metis fiddler boy by the name of Isidore Pilon . While exploring the old church, the children find an…

Barnabas Bigfoot: A Hairy Tangle
Thistledown Press / 14 May 2014

Barnabas Bigfoot: A Hairy Tangle by Marty Chan Published by Thistledown Press Review by Tavish Bell $10.95 ISBN 9781927068052 Barnabas Bigfoot: A Hairy Tangle quite surprised me. Although geared to young readers, I had difficulty putting this book down while reading it. I mean, who doesn’t want to know what the Sasquatch think about us hunting them? A nice fantasy/adventure story, this book was quite interesting, telling the story from the Bigfoot’s view; not only do we see the story from Barnabas Bigfoot’s point of view, we learn that there is a whole society of Bigfoots (Bigfeet, if you will), who live hidden from humanity. The storyline, picking up directly from Barnabas Bigfoot: A Close Shave, was fast paced and pun, but I also appreciated the level of detail in the narrative. The author of this book, Marty Chan, also penned several other juvenile novels, including The Mystery of the Graffiti Ghoul, which won the 2008 Willow Awards. Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It was definitely one of my favorite books to read, and it gave me a few things to think about once I was done, including the joys and difficulties of growing up, and friendship and…

The Veil Weavers
Coteau Books / 9 July 2012

The Veil Weavers by Maureen Bush Published by Coteau Books for Kids Review by Brinnameade Smith $7.95 ISBN 1 3-978-1-55050-482-8 The Veil of Magic series, by Maureen Bush, is a great, accessible series for young fantasy readers who are ready to start reading chapter books and novels. It’s set in Calgary and the Canadian Rockies where readers are given a chance to learn about and appreciate the nature all around them as they follow along on a fantastical story about friendship, responsibility and bravery. The Veil Weavers is the third book in the series. It follows a brother and sister called Josh and Maddy as they race to save a magical world that has been damaged by the misuse of power and magic. While much of this damage has been caused by the evil villain, Gronvald the troll, Josh and Maddy’s friends have unknowingly contributed as well. When the damage is discovered everyone is able to learn about actions, consequences and problem solving. The book easily talks about problems like global warming, environmental concern and animal rights in a simple way that kids can understand. Many of the warm and bright friends made by Josh and Maddy are animals that…