Mama’s Cloud
All Write Here Publishing / 31 August 2018

Mama’s Cloud Written by Jessica Williams, Illustrations by Mateya Ark Published by All Write Here Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $22.50 ISBN 978-1-7753456-1-9 There’s no rule that says children’s books must feature “feel good” stories, and I applaud those writers who do tackle the serious or sensitive subjects – like illness, bullying, or poverty – and find a way to create stories that children will find interesting and entertaining. Saskatchewan writer Jessica Williams has just done this. In Mama’s Cloud she’s teamed with Bulgarian illustrator Mateya Ark to deliver an engaging story about a woman who suffers from depression, and the ways in which her imaginative young daughter attempts to cheer her. Williams begins by presenting readers with an idyllic mother-daughter relationship. The child-narrator says “When Mama smiles, her eyes twinkle like a thousand fireflies. Her hair is soft and smells like purple lilacs in spring. Mama is Magical …” The pair play games of “Fairies and Wizards and Superheroes,” and in both text and illustration “Mama” is portrayed as smiling and affectionate. But “Sometimes a dark cloud drifts into the room and settles over her”. And thus begins the child’s mission to restore “Mama’s magic”. This book succeeds…

Small Displays of Chaos
Coteau Books / 4 August 2016

Small Displays of Chaos by Breanna Fischer Published by Coteau Books Review by Kris Brandhagen $12.95 9781550506617 Breanna Fischer’s book Small Displays of Chaos is about a girl from Saskatoon SK who develops an eating disorder during her last two years of high school. The main character, Rayanne Timko, assigns herself a fitness goal as part of a grade ten gym class project. She likes this because tracking calories appeals to her. In the beginning, her goal is “eat healthier, exercise more.” She earns the highest score for the assignment, but when it is over, she doesn’t want to stop. Fischer really gets inside the head of her character, juxtaposing action with stark, confessional journal entries. “Today I will count. Today I will starve. I will turn into myself like an imploding star. Just like yesterday.” As her obsession turns into addiction, she becomes her eating disorder. Without it, she doesn’t know who she is. The main focus of the book is what happens in Rayanne’s mind as she starves herself, developing visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations of Edie (this could be a pun on ED, or eating disorder), taunting, pushing, and demanding that she lose more weight. When her…

Inside the Mental

Inside the Mental: Silence, Stigma, Psychiatry, and LSD by Kay Parley Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-411-7 You never know who you might run into in a mental institution. When Kay Parley is admitted to the Weyburn Mental Hospital, she meets her father and grandfather. Her grandfather had been there before Kay was even born, and her father entered the institution when Kay was only six. She jokes that “they’d have to tear the place down if it wasn’t for my family.” This is one of many shocking details Kay relates in her book, Inside the Mental, a compilation of eighteen stories based on her experiences as both a patient and later as a nurse at The Mental as she calls it. Most of these stories have been previously published in magazines dealing with mental health issues and in her self-published volume, Lady with a Lantern. After a nervous breakdown in 1948, Kay finds herself in the Weyburn Mental Hospital, originally known as the Saskatchewan Hospital. When she observes a row of patients eating with their hands, mixing orange and toast into their porridge and slurping like dogs, a fellow patient tries to…

Stepping Out From the Shadows: A Guide to Understanding and Healing From Addictions

Stepping Out from the Shadows: A Guide to Understanding & Healing from Addictions by Allan Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-12-6 Unhealthy addictions are prevalent in contemporary society, and if you visit any bookstore, you’ll note that books about addictions also fill the shelves. When one who’s experienced the wrath of addiction puts pen to paper, it tends to add weight to the words. Allan Kehler is a Saskatchewan author, addictions counsellor, educator, and presenter, and he’s also struggled with both addictions and mental illness. His book Stepping Out from the Shadows: A Guide to Understanding & Healing from Addictions, is an easy-to-read guide for those struggling with addictions, and for those who love and support them. Kehler names some of the reasons why one might become addicted to a substance or behavior (like compulsive gambling or over-eating). These include a lack of love and nurturing within the home environment, mental illness, peer pressure, or some specific trauma which resulted in suppressed emotions. “The person takes comfort knowing that something exists that will bring them out of their painful reality.” As use escalates, however, a habit that was once a “want”…

After The Truck Hit
DriverWorks Ink / 29 April 2015

After the Truck Hit by Jennifer Kuchinka Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-16-6 When I first picked up Jennifer Kuchinka’s book After the Truck Hit, I was both intrigued and apprehensive. With a title like that, I figured I was in for an emotional journey. After the Truck Hit is both a story and a journal of Jennifer’s life before and after the accident. It’s a story firmly rooted in Saskatchewan. In Estevan, where Jennifer was born and where she lived for a time with her husband; in Macoun, a small town in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan, where she grew up and where she lived with her parents and baby daughter while recovering from her accident, and in Regina, where she studied at the University of Regina, met her husband and subsequently spent almost three months in the fall of 2010 recovering from her accident. Much of the book seems to have been taken from Jennifer’s personal journal after the accident which is both fascinating and a little frustrating in that the reader experiences firsthand her jumbled and repetitive thoughts. To make it easier to follow, Jennifer “fills in the blanks” in italics, putting…