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…

Fun on the Farm
DriverWorks Ink / 8 August 2017

Fun on the Farm: True Tales of Farm Life! Compiled and edited by Deana J. Driver Reviewed by Michelle Shaw $17.95 ISBN 978-192757030-2 I knew Fun on the Farm: True Tales of Farm Life was a winner when the opening story, Harvest Bonding, written from the perspective of a newlywed city girl who has married a farmer, had me giggling from the start. As Jean Fahlman wryly points out, “When soulmates enter the harvest field, the marriage may be entering the twilight zone, but newly married farmers and wives don’t realize that at first”. Harvest Bonding is the first story in this collection of humorous, true accounts of farm life in Saskatchewan, compiled and edited by Regina-based Deana Driver. The book is filled with tales of mishaps, adventures and childhood memories from riding “Bessie, our two-hundred pound pig”, jam-can curling and playing street hockey with a potato as a puck, chasing wandering cows, hens that lay Easter eggs and even an amusing incident from the filming of the James Herriot movie All Creatures Great and Small. That one I have to admit was set in Yorkshire, not Saskatchewan, although there is of course a Saskatchewan connection! Many of the stories…

Memoirs of a Muhindi

Memoirs of a Muhundi: Fleeing East Africa for the West by Mansoor Ladha Review by Michelle Shaw $25.95 9780889774742 Published by University of Regina Press Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West is a little book that is packed with richness. It’s a personal story filled with fascinating anecdotes, but it’s also a perspective of historical events that not many people know much about. Mansoor Ladha was born on the island of Zanzibar and grew up in the East African country of Tanzania. A third-generation Asian in a predominantly black African nation, he grew up in a close community of Ismailis (a branch of Shia Muslims and followers of the Aga Khan). At the time Tanzania was under British colonial rule but everything changed with the dawn of independence. Ladha was proudly nationalistic and considered Tanzania his home. But as a young man he was forced to consider otherwise. “The full realization that we were not wanted in Africa came to us, the whole Asian community, in 1972 when Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelled the country’s eighty thousand Indians, Pakistanis, and Ugandan Asians… This ethnic cleansing soon spread to neighboring Kenya and Tanzania…where many families lost everything.”…

More Babas, Please!

More Babas, Please! by Marion Mutala, Illustrated by Olha Tkachenko Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $14.95 ISBN 9781927756928 Award-winning author Marion Mutula’s latest book, More Babas, Please! is a happy celebration of grandmothers. All grandmothers everywhere. “Big ones, small ones, fat ones, tall. Curly-haired, straight-haired, wig-wearing, bald.” The rhyming has an almost sing-song rhythm which seems so natural that you instinctively know that a lot of work has gone into making it seem so effortless! The layout is classic and clean with lots of white space and large type, perfect for early readers and grown-ups with bad eye sight. Each left page features a beautiful full page colour illustration by Ukranian-born illustrator Olha Tkachenko. Although the book celebrates grandmothers of all nationalities, Mutala’s love for her Ukranian heritage and her babas is a constant thread throughout the book. She uses Ukranian words like holubtsi (cabbage rolls) and dyakuyu (thank you) and for non-Ukranian speakers there’s a helpful glossary at the back of the book. There’s even a recipe for Baba Sophie’s Borscht! The book gave me a warm feeling as I reflected on my own grandmother. It speaks to all the good that grandmothers do…

Shepherd’s Watch

Shepherd’s Watch by Counios & Gane Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $19.95 ISBN 9781927756959 Shepherd’s Watch is the second book in the Shepherd and Wolfe mystery series by Regina authors Angie Counios and David Gane. I’m always a bit wary of being introduced to a new author or series but this book exceeded all my expectations. I loved it so much, in fact, that I went out and bought the first book in the series so that I wouldn’t miss out! The books revolve around the lives (and adventures) of two high school students, Tony Shepherd (well-adjusted, athletic and bright) and “wise-ass troublemaker”, Charlie Wolfe. In the first book, Along Comes a Wolfe, Tony’s girlfriend goes missing and it’s suspected that a serial killer is at work. The boys investigate and barely escape with their lives. Shepherd’s Watch is set a few months later at the lake where Tony and his family are spending the summer. Charlie arrives at the cabin unannounced and soon the boys are investigating the disappearance of a local man who has inexplicably gone missing. From the start of the book, I had an idea of where the plot was going….

Mistasiniy
DriverWorks Ink / 22 March 2017

Mistasinîy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone by Mary Harelkin Bishop Illustrated by Heaven Starr Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $14.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-32-6 If you loved Mary Harelkin Bishop’s Seeds of Hope: A Prairie Story you’ve no doubt been waiting for it’s companion book with eager anticipation. Bishop has a way of painting characters that are memorable and her style of writing easily draws the reader into the story. You’re on chapter two before you know it! This is a story that stayed with me. It snuck into my brain and left me pondering for days. The basic plot involves two young boys who are assigned a Canadian heritage project by their Grade 6 teacher. Danny discovers his great great grandmother’s diary of arriving in Canada and the struggles the family endured as they established their farm. Zach though is First Nations. While the rest of the class has family that arrived in Canada at some point, his family has always been a part of the land. What about his family’s heritage? Doesn’t it count? Zach becomes very angry and confused. To complicate the story even further, the boys have a long history of antagonism. They’ve tried, on the whole,…

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…

Between Shadows
Coteau Books / 10 September 2015

Between Shadows by Kathleen Cook Waldron Published by Coteau Books Review by Michelle Shaw $8.95 ISBN 97815506129 Between Shadows is a beautifully crafted story for ages eight and up, told from the perspective of twelve-year-old Ari, whose beloved grandfather has died, leaving his cabin at Canoe Lake to his grandson. Unfortunately Ari’s dad and his Aunt Laurel want to sell the cabin and Ari is too young to stop them. Or is he? Author Kathleen Cook Waldron has an artist’s attention to detail. Descriptions of the characters are minimal yet I was left with a vivid image of each one through her ability to infuse their actions with life and personality. Similarly, her descriptions of the world at Canoe Lake become part of the ongoing narrative rather than stand alone descriptions of place. Sometimes I read a book and there’s a sentence or a phrase that suddenly jars me back into the real world. It just doesn’t seem to fit. With Between Shadows it felt like every word, phrase and sensory detail was carefully chosen and precisely placed. I was embraced by Ari’s world at Canoe Lake: his grandfather’s whimsically rainbow coloured log cabin with its carefully hidden, perfect beach…

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…

Honouring the Buffalo

Honouring the Buffalo: A Plains Cree Legend Told by Ray Lavallee Written by Judith Silverthorne Illustrated by Mike Keepness Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $14.95 ISBN: 978-1-927756-33-1 If you’ve ever wondered why the buffalo plays such a significant role in the culture and ceremonies of the Plains Cree, then this beautifully illustrated children’s book may assist you on your journey of discovery. When I first opened the book, I was struck by the fact that the story is told simultaneously in English and in the Plains Cree language (Y dialect). I don’t speak Cree but as a relative newcomer to Canada and a linguistic nerd, I was intrigued by the opportunity to be introduced to, not only a story so intrinsic to Cree culture, but also to the language. I loved the fact that certain Cree words are given their phonetic pronunciation which I think enables a reader who may not be familiar with Cree to get a linguistic sense of the language and perhaps enables them to enter the story more fully. The book is written by well-known Saskatchewan writer Judith Silverthorne, who wrote it based on an oral story told to her by…