Possessions
DriverWorks Ink / 22 June 2018

Possessions: Their Role in Anger, Greed, Envy, Jealousy, and Death by Boris W. Kishchuk Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-42-5 I love games: card, word, trivia, etc., and I’ve usually been fortunate to have someone in my circle who also enjoys a friendly but spirited competition. Why share that in a review of Saskatoon writer Boris W. Kishchuk’s latest nonfiction title, Possessions: Their Role in Anger, Greed, Envy, Jealousy, and Death? Read on. In the preface to this exquisitely-researched book Kishchuk writes that he’s wondered “why people kill each other,” and he wins my attention. This text examines “the psychology of possession”. The author investigates our desire to possess from myriad angles, including religious and economic reasons, and presents numerous diverse examples of how the human penchant for possessing has led to crime, brutality, murder and war. At the end of this page-turner Kishchuk reveals that his original title idea was The Curse of Possessions. He could have called it Read This and Never Lose at “Jeopardy” Again! Kishchuk’s previous titles demonstrate his eclectic range of interests: Long Term Care in Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Crown Corporations, and Connecting with Ukraine. Possessions is “more reflective in…

Culverts Beneath the Narrow Road
Thistledown Press / 22 June 2018

Culverts Beneath the Narrow Road Written by Brenda Schmidt Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $20.00 ISBN 978-1-77187-154-9 How interesting to watch a poet’s repertoire grow and change over the years, and learn what’s freshly inspiring him or her. For some it’s nature, a new relationship, travel, or a loved one’s passing. Trust Creighton, SK poet, visual artist, and naturalist Brenda Schmidt to eschew the usual … this SK Poet Laureate has turned to the lowly culvert for inspiration in her latest title, Culverts Beneath the Narrow Road, and it’s a romp. This handsome collection begins with a short essay that introduces us to the kind of writer Schmidt’s become. While she and her husband are driving down the Saskatchewan map, the poet blurts out questions some may consider inane. But, she writes: “Nothing I say surprises him anymore. He knows better than anyone how difficult writers can be to travel with, due in part, perhaps, to sensory overload, all these places flying by, all these junctions, private roads and keep-out signs, the mind filtering the 100 km/hr stream of information for connections …”. Indeed, connections are key in this book. Always fascinated with culverts, Schmidt’s mined…

Antigone Undone
University of Regina Press / 24 April 2018

Antigone Undone: Juliette Binoche, Anne Carson, Ivo van Hove and the Art of Resistance by Will Aitken Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $24.95 ISBN 9-780889-775213 Great art can pick you up by the heels and shake the daylights out of you, and that’s what happened to novelist, travel journalist and film critic Will Aitken after he was invited to Luxembourg by Canadian literary phenom Anne Carson to sit in on rehearsals for (and the premier of) Sophokles’s tragic Greek play, Antigone, which Carson’d translated. The experience undid Montreal’s Aitken, and in his book Antigone Undone, he unpacks this “ambush” and explores why the 2500-year-old play’s been profoundly affecting audiences since first produced. Antigone Undone packs quite a punch itself. The hardcover’s organized into three distinct parts, and Aitken’s sassy style, subject knowledge and humanity illuminate each page. Antigone concerns an unhappy family (naturally). The title character’s a teen princess who insists that her battle-killed brother be buried, but her uncle, the king, insists he was a traitor and “his body must rot in the sun for all to see”. When Antigone – played by my favourite, Juliette Binoche – throws dirt on the body,…

House of Charlemagne, The
University of Regina Press / 20 April 2018

The House of Charlemagne by Tim Lilburn Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-530-5 Years ago I lived a block from poet and essayist Tim Lilburn in Saskatoon’s leafy City Park area, and it’s been wonderful to watch his literary star rise. He’s earned the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, and is the first Canadian to win the European Medal of Poetry and Art. Like Lilburn, I also now live on Vancouver Island, and was excited to discover what my former nearly-neighbour has been (literarily) up to. Not surprisingly, his latest title – a collaboration with Métis artist Ed Poitras – breaks new ground. Part poetry, part essay, part script, The House of Charlemagne is a brilliantly conceived and executed “performable poem,” and an homage to Louis Riel’s imagined “House of Charlemagne,” named for the “polyglot Métis nation” Riel imagined rising centuries after his death. It was produced with male and female dancers by New Dance Horizons/Rouge-gorge in Regina (2015), and the book includes two black and white production photos. The bizarre and poetic story unfolds via multiple voices and shapes, but the key player is Honoré Jaxon (aka William Henry Jackson), a…

Door Into Faerie
Coteau Books / 20 April 2018

Door into Faerie by Edward Willett Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $14.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-654-9 Door into Faerie is the fifth and final title in Regina writer Edward Willett’s “The Shards of Excalibur” series, and I read it without reading its predecessors, and also, admittedly, with a bit of a bias against the fantasy genre. Magic shmagic. I’ve oft said that what I really value in literature is contemporary realism: stories I can connect with via details from the here and now, geography and language I can relate to because I recognize it, I speak it. The old “holding a mirror to the world” thing. Well surprise, surprise: I loved this YA fantasy. Willett wields his well-honed writing chops from page one, and my interest was maintained until the final word. In the opening we learn that teens Wally Knight (heir to King Arthur) and his girlfriend Ariane (“the fricking Lady of the Lake”), have been on a global quest to “reunite the scattered shards of the great sword Excalibur,” and they’re currently at a Bed and Breakfast in Cypress Hills. Cypress Hills! This ingenious juxtaposition of old and contemporary (ie: “fricking”), of information delivered in earlier…

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…

Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens
Uncategorized / 19 April 2018

Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens by Sara Williams and Bob Bors Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $39.95 ISBN 9-781550-509137 For those who desire to grow fruit in their own northern gardens, the comprehensive and visually-inviting new reference book by horticultural experts Sara Williams and Bob Bors would be the logical place to begin. This is a learned duo – Williams has penned numerous books on prairie gardening and leads workshops on diverse gardening topics; Bors is the Head of the Fruit Breeding Program and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan (he’s also globally-known for his work with haskaps, dwarf sour cherries, and Under-the Sea® coleus). These Saskatchewanians possess a plethora of knowledge and experience, and they share it, along with up-to-date research, in Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens: a veritable encyclopedia (but far more fun) that instructs gardeners on everything from the basics – like soil preparation and pruning – to specifics on how to grow and maintain healthy tree, shrub cane, groundcover, and vine fruits, and make the most of your hazelnuts. Aside from the wealth of information on more than 20 species and over 170 fruit…

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…

Behind the Moon
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 2 February 2018

Behind the Moon Written and Illustrated by Elsie Archer Published by YNWP Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783079 I’m highly impressed when a creator can effectively write and illustrate his or her books, thus my metaphorical hat is tipped to Elsie Archer, author and illustrator of Behind the Moon, an inspirational children’s picture book that delivers the autobiographical story of two sisters – Marjorie and Elsie – who were children during the terrifying time we know as the Second World War. An illustrated book only truly succeeds when both text and images are on par. The story must also convey original ideas. I’ll begin with Archer’s imaginative writing. Hand in hand, the sisters stand beneath the night sky and the elder sister, Marjorie, explains to Elsie that the moon is “the door to heaven,” and the stars “are actually holes that God poked through the sky with His fingers”. A few days later, during the full moon, Elsie exclaims that the “door to heaven is wide open”. As only a child might, Elsie thinks this is wonderful because now “the angels can go back and forth without getting squished!” The sisters demonstrate a strong faith in God. They…

Islands of Grass
Coteau Books / 2 February 2018

Islands of Grass Text by Trevor Herriot, Photos by Branimir Gjetvaj Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $39.95 ISBN 9-781550-509311 Saskatchewan naturalist, activist, and Governor-General’s Award-nominee Trevor Herriot has penned another title that should be on every bookshelf, and particularly on the shelves of those who love our precarious prairie grasslands and the threatened creatures who inhabit them. In Islands of Grass, Herriot has teamed with environmental photographer Branimir Gjetvaj to create a coffee table-esque hardcover that’s part call to action, part celebration, and part Ecology 101. The pair’s mutual passion for our disappearing grasslands – the term “islands” deftly illustrates their fate – is evident on every page of this important and beautiful must-read. Herriot’s erudite essays are personal, political, and urgent. Filled with first-person anecdotes (ie: his father’s memories of dust storms), plus stories from ranchers, ecologists, and agency professionals, they also explain the history of grass and reveal how pioneers were encouraged to plow in order to prosper. There’s much plant, bird, and animal information, including statistical numbers re: their endangerment and recovery. The book’s five chapters are written in the engaging conversational/informational style Herriot’s faithful readers have come to expect, ie: the opening…