To The Edge of the Sea
Thistledown Press / 30 April 2013

To The Edge of the Sea by Anne McDonald Published by Thistledown Press Review by Regine Haensel ISBN 9781897235850 $19.95 Anne McDonald has been writing for many years, with publications in magazines such as “Descant” and broadcasts on CBC radio. In To The Edge of the Sea, her first book, she takes us on a journey into Canada’s past, the time of Confederation, the formation of a country. Her themes include connection, loss, risk, and hope. We meet John Alexander Macdonald, future first prime minister of Canada, who walks a metaphorical tightrope as he attempts to balance the wishes of the disparate regions. Young fisherman Alex leaves his home and family on Prince Edward Island, and boards a ship to follow the circus because he is fascinated by the tightrope walkers. Alex’s older brother Reggie is left behind, but finds his own way to leave the fishing life by joining the Tenant Leaguers, in order to improve the lot of tenant farmers. Mercy Coles, twenty-six years old, encounters John A. Macdonald at a social event, then follows, with other supporters, to Quebec City. At a dinner, “All of them laughed at McGee’s story of how the tightrope walker Farini had…

To Everything A Season

To Everything a Season by Helen Mourre Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Alison Slowski $16.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-89-7 Helen Mourre’s short story collection, To Everything a Season, is her latest work, after the books Landlocked and What’s Come Over Her from Thistledown Press. Throughout her short stories about parents, about children, about young unmarried men and women, Mourre displays a strong understanding of the bonds that hold community and family together. She captures the reader’s attention by painting a portrait of the hardships families endure while experiencing the loss of a parent, the loss of a spouse, or even the loss of a cherished family home in exchange for a new one. The theme of loss carries through the entire book, paralleled and mitigated by the spark of hope. Though the characters have experienced some dark times, there is always the hope that things will improve. Mourre’s writing is candid and honest, and each swell of each story told, while it may be tragic, is also filled with hope.  Her words are penned with obvious love for the Saskatchewan prairies, a small-town community, and the ties between that community and friends and family. THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT…

A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden
Thistledown Press / 26 April 2013

A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden by Stephen Reid Published by Thistledown Press Review by Hannah Muhajarine ISBN 978-1-927068-03-8 $18.95 I decided to try A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden: Writing from Prison because both the form (short non-fiction essays) and the topic (prison, as one might deduce from the subtitle) are outside the usual scope of my reading. I expected to learn something, and I definitely did. The tone ranges from tragic to humorous to poignant and back, sometimes within a single essay. Alongside difficult topics such as drug and sexual abuse, there are lighter sections on writing a poem for a fellow inmate’s girlfriend (“Dear Mona, / Roses are dead / Violets are doomed / As will be you / If you don’t visit soon”) and the trials of filling out the “Psychopathy Check List Revised”. The first essay describes the failed bank robbery which led to author Stephen Reid’s incarceration. The police chase through the streets of Victoria reads almost like a heist movie. But unlike a movie, there are real consequences to Reid’s actions, and he does not shy away from writing about the harm he caused to innocent civilians, as well as his own family….

Hagios Press / 26 April 2013

Grid by Brenda Schmidt Published by Hagios Press Review by Justin Dittrick $17.95 ISBN 978-192671013-6 There is a moment in Brenda Schmidt’s latest collection of poems, in which the speaker invokes the melodious sing-along of nursery rhyme: Cinderella dressed in white Went downstairs to say goodnight. Made a blunder. Too far under. How many shovels make it right? “None”, the speaker interjects, “The going is slow, conditions poor, traffic/steady. There’s a shovel in every trunk.” In this poem, called “Too Far”, acute observation is combined with commentary that is, at times, humorous and, at other times, distressing. The verses are fragmented, while the images mutate from the wild into the mundane, as though the poem stands interrupted in the collection, as an abandoned nature documentary. Yet, still, it belongs, with a marvelous image of a window onto the world of the poem: “Where in hell/is the scraper? I use my nails./Through the scratch marks/the forest resembles a bit of parsley/left on the cutting board.” That poem feels like a digression, and a telling one. In Grid, moments are approached in their apparent stability only to be swept away in song rife with interruption and fresh stimuli, lending a new perspective….

Creating the Prairie Xeriscape
Coteau Books / 26 April 2013

Creating the Prairie Xeriscape by Sara Williams Published by Coteau Books Review by Regine Haensel $34.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-461-3      I dove into Creating the Prairie Xeriscape in the first week of April while snow drifted down outside.  With winter refusing to loosen its grip on the landscape, the book was like taking a drink of cool water after wandering a dry desert for days.  Though given the subject matter, perhaps I should say taking a small sip of water that I had hoarded and conserved carefully! According to Williams, “Xeriscaping is an environmentally friendly approach to your yard and garden that leaves your piece of the world in as good or better shape than when you assumed stewardship.”      Well known and respected throughout the prairies, Sara Williams’ weekly gardening column appears in more than twenty-five newspapers.  For twelve years she worked as horticultural specialist at Extension Division, University of Saskatchewan.  In 2008, she received the Prairie Garden Award of Excellence, and will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2013.      Creating the Prairie Xeriscape is a revision and update (the number of plant species mentioned has nearly doubled) of the 1997 book of the same…

The Inquiring Reporter
DriverWorks Ink / 26 April 2013

The Inquiring Reporter by Clay Stacey Review by Michelle Shaw Published by DriverWorks Ink $20.95 ISBN 978-0-9879643-1-1 Clay Stacey started out in 1960 as a rookie printer sweeping the floor and removing misfed sheets of newsprint from the ink rollers. He soon progressed to reporting and spent his career in numerous small towns throughout Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and Alberta, retiring in 2011 after 50 years as a reporter, editor, publisher, and on two occasions, owner, of newspapers such as The Revelstoke Herald, Fort Qu’Appelle Times, Calgary Albertan, Kamloops Daily Sentinel, The Golden Star, and the Moose Jaw Times-Herald. Stacey’s career is full of colourful and memorable anecdotes. He interviewed prime ministers, provincial premiers and skid row drunks. He helped a First Nations couple seek justice over a land dispute with the federal government and helped raise funds to send a dying child to a faraway city for cancer treatment. His reporting helped to encourage a prominent politician to resign from his cabinet post amidst allegations of fraud and he broke an exclusive story about the discovery of Nazi documents in a dilapidated shack in the BC wilderness. In looking back at a long and fascinating career it’s tempting to…

Coteau Books / 12 April 2013

Breakaway By Maureen Ulrich Published by Coteau Books Review by Karen Lawson $12.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-512-2 She shoots! She Scores! Maureen Ulrich has scored a hat trick with her latest young adult fiction book called Breakaway. This is the last book in the “Jessie Mac Series.” We first met the heroine, Jessie, in the novel Power Plays. We got to know her better in the second book in the series, Face Off. It is like being reacquainted with an old friend as we once again connect with Jessie and follow her as she matures into a young woman. Breakaway continues Jessie’s journey from a young teen to her final year in high school. She is now playing AAA hockey, which is not only highly competitive, but also the most advanced level of minor girls’ hockey. In addition to her contribution as a team player, she is also the Captain, which creates more responsibility and stress. Jessie’s athletic goals often compete with her personal life, especially her love life. She finds it difficult to stay focused on hockey when she is torn between her first love, Mark and two other romantic interests, Liam and Evan. Jessie is on the cusp between adolescence…

Honey Trouble
aemworks Publishing / 4 April 2013

Honey Trouble by Dianne Young Illustrated by a.e. matheson Reviewed by Michelle Shaw Published by aemworks Publishing $7.95 ISBN 978-0-9784974-1-5 Six-year-old Josie is sent to the store to buy some honey for her mother. She is convinced that she will remember what to buy because she has cleverly worked out a way to jog her memory. Happily she sets out and along the way meets various neighborhood friends. But, as she becomes involved in their escapades and predicaments, she forgets what her mother wanted her to buy. Her friends try to help her remember but are they right? This is a clever little story for young readers who are just starting to read chapter books. The plot is straightforward and humorous with characters and situations that young children will relate to. Young uses simple words with lots of repetition and rhyme, but there are enough slightly more difficult words sprinkled in to stretch the beginning reader. A.E. Matheson’s simple line drawings complement the story and use continuity to encourage a young reader to keep turning the pages! This is Dianne Young’s fourth children’s book. She lives in Martensville, Saskatchewan and works as an educational assistant in a preschool for children…

Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Easter

Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Easter by Marion Mutala Illustrated by Wendy Siemens Review by Michelle Shaw $ 14.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-70-5 Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Easter, the enchanting sequel to the award-winning Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Christmas is sure to delight Marian Mutala’s many fans. This time it’s spring, and we join Natalia as she is once again swept magically away to a far off land for another uniquely Ukrainian adventure. Natalia is sent outside while the paska, the Easter bread her mother is baking, rises. She’s meant to be collecting the eggs but instead finds herself reflecting on her beloved Baba, her grandmother, who has recently died. Suddenly she feels raindrops brush her cheeks. The raindrops turn into a babushka that covers her hair and then she’s off… “up and away, high in the sky… racing through time and space”. Natalia finds herself in a crowd of people in the early morning in front of a village church. It’s Easter and Natalia is caught up in the celebrations as she joins the procession of people carrying candles, as they follow the priest through the darkness singing Khrystos voskres! (Christ is risen!)” . This time when she catches…