Shade and Sorceress
Coteau Books / 24 December 2014

Shade and Sorceress by Catherine Egan Published by Coteau Books Review by Regine Haensel $12.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-514-6 The Mancers, ancient scholars, magicians and mystical protectors, have come looking for Eliza Tok. Long ago, the Mancers separated the One World, Tian Di, into two, for the protection of humans. Eliza’s world is Di Shang, and the other world is Tian Xia. The Mancers want to bring Eliza to their Citadel to begin teaching her to become a sorceress like her dead mother, and help guard the Crossings between the worlds. But Eliza shows no signs of magical abilities and all she wants is to go home to her father and her friend Nell. There are others looking for Eliza, spies of the Xia Sorceress. She is the most terrible, ruthless and evil being in the worlds. The Mancers, with the help of Eliza`s mother, imprisoned the Xia Sorceress years ago in the Arctic of Di Shang. Finally, after what seems to be a fruitless time of study, the Mancers put Eliza to a test. They give her Shang Sorceress clothing and a staff, and send her to battle a hound of the Crossing. And “something deep inside her, deeper than a…

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…

Blackfoot Stories of Old
University of Regina Press / 24 December 2014

Blackfoot Stories of Old by Lena Heavy Shields Russell and Inge Genee Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-318-9 Blackfoot Stories of Old is the third in the series of books produced by the University of Regina Press, written in Aboriginal languages with English translations. The book was written, translated, and edited by Lena Heavy Shields Russell and Inge Genee, with illustrations by William Singer III. His etchings, in many ways, look like silhouettes. Fluent in her native tongue, Lena Russell, whose Blackfoot name is “Gentle Singer,” has published 13 resource books – the first Blackfoot resource books ever published and approved by Alberta Education – and helped develop the Blackfoot language curriculum. Blackfoot Stories of Old is a collection of eight very short stories, each about the size of a postcard. Each story is told in Blackfoot on one side of the page, with English on the other. The stories are short, simple, and powerful, with an almost poetic quality. They may well cause a reader to pause and reflect. These are true stories based on Lena’s childhood. Some of the stories, like “A finger bone and a rag doll” and “A Spirit”…

The Invisible Library
Hagios Press / 24 December 2014

The Invisible Library by Paul Wilson Published by Hagios Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $17.95 ISBN 978-192671019-8 There’s an image of a book on the handsome cover of Regina poet Paul Wilson’s The Invisible Library, and it couldn’t be more apt. This is a book about books, and one that word lovers should include in their libraries. It is my favourite book by this writer to date. Wilson is a veteran poet, editor, and a winner of the City of Regina Book Award. He clearly reveres books, and possesses the imagination, craft, and intellect to enthrall readers with his own. Sometimes the narrator addresses his readers and offers gentle advice. In “The Invention of Paper: A Memoir,” he writes: “Please,\read these words like falling snowflakes: without aim or goal.\ See how they take the shape of what they silently settle on.” As good poets do, Wilson pays attention to the things most people probably miss, like the “moist breath” of rice, and the “hair pins and the pennies\found in the dryer, and the lint too, purple, from the red shirts\and blue towels…” He writes that “Our finger-prints are small saline lakes\that will outlast us.” I love all of this….

The Comic Book War
Coteau Books / 24 December 2014

The Comic Book War by Jacqueline Guest Published by Coteau Books Review by Alison Slowski $12.95 ISBN 9781550505825 The Comic Book War delivers in every aspect, as Jacqueline Guest perfects every detail in executing one of the best new Young Adult fiction novels that Saskatchewan has to offer. A refreshing story, it tells fifteen-year-old Robert Tourond’s heart-wrenching tale of being the youngest brother left at home with his parents, while his two older brothers go off to fight in World War II. One cold winter night in his hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Robert is stargazing on Nose Hill when he suddenly catches a glimpse of what he believes to be a meteorite, and his life is changed forever. Unbelievably, he spots a piece of the meteorite, which has landed closer than he initially believed, and he takes a small fragment of the rock home for safekeeping. Robert appears in every aspect as a fairly ordinary teenager of the mid-1940’s, not fitting in with his peers at school. Motivated to not have his parents hanging off his wallet in hard times, he just wants to buy himself what he loves most—comic books. He devours comic books ravenously, caught up in the…

ABC’s Down on the Farm
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 23 December 2014

ABC’s Down on the Farm by Eileen Munro Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $12.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-27-0 Have you ever thought about how much fun it would be to create an alphabet book? There would be so many ways to approach it, from simple animal alphabets to esoteric books geared mostly for adults-it just depends on your interests and experience. Saskatchewan writer and painter Eileen Munro grew up on a farm, and this year she put her own brand on the alphabet, with ABC’s Down on the Farm, a colourful burst of farm-inspired pages that reveal some of the best features about rural life via relatable text and cheery, down-home illustrations. Throughout the rhyming story we follow a pony-tailed girl and a blond boy as they enjoy a country lifestyle that includes picking apples, violets and flax flowers; interacting with various animals; and taking part in activities like hauling grain to the elevator and collecting eggs. The tone is light and musical, ie: “Cc is for combine in the field, threshing grain. Dd is for ducks that splash in the rain. Ee is for elevator, so big and so high. Ff is for flax as…

Tracks: The Art and Times of Switchman Joe
Hagios Press / 23 December 2014

Tracks: The Art and Times of Switchman Joe by Joe Varro Published by Hagios Press Review by Keith Foster $25.95 ISBN 978-1-926710-31-0 Don’t be surprised if you hear Joe Varro humming “I’ve been Working on the Railroad.” He knows the tune by heart. In a series of vignettes from his memoirs, he relates some grand stories of his experiences as a switchman in the last glory days of steam engines in Saskatchewan. He started as a labourer in the Regina rail yards at age seventeen, but due to the manpower shortage of World War II, was promoted to switchman the next year. On his first assignment, as a nineteen-year-old greenhorn in 1945, he was in charge of two inexperienced switchmen. The assistant superintendent cautioned him that damaged stock could easily be replaced, but not arms or legs. Varro describes the dangers of his job, and the tragedies that can befall the careless or the unwary. After two fatal accidents in a space of eight weeks, he went home and prayed, realizing he could have been one of them. In 1949, Varro had a near-death experience himself. While crossing a set of tracks in the dark, he tripped, fell forward, and…

Mishaps and Misfortunes
Doreen M. Bleich / 23 December 2014

Mishaps and Misfortunes by Doreen M. Bleich Published by Doreen Bleich Review by Alison Slowski $12.00 ISBN 978-0-9731167-2-4 This delightful, light-hearted book of short stories introduces the author, and the hero of our story, a woman with a straightforward attitude to life, and a tendency toward the disasters which befall all of us. Whether they happen at a more rapid rate to her than most, or simply because her dramatic retellings render the actual situation that much more crazy, Saskatchewan is in debt to Doreen M. Bleich for providing her own humorous stories of her life as fodder for the reader’s amusement. Giving the gift of humour to all of her readers is Bleich’s primary goal in this little, ninety-six page book of short stories. She goes through a variety of themes, from old age, to cranky husbands, drunken church congregation members, hazards explored in exercise in the form of biking, and window cleaning. Her penchant for comedic writing, coupled with her gift as an accomplished playwright and author of other short stories, combines to create pure slapstick humour that is the stuff of Charlie Chaplin’s comedy sketches. Never losing sight of the action or the direction in which her…

Fog of the Outport
JackPine Press / 23 December 2014

Fog of the Outport by Robin Durnford, artwork and design by Meagan Musseau Published by JackPine Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $30.00 ISBN 978-1-927035-07-8 JackPine Press is well-known for publishing artsy chapbooks. I was prepared for the unconventional, but admit I didn’t know how to approach Fog of the Outport. The textless, off-white cover and grey, hand-stitched spine offered no clues as to what might be inside; thus genre, creators, and even the title awaited discovery. I opened the book and was delighted to find a dramatic landscape reflected in silkscreen prints; a design that merges with the unfoldable back cover to create an innovative, three-paneled panorama. This limited-edition chapbook, written by Robin Durnford, and illustrated\ designed by Meagan Musseau-Newfoundlanders both-is a gorgeous collaboration featuring prose poems named for each month of the year-“february” to “february”. It’s a memorial to the life of the poet’s father, whose own father died when he was five, and it’s an homage to Durnford’s widowed grandmother, left with nine children to care and provide for on “the exposed bone-belly” of Francois NFLD, an isolated, south coast outport. There is story here, and art, and language that made my mouth water. In the first…

Pulpits of the Past
Three West Two South Books / 23 December 2014

Pulpits of the Past: A Record of Closed Lutheran Churches in Saskatchewan – up to 2003 by Lois Knudson Munholland Published by Three West Two South Books Review by Keith Foster $30.00 ISBN 0-9735234-0-9 In Pulpits of the Past, Lois Knudson Munholland shares the joys, sorrows, and hardships of everyday church life in rural Saskatchewan. She covers the full spectrum of births, baptisms, weddings, social events, and deaths as told through the histories of the province’s Lutheran churches that no longer exist. Compiling and documenting the material for this book was a massive undertaking for Knudson Munholland, one that almost became a lifelong project. She notes that, for most of their young lives, her children couldn’t even remember a time when she wasn’t working on this book. All the former churches cited in Pulpits of the Past are located in what is now the province of Saskatchewan. Not only have these churches closed, some of the communities are now ghost towns. Garden Valley Lutheran Church at Instow is just one of many examples. Sometimes services were held in homes until a church could be constructed. Services at Attica were conducted in the school, but only about twice a month. Two…