Girl running
Thistledown Press / 25 November 2021

Girl runningby Diana Hope TegenkampPublished by Thistledown PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 978-1-77187-214-0 When a veteran multi-disciplinary artist pens a poetry collection, it’s likely that the influence of her other art practices will seep into the pages and make for an original read. This is evidenced in the case of Diana Hope Tegenkamp, a Saskatoon-based poet who also works with film, photography, visual and performance art, sound and music. In her debut poetry book, Girl running, Tegenkamp’s 23-page poem incorporates various fonts, strike-outs, quotations, footnotes, and superimposed text across a “mountain-like shape” which is “an outline of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic,” and the entire long poem is a conversational response to an 1809 textbook (Letters on Ancient History, by Anne Wilson). So interesting, and so are the questions it poses about history and subjectivity. “History, a whirlpool,32/sucking in obscure circumstances/with a frightful noise.33” Tegenkamp also alludes to sculpture, novels, paintings and films, ie: director Jane Campion’s adaptation of “Portrait of a Lady,” and there’s a poetic close-up of a poignant scene from “Boys Don’t Cry,” the 1999 Academy Award-winning movie concerning the tragic, real-life story about murdered trans man Brandon Teena in Nebraska. The poems in this…

Organist, The (Softcover)
University of Regina Press / 25 November 2021

The Organist: Fugues, Fatherhood, and a Fragile Mindby Mark AbleyPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Madonna Hamel$24.95 ISBN 9780889775817 There is nothing Mark Abley can’t write about. Whether its about smalltown Saskatchewan, threatened languages, imagined conversations with dead historical figures or ruminations on the English idiom, Abley is indeed able. As poet and editor and columnist he inspires confidence in writers and readers alike, so that every new release is billed as “long-awaited.” Books take as long as they take, you cannot rush a writer. And in the case of this newest book, a nonfiction reminiscence on his life with his father, Abley could not have written it a moment too soon. There is never a moment in The Organist when the reader does not feel the immense pressure and tension in the writer to be fair, honest and fearless in his depiction of his father. His mother reminds Abley that his father had “an artistic temperament,” as if that somehow justified his occasional tantrums and extreme behaviours, such as locking himself in the bathroom before an international flight. Or wishing aloud to a dinner party of relative strangers that someone assassinate Margaret Thatcher. “Harry Abley”, writes Abley about…

Mark the Manitoba Moose
Sharla Griffiths / 25 November 2021

Mark the Manitoba Mooseby Sharla GriffithsPublished by Sharla GriffithsReview by Amanda Zimmerman$17.00 ISBN 9781999560034 Sharla Griffiths, an author and illustrator residing outside of Regina, SK, once again dazzles readers with bold colours, soft landscapes, and lovable characters in her newest picture book, Mark the Manitoba Moose. Revisiting the same recognizable style as her previous books Six Saskatchewan Bunnies and Colour YQR, Griffiths brings an airy feel to this third story, weaving in simple, eye-catching details on every page to surprise and delight. There is a purity – a childlike innocence – in her pictures which easily transports older readers back to more imaginative days. All ages will enjoy this story! However, the winsome illustrations are only a portion of Mark the Manitoba’s Moose’s literary charm. This lighthearted adventure features a very determined moose named Mark in his search for his missing animal friends. As he traipses across one of our prairie provinces, he encounters a variety of beautiful landmarks that locals are sure to know. Nature lovers will be particularly pleased that most of Griffith’s chosen spaces are outside. Mark gathers help from those that live in or near these special places and even brings some of them along with…

Adventures on the Circle Star Ranch
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 17 November 2021

Adventures on the Circle Star RanchWritten by Jackie Cameron, Illustrated by Wendi NordellPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783703 As a resident of Vancouver Island, it was a strange synchronicity that I happened to be on the TransCanada near Swift Current as I finished reading the final chapters of Adventures on the Circle Star Ranch. This lively illustrated novel for young readers is set in that very area, and writer Jackie Cameron—whose family “had horses and raised beef cattle”—also lives nearby. While I shared the adventures of Ben (nine), Sarah (eleven) and their “fearless dog, Scruffy” aloud, my partner steered us between golden pastures, where the deer and antelope were indeed playing, and “dusty country road[s]”and “sagebrush” were plentiful. So cool. This 60-page ranch-family story is divided into short chapters, and the age-appropriate language— Cameron’s a retired librarian/school division resource professional-turned-author­—ensures that juvenile readers won’t struggle as the realistic plot (including a cattle rustling mystery) unfolds. The siblings argue as siblings do, ie: Sarah says, “Mom, make him stop!” after Ben threatens to tell the story about Sarah learning to play the bagpipes: when she played the cows came running toward the house because, as…

Cry Wolf
University of Regina Press / 17 November 2021

Cry Wolf: Inquest into the True Nature of a Predatorby Harold JohnsonReviewed by Madonna HamelPublished by University of Regina Press$16.95 ISBN 9780889777385 As with every topic Harold Johnson tackles, Cry Wolf is a book aimed at getting to the truth of the matter, because “the truth matters.” Johnson was the lawyer asked by the Carnegies, parents of Kenton Carnegie, a young geologist killed in a wolf attack in Northern Saskatchewan, to re-examine the coroner’s report. Johnson’s own disquieting encounters with wolves as a Saskatchewan trapline owner made him their perfect choice. Johnson is nothing if not thorough in his investigation. The book opens with a warning that “the writing depicts a violent death by wolf attack and discretion is advised”. At the same time, he makes it clear that “after twenty years of practice reviewing too many autopsy and crime scene photographs” his tolerance for the gruesome has not increased, but in fact diminished. “A sensitivity seems to have built up over the years.” Today he tells young lawyers “Don’t look at the pictures if you don’t have to.” If our species is going to survive, we will need accurate information about the environment, writes Johnson. We can’t be swayed…

Rebuilding a Brick Wall
DriverWorks Ink / 17 November 2021

Rebuilding a Brick Wallby Susanne Gauthier with Evan WallPublished by DriverWorks InkReview by Toby A. Welch$17.95 ISBN 9781927570654 This book opens with a bang. We are immediately transported to the scene of the severe car accident that left Evan Wall with a traumatic brain injury at the age of nineteen. From there we delve into Evan’s life in Shellbrook, a tiny town forty-five kilometres west of Prince Albert. He was an avid football player – “football was my life” – and looked forward to hanging with his buddies on the weekends.  Once the backstory is done, we jump to the summer of 2016. After a night of partying in Canwood, Evan hitched a ride back to Shellbrook from a friend of a friend. Around four a.m. on July 30th, an animal on the road caused the driver to swerve. The truck hit a raised shoulder bank and flipped into the ditch. The seatbelt-wearing driver was uninjured. Evan was not wearing his seatbelt and was ejected through the rear window, landing ten feet away. Paramedics intubated Evan at the scene and he survived despite the odds. He was suffering from DAI, diffuse axonal injury; the connecting fibres in his brain (axons)…

1-Dogpower Garden Team, The
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 10 November 2021

The 1-Dogpower Garden TeamWritten by Alison Lohans, Illustrated by Gretchen EhrsamPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783710 The 1-Dogpower Garden Team—the latest book by multi-genre author Alison Lohans—is a collaborative effort, and well worth the read. I’ve not read every book in this talented Regina writer’s veritable library of titles—28 books, which include YA and adult novels and illustrated children’s books—but the several I have read demonstrate that this is a veteran writer who pays close attention to craft and delivers meaningful, heart-filled literature each time she puts her pen to page. Now Lohans has teamed with illustrator Gretchen Ehrsam on a unique illustrated children’s story about a girl (Sophie) and her hole-digging dog (Max), and how a common canine problem transitions into a child’s brilliant solution. What strikes me first and foremost is how different this story is—Lohans’ innovative use of language and humour and Ehrsam’s detailed, black and white prints (surrounded by a moss green border) coalesce so effectively, after I’d read the book the first time I immediately wanted to read—and admire—it again. Upon my second reading, I deduced that part of the magic is Lohans’ use of both simple sentences, which…

Flight, Volume 3
DriverWorks Ink / 9 November 2021

Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation, Vol. 3by Deana J. Driver and ContributorsPublished by DriverWorks InkReview by Keith Foster$19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-62-3 “Oops.” That’s not a word you want to hear when you’re flying. But that’s what one pilot uttered when he noticed things flying around the cockpit and realized he’d forgotten to secure them before taking off. This incident, and more, are covered in Deana Driver’s latest book, Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation, Vol. 3. The third volume in the series has thirty-three chapters or stories by fourteen authors. Among them are Saskatchewan aviation historian Will Chabun, internationally renowned storyteller Vincent Murphy-Dodds, and fighter pilot Frank Hanton. The authors know what they’re talking about. Dave McElroy, for instance, has logged in more than 4,000 hours in twenty-nine different aircraft in more than sixty countries, and former bush pilot Peter Enzlberger has logged in more than 50,000 hours in the cockpit. This volume, like the previous two, has its share of accidents and near misses. Pilot Dave McElroy was amazed to see a huge DC-6 four-engine airliner bearing down on the very runway he had just taken off from. As a passenger, Murphy-Dodds recalled being in a small plane while the pilot…

Star Song
Shadowpaw Press / 9 November 2021

Star Songby Edward WillettPublished by Shadowpaw PressReview by Amanda Zimmerman$24.95 ISBN 978-1-989398-03-6 In the same vein as his Worldshapers series, Regina author Edward Willett weaves a standalone sci-fi fantasy tale for young adult readers that is sure to captivate from the very first chapter. Worldhugger Kriss Lemarc has never fit in on the planet he’s grown up on, his appearance setting him apart from the native born villagers. His precarious place in the community is further unsettled when his caretaker and only family is brutally attacked and her house burned. Kriss has only a strange kind of emotion-expressing instrument called a touchlyre to his name- a musical oddity gifted from his father that he promised never to reveal. What secrets from the past does it hold? Summoning his courage, Kriss walks the days-long journey to report Mella’s murder in the city. Upon his arrival and through a few misadventures, the teen begins to realize just how impossible his dream of leaving the planet for the stars really is. There are only two ways to travel and both are closed to him based on his funds, education, and connections. He’s desperate though, so he breaks his promise and uses the touchlyre…

Bread & Water
University of Regina Press / 9 November 2021

Bread and Waterby dee Hobsbawn-SmithPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$26.95 ISBN 9780889778115 I know dee Hobsbawn-Smith as a multi-genre writer, chef, yogi, runner, mother, and yes, as a friend. She and husband Dave Margoshes hosted me for a reading at their ancestral rural home (“The Dogpatch”) near Saskatoon years ago, and when dee was touring a poetry collection on Vancouver Island, I welcomed her at my place. “I’ll cook for you,” she said, “using whatever you have in the house.” I’m was embarrassed by my uninspired inventory, yet she whipped a brilliant meal together with my mundane larder. One doesn’t forget that. So yes, I know this dexterous writer, and expected a great read in her essay collection, Bread & Water. The text behind the gorgeously apropos cover photograph—a chunk of homemade bread and a glass of water—is wide-ranging, provocative, and, like that heel of bread, hearty. What I didn’t expect was how much I’d admire these lyrical essays which took me back to the Dogpatch, but also to Vancouver, Comox, and the waters off Vancouver Island; to dee’s Calgary home, restaurants, and the 2013 flood in that city; to Fernie; and to France, where the…

%d bloggers like this: