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…

Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather
DriverWorks Ink / 2 February 2018

Skye Bird and Eagle Feather by Mary Harelkin Bishop Published by Emmbee Ink and DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $16.95 ISBN 978-192757039-5 Every time I read one of Mary Harelkin Bishop’s books I learn something new. As a relative newcomer to Canada and Saskatchewan, I’ve heard the words, “We recognize that we are standing on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis…” many times without really knowing what that meant. Now, thanks to Bishop’s latest book, Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather, I have a vivid picture in my mind. Bishop’s new book introduces us to Skye Bird, a Grade 6 student starting the new school year in a “big, shiny, new school across town”. Her old school, a local school which has recently closed, was “warm and inviting”. Although it was small, it was a vibrant community where different cultures were celebrated and shared. But Skye’s new school seems nothing like that and she feels very lost and out of place. Her little sister Cheyenne can’t find her special books in the school library and when Skye asks the librarian where to find books about Cree people or the Métis, she’s told that they don’t have…

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…

Angels and Avalon
Catherine Milos / 1 February 2018

Angels and Avalon by Catherine Milos Review by Kris Brandhagen $17.99 ISBN 9780994762900 In the novel Angels and Avalon, Catherine Milos uses vivid language to deliver a story that seems to have been written with a feminine reader in mind. The main character is introduced as a young princess with magical qualities who has been imprisoned her whole life, but has somehow managed to escape. The storyline is structured in short chapters that jump between different perspectives. For instance, chapter two is centered around The Goddess. Despite the fact that she is forbidden to create without the other gods, she creates a land called Avalon, which she conceals. To complete the land, Goddess transports the princess to live there, and names her Adamina. Milos draws upon paganism, monotheistic religions, and mythology, with Avalon representing a sort of garden of Eden, a new and fertile world. Adamina becomes the first priestess of The Goddess, and quickly learns to hunt and gather, grow a garden, shear sheep, and weave. With a goddess to guide Adamina, an owl to advocate for her, and an angel to provide food, clothing, shelter, and an undying fire, the story is a little too perfect. When Adamina…

Hero for the Americas, A
University of Regina Press / 1 February 2018

A Hero for the Americas: The Legend of Gonzalo Guerrero by Robert Calder Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $24.95 ISBN 9-780889-775091 Robert Calder’s A Hero for the Americas: The Legend of Gonzalo Guerrero is an impeccably-researched and compelling nonfiction title offering much to ingest, enjoy, and learn from. The GG award-winning author and Emeritus Professor (U of S) came to his subject as a frequent traveler to the Yucatán Peninsula, where the Spanish-born sailor Gonzalo Guerrero and numerous other conquistadors believed they’d find their fortunes. A sculpture of Guerrero, “a powerful figure dressed as a Mayan warrior,” first piqued Calder’s interest in the enigmatic 16th Century hero, and indeed, Guerrero’s relatively unsung story (as compared to that of fellow conquistador, Hernán Cortés) has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster: adventure, battles, romance, and legacy. The robust Andalusian sailor defied his country and Catholic religion after being shipwrecked (of nineteen, only Guerrero and fellow Spaniard Jerónimo de Aguilar survived) off the Yucatán Peninsula in 1512. Guerrero was enslaved by a Mayan chief; earned the tribe’s respect; married the chief’s daughter; became a Chactemal military captain; and fathered the first mestizaje children in Mexican history….

Spaces to Fill
Benchmark Press / 23 January 2018

Spaces to Fill: And A Century To Do It by Jack Boan Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $25.00 ISBN 978-1-927352-34-2 “When a door opens, walk through it.” This is one of the chapter titles in Jack Boan’s autobiography, Spaces to Fill: And A Century To Do It. It’s also Boan’s personal philosophy. He’s walked through many doors in his 100-year-long life. Boan was born in 1917, a few miles southeast of Briercrest, SK. He ran away from home at age five but returned later that day. He started selling newspapers when he was eleven, boarding the two trains that stopped at Briercrest daily. After tinkering with radios, he worked as a farm labourer, earning fifty cents or sometimes a dollar a day, good money for a fourteen-year-old. Boan relives experiences with his relatives. One day, while enjoying a family reunion near a river, he noticed his brother’s head submerging. Young Boan was able to pull him ashore. When World War II broke out, Boan enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, attaining the rank of sergeant. Airsickness was a major problem for flight crews, so Boan purchased small paper bags from a grocery store for just such…

Angel Blessings
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 23 January 2018

Angel Blessings Written and Illustrated by Marilyn Lachambre Published by YNWP Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 9-781988-783093 Quite coincidentally, I read the illustrated children’s book, Angel Blessings, the first title by Kamsack, SK writer and illustrator Marilyn Lachambre, on the one-year anniversary of my younger brother’s passing; at the end of this review, you’ll read why this is significant. In this attractive hardcover released by Regina’s Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, Lachambre rhymes her way through All Things Angel: who and what they are, and the many ways they bring us comfort, protection, and inspiration. The rhyming text will be appealing to young ears, as will the soothing sentiments, ie: “Angels are with you day and night …. keeping you in their loving sight,” and “They’re always with you, through joy and sorrow—protecting and guiding, today and tomorrow”. I could see this uplifting book being used as a nighttime prayer for young children. Its Christian emphasis and calming words would be a wonderful way for children to fall asleep, ie: “Even at bedtime when it’s time to sleep, they will stay with you while you slumber deep. As you lie quietly in bed tonight, know that Angel wings are…

Starving Ukraine
University of Regina Press / 12 January 2018

Starving Ukraine: The Holodomor and Canada’s Response by Serge Cipko Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $80.00 ISBN 978-0-88977-506-0 Imagine going without food for an entire day. Then imagine being deprived of food for weeks or months. This is the situation Serge Cipko describes in Starving Ukraine: The Holodomor and Canada’s Response, a comprehensive and focused study of starvation in Ukraine, part of the Soviet Union, from 1932 through 1934. Except in Ukrainian circles, the Holodomor seems to have been largely forgotten. The term comes from two Ukrainian words, moryty holodom, meaning “extermination by hunger.” Citing reports of emaciated children, people eating field mice, and even cannibalism, Cipko says conditions were so severe that Joseph Stalin’s wife committed suicide in protest. Famine in Ukraine, known as the granary of Europe, had an impact on Saskatchewan, a wheat-producing province with a large Ukrainian population. Saskatchewan small towns such as Hafford, Hague, and Krydor held rallies to support relatives in Ukraine who were asking not for money but for grain and flour. When Hafford residents tried to gather half a million bushels of wheat for shipment to Ukraine, the Soviet government declined the offer, saying there was no…

Cowboy In Me, The
LM Publications / 11 January 2018

The Cowboy in Me by Robin Langford Published by LM Publication Services Ltd. Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $28.00 ISBN 9-780995-819009 “These stories are one hundred percent factual, no yarns or embellishments.” This is an enticing entry into septuagenarian cowboy Robin Langford’s memoir, The Cowboy in Me. The Maple Creek-born author candidly shares his life’s journey between 1947 and 2016, and readers are advised to hang on for a ride that delivers more ups and downs than a bucking bronco. “Cowboy up” is a term that defines what Langford and his hard-working second wife, Penny, often had to do while they tended both cattle and kids on ranches between Williams Lake, BC and the Prince Albert region of SK. The work was physically arduous and eminently dangerous, and the culmination of poor weather, aggressive bears, pack rats, raging bulls, moody cows, temperamental horses, frequent job changes, province-hopping, bad deals, disharmonious neighbours, disagreeable bank managers, and health issues would be enough to make anyone raise the white flag, but the Langfords stuck it out, even when it was often difficult to “put groceries on the table”. In one entertaining anecdote Langford explains that when he and Penny “finally” got married in…

Extended Families: A Memoir of India
Coteau Books / 2 January 2018

Extended Families: A Memoir of India by Ven Begamudré Published by Coteau Books Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-927-4 Ven Begamudre’s Extended Families: A Memoir of India is an intriguing book, not only for the story he tells but for the way he weaves that story. Born in India, he came to Canada when he was six. Based on a journal he kept of his first trip back to India in 1977-78 when he was twenty-one, this memoir is both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. Short pieces allow readers a peek into his life, displaying his personality traits, or quirks. He’s quick to anger and slow to forgive, and shows no tolerance for beggars. “I learn to shoo the children off with a backward wave of a hand,” he says. Begamudre incorporates East Indian mysticism into his life story. He also wrestles over the question of whether he’s Indian or Canadian. He feels like an Indian in Canada, but in India he’s referred to as that Canadian boy. He marries a Canadian woman, only the second time anyone in his extended families married a non-Indian. In his fluid prose, a highly observant Begamudre uses precise wording to provide elaborate details, as…