Serenity Unhinged
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 22 September 2020

Serenity Unhinged (a memoir)by Jim DugglebyPublished by YNWPReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783574 As a writer myself, I’m always curious about other writers’ inspiration for their books. In his memoir Serenity Unhinged, Regina writer, editor and journalist Jim Duggleby mines the landscape of his own history – family, childhood, career – and his bright imagination for material, but the essays and articles in this fun read really owe their existence to a Regina writers’ workshop that took place between 2017 and 2019. The workshop, which included “fewer than a dozen people” at Regina’s Lifelong Learning Centre, was facilitated by Bob Juby and Ivan Millard, and was “loosely themed ‘As I Remember’”. Duggleby has a long history with and passion for the written word. The former Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reporter professes that he “can’t recall a time when [he] didn’t love writing” in various genres, from history to futurism, and his joy and wit translate into 21 entertaining stories in this recently-released softcover with YNWP. The author earns five stars for his captivating opening lines, ie: “Perhaps the most surprising thing about my mother’s death is that some people were saddened,” and “My father died twice.” (Interestingly, Duggleby’s pop was “the…

Chalk Dust

Chalk Dust: Memoirs of a Prairie Teacherby Dianne MillerPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Keith Foster$19.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-51-2 Dianne Miller’s Chalk Dust: Memoirs of a Prairie Teacher is a delightful read. Writing in a chatty conversational style, she not only relates her own stories but incorporates anecdotes of others as well, usually from their point of view. She has a passion for brilliant imagery and humour, and her prose is sprinkled with them. For more than thirty years, from 1970 to 2003, Miller taught a variety of grades in nine schools, primarily in Saskatoon, Yorkton, and Swift Current. She reviews her career as she rises through the ranks as student, teacher, vice-principal, principal, and administrator. One way Miller sets the context of her sixteen chapters is by describing the changing fashions of the times. In the early 1970s, for instance, styles varied from “Mini-skirts to shoulder pads to jeans. Platform heels to stilettos to Birkenstocks.” On her first day of teaching, Miller turned up in stacked heels, a shag hairdo, and hot pants. Miller describes the chaos on that first day when thirty-seven of her Grade 4 students lined up to sharpen their pencils. In trials like this, she…

I Know a Woman

I Know A Woman: A Song for Mothersby Sharon Gudereit, Illustrated by Miranda PringlePublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783536 The colourfully-illustrated softcover, I Know A Woman: A Song for Mothers, is a grand example of creative collaboration, and a testament to the beauty of YNWP’s (Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing) titles. SK’s Sharon Gudereit and BC’s Miranda Pringle are teachers who exude artistic talent: Gudereit is a singer/songwriter and musician, and Pringle is the artist who brought what was originally Gudereit’s song to life on the page. The book is “A heartfelt tribute to the nurturing women in our lives,” and the story pictorially follows the lives of an emotionally tightknit mother and daughter, from the latter’s birth to the former’s possible death; yes, the words “angel,” “far away,” and the illustration of the elder woman’s framed photo beside a glowing candle are open to interpretation, but even children of a certain age will clue-in to the gentle suggestion here. This feels like a personal story, but anyone who’s had the gift of a loving mother will certainly connect to it. The text – lyrics, really – contain some rhymes and off-rhymes, and the chorus…

Sauntering, Thoreau-Style

Sauntering, Thoreau-styleby Victor Carl FriesenPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$25.00 ISBN 9-781988-783468 I embraced daily outdoor explorations decades ago, so was delighted when Rosthern, SK writer-photographer Victor Carl Friesen’s book, Sauntering, Thoreau-style, arrived in my mailbox. Friesen, a multi-genre writer, has several books behind him – including nonfiction, short stories, poetry and children’s literature – and in this latest title he revisits a favourite subject: the writer, naturalist, and legendary Massachusetts walker, Henry David Thoreau. Many will be familiar with Thoreau’s Walden – his literary response to a two-year sojourn at Walden Pond. Friesen’s book – a compilation of essays; mostly Saskatchewan photographs; poetry; and Thoreau’s own quoted, poetic observations – is an homage to Thoreau, and the images “were chosen to reflect Thoreau’s world”. Friesen explains that Thoreau was a highly sensorial writer who practiced activities like looking at objects with “the under part of his eye,” and “[smelling] plants before and after a rain in various stages of growth,” to get different perspectives. Thoreau’s writing itself emulated “the course of a saunter,” and Friesen writes that his subject considered the act of consciously walking in nature as an art. I understand! The colour photographs…

Wheel The World

Wheel the World: Travelling with Walkers and Wheelchairsby Jeanette DeanPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95  ISBN 9-781988-783505 I’ve just spent a pleasant afternoon with Jeanette Dean’s book Wheel the World: Travelling with Walkers and Wheelchairs. As the entire world’s currently anchored with the Coronavirus pandemic, we need travel books like Dean’s: over a few hours and 202 pages, she took me on well-described journeys around the globe, across Canada, and through my home province of Saskatchewan while I practiced social isolation on my comfortable couch. The title infers that this might be a “How To” book, but I’m suggesting it’s a wonderful armchair- adventure title for people with mobility issues or fully able bodies.   Dean and her husband, Christopher Dean, are British-born educators – now retired – who share passions for travel and photography. Saskatoon’s been home since 1966, and there Jeanette spent twenty-two years teaching at the R.J.D. Williams School for the Deaf. In her latter years, Dean’s arthritis has seen her transition from walker to wheelchair, but these challenges have not metaphorically slowed her one iota. She states: “Above all, this book is intended as an expression of the joy of travelling itself, regardless…

MENtal Health

MENtal Health: It’s Time to Talk by Allan Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Reviewed by Marlin Legare ISBN 9781988783475 $17.95 Review Dedicated to Kirk Ackerman Mental health issues, awareness, and destigmatization has been on the forefront social consciousness in the past few years. Mental health has also been the topic of honest discussion now more than ever in modern human history. We benefit from such services as Sask HealthLine, a confidential and free service that can be reached 24/7 at 811, community mental health services, and specific support groups related to mental health issues such as alcohol and drug addiction, problem gambling, crisis intervention, domestic violence support, and others. Despite the fact that more resources than ever exist and that the stigma of talking about mental health issues has dropped significantly, people still continue to suffer in silence from mental health battles. Unfortunately, many of these battles are waged unknown to the world by men and boys. Due to this silence and societal and physiological factors, Statistics Canada estimates that men are three times as likely to die from suicide than women. Allan Kehler, who has an accomplished career in education and counselling, professional speaking and authoring books…

Critters: Underdark
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 18 December 2019

Critters: Underdarkby Allan DotsonPublished by YNWPReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 ISBN 9-781988-783437 How best to describe Regina writer, artist and teacher Allan Dotson’s monster-inspired graphic novel, Critters: Underdark … a 153-page, 10-years-in-the -making labour of love, and black and white demonstration of great talent? An equally touching and humorous allegory for our socially-fractured and racially- divisive times? A textual and artistic tour-de-force? Each of the above applies, but at the heart of this fantasy’s success is the creator’s unique imagination, his skill at storytelling, and his deft ability to create individuated “monsters” – both visually and literarily – that readers of all ages will quickly care about. It’s easy to suspend disbelief and get wrapped up in the train-wrecked world of innocent Eddy – a pincered “ettercap” who looks like a louse – and his first friend, the snaggle-toothed monster Sally, who tells also-caged Eddy: “You’re not alone. We’re all scared.” Eddy’s toddler-like diction is adorable, ie: “Is we all getting’ stuffs? Like weppins?” and “O nos! Thems gonna git us!” Many things are “skeery”. In the first few pages we learn that these creatures, captured along with several others by the dwarves at the bidding of the medusa queen,…

Raymond Raindrop and Swings and Things
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 18 December 2019

Raymond Raindrop and Swings & ThingsWritten and illustrated by Eileen MunroPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$12.95 ISBN 9-781988-783444 I was introduced to the fun-filled illustrations and down-home text of Saskatchewan artist Eileen Munro in 2014 via her rural-themed alphabet book, ABC’s Down on the Farm. Now, five years later, she’s followed up with another picture book, this time featuring two educational stories: Raymond Raindrop and Swings & Things. Munro’s cover advertises “Facts and fun – 2 Books in 1” – it’s a double treat for young readers and story listeners, and an ingenious way for a writer using YNWP’s excellent publishing services to get the most bang for her buck. As the title reveals, Raymond is a raindrop, which Munro visually presents somewhat like a grey Hershey’s Kiss with simple facial features, three-fingered white hands and two black ovaline feet. Raymond’s character, however, is far from simple. “Shy and a little bit proud,” he “stayed by himself” while his fellow raindrops “bounced and bubbled” together. Our watery protagonist notes that the people on the land below him look worried re: the lack of rain for their crops. The story is about the importance of working together….

Baxter and the Blue Bunny
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 22 November 2019

Baxter and the Blue Bunnyby Lorraine Johnson, Illustrated by Wendi NordellPublished by YNWPReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$12.95 ISBN 9-781988-783413 Baxter and the Blue Bunny is the debut children’s book by Yorkton writer Lorraine Johnson, and the story flows so smoothly along one would think it was penned by a veteran. Complemented by Alberta illustrator Wendi Nordell’s colourful and “just right” illustrations of the canine character Baxter and his home and family, this simple, well-told story hits a surprisingly deep emotional chord. The story, told in Baxter’s voice, begins at a pet shelter, with “mom and dad, and two brothers” choosing the black and white Shih Tzu-looking dog. “I am looking for them … and they are looking for me,” Baxter says, “each of us wanting to find someone special to love, to look after, and to grow up with.” It’s easy to read this story as an allegory, for isn’t that what most of us humans want in life, too? Through the text and Nordell’s inviting scenes we experience the days in the life of a happy, well-loved dog: he plays tug-o’-war with the boys, hide-and-seek with the adults, and Grandma brings a “stuffed blue bunny” which “soon becomes [Baxter’s]…

Walk in Wascana, A

A Walk in WascanaWritten by Stephanie Vance, Ilustrated by Wendi NordellPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$14.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-40-6 Saskatchewan resident Stephanie Vance clearly loves Regina, the city she grew up in, as she’s made it the subject of her first book. A Walk In Wascana is an homage to Saskatchewan’s capital and specifically picturesque Wascana Park, with its natural beauty; various winged and four-legged creatures; and also diverse manmade features, including fountains, a boathouse, and the Kwakiutl Nation Totem Pole (a gift, she explains, that is from British Columbia). Vance has teamed with Alberta artist Wendi Nordell to create a delightful softcover homage to the park. The rhyming text and bold, full-colour illustrations on each page are exactly what young ears and eyes enjoy at “storytime,” though the book could also be a pleasant memento for anyone who has lived in or visited Regina. The story sees a young blond boy exploring the expansive park. A playful bunny seemingly beckons the child to follow it through the paths and “grand green trees.” Readers will recognize the variety of birds and waterfowl on the lake, including sparrows, pelicans and mallards, and adults can make a game of…