Gnomes of Boundary Bog, The

The Gnomes of Boundary Bogby Audrey GartnerIllustrated by Sheila KasickPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Michelle Shaw$24.95 ISBN 9781778690181 It was the gorgeous cover that captivated me first, but the gnomes quickly drew me into their magical world. The Gnomes of Boundary Bog is a wonderful collection of stories by first time Saskatchewan author Audrey Gartner. Almost every chapter of the book is told from the perspective of a different gnome which gives the book an almost kaleidoscopic feel as you gradually get a fuller picture of the Quire, which is what the community is called. I love books that are set in actual physical places that children can explore. Boundary Bog where the Quire is, is a real place in Prince Albert National Park, in Saskatchewan. You can even walk the Boundary Bog Trail (although it’s closed to the public, at present, due to a revitalisation project). Children can tangibly discover for themselves the details of the world in which the story is set and that makes such a difference to their experience. Gartner has done a wonderful job of world building. She uses concrete details to create a world that the reader can clearly visualize. For instance,…

Always Another River

Always Another Riverby Daryl SexsmithPublished by YNWPReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 9781778690143 Prince Albert, SK-raised Darryl Sexmith is an avid canoe-tripper and former United Church minister who’s built his community­—wherever he’s lived—around his passion for wilderness canoeing and the fellowship group canoe-tripping naturally inspires. Reading Always Another River, his well-written, chronologically-told collection of canoe stories—he’s completed over seventy-five trips and “hasn’t hung up his paddle yet”—stirred fond memories of my own canoeing experiences. It’s a Canadian thing, eh. The nineteen chapters are mostly titled by location, and it’s evident that Sexsmith’s playground has predominantly been the rivers (and lakes) of northern Saskatchewan, but his lifetime of paddling expeditions also includes the far north. He’s a former executive director of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s (CPAWS) Northwest Territories chapter, and in that role he canoed the South Nahanni and Mackenzie rivers to promote conservation. He also participated in the 2008 David Thompson Brigade, paddling six-person voyageur canoes from Alberta to Ontario “to commemorate Thompson’s historic trip of 1808,” a journey also heralded in 1967 with the Centennial Canoe Pageant. How interesting to read about the grueling paddling across Manitoba’s massive lakes (with high winds and just five-minute breaks every hour),…

Paddling Pathways

Paddling Pathways: Reflections from a Changing LandscapeEdited by Bob Henderson and Sean BlenkinsopPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$29.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-81-9 This beautifully-bound anthology of 21 essays written by paddlers and edited by educators—and intrepid canoeists and guides—Bob Henderson (ON) and Sean Blenkinsop (BC) deserves a much longer review than this 500-word assessment. In short: it’s extraordinary. Paddling Pathways: Reflections from a Changing Landscape contains a wealth of thought-provoking essays on the rivers, lakes, and oceans the diverse contributors have navigated via canoe or kayak—often in groups but sometimes solo—and it examines the paddlers’ interior worlds as they contemplate being present; history; culture; relationships with plants, animals and other creatures; Indigenous Canada (land and territorial acknowledgements and “Settler Responsibilities” are included); ecology; climate change; and, as Bruce Cockburn contributes in his Foreword, the “soul-expanding space” where one can get “a glimpse of the world as it was made.” Maps, black and white photos, and the editors’ numerous “Suggested Reading” lists are superb accompaniments to the layered essays. Henderson has previously published books on heritage travel and outdoor life, and Blenkinsop, a professor at Simon Fraser University who writes about “wild pedagogies” and “ecologizing education,” agree that as…

Neighbours Helping Neighbours

Neighbours Helping Neighbours: The Story of Good Neighbours Food Centreby Wilmer FroesePublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Toby A. Welch$24.95 ISBN 9781778690150  I love books that started out as a passion project as the author’s enthusiasm shows through in the words. That is clearly the case with Neighbours Helping Neighbours. In a world filled with negativity and news channels that promote doom and gloom, Neighbours Helping Neighbours is a breath of sunshine. It gave me long-term warm fuzzies. The story of the Good Neighbours Food Centre reaffirmed to me that there is still so much good in this world. People who care are out there.  This book shares an inspiring success story that took place in Rosthern, a small town located halfway between Saskatoon and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The community banded together to create a food bank for people who lived with food insecurity. The author, Wilmer Froese, shared the initial planning of the food bank with two other community-minded people. Their vision statement was simple: to give food to people who need it. They opened in September 2011, operating one day a week at the local senior centre before upgrading to a standalone building. They faced some huge obstacles over the following years…

Saskatchewan Dirt

Saskatchewan Dirt: A Pandemic Quest for Connectionby Bev LundahlPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Toby A. Welch$24.95 ISBN 9781778690129 We all know you should never judge a book by its cover, but I made that mistake initially with Saskatchewan Dirt. Based on the title, I assumed this book would be about a farmer’s search for ways to connect with others during the height of Covid. Wrong! It’s a “genealogical and geographical pursuit of the early connections between settlers and Indigenous people in southeast Saskatchewan.” This book unfolds in a creative way. Basically, the author and her road trip sidekick, Georgina, hit the highways and back roads of Saskatchewan to uncover the history of the settlers and Indigenous people of that region. (I loved that they spent plenty of time in the Estevan area, my stomping grounds.) Between and after the two road trips they took, the research continued via Zoom meetings and deep dives into the Internet. The details Lundahl unearthed add to the depths of this work. In addition to the genealogical aspects, the residential schools atrocity takes up a portion of the book. (She even touches on Pope Francis’s apology in 2022 for the Catholic church’s role in the history…

Foxholes at the Borders of Sofa Cushions, The

The Foxholes at the Borders of Sofa Cushionsby Counce BramptonPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 ISBN 9781988783994 They say it’s about the journey, not the reward. In the literary world, the reward might be considered the publication of a book. For Saskatoon poet Counce Brampton, a “quiet observer of life” who’s lived most of his adulthood in a group home (as a result of OCD and other mental health issues), my sense is that it’s always been about the journey, yet his first poetry collection, The Foxholes at the Borders of Sofa Cushions, has been published, and it opens with a generous introduction by his friend and mentor, internationally-revered writer Yann Martel. Martel began meeting with Brampton when the former was serving as writer-in-residence at the Saskatoon Public Library twenty years ago. The Life of Pi author quickly gleaned that Brampton wasn’t seeking “editorial guidance but affirmation and validation”. Martel continues to provide that today, and explains that “This book is the result of a wish to safeguard what is essentially Counce Brampton’s life work, the mark he will leave”. Interestingly, the poems appear next to images of their first incarnations, handprinted in Brampton’s coiled notebook….

Seagull Island

Seagull Island: kiyāsko-miniscikosby Myles H. Charles and Miriam KörnerPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Michelle Shaw$22.95 ISBN 9781778690105 Seagull Island: kiyāsko-miniscikos is a beautiful children’s book that celebrates traditional life and blends English and Cree to create a captivating tale of family and their deep connection to nature. One morning Luke’s grandfather wakes him up and tells him they are going for a boat ride for the day – to Seagull Island! When they get there, they see lots and lots of nesting seagulls. Carefully Luke’s mosōm and his kohkom show him how to gather the eggs. Finally, when their pail is full, they thank the seagulls for the eggs and set off. They stop at a nearby island to boil the eggs and have some BLT – bannock, lard and tea. Then it’s home to share the rest of the eggs. Miriam Körner’s illustrations are glorious. The pictures fill most of the double pages which gives the reader a chance to immerse themselves in the visuals of the story. There is lots of attention to detail so children can find the butterflies and count the fish and spot the different types of birds. The 24 page, hard-covered book…

Nature’s Apprentices

Nature’s Apprentices: The Magic of the Peatlandsby Elizabeth Bekolay, illustrated by Jennifer Lynn BeckerPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Michelle Shaw$19.95 ISBN 9781778690020 Every so often you come across a book that so inspires you that you want to eagerly hand it out to as many people as possible. This is a book about the importance of the peatlands, which are a type of wetland. It’s a book that’s packed full of fascinating facts and educational resources. But it’s the story — a beautiful blend of ecology, fantasy and the joy of childhood adventures — that draws you in and enchants you. Johnny and Marty are two brothers who spend time with their mother, a biologist, up north every summer in a cabin in the boreal forest. Friends nearby have a daughter Willow, who is about the same age as the boys and the three children love roaming the forest. Willow is fascinated with learning about different types of plants and frequently stops to draw one in her notebook. One day on one of their adventures they hear a flute playing a very old and beautiful melody and the children fall asleep. When they wake up, they discover they…

Duty Done

Duty Done: Memories of Fairmont BarracksEdited by Donna Morse and Ric HallPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Toby A. Welch$19.95 ISBN 9781988783802 The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have a lengthy, distinguished legacy in our country’s history. They were established in 1873, just six years after Canada was created. This phenomenal book delves into a slice of that RCMP history.  In 1914, a building was erected in the Cambie Corridor in Vancouver, BC. It served as a private boys school and then a military hospital before the Mounties took up residence there in 1920; they renamed it Fairmont Barracks. I’d wager they had no idea at that time that members of the RCMP would call the place home for the next 93 years.  Duty Done was clearly a labour of love for dozens of people. Beyond the Vancouver division of the RCMP Veterans’ Association, the list of people who devoted time and energy to ensure this book came to fruition is impressive.  You’ll find 28 chapters in this book, although they are called memories instead of chapters. Each of the 28 sections is a story from someone with ties to the Fairmont Barracks. The stories they share are diverse but…

Lola’s Wooly Jumper

Lola’s Woolly Jumperby Samantha Van De KerckhovePublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Michelle Shaw$18.95 ISBN 9781778690068 Prairie author Samantha Van De Kerckhove’s love for drawing, painting and storytelling come together beautifully in her children’s book Lola’s Woolly Jumper, which she wrote and illustrated as a gift to her beloved niece and nephews. The term “woolly jumper” is a nod to their family’s Irish heritage. The story follows the adventures of Lola, a happy little lamb who has one wish above everything. She wants a jumper (sweater) just like Farmer Joe’s. Farmer Joe just smiles at her and says: “You can have a jumper like mine. You just have to make it yourself!” Lola tries out various possible solutions around the farm as she puzzles over this problem. But nothing seems to work. The seasons slowly change and finally winter gives way to spring. And Lola discovers that the answer was quite literally all around her. But the story doesn’t end there. We follow the process as Lola’s woolly coat is clipped, cleaned, untangled, spun and dyed. And finally, she has her very own jumper. It’s a simple story on the surface but filled with so much that children can…