Grandpa’s Garage
Blow Creative Arts / 22 December 2021

Grandpa’s Garageby Amber AntymniukPublished by Blow Creative ArtsReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$22.00 ISBN 9781999546212 I’ve noticed that an increasing number of children’s authors—and particularly new writers—are opting to self-publish. Alternately, they could wait for months to hear back from a trade publisher regarding whether a book will be accepted for publication, then wait for up to several years (I’m speaking from experience: I had a book accepted in 2010 and released in 2020) for that book to hit the shelves. When one possesses artistic talent as well as literary talent, it makes especially good sense to self-publish, and that’s precisely what Saskatchewan creator and Arts Education teacher Amber Antymniuk did with Grandpa’s Garage. Antymniuk’s second book for young readers (or listeners) explores the wonderfully diverse items that appear in “Grandpa’s Garage,” and each page features rhyming text in a large font, an appealing watercolour illustration, and enough white space to make the words and images pop. Antymniuk mostly makes it personal, describing things that I expect actually do reside in a relative’s garage, like “farm cats,” “An old radio tuned to the local station” and “a stack of manuals and a bent fishing fly,” but near the end she writes…

H is for Home
Blow Creative Arts / 8 December 2021

H is for Home: A Saskatchewan Alphabet”by Amber AntymniukPublished by Blow Creative ArtsReview by Amanda Zimmerman$22.00 ISBN 9781999546205 H is for Home is another adorably presented tale from the author of the debut children’s book Grandpa’s Garage! Amber Antyminuk’s next story again draws inspiration from her rural upbringing on an acreage outside of Tisdale, a community in the northeastern part of Saskatchewan. Now making her home in the bustling city of Saskatoon, she revisits her childhood with enthusiasm, an enthusiasm clearly shown in both her writing style and artistic abilities. Stating herself that all good Saskatchewan stories are formed “where a highway meets an unmarked grid road”, the personal experience she shares adds credibility to her work and all readers fortunate enough to live in one of the prairie provinces will thoroughly enjoy the adventure she shares. In H is for Home: A Saskatchewan Alphabet, our author visits all twenty-six letters of the English alphabet with a single image representing each one. In every pair of letters, readers find an easy rhyme and careful notice is given to the amount of syllables. There are only a few pages where the syllable number doesn’t match but these rare instances don’t detract…

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…

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…

Six Saskatchewan Bunnies
Sharla Griffiths / 3 November 2021

Six Saskatchewan BunniesWritten and illustrated by Sharla GriffithsReview by Michelle Shaw$17.00 ISBN 9781999560003 It’s always fun to read a book set in a familiar place, and children, especially, love reading about places they know and can actually visit. So Sharla Griffiths’ new children book is a delight. It’s an entertaining invitation to explore the joys of summer in Saskatchewan along with six little bunnies. The bunnies hop their way through the province, climbing the branches of the Crooked Trees, sliding down the sand dunes at Athabasca Provincial Park and feeding the geese at Wascana Park in Regina. They crawl through the tunnels in Moose Jaw, paint rocks along the riverbank on the Meewasin Trail in Saskatoon, discover the skeleton of a T-Rex in Eastend and lie back in the waving prairie grass, watching the clouds drift across Saskatchewan’s endless sky in Grasslands National Park. The book features 24 full page color illustrations that are interesting and fun. Each destination is helpfully labelled at the bottom of the page and there’s a map of the province at the end of the book showing where the bunnies (and the reader) have travelled. Griffiths also introduces the concept of counting. The story starts…

Wake Up, Jacob!
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 3 November 2021

Wake Up, Jacob!by Neil SawatzkyPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783451 I’m a huge fan of collaborating with family members on creative projects, thus was delighted to read that Neil Sawatzky—the author of the new illustrated children’s book Wake Up, Jacob!—is the father of Heather Nickel, who owns and operates Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, and is responsible for bringing hundreds of books into the world. This father-daughter team has produced a heartfelt softcover that “parallel[s] the daily activities of a young boy and his grandfather,” and to even further extend the familial connection, Sawatzky’s dedicated the book to his own father, and a photograph of the author and his two grandchildren reading a book together appears inside the back cover. Here’s the truth: I had a lump in my throat after reading just two pages of this brightly-sketched story. On page one we find young Jacob’s mother rousing him from sleep in his bed, and on the opposite page, a healthcare aide in a seniors’ facility is similarly waking the same-named elder. Child Jacob—in green pajamas, and with his wide-eyed teddy bear nearby—stretches simultaneously with his white-moustached grandpa on the facing page. The story continues…

Flowman and the Magic Mullet
Emily Hawkes / 29 September 2021

Flowman and the Magic MulletWritten by Konn and Emily Hawkes, Illustrated by Emily HawkesPublished by Emily HawkesReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$23.95 (Hardcover) ISBN 9-781777-641726 Flowman and the Magic Mullet: the title’s enough to signal readers that this is going to be a gas. Who doesn’t chuckle at the mention of a mullet? And the long-flowing locks, large eyes and toothy smile of the slapshot-shooting hockey player on the cover make me curious … what kind of hijinks is this mullet-rocking athlete going to get up to? This illustrated children’s book is the entertaining result of a team effort between Watrous, SK farmer and hockey player Konn Hawkes and his artistic wife, Emily. The tale concerns superstar hockey player Greg “The Hair” Flowman and his famous mullet—“His teammates loved it, his fans adored it”—and what happens when “his magic mullet suddenly disappears overnight.” The story begins with our athletic, comically-drawn protagonist “Scoring point after point” in his blue, #21 hockey sweater and matching blue helmet. The text rhymes or off-rhymes, and I’m pleased at the outset to read an original simile: “He moves on the ice like a cheetah on skates.” As the story progresses, we learn that Flowman’s the captain…

Let’s Fly!
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 2 September 2021

Let’s Fly!: A Dragon’s Quest in SaskatoonWritten by Kathie Cram, Illustrated by Kas ReaPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783697 Writer Kathie Cram and her illustrator Kas Rea have crafted a new book that celebrates Saskatoon through the adventures of two unlikely – and likeable – new friends, an inquisitive chickadee and a hopeful baby dragon. From the first page I surmised that the playful language in this book – “a very small bird found a very strange egg. Suddenly, it jiggled and wiggled and crackled and cracked” – would appeal to young ears. Cram’s a multi-genre Saskatoon writer who’s previously published adult fantasy and nonfiction, and she’s now working on a novel. Rea also lives in Saskatoon, where she’s a Bachelor of Fine Arts student at the University of Saskatchewan. Using the tried-and-true children’s text formula of repetition, Cram has her friendly pair meeting other creatures as Red, the dragon, searches with Little Bird for the former’s family. The flying dragon soars above Saskatoon with the bird on her back, and the two make stops at popular Saskatoon landmarks, like Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The first landing’s bumpy. “‘Sorry. I am new to flying,’” Red…

Bee A Friend

Bee a FriendWritten by Kerry Sather, Illustrated by David MarkPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 ISBN 9-781988-783673 Saskatchewan’s seen a veritable hive of activity in children’s book publishing this summer – I’ve reviewed four titles – and one fun-filled book that’s joined the shelves is the illustrated hardcover Bee A Friend, penned by Kerry Sather and illustrated by David Mark, both of Nokomis. Ten years ago Sather released the award-winning Bee Yourself, which focused on self-esteem, and this new release “investigates the meaning of friendship” through a successful confluence of simple words and stylish illustrations. Dedicated to the author’s grandchildren and other “little friends,” this rhyming, will-you-be-my-friend? tale features green-dominant illustrations with cartoon-style creatures – the narrator is a gregarious bumblebee – and four lines of text on each page. There’s also a tiny, witty fly flitting across the pages: its cryptic lines – ie: “This is too much!” – deliver an amusing commentary on the Bee’s persistent search for new pals in the garden once “The snow has melted and spring is here”. The expressive bee’s first potential friend is a red ant, comically portrayed in an army helmet. (The fly’s two bits: “Sir, yes,…

Ride, Gabe, Ride

Ride, Gabe, RideWritten by Wilfred Burton, Illustrated by Lucille ScottPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783680 Got to love it when a writer takes a compelling historical event and transforms it into an illustrated children’s book that will both educate and entertain young readers. That’s exactly what award-winning Saskatchewan Métis author and storyteller Wilfred Burton has done– along with illustrator, Lucille Scott – in Ride, Gabe, Ride, a new softcover published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing that tells the story of legendary Métis leader Gabriel Dumont and a particularly amazing buffalo hunt. The tale begins with a brief biography, explaining that Dumont (b. 1837) “fought for Métis rights in two resistances,” and “could negotiate in seven languages, was a superb buffalo hunter, and even performed with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.” The anecdote that inspired this book is based on “an incredible hunting story” Dumont relayed to Archie Brown, who wrote about it in his 1927 memoir. There’s much to recommend in this rhyming adaptation. Firstly, there’s adventure: Dumont and “the people of Bois de Fleche” prepare for the dangerous hunt – a blessing from “the black-robed priest” is included – and with horses and…

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