I will always love you…no matter what!

I will always love you…no matter what!Written by Lee Murray and Kori UpshallIllustrated by Emily JohnsonPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw$14.95 ISBN 9781988783659 Children love asking questions and even a seemingly simple question can hide layers of emotion. This colorful soft-covered book is written by a grandmother and her granddaughter and is based on a true experience. A few years ago, four-year-old Kori was on a quest to find out how much her grandmother loved her. She kept asking her grandmother continually outlandish questions to try to find something – anything –that would make her grandmother stop loving her. The scenarios in the book are gloriously over-the-top. The little girl broke her grandmother’s mirror, for instance, by crashing a plane into it, and she broke her grandmother’s dishes by ripping off the table cloth while her grandmother was having tea with the queen. The book is beautifully and hilariously illustrated by Saskatoon-based visual artist Emily Johnson. I loved the fact that the little girl’s dog (apparently based on Kori’s real-life dog Bryson) also makes an appearance in each scenario…playing the piano and driving the plane. Johnson has captured lots of humorous moments like these that will…

Time to Fly!
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 3 February 2021

Time to FlyWritten and Illustrated by Valerie WiebePublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Michelle Shaw$24.95 ISBN 9781988783642 This beautiful hardcover book invites children of all ages to dream, to explore and discover how they fit into the world around them. Author and illustrator Valerie Wiebe, who lives and works on a farm outside Langham, Saskatchewan, is a multitalented artist who has used her paintings as her inspiration for the text. While younger children will be captivated by the bright colors and the rhythmic language, I think the book will be especially inviting to slightly older children who will be able to engage with the pictures and allow their imaginations to explore the possibilities in each painting. The book has also been suggested as an excellent gift for anyone beginning a new venture, including graduation. I felt the drawings were almost like a blank canvas that gave my imagination freedom to dream and discover. Wiebe says the paintings in the book are intimate works that “require us to look close, to investigate the details, to observe the tiny figures.” She is clearly captivated by the Prairies. “Standing in the rural landscape in which I live, I find myself feeling both…

Baba’s Babushka Magical Ukrainian Adventures

Baba’s Babushka: Magical Ukrainian AdventuresWritten by Marion Mutala, Illustrated by Amber Rees, Wendy Siemens, Olha TkachenkoPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$39.95  ISBN 9-781988-783611 Before one reads a single word of Baba’s Babushka, it’s evident that this  illustrated children’s book is far beyond the ordinary. The 175-page hardcover emanates quality, from the phenomenal production – including colourful, full-page illustrations opposite the text pages, each bordered in a Ukrainian embroidery design – to the heft of the paper used, the contributions of three skilled illustrators, the inclusion of Ukrainian recipes, and a glossary for the numerous Ukrainian words used in the text. The package is highly impressive … and then there are the four heartwarming, connected tales Mutala spins within the book.  Saskatchewan’s Mutala is already known for her award-winning, Ukrainian-themed children’s books, including More Baba’s, Please! and My Dearest Dido: A Holodomor Story, but this latest publication – essentially four books in one – is her tour de force. In each magical story, young Natalia – who lives on a farm near Hafford, SK – is whisked into her ancestral past when her recently-departed and much-loved grandmother’s (Baba’s) colourful babushka (head scarf) materializes – via flowers, swirling…

Day I Lost My Bear In Cypress Hills, The
M Larson Books / 16 October 2020

The Day I Lost My Bear in Cypress Hills: Adventures of the Barnyard BoysWritten by M Larson, Illustrated by Kaustuv BrahmachariPublished by M Larson BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$13.99 ISBN 978-1-7753218-5-9 Melanie Larson’s children’s book, The Day I Lost My Bear in Cypress Hills (Adventures of the Barnyard Boys), is a simply told and colourfully illustrated day-in-the-life story of five-year-old Finn and his family. Finn wakes at his grandparents’ log cabin in Cypress Hills, raring to begin an adventurous day with activities that range from swimming lessons to rock climbing. As the title reveals, the enthusiastic boy loses his treasured “stuffie” during the day, and he “[needs] his bear to sleep!” The book features large-font text and bright images – the illustrator nailed Cypress Hills, with its distinctive evergreens (including Lodgepole pines) featured on nearly every image. I suggest that this upbeat story be read to and by youngsters for its vibrant celebration of the great outdoors, and its display of how much fun can be had doing things that don’t require anything but an imagination. Particularly now, during a global pandemic, it’s so beneficial for children of all ages to discover how it’s the little things – like going…

Sleeping Brilliant
All Write Here Publishing / 22 September 2020

Sleeping BrilliantWritten and illustrated by Jessica WilliamsPublished by All Write Here PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$16.99 ISBN 978-1-9995397-7-1 Here’s what I know about Saskatchewan writer Jessica Williams: she’s originally from British Columbia; her first book, Mama’s Cloud, thoroughly impressed me with its gentle handling of depression; and she continues to prove herself as a prolific and talented writer of childrens’ books. Her latest offering, Sleeping Brilliant, delivers a delightful spin on a fairytale we all know – but may not all love, with its prince-as-saviour theme – and this time Williams has even illustrated her own clever story. We learn from page one that Williams is going to have great fun turning this traditional tale on its crown. The “beloved” King and Queen longed for a child, and thus “adopted a charming baby girl from a nearby village”. The baby’s named Niamh – pronounced “Neev” or “Nee-iv,” which is Gaelic for “brilliant” – and the child lives up to her moniker. Upon Niamh’s arrival her parents throw a “great feast” and invite “the entire kingdom,” as one does, but of the thirteen forest fairies, only twelve receive their invitations, thanks to a “fierce wind” that magically lifts one invitation from…

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…

Scaredy Cali
All Write Here Publishing / 2 March 2020

Scaredy Caliby Jessica WilliamsIllustrated by Nathan MonçãoPublished by All Write Here PublishingReview by Michelle Shaw$11.99 (softcover) ISBN 9781999539702 Cali is afraid of lots of things. She is scared when it is her turn to read in front of the class and she is afraid of the other kids when they play tag. She is even terrified of her aunt’s fluffy little white dog, Muffin. Cali is afraid of so many things that the other kids at school call her Scaredy Cali. She doesn’t like being called that…but she’s too afraid to tell them. But there’s one thing that Cali isn’t scared of. And when an unexpected visitor comes to class, Cali gets the chance to show that she can be brave too. Scaredy Cali is easy to read with large bright illustrations that burst with expressive character. Most of the illustrations cover both pages. Some of the words are in bold or capitalized or even placed at an angle and the design enhances the flow of the story beautifully. I especially loved Cali’s secret passion and the way it’s illustrated and expressed in the story. The book is available in softcover, hard cover and e-format. Author Jessica Williams was born…

You Can’t Invite a Fish to a Dance Party
All Write Here Publishing / 2 March 2020

You can’t invite a fish to a dance partyby Jessica WilliamsIllustrated by Jimena de la VegaPublished by All Write Here PublishingReview by Michelle Shaw$11.99 (softcover) ISBN 9781999539726 Dance parties are an important way to celebrate life’s big achievements. Like a hole-in-one at mini golf or swinging all the way across the monkey bars. Saskatchewan author Jessica Williams shares her enthusiasm for celebration with a quirky story with an important message: celebrate who you are even when those around you think they know better. Rabbit, Dog, Parrot, Cat and the other pets are having a dance party, but they decide that Fish can’t go because fish don’t have feet for dancing, and they can’t sing karaoke. So clearly Fish wouldn’t have any fun. Fish has other ideas but each time he tries to show what he can do his friends think something is wrong and become even more determined to protect him. They don’t want him to get hurt! Finally, Fish starts to think that maybe they are right. Maybe they do know what he can do better than he does. You’ll have to read the book to find out how the story ends. But rest assured, it’s a magical colourful…

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…