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…

Lil Grey Donkey, The
Ghost Mountain Publishing / 20 June 2019

The Lil Grey Donkeyby Carolyn WilliamsIllustrated by L.E.StevensReviewed by Michelle ShawPublished by Ghost Mountain Publishing$20 ISBN 978-1-9994737-1-6 This is a beautiful story about a small grey donkey “with big brown eyes” who is injured in a fight with a cougar while guarding some sheep with her friend, the Llama. But rest assured, there’s a happy ending! She subsequently finds her forever home with the author where she takes “her place in the herd, becoming a buddy for the foals and … loved by all”. The Lil Grey Donkey is so loved in fact that she appears on the Christmas cards “all dressed up with bows and a Santa cap on”. She becomes part of the community and even goes to town to greet the hospital patients before they go home. Using simple language and cartoon-like drawings that ooze personality, I think the book is ideal for drawing the young reader in without feeling intimidating. And the delightful picture of the Lil Grey Donkey on the front cover will captivate young readers before they even open the book! Williams, whose previous book The Happy Horse was released earlier this year, doesn’t actually name the donkey in the story. But there’s a…

When We Had Sled Dogs

When We Had Sled Dogs: A Story from the Traplineby Ida Tremblay and Miriam Körner Published by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-39-0 Searching for a book that’s educational, Woodland Cree/English bilingual, and specifically Saskatchewan? If you’d also appreciate that the story be packaged in a beautifully-illustrated hardcover, then When We Had Sled Dogs: A Story from the Trapline, should fill your desires. This upbeat and colourful book was inspired by the life of La Ronge, SK Elder Ida Tremblay, who shared her memories of “growing up following the seasonal cycle of trapline life” with Miriam Körner. Körner – also from La Ronge – wrote and illustrated the book, which, sadly, Tremblay never got to see, as she died shortly before it was published. During the summer, while Tremblay’s father worked as a fishing guide, the rest of the family camped at McKenzie End, close to La Ronge. Before winter froze the lake, Ida’s family would canoe for five or six days to their cabin on the Churchill River and tend the trapline until spring. Körner’s had the privilege of accompanying Tremblay “up north and back to the past,” and thus veracity is maintained through first-hand…

Underdog Duckling, The

The Underdog Ducklingby Sally MeadowsPublished by Your Nickle’s Worth PublishingReview by Amanda Zimmerman$14.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-30-7 How do you get through a time in your life when everything seems upside down? Is it possible to overcome adversity and grow through the challenges? Sally Meadows, a former scientist and educator from Saskatoon, brings us an answer in her powerful and heartwarming story of a little boy facing his mother’s illness. When she is moved into the hospital and his dad is devoting his time to keeping up the farm, Quinn moves to the big city with his grandfather. He has a hard time settling in at his new school and it is only at a nearby pond where he finds an escape. When he witnesses the bad treatment of a duckling by the other birds on the water, Quinn feels a special kinship with The Underdog Duckling. “Why don’t the other ducks like the duckling? And why weren’t its parents taking care of it?” It is through this animal’s trials that Quinn learns how resilient he can be when things are all going wrong. Sally Meadows instantly grabs her readers with the affirming line “Never stop being you” and follows with a…