Never Going Back
Thistledown Press / 21 September 2011

Never Going Back by Antonia Banyard Published by Thistledown Press Review by Marie Powell Mendenhall $16.95 ISBN 978-1-897235-69-0 Never Going Back is about a group of friends who do go back – to their hometown of Nelson BC, to confront their past and each other in order to move on with their lives. The novels begins as Evan, Siobhan, and Lea make a road-trip home, some 10 years after high school, to attend the memorial of a high school friend. As they reunite with Lance and Mandy, they discover that each hides a secret related to their absent friend Kristy, and her suicide 10 years earlier. As Siobhan remembers it: “There they’d been, on the verge of real life, so how could one of them die? But September came and they scattered, each in their own direction, and before she knew it, their tight-knit group was over.” For them, “High school is a state of mind. Not a building, not a stage of life, but a worldview. Some people never grow out of it.” Antonia Banyard grew up in Nelson, after emigrating from Zambia to Canada, and recreates the setting with ease in her first novel. With chapters written from…

The Kayak
Thistledown Press / 8 June 2011

The Kayak by Debbie Spring Published by Thistledown Press Review by Marie Powell Mendenhall $12.95 ISBN: 978-1-897235-71-3 Debbie Spring launches the action of her juvenile novel, The Kayak, in the opening chapters, when Teresa is kayaking around the islands of Georgian Bay. She notices a wind surfer in trouble, and manages a daring rescue, pulling him to shore by rope. Once on shore, though, Teresa’s father comes and lifts her from her kayak into her wheelchair. That doesn’t bother Jamie, who asks her to a campfire with his friends. In spite of the manipulations of his former girlfriend, Kat, Jamie tells Teresa: “There’s something special about you and I want to find out.” Written in the first person, the book’s style helps readers connect with Teresa: “The choppy waves rise and fall. My kayak bobs like a cork in the swirling waters of Georgian Bay. I love it. I feel wild and free… I am one with the kayak. The blue boat is an extension of my legs. I can do anything: I can go anywhere. Totally independent. Totally in control of my life. It’s so different back at shore.” Teresa easily solves the conflicts that arise in her life….

The Factory Voice
Coteau Books / 12 November 2010

The Factory Voice by Jeanette Lynes Published by Coteau Books Review by Marie Powell Mendenhall $21.00 ISBN: 1-55050-401-0 The Factory Voice mixes the best traits of historical and mystery novels into one package. It tells the story of four women during the World War II era and the men who become part of their lives. Like all good Canadian stories, it begins with a train ride: 16-year-old Audrey escapes marriage in Alberta to work in an airplane factory in Fort William, Ontario. Sharing the train is Muriel, a brilliant woman who becomes chief engineer at the same factory. In Fort William, secretary Ruby engages Audrey as snack-cart girl to gather “dilly” stories for her Factory Voice newsletter. Before long they cross paths with Ruby’s friend Florence, who must wear a red kerchief as probationary riveter because her mother is a notorious Red Finn. Add to this mix a prison break by a man who turns out to be Muriel’s first love (an anti-war protester), a cantankerous test pilot, a couple of brash young men, and a British intelligence officer sent to investigate possible sabotage, and the novel’s plots and subplots bubble to the end of its 285 pages. Told in…

The Smiling Mask

The Smiling Mask: Truths About Postpartum Depression and Parenthood by Carla O’Reilly, Elita Paterson, Tania Bird, and Peggy Collins Published by Purpose to Prosperity Publishing Review by Marie Powell Mendenhall Price: $ 24.95 CDN ISBN: 978-0-9781341-3-6 The Smiling Mask uses the stories of three women who suffered from postpartum depression (PPD) to create awareness of the issues surrounding this disease. The book begins with forwards written by mental health experts such as Sally Elliott, perinatal nurse/counselor at Regina YMCA. In the preface, clinical psychologist Marlene Harper identifies some of the controversies and complexities surrounding PPD. Harper identifies degrees of severity in psychiatric symptoms. Postpartum blues, for example, are mild, including mood swings and confusion lasting up to about 10 days. Postpartum depression is similar to clinical depression and may last up to a year. Postpartum psychosis is a severe, rapid mental illness, usually requiring hospitalization. Harper also discusses potential treatment, including medications and counseling. In the next three chapters, authors Carla O’Reilly, Elita Paterson, and Tania Bird give an earnest and heart-felt account of their journey through PPD. They discuss the “smiling mask” they used to try and hide their illness, and the difficulty of setting it aside to discuss…

Return to Bone Tree Hill
Thistledown Press / 15 July 2009

Return to Bone Tree Hill by Kristin Butcher Published by Thistledown Books Review by Marie Powell Mendenhall $12.95 ISBN: 1-897235-58-4 This young adult mystery opens with Jessica Lawler’s recurring nightmare: she is 12 years old again, and she can see her friends Charlie and Amanda fighting. Charlie is shaking Amanda and he won’t let go. Jessica picks up Charlie’s shovel and swings it. Then Charlie is lying on the ground, his hair matted with blood… At 18, Jessica returns from Australia to visit her grandmother in Victoria, BC, where she grew up. She discovers Charlie went missing on the same day she contracted meningitis. With her memories clouded by illness, Jessica has to wonder: Is the dream true? Did she kill him? With the help of her best friend Jilly, Jessica pieces together the puzzle of Charlie’s disappearance. The bantering friendship between the two girls and the lingering guilt that drives Jessica are believable and well-developed. Twists and turns lead the story in several unexpected directions. Symbols like the tree and that well-known Canadian icon, the snow globe, also play a role. Following hunches and clues, the girls uncover community secrets along with Jessica’s memories. Kristen Butcher unravels the mystery…

Larger Than Life
Parkland Publishing / 8 July 2009

Larger Than Life: Saskatchewan’s BIG Roadside Monuments by Robin and Arlene Karpan Published by Parkland Publishing Review by Marie Powell Mendenhall $18.95 ISBN: 0-9683579-9-7 From the world’s largest still in Vonda, to four-by-eight-foot hockey cards in Kelvington, there couldn’t be a stone – er, monument – left uncovered by Saskatoon writer-photographers Robin and Arlene Karpan. More than 70 communities find their way into the 176 pages of Larger Than Life, their guide to Saskatchewan’s roadside attractions. Each is captured in black-and-white photos, with a 14-page section of colour photographs in the centre to show the decorative nature of these provincial icons. “Some are serious art, many tell a story, and some are just plain fun or a tongue-in-cheek look at some aspect of life in Saskatchewan,” write the authors in their introduction. The roadsides sport their share of human figures. For example, two 11.5-foot tall figures carry a 30-foot canoe through downtown La Ronge in “Portage,” a monument the Karpans say “symbolizes the north.” Mounted police in towns like Redvers and North Battleford vie with countless other figures such as Goodsoil Gus, the Willow Bunch Giant, Potash Pete in Esterhazy, Lignite Louie in Estevan, Santa Claus in Watson, and many…

Run Like Jäger
Coteau Books / 3 June 2009

Karen Bass manages to get inside the head of a German soldier from World War II. Through Brandt’s honest recounting of his experience, from wartime battles to being overcome on the Kanada building site at Auschwitz, Kurt develops a new respect for his grandfather. Readers move with Kurt past blame to greater awareness.

Song Dogs
Coteau Books / 6 May 2009

The book follows a young coyote named Silvertip, and other coyotes nearby, as he grows up in a particular section of rural Alberta. Using the traditions of creative nonfiction, Wilson names the coyotes and situates their stories in the gritty realism of their habitat.

Stories of Our People/Lii zistwayr di la naasyoon di Michif: A Métis Graphic Novel Anthology
Gabriel Dumont Institute / 21 January 2009

This anthology seeks to create a bridge between the oral storytelling tradition and print with illustrated stories, retold in prose versions, followed by transcripts of interviews with the storytellers. As well, two essays provide an introduction to the cultural stories, and references suggest further resources.

Canadian Shield Alphabet
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 14 January 2009

The Canadian Shield Alphabet by Myrna Guymer Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Marie Powell Mendenhall $24.95 CDN ISBN: 978-1-894431-23-1 If you thought you knew every word that could be used to illustrate the alphabet in a child’s picture book, you haven’t seen this alpha-book. Kookum and kinnikinnik, qiviut and ungulates are among its illustrated concepts. What’s a qasgiq, or an ulu? The Canadian Shield Alphabet has the answers. More familiar terms like northern lights (“Aurora Borealis”) and meteorites connect school-aged readers to a variety of subjects, as they learn about the land, people, and culture important in several Canadian provinces crossing Shield country. Taiga and tundra are among its landscapes, as are rivers, lakes, swamps, forests. Animals like voles, pelicans, seals, otters, and polar bears help tell the story of this northern environment. As well, birds like the peregrine falcon, snowy owl, ptarmigan, and Canada Goose make an appearance. The land abounds with history as well, and these pages also mention such explorers as Alexander Mackenzie, David Thompson, and Alexander Henry from the late 1700s. Myrna Guymer of Denare Beach, Saskatchewan uses the knowledge she’s gained on her travels by canoe and airplane, to share the adventure…