Aesthetics of Senescence, The

The Aesthetics of Senescence: Aging, Population and the Nineteenth-Century British Novelby Andrea CharisePublished by University of Regina PressReview by Michelle Shaw$34.95 9780889777064 Early on in the writing of this book, the author Andrea Charise, suggested developing a particular seminar for her advanced undergraduates. “Called ‘Reading Older Age’, its goal was to introduce students to representations of age and aging in a variety of literary genres,” in order to “better understand how such portrayals contribute to our perceptions of fleshly temporality.” At the start of the seminar, her students, all in their early twenties, described aging, not surprisingly, in terms of decline, “the naturalized assumption that old age is inextricably bound to illness, incapacity, lack and diminishment.” But as the semester progressed, with the students reading a variety of books ranging from Shakespeare’s King Lear to David Markson’s The Last Novel, she was intrigued to discover that her students began to perceive aging through a far more complex lens. In The Aesthetics of Senescence, which was shaped by her doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, Charise “explores how the invention of population in the early 19th century impacted broader cultural conceptualizations of older age.” She examines the works of a…

Companion of Eagles
Serimuse Books / 17 April 2020

Companion of Eaglesby Regine HaenselPublished by Serimuse BooksReview by Michelle Shaw$14.95       ISBN 9780993903229 Companion of Eagles is the third book in The Leather Book Tales, a fantasy set in western North America.  The book opens in Aquila, City of Eagles, where 14-year-old Samel lives with his father. One day, his mother’s cousin Thea arrives. She is headed to the mountains, to her childhood home in the city of Schönspitze. Samel is desperate to accompany Thea on her journey and experience a world outside his everyday life.  Thea is headed home because her grandfather, who had disappeared years before, has suddenly reappeared. When they meet him, he tells them a peculiar story. He was sucked down by the currents of a nearby lake into a deep enchanted cave where he lay for a long time. There he had mysterious visions and dreams until one day he suddenly found himself outside the cave. He tells them to call him Grandfather Frog. Grandfather Frog is consumed by the idea of finding his way back to the mysterious cave to try to understand what has happened. Samel and Grandfather Frog set off on their journey but are nearly killed in a…

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…

Frenemy Nations
University of Regina Press / 18 December 2019

Frenemy Nations: Love and Hate Between Neighbo(u)ring StatesBy Mary SoderstromPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Michelle Shaw$27.95 ISBN 9780889776722 In the summer of 1968, Mary Soderstrom and her husband loaded up their Volkswagen Beetle and immigrated to Canada from the United States. “We were young, we were disgusted with the [Vietnam] war, and we were hopeful that we’d find something different across the border,” she says. “But to be honest, we didn’t expect things to be too different. After all, weren’t Canada and the United States very much alike?” The contrast between their new home and their old led to a long running reflection that continued to intrigue her over the years.…How could two places that are similar in so many ways be so disparate in others? In Fremeny Nations, Soderstrom looks at a range of geographical “odd couples” that she has encountered over the years. In addition to the United States and Canada, the book also examines the two Vietnams, Algeria and Tunisia, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Brazil and the rest of South America, Burundi and Rwanda, Scotland and Ireland, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Vermont and New Hampshire and, intriguingly, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The book explores these…

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…

Trial by Winter
Coteau Books / 20 June 2019

Trial by Winterby Anne PattonPublished by Coteau BooksReview by Michelle Shaw$10.95 ISBN 9781550509786 I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in a sod house in Saskatchewan during a winter blizzard. Now, thanks to Anne Patton, I have an inkling. Trial by Winter is the third and final story in Anne Patton’s Barr Colony Adventure Series. It’s 1903 and the Bolton family have built a sod house on their land in the North-West Territories. Running desperately short of money Dorothy’s father decides to travel to Edmonton to work for the winter, leaving ten-year-old Dorothy, her sixteen-year-old sister, Lydia and their mother to face their first harsh prairie winter essentially alone. Patton has the ability to transport the reader to another place and time in vivid detail, geographically, socially and climatically. She has clearly done an immense amount of meticulous research, but the research is always atmospheric and enhances the plot rather than crowding it. She vividly describes the everyday practicalities that are needed to survive during the brutal winter such as bringing wood inside to thaw before cutting it and scooping snow from the drifts outside the front door during a blizzard to melt for water. Then there…

American Refugees

American Refugees: Turning to Canada for FreedomBy Rita Shelton DeverellReviewed by Michelle ShawPublished by University of Regina Press$21.95 ISBN 9780889776258 When I first picked up American Refugees the subject matter seemed obvious. The quote on the back cover highlights the fact that the website for Citizenship and Immigration Canada crashed on election night in the US in 2016 when it became clear that Donald Trump would become the new US president. It was clearly a book about the latest wave of American refugees who, in the words of the title, “turned to Canada for freedom.” But that story is only a tiny aspect of this meticulously researched little book. Journalist and broadcaster Rita Shelton Deverell shares the stories of countless Americans who have made their way north over the years for a variety of reasons, and who have contributed immensely to Canadian society without turning a blind eye to injustices in this country. She focuses on particular periods of history when significant numbers of Americans fled to Canada such as during and after the Revolutionary War, during the period when the Underground Railway was active, and as a result of McCarthyism and the Vietnam War. While Deverell’s words informed and…

Voice: On Writing with Deafness
University of Regina Press / 11 March 2019

Voice: On Writing with Deafnessby Adam PottleReview by Michelle ShawPublished by University of Regina PressISBN 9780889775930 $18.95 Adam Pottle enjoys dynamiting stereotypes. He’s an award-winning, Saskatoon-based author whose work explores the dynamic and philosophical aspects of Deafness and disability. Born with sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, Adam’s hearing was further compromised in his late twenties when the hearing in his right ear (up to then his ‘good’ ear) began to diminish. His latest work Voice: On Writing with Deafness explores the relationship between his writing and his deafness. I found the book intriguing. I’d never considered writing specifically from the perspective of deafness and, I admit that if had occurred to me I’d probably have fallen into stereotypical thinking. But Pottle has a unique way of perceiving the world. His approach to silence, for instance. “Although deafness and silence are related,” he says, “deafness is not necessarily synonymous with silence. It is not simply a condition of non-hearing; it can be a condition of hearing things differently.” He says his deafness has made him into a writer, and “writing has become my way of fully inhabiting the world.” Pottle’s work has consistently challenged boundaries and one of his chief…

Murphy Mondays
DriverWorks Ink / 10 January 2019

Murphy Mondays by Jane Smith Review by Michelle Shaw Published by DriverWorks Ink $13.95 978-1-927570-45-6 If you live in or around Saskatoon the chances are that you have already seen or heard about Murphy, the lovable brown and white English Springer Spaniel who spreads a little magic wherever he goes. Murphy is a St John Ambulance (SJA) Therapy Dog who regularly visits Royal University Hospital’s (RUH) Emergency Room as well as other care facilities around the city. He also sometimes visits the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and the Saskatoon airport. Murphy holds the distinction of being the first SJA Therapy Dog to visit an emergency room in Canada. He was such a success at RUH and made such a significant difference to patients and staff that the program has since been expanded in Saskatoon, as well as emergency rooms in other parts of Canada. He was also one of the SJA dogs who visited the injured Humboldt Bronco hockey players and their families in hospital after their bus accident in April 2018. Murphy and his handler/owner Jane Smith moved to Saskatoon from Nova Scotia in 2014. Jane’s youngest daughter Sarah George was the first to suggest that Murphy would…