After The Truck Hit
DriverWorks Ink / 29 April 2015

After the Truck Hit by Jennifer Kuchinka Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-16-6 When I first picked up Jennifer Kuchinka’s book After the Truck Hit, I was both intrigued and apprehensive. With a title like that, I figured I was in for an emotional journey. After the Truck Hit is both a story and a journal of Jennifer’s life before and after the accident. It’s a story firmly rooted in Saskatchewan. In Estevan, where Jennifer was born and where she lived for a time with her husband; in Macoun, a small town in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan, where she grew up and where she lived with her parents and baby daughter while recovering from her accident, and in Regina, where she studied at the University of Regina, met her husband and subsequently spent almost three months in the fall of 2010 recovering from her accident. Much of the book seems to have been taken from Jennifer’s personal journal after the accident which is both fascinating and a little frustrating in that the reader experiences firsthand her jumbled and repetitive thoughts. To make it easier to follow, Jennifer “fills in the blanks” in italics, putting…

Honouring the Buffalo

Honouring the Buffalo: A Plains Cree Legend Told by Ray Lavallee Written by Judith Silverthorne Illustrated by Mike Keepness Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $14.95 ISBN: 978-1-927756-33-1 If you’ve ever wondered why the buffalo plays such a significant role in the culture and ceremonies of the Plains Cree, then this beautifully illustrated children’s book may assist you on your journey of discovery. When I first opened the book, I was struck by the fact that the story is told simultaneously in English and in the Plains Cree language (Y dialect). I don’t speak Cree but as a relative newcomer to Canada and a linguistic nerd, I was intrigued by the opportunity to be introduced to, not only a story so intrinsic to Cree culture, but also to the language. I loved the fact that certain Cree words are given their phonetic pronunciation which I think enables a reader who may not be familiar with Cree to get a linguistic sense of the language and perhaps enables them to enter the story more fully. The book is written by well-known Saskatchewan writer Judith Silverthorne, who wrote it based on an oral story told to her by…

Suspicion
Coteau Books / 24 May 2013

Suspicion by Rachael Wyatt Published by Coteau Books Review by Michelle Shaw $14.95 ISBN 9781550505177 Candace Wilson is missing. She left home for an early dentist appointment and then vanished. Now the little town of Ghills Lake is enveloped in suspicion. One of the town’s inhabitants, an anonymous chat-room regular known only as Marguerite, has seen something and seems determined to stir up suspicion. But then she too is felled by an accident… As a lover of mysteries, I eagerly dipped into veteran author Rachael Wyatt’s latest book. It wasn’t quite what I expected. I’d never read one of her books before so, from the description, I was expecting a fast paced mystery. Instead, I was caught up in a psychologically layered chronicle of the suspicion that surrounds the various people in Candace’s life. Candace’s husband Jack is stressed and frustrated by the innumerable delays in his multi-million dollar housing development that, he is sure, will transform sleepy little Ghills Lake. Did he lash out in a stress-induced rage? Or was he perhaps overcome with fury when he found out about Candace’s brief affair? Could her sister be responsible? Erica and Candace have been at odds for years, and she…

The Inquiring Reporter
DriverWorks Ink / 26 April 2013

The Inquiring Reporter by Clay Stacey Review by Michelle Shaw Published by DriverWorks Ink $20.95 ISBN 978-0-9879643-1-1 Clay Stacey started out in 1960 as a rookie printer sweeping the floor and removing misfed sheets of newsprint from the ink rollers. He soon progressed to reporting and spent his career in numerous small towns throughout Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and Alberta, retiring in 2011 after 50 years as a reporter, editor, publisher, and on two occasions, owner, of newspapers such as The Revelstoke Herald, Fort Qu’Appelle Times, Calgary Albertan, Kamloops Daily Sentinel, The Golden Star, and the Moose Jaw Times-Herald. Stacey’s career is full of colourful and memorable anecdotes. He interviewed prime ministers, provincial premiers and skid row drunks. He helped a First Nations couple seek justice over a land dispute with the federal government and helped raise funds to send a dying child to a faraway city for cancer treatment. His reporting helped to encourage a prominent politician to resign from his cabinet post amidst allegations of fraud and he broke an exclusive story about the discovery of Nazi documents in a dilapidated shack in the BC wilderness. In looking back at a long and fascinating career it’s tempting to…

Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Easter

Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Easter by Marion Mutala Illustrated by Wendy Siemens Review by Michelle Shaw $ 14.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-70-5 Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Easter, the enchanting sequel to the award-winning Baba’s Babushka: A Magical Ukrainian Christmas is sure to delight Marian Mutala’s many fans. This time it’s spring, and we join Natalia as she is once again swept magically away to a far off land for another uniquely Ukrainian adventure. Natalia is sent outside while the paska, the Easter bread her mother is baking, rises. She’s meant to be collecting the eggs but instead finds herself reflecting on her beloved Baba, her grandmother, who has recently died. Suddenly she feels raindrops brush her cheeks. The raindrops turn into a babushka that covers her hair and then she’s off… “up and away, high in the sky… racing through time and space”. Natalia finds herself in a crowd of people in the early morning in front of a village church. It’s Easter and Natalia is caught up in the celebrations as she joins the procession of people carrying candles, as they follow the priest through the darkness singing Khrystos voskres! (Christ is risen!)” . This time when she catches…

Cyclone! The Regina Tornado of 1912
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 10 October 2012

Cyclone! The Regina Tornado of 1912 by Warren James and Carly Reimer Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $14.95 ISBN 9 781894 431712 One hundred years after the legendary tornado of 1912 left the city of Regina devastated, tornadoes are once again touching down in Saskatchewan. So it’s not surprising that I was a little reluctant to pick up Regina author Warren James’s latest book! Warren James is a storyteller with a passion for history and folklore. Cyclone! The Regina Tornado of 1912 is a carefully researched picture book with an old silent movie feel. It’s simply written and filled with vivid details which give a sense of the magnitude and devastation of the tornado. Children will especially appreciate the numerous detailed images which his words conjure up, such as the fact that the switchboard at the Telephone Exchange literally fell into the basement with the operators still in their chairs. He also relates how the tornado sucked up tons of water, a canoe and two boys from Wascana Lake. Although the book is obviously aimed at young children, its appeal is far broader. At the back of the book are four pages of detailed notes…

A Book of Great Worth
Coteau Books / 3 October 2012

A Book of Great Worth by Dave Margoshes Published by Coteau Books Review by Michelle Shaw $18.95 ISBN 9 781550 504767 On the surface, award-winning Saskatchewan-based author Dave Margoshes’s latest offering is a beautifully written collection of biographical stories about his father’s life. Except that the stories are fiction. Although based, says Margoshes, on “a seed of truth” and imbued with “the persona and personality of [my] father”, they are all fiction. The result is a selection of carefully crafted tales, written over a number of years, which relate various incidents in his father’s life. Margoshes says he “worked hard, with the stories’ structure and a sort of old-fashioned expository style, to make them feel like memoir — like truth…[he] also worked hard to imbue these stories with a tension created by that unstated question of how the narrator came to know not just the stories, in their broad strokes, but the fine details.” He succeeded. At first I was consciously trying to work out what was true but I soon found myself enveloped in the stories. Most of the book is set in New York City in the early decades of the twentieth century. Margoshes crafts an almost sensory…

Germy Johnson’s Piano War
aemworks Publishing / 2 March 2012

JJ “Germy” Johnson, the engaging hero of award-winning author Alison Lohans, Germy Johnson’s Secret Plan, is back with a new adventure. This time, JJ’s parents are forcing him to take piano lessons, which are proving to be hazardous to his health. To be perfectly honest, piano lessons also take up valuable time when he could be battling cyber-pterodactyls or man-eating sharks on his game system. But his parents just won’t see his point of view. So JJ is forced to take drastic action.

Germy Johnson’s Secret Plan
aemworks Publishing / 2 March 2012

Germy Johnson’s Secret Plan by Alison Lohans Illustrations by A.E. Matheson Published by aemworks Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $7.95 ISBN 978-0-9784974-0-8 Germy (JJ) Johnson is facing a serious predicament. His Great Aunt Pru is coming for a long visit. She’s old and smells like medicine. Her false teeth click when she talks and sometimes she takes them out to surprise people. It’s not funny! Those false teeth give him nightmares…literally. Worst of all, she’s staying in his bedroom and he’s now forced to share a room with his baby sister, Jessica. JJ is determined to find a way to force Aunt Pru to leave and his new kitten gives him a brilliant idea. Germs…the ultimate weapon! What if Aunt Pru became deathly ill? Then she’d have to leave. JJ embarks on a quest to infest Aunt Pru with all the germs he can find. Which isn’t as easy he thought and earns himself a not-so-pleasant nickname along the way. Germy Johnson’s Secret Plan was first published in 1992 and was widely used in grade three classrooms across Canada. When it went out of print, the author, award-winning Regina-based Alison Lohans, kept getting requests for it. So she decided to…

A Large Harmonium
Coteau Books / 29 February 2012

A Large Harmonium by Sue Sorensen Published by Coteau Books Review by Michelle Shaw $19.95 ISBN 9781550504606 Sue Sorensen’s debut novel introduces us to forty-two year old English lecturer Janey as she navigates her way through life as a mother, wife and academic. Janey, aka Dr Janet Erlicksen, is deeply in love with her music lecturer husband, the sexy Hector, and frequently bewildered by her adored toddler, the strong-willed Little Max. Although she’s fairly proficient at juggling the demands of the academic year, less academic pursuits have a disconcerting habit of distracting her, such as the urge to write a murder mystery with her mother-in-law as the victim when she should instead be deciding on a viable research topic. Sorensen deftly introduces us to the multi-faceted characters that fill Janey’s world including Hector’s best friend Jam, a charming French horn virtuoso who travels around Canada playing with various brass quartets and sleeping with women in all ten provinces… he’s still working on the territories. Then there’s the grim Beatrice Haight, one of Janey’s fellow lecturers, who is organizing a conference on twenty-first century notions of decadence (the thought sends Janey into gales of laughter) and the “fabulous” Blanche Grimm, a…