Going to Seed

Going to Seed: Essays on Idleness, Nature & Sustainable Workby Kate J. NevillePublished by University of Regina PressReview by Michelle Shaw$30.95 9781779400000 In this award-winning collection of essays, Kate Neville melds the different areas of her life into a fascinating perspective on our perception of idleness: personal reflections from living in an off-grid cabin in northern BC and her academic life as associate professor in the Department of Political Science and the School of the Environment at the University of Toronto. Neville draws from a wide range of poets, writers, researchers and scientists to reconsider the notion of idleness in a world where our reaction to problems is invariably to accelerate and advance. What if instead, she asks, we “step back and slow down?” In 2020, when Kate Neville found herself living fulltime in her off-grid cabin during the pandemic, she began to ponder the accuracy of the perception that “going to seed“ was something to be avoided at all costs. As a gardener friend protested — “the seed phase… is a time of so much activity. Plants send out compressed packets filled with the energy and nutrients needed to sow new life.” The fact that I was reading this…

Squandered

Squandered: Canada’s Potash Legacyby Eric ClinePublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch  $27.95 ISBN 9780889779693 Squandered: Canada’s Potash Legacy is another thoroughly researched and super interesting read by University of Regina Press. As a bonus, as a Saskatchewanian I always welcome a book that is so geared to our province. That said, it makes sense as fifty percent of the free world’s potash reserves are in Saskatchewan.  I learned so much reading Squandered. Granted, I didn’t know a lot about Canada’s potash industry before I cracked the book open. But I was floored to read about mining companies replacing their petroleum businesses with potash drilling as they made more money than they ever could with oil and gas. Also, Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of potash. And potash is the second most important value of production mineral in our country, second only to gold. As for Saskatchewan, potash is our largest export and our potash is the richest in the world.  By the end of the book, I’ll admit I was furious. It’s too lengthy to fully clarify in a review – which is why I highly recommend you read the Squandered! – but the Saskatchewan government did not manage this…

Trust the Bluer Skies

Trust the Bluer Skies: Meditations on Fatherhoodby paulo da costaPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Michelle Shaw$27.95 ISBN 9780889779921 Trust the Bluer Skies is a sensory-rich journey through a brief and distinct moment in time. Our daily lives so often pass in a blur, and we can reach the end of the day wondering what we actually did. In this book, paulo da costa slows us down and shares with us a leisurely, poignant kaleidoscope of memories and experiences as he details the six months his family spent in Portugal, his childhood home. The author, his wife Heather, his four-year-old son Koah and his baby daughter Amari travelled from their home in Victoria, British Columbia to spend six months with his family in Vale de Cambra, Portugal where he grew up. While they were there, Paulo recorded his thoughts on “pastry receipts, train tickets and advertising flyers” to create a detailed account of their time. The book is written in the second person in the form of letters to Khoa. paulo details the everyday events they experienced and intersperses them with recollections of his own childhood, family memories and musings on life. Yet the book is grounded in concrete…

Little Plains Cree Book for Children, A

“nēhiyawēwin awāsi-masinahikanis: A Little Plains Cree Book for Children: A Reference for Teaching the Plains Cree Language”by Patricia Deiter, Allen J. (A.J.) Felix and Elmer BallantynePlains Cree Translations by Elmer Ballantyne, Inez Deiter, May Desnomie, Allen J. (A.J.) Felix and Joslyn WuttuneePublished by YNWPReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$74.95 ISBN 9781778690044 I recently reviewed awāsi-nēhiyawēwin masinahikanis: A Little Plains Cree Colouring Book—Plains Cree People, by Saskatchewan’s Patricia Deiter, Allen J. (A.J.) Felix, and Elmer Ballantyne. The colouring book complements the learned trio’s reference guide for teaching the Plains Cree language, nēhiyawēwin awāsi-masinahikanis—A Little Plains Cree Book for Children, which I have also now read and learned from. “Plains Cree is spoken in 43 First Nations communities in Saskatchewan alone,” and the authors hope is that they, “as Plains Cree people, will still have [their] language for [their] future generations”. In her opening acknowledgements, Deiter (White Buffalo Woman)—a “non-fluent Plains Cree speaker” and English teacher—extends gratitude to the six Elders who “provided the majority of Plains Cree translations” for the reference guide, including her mother, Inez Deiter, “who provides ongoing support for [her daughter’s] efforts to restore the Cree language to our youth”. The reference book follows the themes established in the…

Eroding a Way of Life
University of Regina Press / 23 April 2024

Eroding a Way of Life: Neoliberalism and the Family Farmby Murray KnuttilaPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$39.95 ISBN 9780889779457 I admit I had to look up the definition of neoliberalism before cracking into this book. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explained it in a way I could almost understand: “The philosophical view that a society’s political and economic institutions should be robustly liberal and capitalist, but supplemented by a constitutionally limited democracy and a modest welfare state.” In terms of reform policies, we are talking about eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, and lowering trade barriers. With that in mind, I dove into Eroding a Way of Life.  This book looks at the history and trajectory of farms in Western Canada and specifically Saskatchewan. Once that is established, we see how that intertwines with national and international political economy. Social class is an essential component in these chapters as it is a vital factor at play when understanding the transformation of rural Saskatchewan.  Knuttila begins with a look at merchant capitalism from the 1500s through to the Industrial Revolution. We move onto industrial capitalism, the period from the 1770s to the end of the American Civil War in 1865. Then we delve into conditions…

Little Plains Cree Colouring Book, A

awāsi-nēhiyawēwin masinahikanis: A Little Plains Cree Colouring Book—Plains Cree Peopleby Patricia Deiter, Allen J. (A.J.) Felix, and Elmer BallantyneIllustrated by Aleigha AgecoutayPublished by YNWPReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 9781778690136 It’s been said that when a language dies, a culture goes with it. In Canada several Indigenous languages are in fact endangered, but the one I grew up hearing in northern Saskatchewan—Cree—remains one of the most widely spoken Indigenous languages in the country. Still, it’s important to continue teaching it so Cree youth can connect with their ancestors, their history, and cultural traditions. I’ll add that it’s also a fine idea for anyone who lives in northern communities to learn at least a few words of Cree; my parents took classes because they lived alongside and worked with Plains Cree people. I picked up a small vocabulary, as well, mostly from friends who lived on Flying Dust First Nation. I’m glad that there are educators, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers who continue to find creative ways to make learning Plains Cree fun for children. Patricia Deiter, Allen J. (A.J.) Felix, and Elmer Ballantyne, the three Saskatchewan writers of awāsi-nēhiyawēwin masinahikanis: A Little Plains Cree Colouring Book—Plains Cree People, have done just…

Lilacs by the Kitchen Door
Welcome Home Publishing / 3 April 2024

Lilacs by the Kitchen Door: Prairie life on the family farmby Sheri HathawayPublished by Welcome Home PublishingReview by Toby A. Welch  $20.00 ISBN 9781738822317 Lilacs by the Kitchen Door is the dramatic telling of the lives of Sheri Hathaway’s parents, Harold and Louise, and their supporting cast of extended family and friends. “They represent most rural prairie dwellers of North America, living their lives through the 40s, 50s, and 60s.” Instead of one chronological tale, each chapter can stand on its own. As Hathaway points out about the chapters in her book, “Think of it as a fruit basket. Pick the ones you like or settle in for a long buffet.” At the very front of Lilacs by the Kitchen Door, even before the acknowledgements and introduction, you’ll find a family tree that has twenty-three limbs. There is a branch for each family member mentioned in this book. It is an invaluable resource as you work your way through the family saga. For example: Oh yeah, Wesley married Varina. Alice and Edward had two children, Constance and Harold. So helpful! My favourite chapter in Lilacs by the Kitchen Door is number ten: Richard. The year was 1947. Louise and Harold went through five horrific tragedies in that…

Towards a Prairie Atonement (Softcover)
University of Regina Press / 26 January 2024

Towards a Prairie Atonementby Trevor HerriotPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$22.95 ISBN 9780889779648 Award-winning writer, prairie naturalist, and birder extraordinaire—Regina’s Trevor Herriot requires little introduction. River in a Dry Land: bestseller. CBC Radio: regular. I’ve just devoured Herriot’s Towards a Prairie Atonement—an eloquent treatise on the interconnected injustices that Colonialism and profit-at-all-costs dealt the prairie Métis and all living things dependent upon the Aspen Parkland grasslands. Though compact in size, this three-part essay dispenses an enormous amount of history, appeals for a reckoning, and delivers a few slight feathers of ecological hope. Herriot says he “set [his] heart on telling a story that [would] inspire people to take a second look at what we all lost, and could yet restore, in our regard for more sophisticated and nuanced forms of land governance”. The wisely-woven text begins with a map of the Saskatchewan and Manitoba rivers and historical sites discussed, and an edifying timeline that stretches from the 1600s to 2012. These centuries saw the beginnings of Canada’s fur trade; the North West and Hudson’s Bay Companies jostling; buffalo’s demise; a plethora of government decisions that greatly impacted upon the Métis; the plight of Louis Riel; the…

Story of Me, The
Lilac Arch Press / 26 January 2024

The Story of Meby Denise Leduc, Illustrations by Olena ZhinchynaPublished by Lilac Arch PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$11.66 ISBN 9781778286933 Denise Leduc is a chameleon. The Aylesbury, SK writer easily changes genres, and she writes well in each of them. Perhaps you’re familiar with her children’s picture books—Poppies, Poppies Everywhere!, Letting Charlie Bow Go and In the Prairie Wind—or her titles for older readers, like Why Not Now?, My Sun-sational Summer and My Wonderful Winter. Her latest softcover is The Story of Me, a journal dedicated to her grandmother “for the memories she created with me when I was a young child”. Leduc writes that her “hope for these journals is to provide opportunities for our own reflection and for sharing between the generations”. I can certainly get behind that. Even before reading, I decided I’d share this book with my octogenarian mother, two provinces away, in Saskatchewan. Though we speak on the phone daily, an occasional conversational prompt is welcome. As Leduc suggests, “Sometimes conversations with loved ones … can help get the memories flowing”. The Story of Me delivers forty prompts to help one “remember stories” from his or her life, and it includes several spaces for personal…

See You In Le Touquet
DriverWorks Ink / 26 January 2024

See You in Le Touquet: A Memoir of War and Destinyby Romie ChristiePublished by DriverWorks InkReview by Toby A. Welch  $24.95 ISBN 9781927570845 If any book should be made into a movie, it’s this one! See You in Le Touquet reads like a gripping historical fiction novel but it is a true story. Retired Canadian journalist Romie Christie tells the story of her inspiring parents, Sandy and Dorothy, in this fascinating peek into their lives. As Christie points out in the About This Story section in the back of See You in Le Touquet, this is a work of creative nonfiction. “It is based on fact, with some creativity and imagination woven into the story… Throughout this book, I have endeavoured to stay as true to actual events as I was able.” For the parts of the timeline that Christie didn’t have firsthand knowledge of, she assembled the information via personal essays Sandy had written, Le Touquet history books, Dorothy’s diaries, photos, historians, and stories from the family members and friends of her parents.  The cast of characters in See You in Le Touquet is lengthy as many people weave in and out of Dorothy and Sandy’s lives. If you struggle to remember who’s who as I did,…