The Sometimes Lake
Thistledown Press / 24 May 2013

The Sometimes Lake by Sandy Bonny Published by Thistledown Press Review by Alison Slowski $18.95 ISBN 978-1-897235-99-7 “My daddy used to say things about what we’re made out of to make my mom roll her eyes. Like crystals vibrating. Also energy balls.” – “Marrow”, by Sandy Bonny Sandy Bonny, a Saskatoon-based writer, creates a compelling collection of stories from all corners of life in The Sometimes Lake. These are funny, moving stories of real people in contemporary settings. They warm the heart with dynamic characters the reader can’t help but want to know more about. These stories include a pair of young, bereaved children in the exotic mountains of a Buddhist nunnery in India; the bored girlfriend of a beekeeper devoted to his vexing family; a new teacher trying to get his bearings-culturally and otherwise-with a Northern Canadian Dene community school; two lesbian university students brought together by a special mutual friend; and a little girl’s musing upon death and loss after her grandfather passes. Myth and belief intertwine when a young man who is situated at a commune becomes trapped and unable to leave, and when road builders from bygone days explore legends of their past. Bonny’s love of…

Sedges (Carex) of Saskatchewan
Nature Saskatchewan / 6 February 2013

Sedges (Carex) of Saskatchewan by Anna L. Leighton Published by Nature Saskatchewan Review by Sandy Bonny $19.95 ISBN 978-0-921104-29-2 Saskatchewan’s uncultivated prairie, the archetypical provincial geography, is grassland — yet many of those thin-leaves are not grasses. The sedges, or Carex, which have three sided blades as opposed to the round stems of grasses, have ‘edges’. And they increase in abundance at edges. If you have canoed through a waterside fen, recall the rough whisper of sedge blades against your hull and paddle. Hiking or hunting in the boreal forests, sedge skirt open spaces, forming thick carpets between forest stands and providing a valuable source of forage and seed to wildlife, as well as a protected habitat for flowering and medicinal plants. With over 103 native species the sedges are the largest genus of vascular plants in Saskatchewan, yet one of the least known and most difficult to identify. Sedges (Carex) of Saskatchewan, Fascicle 3 of the Flora of Saskatchewan’s compendium of provincial botany, reveals the importance of the genus and its role in each of the provincial ecozones. The volume is dedicated to John Howard Hudson (1923-2010), a botanist and educator whose detailed notes and archival specimen collection remain…

Glacial Erratics
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 24 January 2013

Glacial Erratics by Peter Sarsfield and Kim Mann Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Sandy Bonny $ 19.95 ISBN 378-1-894431-72-9 A current of migration compels this partnership of poems and pictures from writer Peter Sarsfield and photographer Kim Mann — the book captures animals in movement, seasons in change, and landscapes etched by shadows that, with the lift of a page, allude to lengthening and contraction. Between photographs, poetic offerings travel between the Canadian North and southern prairies, tracing avenues of time and maturity, circling anchor-stones of hope and regret. The collection’s title, ‘Glacial Erratics’, refers to boulders deposited by the ice sheets that once covered our prairie landscape. These provide evidence of our geographical heritage, offering themselves as touchstones to a history of dramatic change. And yet they are accidental legacies, monuments borne of glacial fatigue, of failure and release. These poems echo their title. Read separately, it would be difficult to thread them to a theme. But linked and grounded by Mann’s photographs, they plot a journey. A raft of incidents, a life’s hopes and lessons. There is a risk in this trust of fate to organize the poems, which Sarsfield alludes to in ‘message found’:…

Outcasts of River Falls
Coteau Books / 11 January 2013

Outcasts of River Falls by Jacqueline Guest Published by Coteau Books for Kids Review by Sandy Bonny $ 9.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-480-4 In her third novel for young adult readers, sequel to the award-winning Belle of Batoche, Alberta-based Métis writer, historian, and literacy advocate Jacqueline Guest combines her passions, rewarding readers with a fast-paced coming-of-age adventure. Her spirited teenaged protagonist, Kathryn, has grown up in the care of a father who ‘passed’, hiding his Métis heritage in order to integrate with English society in Ontario. Suddenly orphaned and barred by financial circumstances from the boarding school where she has spent her happiest years, Kathryn is horrified to discover that the aunt into who’s care she has been entrusted is not, as her father’s stories had lead her to expect, a wealthy ranch heiress, but rather a half-breed spinster marooned in Alberta without title to so much as the land beneath her ‘shack.’ Landless and excluded from both the Constitution and Indian Act, the Métis community built in the ‘ditches’ adjacent to River Falls has been forced into self-sufficiency. They supply their own medical care with expertise that is sought after by local settlers, school their children at home, and draw much…

Lilies, Irises, & Orchids of Saskatchewan
Nature Saskatchewan / 27 June 2012

Lilies, Irises, & Orchids of Saskatchewan by Vernon L. Harms and Anna L. Leighton Published by Nature Saskatchewan Review by Sandy Bonny $ 19.95 ISBN-13 987-0-921104-28-5 There is something about flowers—from Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” to Spike Jonze’s film “Adaptation,” our culture celebrates their transient beauty above the reproductive bodies of other flora. Intriguing though mushrooms and pinecones may be, they just don’t have the aura of mystique that draws floraphiles to the many-coloured monocots. In this keyed field guide from Nature Saskatchewan, professional and amateur botanists are introduced to Saskatchewan’s fifty-one species of lilies, irises and orchids, twenty-one of which are considered rare or endangered. The guide’s authors, Anna Leighton and Vernon L. Harms, are key players in the Flora of Saskatchewan Association’s volunteer-driven initiative to document the province’s flora, and in this offering they supplement detailed line drawings, colour photographs, and identification keys with interesting notes and commentary regarding the distribution and seasonal appearances of each flowering species. True to the diversity of species at large, the guide includes both native species and ‘garden-escapes.’ Thus, we see cultivated chives beside Red ‘Tiger’ Lilies in the Lily Family, and introduced German Irises alongside native Blue Flag in the…

Leaving Berlin
Thistledown Press / 2 March 2012

Leaving Berlin by Britt Holmström Published by Thistledown Press Review by Sandy Bonny $ 18.95 ISBN-13 987-1-897235-91-1 I recently crossed Saskatoon driving behind a battered Honda Civic with the bumper sticker: ‘Change is inevitable – growth is optional.’ This might well be the motto underlying Britt Holmström’s first collection of short fiction. In Leaving Berlin this experienced Regina-based novelist tapers her prose to focus on female characters thrust, often unexpectedly, into moments of revelation. These women, of all ages and origins, struggle with the assumptions and constraints that structure their lives. Complicated relationships unravel, personalities collide, and as time and memory turn back on themselves, yearnings, hopes, and reality itself, beg to be reframed. Rendered in candid, conversational prose, sharp physical descriptions position the reader as confidante to Holmström’s characters, and they certainly do confide In “ The Company She Kept” a group of divorced medical-office mates startle themselves out of a comfortable friendship by first obsessing over, then energetically attacking the transparent lies of a newly hired temp. She is young, beautiful, and clearly unstable, but they find themselves driven to best her, delighting in her weaknesses as they swirl into self-improvement. Their circle is scattered, ultimately, by shame…

Getting to Know Saskatchewan Lichens
Nature Saskatchewan / 29 February 2012

Getting to Know Saskatchewan Lichens by Bernard de Vries Published by Nature Saskatchewan Review by Sandy Bonny $ 19.95 ISBN-978-0-921104-26-1   Working between the fields of geology, biology and naturalist fiction, I have spent a lot of time with field guides. These books are tools—a prompt to explore and a means to identify those subtle components of our natural environments that we so commonly overlook. Every now and then a guide appears that bests the beauty of its utility and brings its subject forwards as literature. “Getting to Know Saskatchewan Lichens” is a refreshingly good read—an introductory guide that effuses esteem for the patience and hardiness of its subjects.                  Author Dr. Bernard de Vries is one of Canada’s foremost lichen experts and an enthusiastic advocate for the protection of rare lichen species. “Getting to Know Saskatchewan Lichens” has been complied as a tribute to de Vries’ favorite flora and, with his broad experiences in public science education (as a teacher, university lecturer and botanical museum curator), novice naturalists are in skilled hands. Growing as symbioses of photosynthetic microbes and fungi, lichen work nutrients from wood, soil or stone, and draw water from the air. The guide’s introduction provides an…

Walking Through Shadows
Thistledown Press / 8 February 2012

Walking Through Shadows—stories from the edge of the world by Tara Manuel Published by Thistledown Press Review by Sandy Bonny $ 16.95 ISBN-13: 978-1897235867 There was a time when, in a small town there was no such thing as privacy. People lived side by side, knew one another’s business, and mostly kept one another’s secrets. In her second collection of short stories from Thistledown Press, maritime actor and author Tara Manuel imports modern entertainment culture to a rural world peopled by characters both familiar and fascinatingly unique. There are The Committee Lady, The Housewife, and the local politician, The White Prince—but behind closed doors, television and Internet open windows to apparent anonymity, and outside closed doors, the town’s residents run freed of their usual audience. The mute Butterfly Girl finds a lover and a voice, but her bravery is neither seen nor heard. Few notice The Arab, raised in the town’s theatre and living now, in ironic permanence, in the shell of an abandoned bus. Walking Woman, who prizes solitary evening adventures, struggles against an imported culture of fear and finds solace only in the binding security of her husband’s arms. The gruff divorcee, Shadow Dancer, waltzes in the privacy…

The New Normal: The Canadian Prairies in a Changing Climate

The New Normal: The Canadian Prairies in a Changing Climate by David Sauchyn, Harry P. Diaz and Suren Kulshreshtha Published by the Canadian Plains Research Center Review by Sandy Bonny $ 75.00 ISBN-13 987-0-921104-27-8 Don Gayton got it right years ago when he wrote ‘Average in this country is meaningless; it is a mere summation of profound extremes.’ Cold winters, dry summers, winters without snow, floods among sand dunes; these are all historical facts of life on the Canadian Prairies. How then do we assess ‘climate change’ in such a variable geography? How do we respond and adapt when wildcard years are increasingly the norm? These questions are addressed in the most recent publication of the Canadian Plains Research Center, The New Normal: The Canadian Prairies in a Changing Climate. Acknowledging that we are in the midst of climatic instability tied to human activity, this book brings together the work of 24 scientists and sociologists to paint a locally-focused portrait of the challenges we are likely to face in the coming century. The book can be read as a Prairie climate tour-de-force, or chapter descriptions in the introduction can guide readers to areas of particular interest. The New Normal moves…

Ferns and Fern Allies of Saskatchewan
Nature Saskatchewan / 31 August 2011

Ferns and Fern Allies of Saskatchewan by Vernon L. Harms and Anna L. Leighton Published by Nature Saskatchewan Review by Sandy Bonny $ 19.95 ISBN-13 987-0-921104-27-8 This book provides a keyed guide to the ferns and fern allies (quillworts, club-mosses, spike-mosses and horsetails) of Saskatchewan—a boon to medicinal herbalists, fiddlehead gourmets, and environmentalists interested in the identification and preservation of rare plants and their habitats. Ferns and Fern Allies of Saskatchewan includes 58 species from all parts of the province; several are rare or endangered but many are pervasive species that will be familiar to local readers. A first flip through the book brought waves of nostalgia for afternoons spent pulling apart the black banded segments of the hollow green stalks of Equisetum hyemale, Common Scouring Rush, on the banks of the South Saskatchewan. There was also a moment of revelation: those strange brown pillars that waved above the moss beds we hid in playing ‘flags in the woods’ at summer camp were cones, the fruiting bodies of Lycopodium lagopus, Running Club Moss. The ferns that my husband and I struggle to keep from taking over our shaded urban yard belong to Matteuccia struthiopteris, the Ostrich Ferns, and I was…