December 2019 Staff Picks

Updated 2019/12/19

Brenda’s Pick: Maiden DVD

Cover image for Maiden [videorecording].“The finish line knows no gender.” This is a true sailing story with original footage from 1989. What makes it so unique, exciting, and inspiring is that it was the first time a crew of all women sailed in the Whitbread Round the World Race.  Tracy Edwards, a 26-year-old from England was refused by any of the teams (of men) she asked to join…so she raised funds, purchased a boat and rounded up a team of like-minded women. Together they surpassed any and all  expectations as they sailed the course over 167 days at sea on the various legs. This story is enhanced by interviews with the women now, 30 years later.

Jayme’s Pick: The Break by Katherena Vermette

When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.

In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed.

Jayme’s Pick: Brother by David Chariandy

An intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, tightly constructed novel, Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991.

With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home. “A heartbreaking and timely story about the profound love that exists between brothers and the senseless loss of lives cut short with the shot of a gun.”

Jayme’s Pick: The rough patch by Brian Lies

Evan, a farmer, is a red fox; his best friend and trusty companion is a black mutt. They do everything together, including work in Evan’s lush garden. Eventually the dog dies, and Evan is inconsolable. Progressing through the stages of grief, Evan mourns, then feels bitter anger and destroys the garden, hacking it to pieces (presumably not, as some readers may wonder, the corner where he buried his friend). Matching Evan’s mood, the formerly beautiful place is now weed-filled and forlorn.

A creeping pumpkin vine gradually helps Evan to reassess his thinking. Deciding not to destroy the nascent plant, he cultivates it; his tender horticultural touch allows the pumpkin to develop into a gourd of enormous proportions. Bringing it to the fair, Evan wins third place—and oh, what a prize he chooses, revealed wordlessly on the book’s final page! 

Joanne’s Pick: Feeding my mother by Jann Arden

Cover image for Feeding my mother : comfort and laughter in the kitchen as my mom lives with memory lossFeeding my mother by Jann Arden is a funny and inspirational account about Jann Arden’s experience in caring for her aging parents.  It is a very touching and honest memoir of the day to day difficulties dealing with her parents failing health and how Alzheimer’s changes her mom into a stranger in small painful increments. Jann describes how caring and cooking for her parents changes her own life for the better and helps her to value small things in life by taking one day at a time.  This book is full of tears, laughter, hope, good food and a daughter’s unconditional love for her mother.

Joanne’s Pick: Draw your day by Samantha Dion Baker

Cover image for Draw your day : an inspiring guide to keeping a sketch journalWriting a journal is the in thing to do.  It seems it may be more popular than Brussel sprouts and just as good for you! This wonderfully inspiring book takes you one step further with adding art to your daily or weekly journal.  No need to be an artist as this is for your own pleasure and you can just use any writing material you have on hand.  I find that I’m more aware of my surroundings throughout the day and even small things are interesting. The book is full of lovely illustrations and helpful ideas and information about how to get started. It may be a good Christmas present for someone on your list!

Megan’s Pick: Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related by Jenny Heijun Wills

Cover image for Older sister. Not necessarily relatedOnce in a while I read a book, a really great book, that lingers with me long after I’ve closed it. As I get closer and closer to the end a sense of dread hits me because I know I’ll have to say good bye to it, the narrator and the story that pulled me in for 200ish pages. I felt this way with Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. It’s a memoir, but it’s more than that. It’s prose poetry. It’s lyric essay. It’s a meditation. Whatever name or label you want to give it, what comes through on every page is the power of Jenny Heijun Wills’s voice and storytelling. I will likely have to reread this one again, because I don’t want to forget the beauty held between the covers of this book.

Natalie’s Pick: Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Cover image for Half broke horses : a true-life novelThe author features her fearless and resourceful grand-mother Lily Casey Smith in this true-story account. At age six Lily is breaking horses, at age 15 she travels solo on her horse 500 miles to become a frontier schoolteacher… she overcomes tragedy, learns to fly planes, and survives the Great Depression. Walls is known for her heart-wrenching memoir The Glass Castle, but this story is pure pioneering joy.

Sonia’s Pick: A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

Cover image for A big mooncake for Little StarWho ate the Mooncake? This sweet story about a mother and daughter baking a cake together invents its own delicious mythology to explain moon phases. Set against a black backdrop, the yellow crumbs of the diminishing mooncake create a twinkling trail back to the the culprit. Simple, yet multilayered, this story speaks to patience, temptation, natural cycles and mother-daughter relationships.