Off the Page
A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between
Some characters never leave us, they are so compelling, lovable, complex, and well written. Here are some great ones in …
New books by Fionncara MacEoin, Ian Weir, Chris Tougas, Patricia McCowan, and Malka Marom.
The author of Pedal revisits books that helped clarify her point of view.
September is about change, new routines, working things out and learning to work together with friends and schoolmates. …
Jeff Norton on why middle-grade reading is so much fun—and so important.
Yes. Kate Hargreaves, author of Leak, on monosyllabic poetry collections.
Exploring the reality of superheroes can actually enhance the lives of us ordinary mortals.
Today it's Michelle Berry's Red Letter Day, where she gets to do anything and everything she wants, including buying gre …
Books about magic, new frontiers in sex, resistance, forgetful elephants, and environmental devastation.
Chances are, when you think about a book you loved, it's not the sublime descriptions of architecture that come to mind. More likely, it's the characters—fictional, but in terms of impact, not. Characters happen to us, we care about them, love them, cringe at their foibles, laugh at their antics, and cry at their defeats. We want things for them, and we often flip pages faster and faster as our investment in them deepens.
Today some avid readers—Steph VanderMeulen, Léonicka Valcius, Dee Hopkins, Jaclyn Qua-Hiansen, Vicki Ziegler, and me (Kiley Turner)—talk about the CanLit characters that have most affected us and stayed with us. We all wanted to name at least twenty more, and on Twitter over the next week we'll be asking you to name some of your favourites (please use #bestcharacters). We'll then create a nice big list, with your picks included.
Steph VanderMuelen picks Patrick deWitt's barman and Trevor Cole's Jean Horemarsh
"Patrick deWitt’s Ablutions is chock-full of well-imagined, strange, and funny people, but the whiskey-loving barman i …
"On Our Radar" is a monthly 49th Shelf series featuring books with buzz worth sharing. We bring you links to features and reviews about great new books in a multitude of genres from all around the Internet.
Not the First Thing I've Missed, by Fionncara MacEoin
"Not the First Thing I’ve Missed, Saskatoon poet Fionncara MacEoin’s debut collection, anthologizes the break and swell of the everyday. The book indexes shortcomings, poverty, addiction, the transience of home, and the promising breadth of nature. Despite the book’s title, it is hard to imagine, with her spare, merciless, fearless verse, that MacEoin misses much of anything at all."
Will Starling, by Ian Weir
"So what exactly is the story about? That would be telling. It’s a rollicking good yarn with many twists and turns. It’s a mystery solved. It’s moonlit graveyards and surgeon’s tables, primitive instruments and strange experiments. It’s dastardly doings too ’orrible to cont …
Chelsea Rooney is the author of Pedal, which Steven W. Beattie recommended as a dazzling debut that "delves into situations and characters that many people will find uncomfortable... but does so in a manner that is intelligent and in no way exploitative." Beattie called Pedal "a brave book", and that same brave spirit (as well as Rooney's excellent prose) is on display in this list of books about sexuality and gender.
My novel, Pedal, looks at some uncomfortable areas: pedophilia, rape and child sexuality. (It’s also a funny book, I swear.) I took an inventory of works that deal with sexuality and that have stayed with me over the years. Revisiting them to remind myself of why they are important was a fascinating and uplifting experience: a good story lasts forever. It’s always there to hold you when you need it.
Dead Girls, by Nancy Lee
This was my first read when I moved from rural Nova Scotia to Vancouver at the age of eighteen. I read the second story, “Sally, in Parts,” on one of my very first bus rides—when I still thought you had to …
Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.
September is about change, new routines, working things out and learning to work together with friends and schoolmates. These books about creative thinking and collaboration to solve problems have never been so timely.
Any Questions, by Mary Louise-Gay, is a brilliant introduction to the writing process for readers as young as kindergarten. The book itself is a collaborative adventure, beginning with the author fielding questions during a school visit. “How do you write a story?” the kids ask. Gay begins by explaining a white piece of paper might inspire a snowstorm. But what if it’s a yellowish paper or a purplish gray? Gay then begins a story-within-a-story with the illustrated characters offering suggestions (along with the readers, especially if this is used as a read-aloud). Will it be about a ferocious snail or a boy who can fly? Gay decides on a shy giant and a purple beast. The reader watches how the author paints, creates, and writes, scratching things out, changing her mind. The illustrations are large, compelling, with enough detail to beg for a re-read. Plus, it’s paced perfectly so that the characters, and the reader, are disappointed when it …
Jeff Norton's new middle-grade novel, Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie, is a hilarious adventure narrated by Adam Meltzer—pre-teen, worrywart, and now zombie. In this post, Jeff explains how he came to be a reader (hint: divine luck via a good teacher and librarian and an inspirational author).
Middle grade can make or break a reader.
I went into middle school in sixth grade as very reluctant reader, well behind the curve of my friends, and escaped after eighth grade with a reading proficiency that set me up to enjoy (vs. resist) reading for pleasure.
I was lucky.
It was 1985, and my sixth grade teacher spotted my disinterest in books. Television, video games, and films were much more interesting to me than anything I could find in book form. Pineland Public School’s librarian collaborated with my teacher to introduce me to books that might catch my eye and hold my attention. I was reluctant, but they kept at it.
Finally, two genres helped transform me: thrills and laughs. The thrills hooked me, but the laughs reeled me in.
And there was one author who propelled me into a life of reading: Gordon Korman.