Off the Page
A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between
Because Canadian children's poetry doesn't begin and end with Alligator Pie, Julie Booker offers up some excellent title …
On finding the story inside history, and bringing it alive for kids.
The author of new novel The Winter Family with a list of novels that take us back—often to the Old West and a wild fro …
This week's Quick Hits looks at books that delve into magic, otherness, and the extraordinary.
May 2, authors across the country will be volunteering in indie bookstores across the nation—mark your calendars! Here …
Andrea Routley asks questions about inspiration, queerness, and politics, and what they're looking forward to about work …
The future holds new and exciting ways to present and package history to Canadians.
Kate Cayley: "Sometimes a poem becomes a way of living..."
Today Sean Cranbury talks with Kristi Charish, author of the new urban fantasy, Owl and the Japanese Circus.
Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.
Other Goose: Recycled Rhymes for Our Fragile Times, by Barbara Wyn Klunder, is a little gem, with etching style illustrations. Its tongue-in-cheek take on the environment includes poems about "This little piggy" going to market but not finding parking, Jack and Jill opting for bottled water, and "Baa baa, black sheep/ Have you any gas?/ Are you kidding me, man? / No one has!" The collection addresses second-hand smoke, logging, consumerism, food banks, the soil cycle, pollution, politics, gas dependency, today's fast-pace, environmental allergens, oil slicks, the role of art and celebrity. Because of the high-level humour and the need to understand the context of the satire, this one would work best with grades 4 to 6.
Voices from the Wild, An Animal Sensagoria, by David Bouchard, paintings by Ron Parker, is a dialogue between a Northern painter and his animal subjects. It's divided into five sections, with creatures sorted according to their dominant …
It is because truth is stranger than fiction that it turns out Avis Dolphin was the name of an actual person before she was the subject of Frieda Wishinksy's latest book. Avis Dolphin is her story, about a young girl's journey from Canada to England on the ill-fated Lusitania during WW1. Avis is lonely and afraid until she meets a kindly professor whose stories of a magical island help her face an uncertain future. And when the Lusitania is attacked, Avis must draw on all her newfound strength to cope with the confusion, terror, and despair.
How can she survive the sudden devastation of the ship? Will the people she cares about, especially the professor, live through the horror and danger? Wishinsky's story is complemented by the art of Willow Dawson, graphic novel illustrations depicting the stories the Professor tells to Avis.
In this guest post, Frieda Wishinsky explains how she learned about making stories from history come to life.
I "found" Avis Dolphin while researching shipwrecks for a non-fiction book. As soon as I read about this 12-year-old who survived the torpedoing of the ocean liner Lusitania on May 7, 1915, I was intrigued. Her story was even more engaging than her name but I had many questions that the facts and official accounts didn’t answ …
"Tracing a gang of ruthless outlaws from its birth during the American Civil War to a final bloody showdown in the Territory of Oklahoma, The Winter Family is a hyperkinetic Western noir and a full-on assault to the senses." Intrigued yet? Craig Davidson reports that this novel "lit my synapses up like a pinball machine."
We're pleased that today we've got Clifford Jackman with a list of Canadian works of historical fiction. It's a good one.
Some years back, I was writing a novel set in Victorian London and I wanted to do a little research—this was before Wikipedia. So, deciding to read some stories set in that time period, I picked up my copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes. You can imagine my surprise when I found no descriptions of hansom cabs or gaslights or anything like that. Then it struck me: Doyle had no need to describe any of that stuff, because his audience had already known all about it. He would no more provide a detailed description of a hansom cab than a modern writer would describe a Honda Civic.
There are many great challenges in writing a historical novel. You'll never get it all right, anachronisms will always creep in, but you're writing for a modern audience anyway, and what you're searching for is not authenticity but to create a partic …
In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.
The Fionavar Tapestry Omnibus, by Guy Gavriel Kay
In the three novels that make up the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road), five University of Toronto students find themselves transported to a magical land to do battle with the forces of evil. At a Celtic conference, Kimberley, Kevin, Jennifer, Dave, and Paul meet wizard Loren Silvercloak. Returning with him to the magical kingdom of Fionavar to attend a festival, they soon discover that they are being drawn into the conflict between the dark and the light as Unraveller Rakoth Maugrim breaks free of his mountain prison and threatens the continued existence of Fionavar. They join mages, elves, dwarves, and the forces of the High King of Brennin to do battle with Maugrim, where Kay's imaginative powers as a world-builder come to the fore. He stunningly weaves Arthurian legends into the fluid mix of Celtic, No …
Oh, my, what a month! April marks the first anniversary of this column, which offers monthly recommendations from independent booksellers across the country—the books you need to read, from people who know reading best.
(Waiting a moment, looking around ... Where’s the balloon drop?)
To celebrate, we have something even better than a balloon drop. We have an entire national movement! This month we have an extra-special, jumbo-sized edition of Shelf Talkers, wherein some of Canada’s finest authors weigh in with their recommendations. We’re not only celebrating the anniversary of this column, we’re pitching in and helping out with the Authors for Indies program.
On May 2, under the auspices of the Authors for Indies program, writers from across the country will be serving as volunteer booksellers at their local independent bookstore, helping out customers with their picks, throwing their support behind Canada’s independent booksellers.
In this month’s column, we’ve asked some of those volunteer, one-day booksellers for their picks, a sneak preview of what you can expect next month.
May 2: Mark that date on your calendar, and make a point of visiting your favourite authors at your favourite indie.
Until then, enjoy these picks, and thank you for reading this year. We’re just getting started.