Off the Page
A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between
Canada Day IS a special day, so this month, we have a special Canada Day edition of the Shelf Talkers column, an oversiz …
Books that promise to enrich your visits to Canadian cities from coast to coast to coast.
An excellent stack of summer reads guaranteed to make those long days (and nights!) even better.
Great books to entice reluctant readers or to read aloud to a younger crowd.
"When children don’t see themselves reflected in books they read...that sends a powerful and silencing message."…
You will never look at any of these titles in quite the same way again.
All the info you need to start getting your fest on.
I think it’s easy, for many of us, to take the July 1 holiday for granted. I mean, what better way to kick off the heights of summer than with a stat, right? Especially when that stat is on a Friday, so you’ve got a three-day weekend. Time you can spend grilling and sipping and hiking and gardening and swimming and generally playing in the sun (though, if you’re me, the long weekend seems, traditionally, to be one of cleaning and organizing and general housework, I’m not sure why).
Too often, though, the significance of July 1 is lost, or overlooked. It’s not just any holiday, it’s Canada Day, a chance to celebrate what it means to be Canadian.
This is not as easy as it appears. As Canadians, we tend not to go in for jingoism or fervent national pride. We’re well aware of our problem areas, our shadows. Sure, there are fireworks (literally, in some places), but we tend to be thoughtful about what Canada means, what Canada is.
The other thing we tend to do is celebrate year-round, in our own low-key way. Look at the arts. We’re talking about a nation unified in its support of Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie following the announcement of his cancer. And we’re a nation that regularly has writers appearing on the shortlists for international prizes.
But even that is somewhat ridiculous—we don’t need international recognition for our writers; we know Canada’s literature belongs on the world stage. It’s a given. More importantly, and crucially, we’re a nat …
On this week’s chat, we’re in conversation with Amy Jones, author of the big-hearted novel We’re All in This Together. The book follows the various members of the Parker family, whose stories and lives intersect after matriarch Kate plummets over a local waterfall in a barrel.
In a starred review, Quill & Quire says Jones “has created a novel of great psychological insight and a kind of sharp-edged tenderness that revels not in family dysfunction, but in its “beautiful, crazy chaos.”
Amy Jones won the 2006 CBC Literary Prize for Short Fiction and was a finalist for the 2005 Bronwen Wallace Award. She is a graduate of the Optional Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at UBC, and her fiction has appeared in Best Canadian Stories and The Journey Prize Stories. Her debut collection of stories, What Boys Like, was the winner of the 2008 Metcalf-Rooke Award and a finalist for the 2010 ReLit Award. Originally from Halifax, she now lives in Thunder Bay, where she is associate editor of The Walleye. Follow her on Twitter @AmyLauraJones.
THE CHAT …
This month we've been talking about road trips and travel guides, and now we've put together a list of ultimate guides to Canadian city breaks. Some of these are traditional travel guides and others definitively otherwise—a book about Montreal's underground city, a guide to Regina's "secret spaces," and Calgary-in-verse among them—but each of them promises to enrich your visit to Canadian cities from coast to coast to coast.
St. John's: A Brief History, by Joan Rusted
A concise, comprehensive overview of the oldest city in North America. St John’s: A Brief History describes how, through war and the fishery, Newfoundland became settled, a colony, a Dominion of the British Empire, and finally a province of Canada. The book highlights the landmarks and historic sites of old St John’s, architecture and historic buildings, the harbour, its seafaring heritage,the oil and gas industry, and the outlook for the future. The book is illustrated with maps and contains some quirky facts.
Prince Edward Island
Summertime ... and the books are amazing. Here we present you with an excellent stack of great summer reads guaranteed to make those long days (and nights!) even better.
Thirteen Shells, by Nadia Bozak
About the book: Spanning the late 1970s to the late 1980s, Nadia Bozak’s thirteen stories are narrated from the perspective of Shell, the only child of bohemian artisans determined to live off their handicrafts and uphold a left-wing lifestyle. At the age of five, Shell’s world is transformed when the family moves into a new house, where she grows up. Over time, she gradually trades her unconventional upbringing for junk food, rock music, and boys. All the while, Shell quietly watches her parents’ loveless marriage fall apart and learns to survive divorce, weight gain, heartache, and first love.
A funny, sensitive portrayal of the innocence and uncertainty of childhood and adolescence, Thirteen Shells is a true-to-life collection that is as unforgettable as it is poignant.
Why we're taking notice: This is a slow and quiet book, perfect for long summer days. Its structure has been compared to Lives of Girls and Women, using stories to show a young woman's coming of age. If that's your kind of book, then don't miss this one from the acclaimed Bozak.
Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.
Enticing books for the reluctant grade 2/3 (and even 4/5) reader, these titles also work as great read alouds for a younger crowd.
Princess Pistachio, by Marie-Louise Gay, is a first chapter book with fun colourful illustrations on every page. The day Pistachio finds a crown and a note under her bed ("Happy Birthday, Princess!") she realizes her true identity: Princess of the island of Papua. Stolen as a child by a witch, she has been living with her adoptive parents ever since. Pistachio is immediately disgruntled with the tedious, non-princess aspects of her life: having to eat spinach, going to school, enduring the shenanigans of her baby sister, Penny. Her classmates make fun of her princess outfit, the boys next door playing knights don't believe her new identity, and her mother forces her to look after Penny, who believes she, herself, is a princess. Pistachio is forced to deal with some truths when Penny runs away from the grumpy Princess Pistachio. Five manageable chapters for a late-grade 2 student. In the sequel, Pistachio and the Pest, Pistachio is stuck minding Penny for the summer.