Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

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Book Cover Notes Towards Recovery

Louise Ells: Short Story Stunners

By [Kerry Clare]

Collections that inspired her as she wrote her debut, Notes Towards Recovery

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Book Cover What's My Superhero

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books on Health and Wellness

By [Kerry Clare]

Books that focus on self-awareness—understanding personal strengths, recognizing sources of stress, making decisions, …

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Book Cover A Joy to be Hidden

Ariela Freedman: Jewish Canadian Fiction

By [Kerry Clare]

A recommended reading list by the award-winning author of the new novel A Joy To Be Hidden

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Book Cover The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane

Awesome Girls in Middle-Grade Fiction

By [Kerry Clare]

A recommended reading list by Julia Nobel, whose novel is The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane

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Book Cover Fierce

25 Books for International Women's Day

By [Kerry Clare]

Books on women's history, suffrage, reproductive experiences, memoir, menstrual cycles, athletics, and so much more—in …

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Book Cover the Migration

Helen Marshall: Weird Fiction

By [Kerry Clare]

"Weird fiction zigzags across the boundaries between horror and fantasy, sometimes chilling, sometimes beautiful, but al …

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The Chat with Ian Williams

The Chat with Ian Williams

By [Trevor Corkum]

Reproduction, the debut novel by Ian Williams, is a stunner. By any measure. Structurally daring, emotionally profound, …

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Logo 1000 Islands Writers Festival

Your 2019 Spring Festival Guide

By [Kerry Clare]

Across the country, organizers and volunteers-extraordinaire are programming epic celebrations of books and the amazing …

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End of February Giveaway

End of February Giveaway

By [Kiley Turner]

There has never been a better time for a surprise giveaway. Here’s how it works. Kerry and I will each tell you a TINY …

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Louise Ells: Short Story Stunners

Louise Ells shares short story collections that inspired her as she wrote her own debut, Notes Towards Recovery

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Notes Towards Recovery comprises 21 short stories thematically linked through loss and the spaces around loss. At the centre of my stories are women who navigate holes created in their families due to distance, disappearance, dementia, divorce, or death, often reinventing themselves in the process. How do you identify yourself after losing the role by which you were defined? If you have always labelled yourself as a mother, who/what do you become when your child dies? 

Questions my characters ask include: How do we live with the knowledge that we are unable to protect from all harm the people we love? How do we confirm the truth of a matter, when the facts of an event are accessible only via a memory, which may or may not be entirely trustworthy? How do we make a choice when both options are equally difficult to imagine? What role does silence play in communication? Woven throughout the collection is the suggestion that people create identities though the telling and re-telling of their stories. 

Due to their brevity, short stories are a medium well-suited to the exploration of loss; even as I introduce a character, I am readying readers for the loss …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books on Health and Wellness

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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The Health curriculum in the Junior Division focuses on self-awareness—understanding personal strengths, recognizing sources of stress, making decisions, and evaluating choices—as students acquire knowledge and skills related to healthy living. Sometimes picture books can be overlooked for Juniors as a way to open up discussion of these vital concepts—but in this list, we take advantage of them. 

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Whimsy’s Heavy Things, by Julie Kraulis, with its beautiful dream-like illustrations, is the story of Whimsy and all that weighs her down. The heavy things look like black balls (the size of bowling balls). She tries sweeping them under the carpet, ignoring them, sinking them, but they always come back, causing even greater problems. Finally, she thinks of breaking them into smaller pieces—i.e. into marbles with her friend—thus, making her heavy things lighter.

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Book Cover Max's Treasure

Max’s Treasure, by Michelle Persyko, photography by Jessica Newman, illustrated by Sha …

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Ariela Freedman: Jewish Canadian Fiction

Ariela Freedman's first novel, Arabic for Beginners, was shortlisted for the QWF Concordia University First Book Prize and is the Winner of the 2018 J. I. Segal Prize for Fiction. Her second novel is A Joy to be Hidden, set in New York City during the 1990s. It's about a young woman who uncovers a family secret while sorting through her grandmother's belongings after the death of her father. 

Her recommended reading list features other great books by Jewish Canadian writers. 

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Book Cover Dangling Man

Dangling Man, by Saul Bellow

Do Canadians get to claim Saul Bellow? Bellow was born in Lachine, a Montreal suburb, in 1915 and lived in Montreal until 1924. His childhood home shows up in his first novel as “a slum between a market and a hospital…And the pungency and staleness of its stores and cellars, the dogs, the boys, the French and immigrant woman, the beggars with sores and deformities whose like I was not to meet again until I was old enough to read of Villon’s Paris, the very breezes in the narrow course of that street have remained so clear to me that I sometimes t …

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Awesome Girls in Middle-Grade Fiction

The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane is Julia Nobel's debut novel, and the first in a series about a mysterious English boarding school. In this recommended reading list, Nobel nominates other great middle-grade titles that feature awesome girls. 

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Whenever we talk about strong female characters in children’s fiction, the discussion is almost always limited to books aimed at young adults. Moreover, the definition of "strong" is usually quite narrow, focused on characters who use physical or magical strength to fight for their people. Such a restricted definition of strength is troubling because it doesn’t allow young readers to see that being strong doesn’t have to look a certain way, nor is it something that evolves when a person is older. The following books offer us many different visions of what a strong female character can look like, even when that character is still in their tweens.

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Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier

Nan lives a life of indentured servitude as a chimney sweep in Victorian London. After being trappe …

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Fierce: The Secret Life of Miss Freeman

Book Cover Fierce

Fierce: Women Who Shaped Canada, written by Lisa Dalrymple with illustrations by Willow Dawson, is a collection of fascinating biographical stories about ten women who've shaped the story of Canada. "Often relegated to the sidelines of history, the women highlighted in this book were performed feats that most people would never even dream of. You may not know their names now, but after reading their stories, you won’t soon forget them." This book is geared toward middle-grade readers, but readers of all ages will find much to discover in its pages. 

We're excited to share an excerpt from the story of Alice Freeman, the Toronto school teacher who led a double life...

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Alice Freeman

February 1888 Toronto, Ontario

Though the students at Ryerson School loved Miss Freeman, none of them knew her secret. At the end of the day, when they went home to their chores and their beds, she became Faith Fenton, investigative reporter for the Empire newspaper in Toronto, Ontario. She spent her nights doing things that surely no teacher would do—like interviewing famous actresses or visiting jails and homeless shelters, before walking home alone down dark city streets in the early hours of the morning. By the time her students arrived back at school, Miss Freeman was standing by …

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