Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover Salma the Syrian Chef

Notes from a Children’s Librarian: Satisfying Endings

By Julie Booker

How do you create a sense of satisfaction in a story’s finale? The following books pull it off!

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49thShelf Summer Reads

Introducing the 49th Shelf Summer Books List: Part 2

By Kerry Clare

Our summer reads extravaganza continues with PART 2 of our Summer Books List, and once again, each and every title is up …

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Inclusive Learning, Diverse Books: Introducing Top Grade 2021

Inclusive Learning, Diverse Books: Introducing Top Grade 2021

By Spencer Miller

Welcome to the Association for Canadian publisher’s Top Grade: CanLit for the Classroom, a blog and preview video seri …

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Book Cover bread and water

Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2021 Nonfiction Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

New books about everything, including food, beauty, art, travel, singing, healing, grieving, shopping, aging, and so muc …

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Book Cover Unlocking

CanLit Yearning

By Amy LeBlanc

"At the heart of my novella and in each book on this CanLit list is a sense of desire or a yearning (for belonging, iden …

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The Chat with Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo

The Chat with Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo

By Trevor Corkum

This week we’re in conversation with political trailblazer Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo, whose memoir, The Queer Evangelist, …

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Book Cover The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour

Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Fall Fiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

With new books by Miriam Toews, Dawn Dumont, Douglas Coupland, Marie-Renee Lavoie, Omar El Akkad, Zoe Whittall, Trudy Mo …

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Book Cover The Quiet is Loud

Speculative Fiction: Vast and Thrilling

By Samantha Garner

"As a reader and a lightly superstitious human, I can’t deny the pull of the unusual, the not-quite-real. I love books …

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Book Cover Travels in Cuba

Writing with Four Hands

By Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel

"That’s what the Travels series is all about: sending a resourceful, observant, unafraid (well, sometimes a little afr …

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Anne Carson

The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Anne Carson

By Trevor Corkum

“Norma Jeane Baker of Troy leverages a millennia-old story of beauty and war to animate a history of the male gaze and …

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In Conversation With: Cheryl Foggo on the Personal, Political and Creating Space for Characters of Colour in Children's Literature

Cheryl Foggo is the author of Dear Baobab, illustrated by Qin Leng (Second Story Press). Dear Baobab is about a young boy, Maiko, who moves to North America from his village in Tanzania. He begins to identify with—and converse with—a little spruce tree that grows too close to his house. Rather than destroyed, the tree is ultimately relocated to a forest with the care of Maiko and his new family. It's about displacement, adopted homes and familial support. This summer, Quill & Quire gave Dear Baobab its highly-coveted Starred Review.

I had a chance to correspond with Cheryl about her personal and political journey as a writer, and the absence of people of colour in children's lit.

Julie Wilson: I've been thinking a lot about conversations I've had of late with editors and authors about the over-saturated publishing marketplace. Are there too many books? What constitutes a "necessary" book? Is that a dangerous question to ask? I consider your latest book, Dear Baobab, necessary and essential, yet it clearly comes from a personal place. Do you consider yourself a political writer? For instance, when writing this book, were you consciously responding to an absence of stories about people of colour?

Cheryl Foggo: Although my impulse to write comes from a creative cor …

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"We Need to Keep Talking About Our Rights": Ken Setterington on Freedom to Read Week

Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This year is the 30th anniversary and there are more than 50 events taking place across Canada.

49th Shelf spoke to author and children's librarian Ken Setterington about his own experiences with censorship, and the broader issues behind the Freedom to Read campaign. 

See Also: Freedom to Read List of Challenged Books in Canada

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Ken Setterington

49th Shelf: As an author and a children’s librarian, can you explain your own connections to the issues surrounding Freedom to Read Week and why these issues are important to you?

Ken Setterington: As someone who cares about children I have long been a supporter of Freedom to Read Week. Quite simply I know the pleasures and rewards that children and youth discover through reading. Reading makes children think and imagine—and as a children’s librarian I know that is something that I want. We want children to see their ow …

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Fun Poetry for Kids

As National Poetry Month begins to wind down, let's take a moment to highlight the poetry collections that tend to be read most voraciously, collections that are read and reread, whose poems are memorized and then recited through the decades. ("Suzy grew a moustache, a moustache, a moustache …"). Here is a list of Canadian poetry from Fitch to Fitch, and everything in-between is just as great. Some of the collections are classic and others brand new, but all are excellent introductions for young readers to the power of the poem. 

If I Had a Million Onions by Sheree Fitch is a word-bending, tongue-twisting, rollicking delight. Yayo's art is a perfect complement to Fitch's whimsy, and while these poems tend toward silly good fun ("Vaness Vanastra's/ A walking disastrah./ She fell in a  bowlful/ Of noodles and pasta."), if you look, you will find their serious edge. Fitch is a poet as attuned to the world's shadows as she is to its light, and many of these poems are pleas for young readers not to forget what they know as they head into the sometimes far more childish world of adulthood. Fitch is a wise woman, dispensing sage advice like, "Sing a song of doodledang,/ Dance an hour away./ My excellent advice is this:/ Read a poem a day."

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Middle-Grade Mojo, by Jeff Norton

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).

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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.

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Seeds of a Story: Part One

On Thursday, the Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards will be presented in Toronto. We asked the nominees to tell us about the seeds of their stories, the places from which their inspiration grew. Here are some of their responses. Part Two appears tomorrow. (Update: you can find it here!)

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Graffiti Knightby Karen Bass

Nominated for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People

"Graffiti Knight started over a cup of coffee. I had driven out to a friend’s farm for a visit, and we were discussing the progress of the novel I was currently revising. Talking about a young adult novel must have triggered the thought, because my friend mentioned that her father had been a teenager in Leipzig, Germany, during and after World War II. The conversation veered to other things. I knew that Leipzig had been in what was called the Soviet Zone, and over the following year, the idea took root that a teenager in post-WWII Leipzig could make a great YA story. When my friend’s father agreed to let me interview him, the story took off."

 

Brothe …

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