Off the Page

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

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Book Cover The Orange Shirt Story

Books for Orange Shirt Day

By Julie Booker

Books to connect younger readers with the tragic legacy of Canada's residential schools.

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The Chat with Emily Urquhart

The Chat with Emily Urquhart

By Trevor Corkum

In The Age of Creativity (House of Anansi Press), Emily Urquhart challenges us to reconsider our thinking around artisti …

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Book Cover Noopiming

Launchpad: NOOPIMING, by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

By Kerry Clare

"This is bold storytelling drawing upon a rich history to present a possible future. Simpson is generously gifting reade …

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Book Cover Brighten the Corner Where You ARe

Fiction We Can't Wait to Read This Fall

By Kerry Clare

29 books that should be on your radar.

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Super September Giveaway!

Super September Giveaway!

By Kiley Turner

Did we call it this because of the alliteration? Maybe, but more because the books up for grabs here are SO GOOD. Enter …

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Book Cover Crosshairs

Launchpad: CROSSHAIRS, by Catherine Hernandez

By Kerry Clare

"Crosshairs asks us what we will do to resist and build a better future when faced with such momentous and dangerous tim …

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The Chat with Bahar Orang

The Chat with Bahar Orang

By Trevor Corkum

Bahar Orang’s Where Things Touch is a stirring, wholly invigorating meditation on beauty and memory. Part prose, part …

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Book Cover Angel Wing Splash Pattern

Launchpad: ANGEL WING SPLASH PATTERN, by Richard Van Camp

By Kerry Clare

"If your heart needs an ever-exploding series of glitter bombs, please read Angel Wing Splash Pattern. We are so proud o …

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Book Cover The Ghost in the House

Launchpad: THE GHOST IN THE HOUSE, by Sara O'Leary

By Kerry Clare

"This beguiling page turner of a novel is a story for all seasons—the seasons of the year, and yes, the seasons of our …

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Book Cover THe Manana Treehouse

5 Books for World Alzheimer's Month

By Kerry Clare

In fiction and nonfiction, these authors whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer's Disease bear witness and weave sto …

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The Tombstone Ghost by Mark Leslie: An Excerpt from Haunted Hamilton

Book Cover Haunted Hamilton

On an otherwise typical Sunday night in June 1971, around the time that Ontario Place opened in Toronto, Federal Express was founded in Little Rock, Arkansas, and The Ed Sullivan Show made its last broadcast on CBS-TV, Norm and Sherrie Bilotti encountered something dark and mysterious in their home—a far more memorable event for them.

Norm Bilotti was startled out of a peaceful midsummer night’s dream by the shrill screams of his wife, Sherrie. When his eyes shot open, he immediately spied what was causing Sherrie’s sudden bout of night terrors: a faceless female shape cloaked in a long flowing gown was hovering just a few feet above their bed. They were both frozen in fear, staring at the figure before them and trying to determine exactly what it was.

Norm vocalized his query, asking his wife what the hell it was as he sat up in the bed. Almost as if in reaction to his voice and motion, the shape slowly moved to the foot of the bed. He was able to estimate her height as approximately six feet before it retreated from the bed and toward the wall. It seemed to grow smaller, then completely vanished.

Not believing his eyes, Norm leapt from the bed, ran to the light switch, and lit up the room. There was nothing by the wall where the figure had disappeared. He mo …

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Books and Ghosts: Tomes of Terror

Book Cover Tomes of Terror

Books and ghosts: how could we not feature Mark Leslie's new book, Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries, on 49th Shelf during the week leading up to Halloween? It's a collection of true tales about spooky places rife with books and ghosts, and even some less spooky places where you'd least expect a ghostly encounter—like a Smithbooks located in a suburban shopping mall. We're pleased to share that story with you here, as well as another about a library reportedly haunted by a young woman whose face has been glimpsed peering out from the tower window. 

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Goosebumps at Smithbooks

Smithbooks, Sherway Gardens

Etobicoke, Ontario

The ghostly residents of many beloved bookstore locations that are now closed continue to haunt the hearts and minds of both patrons and staff members. These spirits are all the more memorable if, like any good customer, they display a penchant for a particular author’s books.

I was intrigued to chat with an old bookseller colleague about an experience that she had when she worked at a bookstore than has been closed now for about 14 years. Even though Shannon left the store back in 1998, she kept with her a fond and deep love for the bookstore, her fellow staff members, and the customers of the Smithbooks at Sherway Gardens.

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A Chilling Tale: "Trickster," by Rui Umezawa

Book Cover Strange Light Afar

In Strange Light Afar, Rui Umezawa revisits eight popular Japanese folktales, delving beneath their sometimes baffling plot lines to highlight the psychological motivations behind the characters’ actions. Sometimes laced with ironic humor, sometimes truly horrifying, these stories of the strange and supernatural are written to particularly speak to teenagers, although they will appeal to readers of all ages.

We are pleased to share this chilling excerpt from the story, "Trickster." 

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Night had fallen like a strange, dark curtain on the woods surrounding the house. I tried to find my way back into town, hoping to find the old noodle vendor, who might share a bit more of his wine.

I decided the surest path was to follow the river, which I knew cut the town in half. The moon hid among tree branches, in and out of clouds. Pillars of light appeared, then disappeared across the trail, and a breath of chill caressed the back of my neck. A murmur in the water and the whisper of leaves made me think maybe I should walk faster.

After a time, I came upon a woman crouched by the path, quietly sobbing into her hands. You could tell she was from class. The wind carried the enticing scent of her flowery perfume, and this made me stop. 

Normally, I’m not one to do much for st …

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Christy-Ann Conlin: Strange Hauntings in Canadian Literature

Book Cover The Memento

Not to get all controversial, but summer itself is nearly a ghost, as we find ourselves now in the final days of August. And as we turn our minds to the turn of the season, it seems fitting to turn to ghost stories as well, autumn being their optimal season, what with bare trees like skeletons, all that fetid decay, and Halloween, of course.

Christy-Ann Conlin, author of The Memento—a ghost story that has made a perfect summer book for many readers—selects for us some of CanLit's strangest and most peculiar hauntings.

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The Broken Hours, by Jaqueline Baker

The Broken Hours is a period piece set in Providence, Rhode Island in the mid-1930s, both a ghost story and a fictional portrait of cult favourite writer, H.P. Lovecraft. I gobbled up this ghostly tale in a night and love it for how unexpected the ghost is, both who, when, and how it appears. The novel is complete with creaking doors, shadows, and distortions of time which would make Shirley Jackson proud.

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Books to Inspire Storytelling (With Tech Tools to Capture the Tales)

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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At the beginning of each summer, as school is winding its way to the end, I inevitably pull out my books of ghost stories. I spend some quality time with the likes of Henry James, Robertson Davies, and Shirley Jackson and think back to when I was a child, roasting marshmallows and telling spooky tales over a campfire on a warm summer night. There are so many kids I see in my library with amazing and inventive stories to tell. Unfortunately some of these stories are never told, as the writing process does not come easily for everyone. Here is a list of books to inspire the oral tradition of storytelling and some tech tools that can help to capture these magical tales from the vivid imaginations of our students.

Podcasting

Two humorous stories about Coyote make up the book Coyote Tales by Thomas King, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler. In “Coyote Sings to the Moon,” Coyote causes the moon to become angry and hide at the bottom of the pond, in a tale explaining why coyotes howl at the moon. “Coyote’s New Suit” is the hilarious story of Coyote stealing the furs of animals, forcing them to steal pe …

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