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

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Book Cover Memoir Conversations and Craft

Dazzling Memoirs

By Marjorie Simmins

Marjorie Simmins, author of MEMOIR: CONVERSATIONS AND CRAFTS, recommends her dream lineup of memoirs.

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For Fans of Grisham, Munro, Wolitzer, Shriver, and More

For Fans of Grisham, Munro, Wolitzer, Shriver, and More

By Kiley Turner

Isn't it great when you find a new author or series that fits your reading taste to a tee? Here are a few new books that …

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Book Cover Big Reader

A Taster: Spring 2021 Nonfiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

Life stories, family, baseball, and retreat. These highlight the nonfiction we're most looking forward to this spring. 

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ICYMI: Don't Miss These Beauties

ICYMI: Don't Miss These Beauties

By Kiley Turner

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our attention spans, making it possible to miss really great fiction. These books caug …

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Book Cover Small Courage

Small Courage: Parenting Memoirs

By Jane Byers

A recommended reading list by Jane Byers, whose new queer parenting memoir is out now.

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The Chat with Kimiko Tobimatsu

The Chat with Kimiko Tobimatsu

By Trevor Corkum

Author Kimiko Tobimatsu and illustrator Keet Geniza have teamed up to create Kimiko Does Cancer, a timely graphic memoir …

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Book Cover Best Canadian Poetry 2020

A Record of Literary History: Best Canadian Poetry 2020

By Marilyn Dumont

An excerpt from Marilyn Dumont's introduction to BEST CANADIAN POETRY 2020.

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Book Cover Book of Donair

The Donair: Canada's Official Food?

By Lindsay Wickstrom

Excerpt from BOOK OF DONAIR explores how a bitter rivalry between Halifax and Edmonton helped propel the donair to be de …

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Book Cover My Ocean is Blue

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Questions, Questions

By Julie Booker

Great picture books that engage with questions and encourage readers to think about answers.

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Book Cover Gutter Child

Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Spring Fiction Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

Exciting debuts, and new releases by Christy Ann Conlin, Pasha Malla, Eva Stachniak, Jael Richardson, and more.

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Video: @BookMadam's Hands On Holiday Book Recommendations #GiveCDN #HolidayGift

Rememberer by YORODEO (Invisible Publishing).

Rememberer by YORODEO (Invisible Publishing).

This time of year, maybe it's the anticipation of mangling every gift-wrapped item, but I get excited about a hands on holiday. Perhaps it's because we carry more, cook more, put up more—put up with more—that I get a little giggly at the idea of myself as an elf in Santa's workshop—busy, busy, busy. True, in my vision, it's also a reality show in which the elf who finishes the most toys with grace and charm is crowned the winner. But, I digress.

Hands on, doesn't have to equal mad frenzy. Or a circular saw. Me? I like to colour. I like to sit down with a child—cue imaginary friend—and let rip. It's the perfect zen activity for someone who doesn't consider herself an artist. In Lynda Barry's book Picture This, she asks why it is that we don't consider colouring an art form when to sing another's work is still song. Is it all about the act of creation? Or is it about the impulse to use something other than words and language to express ourselves? And that a template is outlined for us has little to do with how we fill that space.

So, this holiday, when I have some time to myself, I'm going to take a colouring book to my favourite cafe, order myself the largest hot chocolate on the menu and bust out my crayo …

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When Anne Carson meets Charles Schultz: Kyo Maclear on picture books for grown-ups

Book Cover Virginia Wolf

I looked at the bookshelf in my study this morning and found Anne Carson sitting alongside Charles Schultz. I have no idea what they were doing there together, but I would like to think they were having a fruitful conversation. (They both like to draw. They are both observant and funny.)

There are picture books of all kinds on my “grown-up” shelf. Some I pilfered from my children. Some I bought for myself. Some are a little beyond me but I figure I’ll grow into them.

Book Cover Stray Love

Lately unaccompanied prose feels bereft to me. Perhaps it’s all the time I have spent in the company of my young sons, who believe a book without pictures is a travesty. (Why not just make a book without a binding, or page numbers?)

In the belief that grownups need pictures too, I’ve assembled a selection of adult-friendly visual reads.

Pear Tree Pomes by Roy Kiyooka: Call me naïve but I really believe that print books will continue to flourish for the next millennium. They will survive on the basis of their physical and tactile beauty. How can a book that touches you back ever be …

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For Young Readers: Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2012

Toads on Toast is the latest picture book by the award-winning Linda Bailey (her many works including the Stanley books and Goodnight Sweet Pig), illustrated by Colin Jack. Genevieve Cote, whose honours include the 2007 Governor General's Award for illustration, releases Mr. King's Things, the story of a materialistic cat who has to change his ways. Andrea Curtis's What's For Lunch?, with photographs by Yvonne Duivenvoorden, is a non-fiction book about school lunches around the world. The Shade and the Sorceress launches "The Last Days of Tian Di", a trilogy by Catherine Egan, about a young girl who discovers she's connected to a line of great sorceresses, but is incapable of magic herself. My Name is Parvanna is the sequel to Deborah Ellis's The Breadwinner.

Mr Zinger’s Hat is a new picture book by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Dusan Petricic, about a boy who learns to build a story. Sheree Fitch's marvelous collection of nonsense poems Toes in My Nose has been reissued, reimagined with new illustrations by Sydney Smith. Marie-Louise Gay's Stella stor …

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"Easy as pie. NOT!" Sharon McKay on Transforming Her Novel into a Graphic Novel

Book Cover War Brothers

Transforming War Brothers from a novel into a graphic novel was easy as pie and it only took a week! NOT! Here’s what really happened:

Comic book writer J. Torris (Bigfoot Boy, Jinx) gave a copy of War Brothers (the novel) to artist Daniel Lafrance. Dan was inspired enough to make a few sketches. He then drew ten pages of sequential art to include in a proposal. Holding my breath, I showed them to Rick Wilks, Director of Annick Press. Here’s where I say, “and the rest is history.” But wait!

I had a huge learning curve ahead of me. Dan had to carry me like a sack of potatoes. Yes, the words in the book are mine, but it was Dan who figured out how to transform them into a meaningful and powerful graphic form.

Initially, I was worried about the level of violence in the story. Make no mistake, there is NO gratuitous or unjustified violence in this book. It’s all real and happening right now. It’s not possible to write about child soldiers without showing the brutality, and reminding the reader that these children are both perpetrators and victims.

Page from War Brothers

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Notes from a Children's Librarian 940s: History in Graphic Form

Our children's librarian columnist Julie Booker brings us the latest in book banter.

One of the most powerful tools a librarian has in her arsenal is book banter, particularly with Junior kids. To be able to recommend and discuss the latest Kevin Sylvester or Gordon Korman is what places him/her in the hub of the community. But gone are the days of the shush-ing librarian, nose stuck in a book behind the circulation counter, reading for countless hours. One short-cut solution for the librarian who wishes to remain in the know: graphic novels. I devoured the following three in one night and learned a bit of history in the process.

Book Cover Two Generals

The opening pages of Scott Chantler’s beautifully designed World War II novel Two Generals feel like the establishing shots of an epic movie, the kind that tell you you’re in the hands of an expert filmmaker. And, like a great director, Chantler brilliantly plays with the element of time, using foreshadowing as well as temporal jump cuts at the end which reveal the author’s reason for writing the book. The novel’s colour palette is black, white and army green, uncharacteristically depicting much of the waiting that happens in war. Blood red is used strategically to denote death creeping in. Two Generals has rounded corners and a bu …

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