Off the Page

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

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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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"I Am Not At Peace": Ghosts and Haunting in Canadian Fiction

Graveyard at night

“There is a sense in which all novels are ghost stories: fictional characters are translucent phantoms, which readers believe in (or don’t); readers lurk in the presence of characters, spying on their most intimate moments, eavesdropping on their innermost thoughts. And however thoroughly the novelist establishes her characters’ motivations, however robustly she forges her chains of cause and effect everything that happens ultimately does so at the whim of the writer. Certain things have to happen for the narrative to progress… Every novel is haunted by a tyrannical poltergeist, in the form of its plot.” from “Poltergeist: The Little Stranger” by Thomas Jones, London Review of Books 9 July 2009

In Britain, a civilization so old that it’s nearly impossible not to be walking on a grave, it’s no surprise that fictional ghosts are abundant. From The Woman in White down to the The Woman in Black, the ghost story is a literary staple, and it’s taken comedy turns in novels by contemporary writers including Hilary Mantel and Nicola Barker.

In Canada, however, where bones underfoot are less common and those discovered often hearken back to colonial atrocities, our ghosts are not so playful. Something is extra-unnatural about the supernatural in Canadia …

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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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Halloween Exclusive: An Interview with Scaredy Squirrel

Book Cover Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween

From costume ideas to trick-or-treating strategies, Scaredy Squirrel helps readers plan for the spookiest night of the year! Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween is the second in a series of nutty safety guides featuring everyone's favourite worrywart. And Scaredy was kind enough to take some time away from his preparations to answer our most burning questions (with a fire extinguisher on hand, of course) about his new book and about his plans for Halloween. 

49th Shelf: Scaredy Squirrel, you’re afraid all year long, but at Halloween the world gets scary on purpose. Is this holiday extra frightening for you, or is it pretty much business as usual? 

Scaredy Squirrel: I, Scaredy Squirrel, feel it’s necessary to be extra prepared during the extra-frightening Halloween season. It’s the time of year for lighting candelabras, carving pumpkins, and crossing the road; only a small sampling of the hair-raising activities involved in the spookiest time of year.

49th Shelf: You mention in Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween that every kind of candy comes with its own pros and cons (for example, chocolate is delicious, but it tends to melt in the paw). Are you ever tempted to just stay home on Halloween? Is the candy worth the worry?

SS: It’s always tempting to st …

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How to Kill a Vampire: Crucifixes, Holy Water and Other Sacred Objects

Book Cover How to Kill a Vampire

Happy Halloween! Though on the off chance your spooky night goes slightly wrong, we're bringing you an excerpt from the new book How to Kill a Vampire: Fangs in Folklore, Film and Fiction by Liisa Ladouceur. Part culture guide and all practical guide, Ladouceur lays out the rules of vampire engagement. Here, she outlines the uses of crucifixes, holy water and other sacred objects, dispelling myths and establishing facts citing sources from Bram Stroker to Buffy. 

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Vampire: “Ha ha! Garlic don’t work, boys!”

Edgar Frog: “Try the holy water, death breath!”

The Lost Boys

Traditionally, vampires fear religious symbols. The sacred objects most commonly used for protection are Christian: water blessed by a priest, the cross or crucifix and the holy Eucharist or “Host,”—a consecrated unleavened bread or wafer meant to represent the body of Jesus Christ. These are key items in any vampire killing kit and have been used to great effect by many a fictional slayer, sometimes to kill but mostly to repel or maim.

In Stoker’s Dracula, the crucifix plays a significant role in helping the characters evade vampire attacks. Early in the story, a superstitious gypsy forces a rosary on businessman Jonathan Harker for protection after hearing he is en route to visi …

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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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