Off the Page

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

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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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Book Cover Better Luck Next Time

Patriarchy Lies: Women Are Funny

By Kate Hilton

A funny woman reading list by the author of new novel Better Luck Next Time.

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 The Chat with Eve Lazarus

The Chat with Eve Lazarus

By Trevor Corkum

Eve Lazarus has drawn back the curtain on some of Vancouver’s secret places. Vancouver Exposed: Searching for the City …

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Canadian Books of the Year: Chosen by Educators and Librarians

Canadian Books of the Year: Chosen by Educators and Librarians

By 49th Teachers

We asked educators and librarians to share their favourite Canadian books of 2020.

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Photo of two books tucked into a  knitted cozy against a backdrop of a minimalist tree bedecked with white lights.

Happy Holidays!

By Kerry Clare

This year, books were the one thing we could count on.

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The Chat with David Bateman

The Chat with David Bateman

By Trevor Corkum

Acclaimed writer David Bateman has just released his fabulous debut novel, DR SAD (University of Calgary Press). It foll …

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Christmas Tree Ornament of a Pile of Books

Have you Entered Our Books of the Year Giveaway Yet?

By Kerry Clare

All the titles on our 2020 Fiction: Books of the Year list are up for giveaway! Don't miss your chance to win.

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Asterix Reality: Excerpt From The Rude Story of English

Cover The Rude Story of English

In The Rude Story of English, Tom Howell, an ex-lexicographer, takes on one of his favourite stories: how the English language came to be—and tells it through its rudest, most offensive, simplest parts. From 440 AD, when Hengest, a Germanic warrior, first stepped onto English shores and cursed as his boots filled with seawater, to the present day, curses, insults, and rude words have played as important a role in the story of English as polite ones. 

The Rude Story of English is part fact, part fiction and reveals that, no matter how uncomfortable or off-putting, there's much to be learned from some of a language's most colourful parts.

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I grew up knowing about the Astérix reality, the world of the books populated by cartoon Gauls and Romans engaged in unevenly plausible scenarios drawn from facts and other speculations. The asterisk reality is exactly the same thing. In a philologist’s handwriting, an asterisk mark signals where material has been concocted to plug a hole in real-world evidence. For example, when someone at Oxford’s dictionary department wanted to show that our modern word “arse” once had a job as an ancient Greek word, “orsoz,” the scholar needed to imagine a scene in which a German princess 2000 years ago was sitting on somethi …

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Of Determined Rebels and Patriot Wars: Fighting for the Survival of Upper Canada

Book Cover Death of a Patriot

Don Gutteridge's latest book in the Marc Edwards Mystery series is Death of a Patriot. Here, he fills us in on the book's historical background.

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My fiction series, The Marc Edwards Mysteries, tells the story of Upper Canada in the 1830s and settlers’ struggles to make their lives there. The books depict settlers’ threats from not only annexationists in the United States, but also from within Upper Canada’s own governing party, the Family Compact.

Upper Canada’s Family Compact was composed of a handful of would-be aristocrats who controlled the Upper Chamber of the Legislature and were in thick with the Governor of the day (appointed from Britain). The Upper Chamber (Legislative Council) was appointed by the Compact-friendly Governor and held veto power over bills passed by the freely elected Assembly. This power was routinely abused to stop the Assembly’s reform legislation that would benefit the farmers and ordinary citizens of the province. In this way the Compact kept all the best appointments and sinecures for themselves and controlled the banking system, to the detriment of debt-ridden farmers.

Meanwhile, below the border, many American politicians were calling for the annexation of Upper and Lower Canada, and some of those in the Assembly were a …

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Quick Hits: Historical Fiction for Tweens and Teens

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

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The Hangman in the Mirror, by Kate Cayley

Genre: Young Adult (age 12+), Historical Fiction

Publisher: Annick Press

What It's About

Françoise Laurent has never had an easy life. The only surviving child of a destitute washerwoman and wayward soldier, she must rely only on herself to get by. When her parents die suddenly from the smallpox ravishing New France (modern-day Montreal), Françoise sees it as a chance to escape the life she thought she was trapped in.

Seizing her newfound opportunity, Françoise takes a job as an aide to the wife of a wealthy fur trader. The poverty-ridden world she knew transforms into a strange new world full of privilege and fine things—and of never having to beg for food. But Françoise’s relationships with the other servants in Madame Pommereau’s house are tenuous, and Madame Pommereau isn’t an easy woman to work for. When Françoise is caught stealing a pair of her mistress’s beautiful gloves, she faces a …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum Interviews 2016 Governor General's Award Winner Bill Waiser

Nonfiction_Waiser_Bill

We start our special coverage of this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award winners with a conversation with Bill Waiser, author of A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905.

Of the book, the Governor General’s Award jury says, “From its first page, Bill Waiser’s A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905 surprises the reader with its reconsideration of Canada. In a sweeping blend of narrative, historical detail, and compelling images, Waiser refocuses the country’s story by putting Indigenous peoples and environmental concerns in the foreground.” 

Author and historian Bill Waiser specializes in western Canadian history. He has published over a dozen books—many of them recognized by various awards, including a shortlist nomination for the 1997 Governor General’s literary award for non-fiction. Bill is
 a frequent public speaker and contributor to radio, television, and print media. He has also served on a number of national, provincial, and local boards. Bill has been awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, named a distinguished university professor, and granted a D.Litt.

THE CHAT WITH BILL WAISER

How did your Governor General Award-winning book come into being?

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Raising Royalty: The Canadian History

Book Cover Raising Royalty

From keeping Vikings at bay to fending off paparazzi, Carolyn Harris—in her new book Raising Royaltyexplores the history of royal parenting and how its changes have reflected wider societal trends, and vice versa. In this guest post for us, she delves into the Canadian history of royal parenting, which includes a famous embrace, a Dutch princess born in Ottawa, and the wife of a Governor General...who happened to be Queen Victoria's daughter!  

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In September 2016, William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Victoria, British Columbia with their two young children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. The royal children did not simply accompany their parents for a week in Canada but shaped the nature of the royal tour. With the exception of a single overnight in Whitehorse, Yukon, the royal couple’s itinerary allowed them to spend the evenings at the Lieutenant Governor’s residence in Victoria with their children. The royal children even undertook public engagements, appearing with their parents at the beginning and end of the tour and taking centre stage at a picnic for children of military families. The Canadian public admired the royal couple’s rapport with their children and images from the Canadian tour continue to appear in a …

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