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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A Shoe in the Wall: Guest Post by Tristan Hughes

Tristan Hughes Sticks in Lake

Up here in northern Ontario the hunting season has arrived. The evidence is unmistakable: a sudden proliferation of bright orange clothing, and, in the streets and roads, people talking excitedly about ‘sign’. Stripped of its ‘s’ and turned into a collective noun, sign stands for any evidence of an animal’s presence--scat, footprints, rubbed bark, a snapped twig--and in scrutinizing it, the hunter attempts to apprehend a narrative in the landscape: a story that will tell him what an animal has been doing and so, of course, where it might be. Like any decent novelist, the hunter is trying his best to engineer encounters, to reveal something otherwise hidden, to bring disparate lives into a brief--and sometimes fatal--moment of convergence.

It all reminds me of that literary hunter and tracker par excellence: James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo. In one of the novels in which he features--The Pioneers, I think--Natty comes upon a clearing in the forest, and surveying a nearby valley finds mingled there “scenes of nature, signs of men”. It’s a resonant and memorable phrase (one of my professors at university used it as the title for an excellent book) in which the ‘sign’ on show provides proof of human settlement and occupation, and hence the ba …

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The Cold of Winter

We are Canadian, ergo we whine about winter. We especially whine when we live in Ottawa and it's the coldest winter in 20 years and we are just ... suffering. So much hardship. Yes, Toronto, you're cold, too. And don't hate us, Saskatchewan, we know you have been de-icing your eyelashes and nostril hairs for time immemorial. And ok, the North. Anyway, we're cold.

Mid-whinge this morning, I found this lovely article in The Guardian called "Wildlife on Your Doorstep," whose feature image is this bird, a kingfisher. It stopped me in my tracks.

greenbird

 

placebetweenthetides

The bird is responsible for a cheery little jaunt down 49th Shelf's handy "Browse by Category" capability using the search term "Nature," which I then refined to "Seasons." And just like that (thank you bird) all these beautiful books appeared. Books to make you love Canada, and our seasons. Books that make the cold a lot more romantic, and that make you think about how sad it would be if we weren't so cold sometimes.

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Great Companions

As fascinating as books themselves (and oh, are books ever fascinating) are the connections between books, the curious ways in which books inform and echo each other, creating strange synergies completely outside of their authors' purview. In celebration of these connections, we've made great pairings of recent Canadian books of note, creating ideal literary companions. 

*****

All About Abodes

Home, by Carson Ellis, and A View from the Porch, by Avi Friedman 

Carson Ellis's smash-hit picture book explores the meaning of home as it considers all kinds of homes—a ship, a shoe, a home on the moon?—and shares the same preoccupations as Avi Friedman's new collection of essays. 

About Home: 

Influential artist Carson Ellis makes her solo picture-book debut with a whimsical tribute to the many possibilities of home.

Home might be a house in the country, an apartment in the city, or even a shoe. Home may be on the road or the sea, in the realm of myth, or in the artist’s own studio. A meditation on the concept of home and a visual treat that invites many return visits, this loving look at the places where people live marks the picture-book debut of Carson Ellis, acclaimed illustrator of the Wildwood series and artist for the indie band the Decemberists.

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Nature and Ecology Books to Read This Spring

Welcome to January! If you love to be outside, then these books are for you, situating you amid the wonders of nature and winter with the turn of every page. If the outdoors are too cold for your liking, however, than this reading list is still the ticket, enabling you still to partake in winter adventures (and even some warmer ones) from the comforts of your favourite cozy chair. 

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Winter Sports, by Lady Aberdeen

Part of a series of work by Canadian women writers between 1639 and 1914, Winter Sports was a journal written by Lady Aberdeen, who was the wife of Canada's Governor General during the late 19th century. She writes about learning to enjoy sledding in Ottawa, partaking in winter festivals and other activities that would have been foreign to her as an Englishwoman living in Canada. 

Lucy Tries Short Track, by Lisa Bowes, illustrated by James Hearne

This is the second book in the Lucy Tries Sports series (with Lucy Tries Soccer forthcoming in the spring). In this volume, Lucy attempts speed skating and discovers that skimming across the ice at …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Spring Books

Book Cover Roslyn Rutabaga

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

*****

Dirt, butterflies, flora, and native stories make this spring book list.

In Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on the Earth, by Marie-Louise Gay, Roslyn wants to dig a hole to the South Pole to meet a penguin or two. Instead she encounters a worm, a mole, and a dog, upset with her for digging up his bone-cupboard. (Roslyn thinks she's found a triceratops' toe-bone.) All the creatures Roslyn meets try to dissuade her from her quest, except her father who joins her with a picnic lunch. Gay's humour and understanding of young readers is perfectly rendered through dialogue and playful illustrations. Age 3+

Bye, Bye, Butterflies!, by Andrew Larsen, has just the right amount of text for the age 4+ crowd. Besides being a story about how to hatch monarchs, it's about a father and son being quiet enough to witness a special moment. Endearing big-eyed characters are illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli with a splendid full-circle ending by Larsen. Includ …

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