Off the Page

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

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Book Cover The Old Woman

What Aging Looks Like: A Picture Book List, with Dogs!

By Joanne Schwartz

It’s so important for children to see positive images of aging. There are many wonderful books about children and thei …

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Giller Prize 2020 Special: The Chat with Gil Adamson

Giller Prize 2020 Special: The Chat with Gil Adamson

By Trevor Corkum

Next on our special Giller coverage of The Chat, we speak with Gil Adamson. She’s a finalist for her second novel, Rid …

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Book Cover After Elias

Launchpad: AFTER ELIAS, by Eddy Boudel Tan

By Kerry Clare

"After Elias gifts the reader with gorgeous, economic prose and the pace of a thriller. I couldn't put it down." —Nata …

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Giller Prize 2020 Special: The Chat with David Bergen

Giller Prize 2020 Special: The Chat with David Bergen

By Trevor Corkum

We’re thrilled to begin this year’s special Scotiabank Giller Prize coverage in conversation with David Bergen. Davi …

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Book Review: The Boy Who Moved Christmas by Eric Walters & Nicole Wellwood

Book Review: The Boy Who Moved Christmas by Eric Walters & Nicole Wellwood

By Geoffrey Ruggero

The Boy Who Moved Christmas is a beautiful story of a community coming together to grant the wish of a young boy battlin …

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Book Cover Daughter of Black Lake

Be Transported with Historical Fiction

By Cathy Marie Buchanan

A recommended reading list by Cathy Marie Buchanan, whose new novel is Daughter of Black Lake.

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Book Cover How to Lose Everything

Launchpad: HOW TO LOSE EVERYTHING, by Christa Couture

By Kerry Clare

"This might be the wisest, most delightful sad story that you've ever read in your life."

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The Chat with Jack Wang

The Chat with Jack Wang

By Trevor Corkum

This week on The Chat we’re speaking with writer Jack Wang, whose debut short story collection, We Two Alone, was rece …

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Book Cover Always Brave Sometimes Kind

Alberta, Today

By Katie Bickell

18 novels that pay homage to the contemporary stories, landmarks, events, people, and communities associated with the la …

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Your Favourite Indie Booksellers, All in One Place

Your Favourite Indie Booksellers, All in One Place

By Kiley Turner

Throughout October and November, we're going to highlight indie bookstore picks on the blog and link back every time to …

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We think we know them, but we have no idea

Freehand Books Logo

Sure, we think we know them. Sarah Leavitt, author of the graphic memoir Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me. She’s the curly-haired cartoon narrator of her own book, which documents her mother’s decline and death from Alzheimer’s Disease. And then there’s Andrew Westoll, primatologist-turned-animal-rights-activist. Though his book The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, he’s brought the world the story of his experiences at Quebec’s Fauna Sanctuary, where traumatized chimpanzee victims of medical experiments receive rehabilitation.

But of course, readers have no idea, a reality addressed by both writers in a conversation at Ben McNally Books in Toronto on July 19th. “You Think You Know Me, But You Have No Idea” was presented by Freehand Books, our own Bookmadam, and also Canadian Bookshelf. (A similar event was held on July 20 in Kingston with Leavitt and essayist Susan Olding.) Leavitt and Westoll told the stories of their stories, compared notes, discussed the ethics of memoir and nonfiction, and shattered some illusions about the nonfiction writer’s adherence to truth above all.

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Newfangled Styles for Newfangled Lives: Guest Post by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Tanya Lloyd Kyi lives in Vancouver with her husband and children. Her most recent book, 50 Underwear Questions (Fall 2011), takes an amusing look at the role underwear has played through the ages. The Blue Jean Book (2005) is the story of denim’s rise from its origins with hardscrabble miners and cowboys to its popularity among laborers, rebels, and the incurably hip. An updated version, including comic-style illustrations, has been published in 2011 under the name The Lowdown on Denim.

I’m a pop culture idiot. When my husband quotes old TV shows, I stare at him blankly. When my friends play “name that tune,” I lose every time. My knowledge of brand names is pitiful and fashion labels are a lost cause.

It’s not my fault (or so I tell myself). We didn’t have cable until halfway through elementary school. Our truck had an eight-track player. There wasn’t a mall or movie theatre within an hour’s drive. When my cousin visited from Vancouver and brought a Weird Al Yankovic cassette, it was like she’d arrived from another planet. (A cool planet.)

I’m not exaggerating. My town was so remote, we were wearing 1980s hairstyles well into the 90s. I’d prove it, but my grad photos spontaneously combusted, due to excess Ice Mist.

So, when my publisher sugg …

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"A triumph of imagination..."

Cover Plain Kate

The winners of the 2011 Canadian Children's Book Awards were announced on Tuesday October 4 at a gala event in Toronto. Erin Bow took the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award for Plain Kate, a novel about a girl whose wood-carving skills mark her as a witch, and which the judges proclaimed "a triumph of imagination."

Book Cover I Know Here

The Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award went to I Know Here by Laurel Crozer and Matt James, (and which was one of the books that Andrew Larsen read on his summer vacation). Of I Know Here, the judges noted: "The centre of this child’s universe is a trailer camp in the northern wilderness, rendered in all its details with brilliant harmony between Croza’s affecting, naturalistic words and James's evocative, childlike paintings."

Case Closed? Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science was winner of the Norma Fleck Award …

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Dear Canadian Bookshelf Part 3: The Point of Reading #GiveCDN

GiveCDN logo

This holiday season, we're making it easy for you Give Canadian. For the next few weeks, we'll be helping our readers match their most special someones with the perfect Canadian Book. If you would like some expert advice, email your holiday book shopping quandary to hello@canadianbookshelf.com, and we'll do our best to get you sorted.

Dear Canadian Bookshelf,

My best friend has lost her faith in narrative. For a while, she subsisted on nonfiction alone, and then she found out about Greg Mortenson and his Three Cups of Tea, and now she doesn't believe in anything anymore. She said she just doesn't understand the point of reading books in a world that's so troubled, and that we're just all diverting our attention from what's really going on.

But this Christmas, I want to bring her back into the fold. Could you recommend some books that will remind her that reading is a way like no other to come to know the world?

Thank you,

Miranda T., Moncton NB

****

Dear Miranda,

Book Cover Adventures in Solitute

You couldn't have picked a better time to try to convince a non-believer, because right now i …

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Gerry Fostaty on reliving a youthful trauma in his memoir As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier

Julie Wilson: The tragedy of which you speak in your book, As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier occurred in 1974 on a Canadian Forces Base in Valcartier, Quebec. During a routine lecture on explosives safety, the pin was pulled on a grenade thought to be a dud. Six teenaged boys died and fifty-four were injured. One hundred and forty boys survived, but were left traumatized. You've noted surprise that so many people remained silent in the aftermath, some who have since come forward to talk more openly after having read your book. Can you share some anecdotes?

Gerry Fostaty: I initially thought I was the only one to remain tight lipped. I was wrong. Only a few of the boys, who are all now in their fifties, have broken the silence, and even then, only to those they feel they could trust. Most didn’t even speak to their families about the explosion for years: not their parents, siblings, nor even their spouses later in life. It was just too painful to focus on the memory, much less to recount it to someone else. So much energy was spent avoiding the memory of the trauma that it seemed counterproductive to revisit that which we would have gladly escaped.

We would all like to position ourselves as strong, and a first response is to “man up, brave it out, suck it up and walk it off.” Not many men are immune to the cultural conditioning and the media influence that promotes the image of the strong silent male. There are men with visible scars on their bodies, who still refuse …

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