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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Beyond Borders: Linda Holeman on Travel and Writing

St Petersburg

I grew up in Winnipeg, in a Russian-Irish family deeply rooted in the Manitoba prairies. But for me it was a struggle to stay put; I was never content. It seemed I was born with an ache to know what lay beyond the borders of my life in both the physical and emotional sense. The opening line of Josephine Hart’s novel, Damage, speaks loudly to me: “There is an internal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.”

As a young adult, when I first left Winnipeg to explore the world my father looked at me with a puzzled expression. “Why do you want to leave home when you have everything you need right here? What are you looking for?” And my answer, the only one I could come up with was: “I don’t know—and that’s why I have to go.” All that wide, open space and the big sky of my home proved claustrophobic for me. I always wanted out, away from the safety of what was a sure thing. And, as often as I could, I plunged myself, many times on my own, into the busy loneliness of foreign cities and incomprehensible languages and unidentifiable food.

It is this search which defines me as a person, and as an author defines what I write. I fully embrace that my need to understand the world – and my own internal landscape—has le …

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Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel on Bringing Their Kids Into Their Books

Marie-Louise Gay David Homel

Marie-Louise Gay, the beloved author and illustrator of the Stella and Sam series, and her husband David Homel, Governor-General-Award-winning translator of over 30 books, have combined forces in the last little while to write and illustrate the Travels series based on their family's vacations—and "stay-cations." The result has been a family affair: their kids' voices have informed the series and also the real, often funny conversations they have about the books in it.

*****

When our youngest son read Travels with My Family, the first of our Travels series, he couldn’t believe he’d survived his own childhood. “You guys did so many dangerous things with me!” he complained. “I should have called Youth Protection Services.” Then he made a play for a share of the royalties.

“No,” we told him. “Characters in books don’t get royalties. Only writers do. Write your own book.” Now we’re afraid he will!

Our oldest, meanwhile, showed up at our Montreal launch and happily co-signed copies of the book with us, adding “The Narrator” under his signature (more on that in a minute).

Nostalgia usually doesn’t lead to anything worthwhile, but our series of Travels books is the exception that makes the rule. We would sometimes linger at the table after din …

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Intrepid Travellers: Canadian Women in the World

This month at 49thShelf, we're Writing the World, exploring travel guides and memoirs, and books with global issues and international themes. And this week in particular, in the run-up to International Women's Day, we're celebrating women's stories, beginning with this cross-genre list—memoir, fiction, and poetry—of Canadian women's travel tales.

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Book Cover Outside of Ordinary

Outside of Ordinary: Women's Travel Stories, edited by Lynn Cecil and Catherine Bancroft

Thirty-two Canadian women writers—including Alison Pick, Sharon Butala, and Lorna Crozier—tell their travel stories in this anthology of stories in which lives are challenged spiritually, physically, emotionally, and otherwise, as well as deeply enriched. Elaine K. Miller cycles across the Southern United States, Janet Greidanus climbs to Everest Base Camp, and Jane Eaton Hamilton, on vacation in Mexico with her partner, contemplates whether to join the fight for same-sex marriage in Canada. For it seems that travel doesn't just change one's view of the world, but it changes also how one sees one's own self, and also notions of home. 

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Rosalind Chan: Around the World in Cake

Of all the international themes that we're considering this month, it all keeps coming back to food. Cookbooks and food books are fascinating ways to learn about other culture, and our own local food movement has only awakened interest in how food culture works in other places. However, world-renowned cake decorator Rosalind Chan's new book is a spin on global food quite like no other. 

Creative Cakes features 14 cakes inspired by by the symbols and flowers of places Chan has visited on her travels, with recipes that teach some of the most sought-after skills in cake making, plus how-to photos, templates, full-page images, and a variety of cake and confectionery recipes.

The wonders of the world have never been so sweet. 

 

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Russia

Russian Faberge Beauty

 

Russia’s national flower is the chamomile. Looking very much like a daisy, the chamomile symbolizes energy. Russia is known for its famous jewelled eggs, made by the House of Faberge from 1885 to 1917 for the Russian imperial family.

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India

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Nisha Coleman and Busker: Stories from the Streets of Paris

Book Cover Busker Nisha Coleman

There are two reasons why right now is perfect time to be telling you about Nisha Coleman's Busker: Stories from the Streets of Paris. One is that we're focusing on oddballs and misfits this month here at 49th Shelf, in this misfit month with its 29 days, and Coleman encounters so many of these characters during her time busking in Paris living on the city's cultural fringes. And the second is that Valentines Day is on the horizon, and Coleman's memoir shows the City of Love like you've never seen it before. Busker is also very much a love story in its own right—just not the kind you're probably used to.  

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Kerry Clare: There are so many compelling bits of your memoir, and one of them for me is the way you write about loneliness of your life in Paris in the beginning, about your longing for just an ordinary friend. You meet so many characters in your daily life—the man with the moustache, the guy with the sex songs, Michel the kisser. Was there really such a dearth of ordinary folks? Are they just not approachable? Is normal too boring to write about? Is there such a thing as normal at all? 

Nisha Coleman: I don't believe in normal! I longed for an ordinary friend, but not a normal one. What I lacked in Paris was the kind of closeness that lets you relax i …

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