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

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A Taster: Spring 2021 Nonfiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

Life stories, family, baseball, and retreat. These highlight the nonfiction we're most looking forward to this spring. 

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ICYMI: Don't Miss These Beauties

ICYMI: Don't Miss These Beauties

By Kiley Turner

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our attention spans, making it possible to miss really great fiction. These books caug …

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Small Courage: Parenting Memoirs

By Jane Byers

A recommended reading list by Jane Byers, whose new queer parenting memoir is out now.

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The Chat with Kimiko Tobimatsu

The Chat with Kimiko Tobimatsu

By Trevor Corkum

Author Kimiko Tobimatsu and illustrator Keet Geniza have teamed up to create Kimiko Does Cancer, a timely graphic memoir …

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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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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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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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Malcolm Mills on the youth appeal of his YA novel Beyond the Shickshock Mountains

Thank you to Asteroid Publishing for submitting this interview with Malcolm Mills, author of the young adult novel Beyond the Shickshock Mountains: A Canadian Talon Saga.

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Asteroid Publishing: Told in three parts, your historical novel occurs in the late 18th century, during the Seven Years War between France and Britain and focuses mainly on the lands that would become Canada. Why do you think this period will be of interest to young adults?

Malcolm Mills: War years produce change and young adults have traditionally been interested in change. Conflict and the resolution of conflict pique natural curiosity. Young and old are also interested in their great, great grandfather having been a hero or a mountain man. Curiosity is inherent especially about family. Just ask Ancestor.com.

The politics of Canada is unique and multilingual. The melding of four major social structures—for let’s not forget the aboriginal population and the American Loyalists—gave birth to what our youth are today, a harmonious blend of democratic buds blossoming from the roots of a well grounded, multi-grafted rootstock. Young Canadians who have had little to date to inspire them into examining their vivid and vibrant past may be inspired to do so now and where better to begin then the era …

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Author Profile: Sierra McLean, Ten-Year-Old Grand Prize Winner of theToronto Roald Dahl Day Story Contest

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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s classic novel, James & The Giant Peach, Small Print Toronto invited young authors between 9-12 years old to compose a short story based on the scenario: "What would happen if James discovered the Giant Peach in today’s Toronto?" The panel of judges included Kelley Armstrong, Susan Kernohan, Adrienne Kress, Lesley Livingston, Mark Medley, Evan Munday, Kevin Sylvester, Vikki Vansickle and Janet Somerville. A Toronto Roald Dahl Day celebration took place on October 23rd at The Gladstone Hotel, where Sierra McLean was announced as the grand prize winner. To read her winning entry “James Goes To The R.O.M.”, please visit the online home for YA author and blogger Kat Kruger.

I had the privilege to chat with Sierra about her writing practices and the life of this burgeoning young author.

Julie Wilson: Sierra, congratulations on winning the Toronto Roald Dahl Day Story Contest! How did you come up with your idea for "James Goes to the R.O.M."?

Sierra McLean: I didn't really come up with it until I had written most of the story. In fact, that's what I do with most stories that I write. I come up with a basic idea, and then add to it as I go along. I find it a brilliant way to do things!

Before I write a story, I alwa …

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Books That'll Mess You Up Good: A List by Suzanne Sutherland

Book Cover When We Were Good

Young adult literature, for most of us who are long-past those acne-fied, fumbling teenage years, is often seen as something of a guilty pleasure; it's a lingering inclination toward the immature and melodramatic that is frowned upon when carried into adulthood-proper. Yet, if we are asked to rhyme off a list of books that have profoundly changed us—either as readers, writers, or even genuinely living-and-breathing human beings—many of those titles would be books we’ve read as children and teens, books which feature young people as their central characters.

I am a young-adult author (who happens to still be a fairly young adult, though that’s another matter), but didn’t set out to be one when I wrote my first book. It was only when I’d finished my second or third draft that I realized what I’d created: a novel for and about teenagers. I told my brother, himself a writer, when I realized what had happened. “That’s great,” he said, “right on. That’s when a book’ll really mess you up, when you’re young.”
Here then is a list of particularly stellar Canadian books with young people as central characters. Books that’ll mess you up good, in the best way possible.

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Mystery Novels for Young Readers

Every month, our resident children's librarian, Julie Booker, brings us great stories from the stacks. May is Mystery Month at 49th Shelf, and Julie's picks are in the spirit. 

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John Spray grew up on Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. He became the President of the Mantis Investigation Agency and, in 2011, established the John Spray Mystery Award for novels for ages 8 to 16. (The award is administered by the Canadian Children's Book Centre). Four of the following five titles were winners or nominees, and the other is remarkable in its own right.

The Lynching of Louie Sam, by Elizabeth Stewart, is a compelling story, based on true events—the only recorded lynching in Canada. The book opens in 1884, in Washington Territory, with 15-year-old George Gillies finding the local store owner murdered. The facts point to Louie Sam, a native boy a year younger than George. Sam is arrested and taken to Canada for a hearing but a posse of men (disguised in their wives’ petticoats) ride to BC to snatch him. George’s father is among them and George follows on horseback to witness the hanging. Things get complicated when George discovers Louie Sam may be innocent. George wrestles with his conscience while watching the adults cover up for political reasons. The Gillies family is …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Summer Reads Most Feral

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

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Ever wonder how a baboon thinks about his fellow baboons? Or how a cat views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Or how a seeing-eye dog-in-training tunes into people's feelings? This summer list lets the reader explore animal nature.

Book Cover Baboon

Right from the start, Baboon, by David Jones, grabs hold of the reader and doesn't let go. The book opens with Gerry in a plane crash in the African veldt, along with his biologist parents who have come to study baboon behaviour. Gerry awakens to find himself injured; even worse, he discovers the hairy arm he's lying on is his own—he’s become a baboon. Gerry watches from afar as his parents leave by ambulance with his (still alive) body before he scampers off to survive. He gets the hang of scavenging for food, struggles to eat naked mole rats, and withstands constant bullying by baboons higher up the pecking order. His human mind allows him to fend off a leopard attack, but the more he moves up in status, encountering poachers and participating in a gazelle kill, he begins losing his ability to count, read and write. He's increasingly forced to rely on smell, rather than reason. These are uncommon themes in junior fiction: the r …

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