Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover Notes Towards Recovery

Louise Ells: Short Story Stunners

By [Kerry Clare]

Collections that inspired her as she wrote her debut, Notes Towards Recovery

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Book Cover What's My Superhero

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books on Health and Wellness

By [Kerry Clare]

Books that focus on self-awareness—understanding personal strengths, recognizing sources of stress, making decisions, …

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Book Cover A Joy to be Hidden

Ariela Freedman: Jewish Canadian Fiction

By [Kerry Clare]

A recommended reading list by the award-winning author of the new novel A Joy To Be Hidden

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Book Cover The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane

Awesome Girls in Middle-Grade Fiction

By [Kerry Clare]

A recommended reading list by Julia Nobel, whose novel is The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane

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Book Cover Fierce

25 Books for International Women's Day

By [Kerry Clare]

Books on women's history, suffrage, reproductive experiences, memoir, menstrual cycles, athletics, and so much more—in …

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Book Cover the Migration

Helen Marshall: Weird Fiction

By [Kerry Clare]

"Weird fiction zigzags across the boundaries between horror and fantasy, sometimes chilling, sometimes beautiful, but al …

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The Chat with Ian Williams

The Chat with Ian Williams

By [Trevor Corkum]

Reproduction, the debut novel by Ian Williams, is a stunner. By any measure. Structurally daring, emotionally profound, …

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Logo 1000 Islands Writers Festival

Your 2019 Spring Festival Guide

By [Kerry Clare]

Across the country, organizers and volunteers-extraordinaire are programming epic celebrations of books and the amazing …

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End of February Giveaway

End of February Giveaway

By [Kiley Turner]

There has never been a better time for a surprise giveaway. Here’s how it works. Kerry and I will each tell you a TINY …

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Books: Help to Make the Season Right

Book Christmas Tree

Pictures of this Christmas book tree have been making the rounds online for the last week or two, representing a tangible link between reading and the spirit of the holidays. Though such a link would come as no surprise to anyone for whom gift-giving is a tradition, because there is no object on earth as easy to wrap as a book is. Even the clumsiest thumbs are capable of a present-worthy wrap job, thanks to compact solidity and right-angled symmetry. Further, once the wrapping is shed, the book is ready for reading straightaway, no batteries required, no plugging in to charge. And they come in such a magnificent range that there truly is a book out there for everyone, from board books for the newborn to large-print for the long-in-tooth, and anybody in between. The recipient doesn't even have to like reading in particular (though it helps), for there are so many books as extraordinary in their visual images as in their text.

Books have the potential to make everything that's wrong with Christmas right, to make gift-giving about more than acquisition and stuff. There is no such thing as ism for the consumer who buys her books from a local independent bookseller, and is selective enough to include books from independent presses in the mix. The consumer who is not bles …

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Lousy With It: Books to Make Your Skin Crawl (by Claire Tacon)

Ever since Susanna Moodie wrote about “those wood-demons the black-flies, sandflies and musquitoes,” Canadian writing hasn’t shied away from things that bite in the night. Writers across genres throw back the carpet to reveal the scrabbling creatures who live amongst, and sometimes on, us. And with bedbugs popping up in no fewer than three Lower Mainland libraries, it seems the attraction is mutual; the vermin are ready for their close-up.

Book Cover Light Lifting

Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod, "Wonder About The Parents": The second story in Alexander MacLeod’s brilliant first collection weaves the history of lice with the history of a couple. Like the parasites he describes, MacLeod deftly jumps from scene to scene—a family three weeks into an infestation, the coronation of Henry IV, hostility in a line-up for flu vaccine. Throughout, the writing is unsentimental, the tension ratcheted up by MacLeod’s short sentences and the threat of loss.

Book Cover Scratch

Scratch by Charlotte Corbeil Coleman: The central drama of Scratch is summed up in the opening line, “My mother is dying …

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Video: @BookMadam's Hands On Holiday Book Recommendations #GiveCDN #HolidayGift

Rememberer by YORODEO (Invisible Publishing).

Rememberer by YORODEO (Invisible Publishing).

This time of year, maybe it's the anticipation of mangling every gift-wrapped item, but I get excited about a hands on holiday. Perhaps it's because we carry more, cook more, put up more—put up with more—that I get a little giggly at the idea of myself as an elf in Santa's workshop—busy, busy, busy. True, in my vision, it's also a reality show in which the elf who finishes the most toys with grace and charm is crowned the winner. But, I digress.

Hands on, doesn't have to equal mad frenzy. Or a circular saw. Me? I like to colour. I like to sit down with a child—cue imaginary friend—and let rip. It's the perfect zen activity for someone who doesn't consider herself an artist. In Lynda Barry's book Picture This, she asks why it is that we don't consider colouring an art form when to sing another's work is still song. Is it all about the act of creation? Or is it about the impulse to use something other than words and language to express ourselves? And that a template is outlined for us has little to do with how we fill that space.

So, this holiday, when I have some time to myself, I'm going to take a colouring book to my favourite cafe, order myself th …

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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, 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 is a …

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From Sketch to Finish: Cassie McDaniel on illustrating Beto's Burrito

Beto's Burrito Details

Coming up with an illustration is often an intuitive process, but there are moments in a story that are crucial for the art and words to be in sync. Sometimes the words are fast and playful and the artwork can mirror that feeling with bright colors and busy-ness. Other times, you want your reader to pause and think about what's being said and felt.

Beto's Burrito, which is a story about a young boy waking up to delicious smells in the kitchen, has one such moment of pause when Beto's father is trying to leave for work.

"His father calls from the kitchen. “I have to go to work now, m’ijo. Your mother made burritos.” Burritos! Now Beto remembers how wonderful his mother’s burritos taste. He jumps out of bed and gets dressed. He runs to the kitchen and hugs his father tight. His father laughs, and then he pushes Beto back gently by his shoulders so he can see his eyes."

The love theme is integral to this story. As the illustrator, I wanted the reader to feel Beto's excitement and energy, but I also wanted them to stop and feel the way Beto's father feels about his son. It is important that the reader pauses to look into Beto's eyes, just as his father does.

This illustration was so important to get right that I actually ended up scrapping my first painting and st …

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