Off the Page

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

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Book Cover I Keep the Land Alive

Reading Beyond Earth Day

By Kerry Clare

Happy Earth Day! These books celebrate nature and the wonders of the world around us, underlining why it matters so much …

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Books to Spark Inquiry and Design Thinking

Books to Spark Inquiry and Design Thinking

By Allison Hall

Design thinking can take students to many different end results: a tangible product or invention, a virtual design, or a …

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Book Cover Smells Like Stars

The Space Between

By Kerry Clare

Books that challenge binary and complicate matters in the most interesting and useful ways.  

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The Chat with Téa Mutonji

The Chat with Téa Mutonji

By Trevor Corkum

Vivek Shraya launched her imprint VS. Books with Arsenal Pulp to highlight bold work by new and emerging Indigenous or B …

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Book Cover These Are Not the Potatoes

26 Books to Celebrate for Poetry Month

By 49th Shelf Staff

Featuring highlights from amazing new poetry being published this spring. 

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Book Cover War / Torn

War/Torn Identities

By Hasan Namir

A recommended reading list from the author of the new poetry collection, War / Torn

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Book Cover The Centre of the Universe

How an Email to an Astrophysicist Changed My (Book’s) Life

By Ria Voros

YA Author Ria Voros explains how two literary worlds collided—and tells the amazing story of what happened next. 

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Book Cover The Case of Windy Lake

Farley Mowat, Comics, SciFi and Manitoba

By Michael Hutchinson

A recommended reading list by Michael Hutchinson, whose Mighty Muskrats middle grade series launches with The Case of Wi …

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Choose Kindness! Kids Books that Explore This Crucial Value

Choose Kindness! Kids Books that Explore This Crucial Value

By Sarah Campbell

As parents, teachers, librarians, family, and friends, we want to raise children who know how to be kind. Reading allevi …

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The Chat with Lucas Crawford

The Chat with Lucas Crawford

By Trevor Corkum

This week, we’re in conversation with Lucas Crawford, author of The High Line Scavenger Hunt (University of Calgary Pr …

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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.


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

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 th …

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Face-to-Face, Cheek- to- Cheek/ Skype Me Now, Before I Sleep: Guest Post by Sheree Fitch

Mable Murple skied on purple

Image of Mabel Murple skiing

Sydney Smith, from Mabel Murple

She skied on purple snow

She wore a pair of purple goggles

And shouted: “Yee-Haw! Here I go!”

She jumpled purple moguls

She slid on purple ice

Then she asked a ski instructor

For professional advice

(He said:” Sloooow Down!” )

When it comes to technology,I’m poised somewhere between the let-it-rip exuberance of Mabel’s "yee-haw, here I go," and the knowledge that (for me) slowing down is the only sane way to proceed. A few years ago, I attended a discussion and book signing by scientific journalist Joel Garreau, author of Radical Evolution. In the book, Garreau outlined four possible future scenarios: heaven, hell and prevail. Heaven is the land of perfect: think designer babies. Hell? We implode. A kind of Kaput. Prevail and Transend-- they speak for themselves. We proceed with necessary caution. This is oversimplifying, but Radical Evolution is a book I keep re-reading and recommending to anyone who will listen. Garreau is a superb storyteller who could make complicated science accessible to a labradoodle without dumbing the content down. At some point in the question and answer period Garreau said something I’ll never forget. “I …

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Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart and Barbara Reid: The 2011 TD Grade One Giveaway

Book Cover Gifts

“This book belongs to...” reads the label inside the cover of the new print run of Gifts, written by Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrated by Barbara Reid, and this year, grade one students all across Canada will have the pleasure of completing the sentence with their own names. Gifts is being distributed as part of the TD Grade One Giveaway, now in its 11th year, which has previously featured books by Canadian authors as beloved as Paulette Bourgeois, Sharon Jennings, Dennis Lee, and Marie-Louise Gay.

This year’s pick certainly lives up to the legacy. Gifts is Jo Ellen Bogart’s story-in-bouncing-verse of an adventurous grandmother who travels the world, bringing her granddaughter the most remarkable, intangible souvenirs: a lion’s roar from Africa, a sunrise from Mexico, “a rainbow to wear as a ring” from Hawaii, the song of a sitar in India, and “a memory from Beijing.” The story is enriched by Barbara Reid’s plasticine illustrations, which solve the puzzles that Bogart’s story poses: the memory is a dragon-decked teapot, the rainbow is printed on an inner-tube, the sunrise is a picture, and the lion’s roar is delivered by Grandma who has gotten down playfully on her hands and knees.

How the 2011 Grade One Giveaway came to be chosen was an exerc …

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What's Your (Son's) Canadian bookshelf, Margaret Eaton?

This is the second installment of our "What's Your Canadian bookshelf?" feature, in which we ask extraordinary ordinary Canadians to tell us about their reading habits. Here, Margaret Eaton, President of ABC Life Literacy Canada, tells us about her experiences reading with her son. And Eaton's post is an excellent segue, actually, into Canadian Bookshelf Children's Book Week which will kick off here on Monday.

Headshot Margaret Eaton

In my professional life, I’m often asked how to make reading interesting to boys. I speak from the research on this topic, but as the mother of a 12-year old son, I feel I can speak from our experience as well made more interesting, I think, by the fact that my son is dyslexic.

I vividly recall the last day of Thomas’s grade one school year. The teacher told me that Thomas did really well, but he was a year behind in reading. Hmmm….that was news to me. I knew he was struggling, but a year behind? And you’re telling me this now? We spent the summer struggling through “Hooked on Phonics” which usually led to one or the other of us crying under the dining room table.

We finally found an amazing tutoring program that turned his life around. Truly. His whole life. My difficult, unhappy, alienated little boy (at school, anyway) became confident and happ …

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In Conversation With: Liz Bugg on the Personal and Public Performance of a Writer

Liz Bugg, author of Red Rover (Insomniac Press)

Liz Bugg is a lifelong performer: musician, actor, writer and teacher, the last of which I would argue is one of the most exhausting gigs imaginable. (No fourth wall to hide behind when you're standing at the front of a classroom.) I met with Liz to record her reading a short passage from her debut mystery Red Rover (Insomniac Press), and we got to chatting about music and the place of performance in our lives as writers.

Julie Wilson: Last winter, you followed my Twitter trials as I tried to learn the guitar. You have an extensive performance background—you actually taught guitar at one time. I joked that I wanted to learn the guitar to keep company with all the lonely campfires in the world. What first drew you to the instrument?

Liz Bugg: I became interested in the guitar, when I was about fifteen. Up to that point my musical focus had been primarily piano. I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by music. I guess you could say it was the focal point of my family. so when I was five years old, I was carted off to the conservatory to follow in my siblings’ footsteps.

The guitar was my idea. It was the 60s, and I was tired of playing classical piano. I was really into the whole folk music thing: Peter, Paul and Mary; Ian and Sylvia; people like that. We happened …

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