Off the Page

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

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Book Cover the Stone Rainbow

Most Anticipated: 2019 Books for Young Readers Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

The literary forecast looks amazing. 

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Sparking Conversation in the Classroom: The Big Dig by Lisa Harrington

Sparking Conversation in the Classroom: The Big Dig by Lisa Harrington

By Geoffrey Ruggero

The Big Dig by Lisa Harrington is the perfect book to spark meaningful discussions on a variety of topics. Teachers are …

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The Chat with Kelly S. Thompson

The Chat with Kelly S. Thompson

By Trevor Corkum

Kelly S. Thompson served as a captain in the Canadian Armed Forces and writes about her experiences as a female soldier …

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Book Cover What is Long Past Occurs in Full Light

"Woods," from WHAT IS LONG PAST OCCURS IN FULL LIGHT

By Marilyn Bowering

“Bowering is one of our essential poets...."

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Book Cover Moles

Wild Books About the Natural World

By Rachel Poliquin

Seriously fun non-fiction for middle-grade readers.

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Books for Summer Adventures

Books for Summer Adventures

By Sarah Campbell

Summer is a time for adventures! When you’re a kid anything can be magical when school is out — whether it’s campi …

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Book Cover One Piece of String

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Drawing the Line

By Julie Booker

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

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Book Cover Float and Scurry

Most Anticipated: 2019 Fall Poetry Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

The poetry releases that are going to be making waves this autumn.

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The Chat with Derek Mascarenhas

The Chat with Derek Mascarenhas

By Trevor Corkum

Derek Mascarenhas' debut collection of short fiction, Coconut Dreams (Book*hug), explores the lives of Aiden and Ally Pi …

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Book Cover Crow

A Whisper to a Scream: Books with Compelling Narrative Voices

By Amy Spurway

"It is not just what is being said, but how."

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Dear Toronto Readers: Hit the Road

Ontario road trip.

If you're a reader, to live in Toronto is an embarrassment of riches. We have access not only to year-round literary events, many of which are free, but to many authors themselves. Publishers, as well. Enough so that it becomes easy to forget just how much there is to see and do. It's not to say that we don't revel in our fandom; but, how we invest in our community is, perhaps, a little strategic. Who. When. Why. How. I'd wager to suggest that we're not as open to surprises as we are to supporting our own. Which is to say that to thrive in the trenches of the Toronto lit scene is to limit your view of the larger battlefield. (I think it's safe to say we're at war with ourselves, yes?)

At some point, I started to pay closer attention to attendees. While many were fans of one author or another, it seemed just as many were using events as an audition in order to determine whether or not to invest in the purchase of an author's book, or which book should there be a variety of authors on display. We've become too familiar with our community, perhaps in the same way a Los Angeles native thinks nothing of standing in the line at Anthropologie behind an actor at The Grove. True, writers are just people. But, actually, no, they're not. They're rock stars. They move and insp …

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The Critical Mind by Ray Robertson

The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Book Cover Why Not

Edmund Wilson was the son of a Princeton and Columbia-educated lawyer, a man whose tools of trade his son described as “learning, logic, and dramatic imagination and eloquence,” the very same tools Wilson would employ over the course of fifty years of elucidating, advocating, and exposing the books and ideas (good, bad, and inconsequential) of his time. A literature-as-subject-of-study autodidact, I – among many others – owe a great debt to Wilson for not only consistently steering me in the right aesthetic direction, but also for helping to develop my own critical sensibility. Give a person a good book, he’ll have something to read for a week; teach a person how to critically separate the wheat from the chaff, and you provide him with the skills to read well for the rest of his life. Note: read – not study. The most valuable result of the finely tuned critical mind turned toward the world of books is assisting the common reader in reading – and therefore living – better. “Reading,” Bacon reminds us, “maketh a full man.”

Virginia Woolf liked this idea enough to entitle a collection of essays The Common Reader, quoting with approval Dr. Johnson: “I rejoice to c …

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Virtual Voyages: A Reading List by Charlotte Gill

Charlotte Gill

My favourite definition of creative nonfiction comes from Canadian journalist Deborah Campbell, who quotes the late Ryszard Kapuscinski, an undeniable master of the form: “Sometimes, in describing what I do, I resort to the Latin phrase silva rerum: the forest of things. That’s my subject: the forest of things, as I've seen it, living and travelling in it.” There’s a bit of silva rerum in all these books on this list, which is by no means an exhaustive collection. Some are travel books, and some explorations stick close to home. But all these stories took me on journeys. When I closed the covers I felt as if I’d been transported.

Book Cover The Golden Spruce

1. The Golden Spruce, John Vaillant: Perhaps it took a native New Englander to see the magical, mythic potential of a true story set in Haida Gwaii. The book takes place in the temperate rainforest, and it’s a mystery on the surface. Vaillant introduces us to Grant Hadwin, the crazy ex-logger who felled an ancient albino spruce and then disappeared from the face of the earth, seemingly without a trace. Underneath the …

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Owling: Guest Post by Kristen den Hartog

Book Cover Owl Moon

In our house, my husband, my seven-year-old daughter N and I are flying through the Harry Potter series, now nearly finished the sixth book, and reading each day at breakfast and again after dinner. The colourful characters (red-eyed Lord Voldemort, massive Hagrid in his hair suit) and the thrilling plotlines have us reading more than ever, so that books sometimes interfere with piano practice and dish-doing and hair-washing and bedtime.

One more page! Pleeeease, just one more page!

But long before we went Potty, stories—whether “from your mouth,” as N calls them, or from a book—played a prominent role in our family life. N’s dad is a wonderful storyteller, and often recounts his “Lost in the Woods” tale, about the year he was five and wandered into the forest with his little brother and was unable to find his way home. N’s eyes go wide as he tells of crossing an icy creek with his brother on his back; of braving the bitter wind and trudging through the bush, with its winter-night sounds of animals scurrying and owls hooting.

This homemade story often leads them to Owl Moon, Jane Yolen’s picture book about a father-daughter adventure. “It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling. There was no wind. The trees stood …

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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 for Ca …

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