Off the Page

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

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Book Cover The Little Hummingbird

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Text to Text

By Julie Booker

As part of the Language curriculum, primary readers are asked to make connections between books, identifying similaritie …

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Book Cover The Last Resort

Fiercely Feminist Fiction

By Marissa Stapley

Books with fierce female leads and a bone to pick with the patriarchy.

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Book Cover How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

How to Die Like a Roman Emperor

By Donald Robertson

"To learn how to die, according to the Stoics, is to unlearn how to be a slave."

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The Chat with Nancy Jo Cullen

The Chat with Nancy Jo Cullen

By Trevor Corkum

We celebrate Pride month in conversation with Nancy Jo Cullen, author of the fabulous debut novel The Western Alienation …

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Book Cover Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune

Drunken Chicken Wings: from Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune

By Roselle Lim

"Love and inebriation produce the same effects: bouts of joy and impaired decision making."

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Book Cover City Numbers

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books About Math

By Julie Booker

Great books that complement the Primary Math curriculum and make for entertaining reads at the same time. 

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Exploration and Creative Play with Loose Parts

Exploration and Creative Play with Loose Parts

By Allison Hall

The new initiative for my school library in September is the addition of a loose parts area in the library makerspace, w …

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Book Cover Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

10 Books for Young People to Read with PRIDE

By Kerry Clare

A selection of recent books by LGBTQ authors and/or featuring LGBTQ characters or themes—and also featuring hamsters,  …

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Book Cover Lent

Jo Walton: 5 Stories Bound Up with History

By Jo Walton

A recommended reading list by author of the new book Lent

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Book Cover Treed

Writing the Self In Nature

By Ariel Gordon

A recommended reading list by author of the new essay collection Treed: Walking in Canada's Urban Forests. 

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Sneak Peek: Brian Francis Reads from Natural Order (Doubleday Canada)

Brian Francis (Photo credit: Paula Wilson)

June 9, 2010, four intrepid writers took to the stage at The Gladstone Hotel to participate in Literary Death Match, an international touring event created by Todd Zuniga. It's good fun and not nearly as cutthroat as it sounds, just four writers reading from new or published works, then judged onstage by a panel of peers, the winner decided by a random task such as a cupcake toss or dance-off. (And, somehow, it's one of the more literary gatherings you'll hope to attend.) I had the pleasure of judging last winter's Toronto event and produced and co-hosted June's. (Look for us again this November with a special Giller des Refuses edition!)

That night, a fresh-faced, pleasantly-groomed fellow approached me to ask if it was going to fly with the audience if he read a sad passage from his upcoming novel. It was Brian Francis and this is what you need to know. The same guy who will make you cry this fall when Natural Order publishes with Doubleday Canada is the same guy who wrote the hilarious 2009 Canada Reads contender, Fruit about a boy with talking nipples and the same guy who maintains one of the most earnest blogs I've encountered in a good, long time, Caker Cooking—"from casseroles to canned corn, this is the best of the worst of mangiacake cuisine."

But, rememb …

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Imperfect People: A Book List by Caroline Adderson

Caroline Adderson's headshot

Caroline Adderson is the author of two internationally published novels (A History of Forgetting, Sitting Practice), two collections of short stories (Bad Imaginings, Pleased To Meet You), and three books for young readers (Very Serious Children, I, Bruno, Bruno For Real).Her work has received numerous prize nominations including the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist, the Governor General's Literary Award, the Rogers' Trust Fiction Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. A two-time Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and three-time CBC Literary Award winner, Caroline was also the recipient of the 2006 Marian Engel Award for mid-career achievement. Her latest novel is The Sky is Falling.

I am partial to imperfect characters, the kind of people we sidestep in real life because they make us uncomfortable, because we are afraid of them, because we are afraid of being them. How much easier to turn and face them when they are between the covers of a book! This embracing of the imperfect exemplifies, I think, what the act of reading (and for that matter writing) actually is -- an act of compassion: com + pati = to suffer with. Through literature we gain privileged access to the private thoughts and feelings of a character and so become them and suffer with them. Oddly, only as I …

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What We've All Been Waiting For: Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2011

In publishing, springtime arrives in the autumn, which marks the blossoming of scores of brand new books into the world. And though summer is decidedly still at its height, one can't help but look ahead to the bounty the Fall 2011 season promises to deliver.

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The Antagonist by Lynn Coady is her first novel since 2006's Mean Boy, and the story of a wayward man who discovers a former friend has written a novel stolen from his life. The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott, about the Vaudeville lives of three singing sisters, is eagerly awaited by readers who loved her Scotiabank Giller-nominated novel Good to a Fault. Natural Order is Brian Francis's very different follow-up to 2009 Canada Reads contender Fruit, a witty portrait of an older woman reflecting on the choices she's made throughout her life. In Frances Itani's Requiem, a man is pulled into a painful past to understand the effects of the Japanese-Canadian internment upon his family.

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Beauty Plus Pity by Kevin Chong is "the tragicomic modern immigrant's tale" of a wannabe-model whose plans are derailed …

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In Conversation With: Book Maven Vicki Ziegler (@bookgaga) on How to Make the Most of The 49th Shelf

Canadian Bookshelf member Vicki Ziegler.

Vicki Ziegler.

Vicki Ziegler is an early adopter. From the moment went into public beta, Vicki was building lists, rating reads and carving out a presence for her publishing client, the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry. On Twitter, she also has one of the most public online personas in Canadian publishing, tweeting as @bookgaga and on behalf of one of this country's most distinguished (and lucrative) awards—@griffinpoetry.

I caught up with Vicki to ask about her thoughts on the appeal of online reader communities and how she's helping shape our community right here at The 49th Shelf.


Julie Wilson: When I visit The 49th Shelf to check out member activity, you're always in the mix. What is it about the site that appeals to you?

Vicki Ziegler: I come at something like The 49th Shelf from multiple angles that all intersect at the point of loving books, loving fellow book lovers and wanting to share, both as an outlet for my own enthusiasms and for the opportunity to learn from others' enthusiasms.

  • I'm a book lover who loves to record what I'm reading, review books and share my thoughts about/reviews of books.
  • I have a personal book blog and Twitter feed and I like to share (aka c …
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The Literary Garden: A Book List by Merilyn Simonds

Merilyn Simonds' most recent book is A New Leaf: Growing With My Garden. Her other books include The Holding (2004), the internationally acclaimed short story collection The Lion in the Room Next Door (1999) and The Convict Lover (Non-Fiction, 1996), which was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, and won the TORGI Award. She is also author of the Frugalista Gardener Blog. Here she shares with us a list of essential Canadian literary books about gardens and gardening, which, for very good reason, includes two books of her own.

Tottering in my Garden by Midge Ellis Keeble, originally published by Camden House Books in 1989. Reprinted 1994.

I can always find the spine of Midge Keeble’s book on my gardening shelf: it is pale pink, the colour of apple blossoms, and stands out among its green-backed fellows that scream, rather than whisper garden. Midge was a writer of extraordinary grace, and she was a lifelong gardener who started digging in the dirt as a young hoursewife just after the Second World War. When she was 76, she published one of my favourite garden memoirs, Tottering in my Garden, which I love for its humour, its honesty, its unabashed love of growing things. “Gardening is an adventure, liberally laced with misadventur …

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