Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
Logo Read By the Sea Festival

Your 2019 Guide to Summer Literary Festivals

By Kerry Clare

Good things are happening across the country! 

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Leading Students on a Path of Self-Discovery: Sadia by Colleen Nelson

Leading Students on a Path of Self-Discovery: Sadia by Colleen Nelson

By Geoffrey Ruggero

As a fifteen-year-old adjusting to life in high school, Sadia begins to realize that growing up in Winnipeg brings many …

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The Chat with Kris Bertin

The Chat with Kris Bertin

By Trevor Corkum

Kris Bertin is back. The Halifax-based writer’s highly anticipated second collection of short fiction, Use Your Imagin …

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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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Kerry Clare Joins as Editor

tagged : news, staff, general

With great pleasure we welcome Kerry Clare of the much-loved lit blog Pickle Me This to the team. Kerry will add her mind-boggling reading habits and wonderful thoughtfulness to the mix on 49th Shelf.


We thought of Kerry for the editorial position—in addition to being wowed by her blog and also by her great essay, Love Is a Let-Down, in The New Quarterly 116—because she’s as excited as we are by the idea of an inclusive, all-genre Canadian book site that appeals to a variety of readers.

Canadian publishing is well enough supplied with good lit blogs and reviewers dealing mostly in fiction and critical darlings. The 49th Shelf will definitely celebrate the best Canadian writing but with the caveat that “best” is a subjective term and readers are a heterogeneous lot. We want to extend the discussion of Canadian books beyond insider culture and the most avid readers. Anyone who wants to discover what Canadian authors and publishers are offering will be welcome on, whether their interests are fiction, poetry, non-fiction or books about hockey, gardening, cooking – or gnomes!

We have no doubt that Kerry’s imagination and enthusiasm (not to mention writing chops) will be a great fit with 49th Shelf. Welcome, Kerry.

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Someone Who Writes

This week's guest post is from Angie Abdou, finalist in Canada Reads for The Bone Cage (published by NeWest Press) and author of the just released The Canterbury Trail (published by Brindle and Glass). In this post Angie speaks frankly and humourously about what happened when she discovered that the glamourous handle of "Writer" is elusive. She finds real meaning and substance in a humbler concept: she is someone who writes.


I remember longing for the day I could call myself a Writer. I wasn’t exactly sure when that would happen, couldn’t be positive what transformative accomplishment would allow me to look in the mirror and say, “Ah, good morning Important Famous Writer Person.”

At first, I figured it would be as simple as publishing any piece of creative work. However, the momentous occasion of my first publication came and went without me feeling in the least bit transformed. Though I’d published a piece of fiction in a noteworthy and respected journal, I didn’t notice people treating me with a newfound awe, reverence, or even respect. My mom, it’s true, was quite impressed, but everyone else seemed unfazed (even as I waved said journal in their faces), and I felt more or less, well, exactly the same: self-conscious, insecure, and eager for approval. …

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Reading Lists on Canadian Bookshelf (Featuring Stacey May Fowles!)

In these days of overstimulation, distraction, and time constraints, finding ways to downsize and simplify feels pretty good. Maybe that’s why we love lists so much.

Lists of things to do or check out are oases in the midst of information chaos—especially when they’re made by people we admire and trust. When they include ten or so items, they are soothingly finite and doable—easy to bookmark, act upon, and feel excited about investigating. Just think of playlists from industry insiders (e.g., Kate Carraway’s mixtape, CHICKS, for the new Burner Magazine), awards shortlists, or numbered magazine cover lines.

Lists can provide a helpful and meaningful filter for search activities, which is why we’re making Recommended Reading Lists a prominent feature on Canadian Bookshelf. There will be lists by Canadian Bookshelf editors, lists readers create, and lists contributed by writers and subject experts. For example, here’s a list we’ve just received from one of Canada’s hottest new authors, Stacey May Fowles (author of Fear of Fighting and Be Good):

Unconventional Heroines, Lives, and Loves
A Reading List by Stacey May Fowles

Bottle Rocket Hearts, Zoe Whittall

A refreshing take on the typical coming-of-age narrative, Whittall submerges us in the frantic, y …

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Kidsbooks' Owner Phyllis Simon on Matching Children Up With the Right Books

Visiting a good children’s bookstore, especially but not only when you have kids of your own, is an instant mood booster and occasion for awe. A combination of impressive stock, ingenious store layout including play/explore areas for kids, and friendly, knowledgeable staff can make such a bookstore a favourite family destination for years—a local and cultural institution.

Vancouver is lucky enough to have Kidsbooks, which former librarian Phyllis Simon opened in 1983 in Kitsilano, and which now includes three locations, an online storefront, and a co-partner, Kelly McKinnon.


Kidsbooks' lounge area (Kitsilano location)

Kidsbooks is famous for its incredible, elaborate window displays (people still talk about their “Hogwarts” storefront façade that celebrated the release of the fourth HP book) and insightful staff experts who specialize in tracking down exactly the right book for a particular child. This discovery and selection service is an amazingly important service when you consider how one book—or a suite of books—can turn a child onto reading forever, and conversely, how not finding the right reading materials can convince them that they’d rather sleep in an outhouse than curl up with a book.

Canadian Bookshelf asked Kidsbooks’ Phyllis Simon a litt …

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Canadian Comics: War, Hockey, Old Men, and Silence by Sarah Leavitt


We are honoured that our first Canadian Bookshelf guest post is by none other than Sarah Leavitt, author of the much-celebrated graphic memoir Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me (Freehand Books). Sarah is an avid reader of graphic novels as well as a breakout star in the genre, and here she reviews three penned by fellow Canadians.

Canadian Comics: War, Hockey, Old Men, and Silence

This winter I unintentionally took up the Salon challenge mentioned in the post below: to read outside my comfort zone.
I’d realized how unfamiliar I was with the cartoonists of my own country; all my idols were foreigners: Lynda Barry, Jules Fieffer, Art Spiegelman, Kim Deitch, Marjane Satrapi, David B, Joann Sfar. Recently I’ve been particularly obsessed with Lynda Barry and Aline Kominsky Crumb, along with Mary Fleener and other women from the Twisted Sister collections. These cartoonists’ books are well within my comics comfort zone: stories about weird outsiders, mostly women, told with panels full of scratchy lines and dark drawings, rants and yells and sound effects.
Discovering my Canadian favourites was like leaving a dark, smoky, overheated party and stepping outside into a silent snow-covered night.
It’s not like there aren’t any Canadian …

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