Off the Page

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

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Book Cover Pallbearing

Nine Evocative Reads

By Michael Melgaard

A recommended reading list by the author of new short story collection Pallbearing.

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Book Cover BIG

Bodies and Books

By Christina Myers

A recommended reading list by the editor of BIG: Stories About Life in Plus-Sized Bodies

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Book Cover Nought

Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Poetry Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

Our 2020 Spring Preview continues with a look at forthcoming poetry.

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Eight Books that Help Support Mental Wellness in Students

Eight Books that Help Support Mental Wellness in Students

By Linda Ludke

I’ve always been a worrier. In elementary school, I was afraid of speaking in class, and dreaded being called upon, ev …

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Shelf Talkers: Melting Queens, Mysteries, and More

Shelf Talkers: Melting Queens, Mysteries, and More

By Rob Wiersema

Robert J. Wiersema ponders what groundhogs might read (and offers them advice) and introduces us to the incredible recom …

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Book Cover Revery

Spring 2020 Books: What's Trending?

By Kerry Clare

Bigfoot, bees, and explosive tweets? Here's what we're seeing on the literary landscape this spring.

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The Chat with Nolan Natasha

The Chat with Nolan Natasha

By Trevor Corkum

Today we’re chatting with poet Nolan Natasha, who's based in Halifax. His debut collection of poetry, I Can Hear You, …

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Book Cover Shape Your Eyes By Shutting Them

Poetry Can Only Be Made Out of Other Poems

By Mark A. McCutcheon

A source reading list for new poetry collection, Shape Your Eyes by Shutting Them.

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Book Cover Sleep Dragons All Around

CanLit's Favourite Cakes

By Kerry Clare

For Family Literacy Day, we're celebrating delicious cakes (with recipes!) from classic Canadian picture books.

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Embracing Winter with Inuit Games & Activities

Embracing Winter with Inuit Games & Activities

By Monique Cadieux

Settling into the winter months here in Southern Ontario means we try to enjoy some outdoor activities in the snow, as w …

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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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A reviewer walks into writers’ block (as in cellblock): Guest Post by Bob Armstrong

Book Cover Dadolescence

We’ve all seen crime shows in which a detective accused of misconduct is facing prison time and somebody, maybe a prosecutor looking to make a deal or a felon awaiting some payback, points out that life is rough behind bars for a cop.

As I was awaiting the publication of my first novel, Dadolescence (Turnstone Press), those scenes played in my mind.

I’ve been reviewing books and plays off and on for nearly 30 years and I haven’t always been gentle or even fair. What could I expect when I was finally escorted into the general population?

My conscience still speaks to me about nasty reviews I wrote in the 1980s, when I mistakenly assumed that the reviewer’s job was come up with clever ways of pointing out faults. As a university student writing for a campus newspaper, I once described a play, written by a playwright in his 20s and performed by amateurs, as “the Platonic form of bad playwriting.”

Surely dropping the phrase “Platonic form” in a review days after learning about Plato would stand as the Platonic form of sophomoric pretension.

I also began, around that same time, writing short book reviews for the Calgary Herald, when that newspaper still had a books section under the editorship of Ken McGoogan. I wrote a few favourable reviews of novels by th …

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