Off the Page

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

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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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Book Cover Disfigured

Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Nonfiction Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

Art, bees, cooking, design, education, fairy tales, graphic memoirs, and so it goes. There's something for everyone in o …

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Book Cover The Towers of Babylon

Great Books for the Moment

By Kerry Clare

A handful of recent releases you'd be lucky not to miss.

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The Chat with Andrea Miller

The Chat with Andrea Miller

By Trevor Corkum

This week, we’re in conversation with Andrea Miller, author of the collection Awakening My Heart: Essays, Articles, an …

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Yuck a Love Story

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Descriptive Language

By Julie Booker

Beautiful books that exemplify descriptive language for Grades 1–6.

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Book Cover All That Belongs

On Our Radar

By Kerry Clare

Fiction, nonfiction, poetry and YA: books with buzz worth sharing.

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Four Fast-Paced, Captivating Middle Grade Books Any Student Will Love

Four Fast-Paced, Captivating Middle Grade Books Any Student Will Love

By Geoffrey Ruggero

If you’re looking for a great story, where the main characters are relatable, look no further than the Orca Currents c …

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Book Cover The Subtweet

Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Fiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

The fiction selection for the first half of 2020 is shaping up beautifully! Here's what we're excited about.

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The Chat with Laisha Rosnau

The Chat with Laisha Rosnau

By Trevor Corkum

What happens when an author decides to create a novel based on the real lives of three reclusive women in early twentiet …

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2011 Culinary Book Award Winners, plus great links and recipes

The winners of the 2011 Canadian Culinary Book Awards were announced on November 7th at Toronto's Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Book Cover Locavore

Sarah Elton's Locavore: From Farmers' Fields to Rooftop Gardens, How Canadians Are Changing the Way We Eat took the Gold for Special Interest, English Language. Earlier this year, Locavore appeared on Margaret Webb's Canadian Bookshelf Food Books Reading List, where Webb called it, "Lively, compelling and warm-hearted journalism with a generous helping of rigorous research."

Book Cover Incredible Edibles

Incredible Edibles: 43 Fun Things to Grow in the City by Sonia Day won the Silver Award. Check out Sonia Day's recent "The Real Dirt" column about growing (and taming) sorrel, and how to make it into soup.

Book Cover Flavours of Prince Edward Island

Jeff McCourt, Allan Williams and Austin Clement won Gold in Canadian Culinary Culture, English Language for Flavours of Prince Edward Island: A …

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Author Profile: Sierra McLean, Ten-Year-Old Grand Prize Winner of theToronto Roald Dahl Day Story Contest


To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s classic novel, James & The Giant Peach, Small Print Toronto invited young authors between 9-12 years old to compose a short story based on the scenario: "What would happen if James discovered the Giant Peach in today’s Toronto?" The panel of judges included Kelley Armstrong, Susan Kernohan, Adrienne Kress, Lesley Livingston, Mark Medley, Evan Munday, Kevin Sylvester, Vikki Vansickle and Janet Somerville. A Toronto Roald Dahl Day celebration took place on October 23rd at The Gladstone Hotel, where Sierra McLean was announced as the grand prize winner. To read her winning entry “James Goes To The R.O.M.”, please visit the online home for YA author and blogger Kat Kruger.

I had the privilege to chat with Sierra about her writing practices and the life of this burgeoning young author.

Julie Wilson: Sierra, congratulations on winning the Toronto Roald Dahl Day Story Contest! How did you come up with your idea for "James Goes to the R.O.M."?

Sierra McLean: I didn't really come up with it until I had written most of the story. In fact, that's what I do with most stories that I write. I come up with a basic idea, and then add to it as I go along. I find it a brilliant way to do things!

Before I write a story, I always …

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Warming Winter Minds: Guest Post by Kim Anderson

Kim Anderson

Winter is a traditional storytelling time for Indigenous peoples living in North America. In the past, family members would spend their cold winter nights listening to Elders as they sat near the fire and told the stories that sustained the community. Some of these stories were every day stories, while others contained family and community laws and had strict protocols around the telling – but all contained lessons embedded in the multiple layers of meaning. Each community member, young or old took their own lesson out of the telling – lessons that would unfold and change over time.

As an urban Cree/Metis mom & writer, running as fast as everyone else in this speedy 21st century world, I don’t have the benefit of sitting with teachers by the fireplace every night. But I do have Elders that I work with, as well as books of traditional knowledge that warm and sustain me. I have recently been working with Elders for an oral history project on Indigenous masculinities, and three of the men I have interviewed are also authors. Tom Porter, Dominique Rankin and Rene Meshake share stories from their respective traditions (Mohawk, Algonquin, and Ojibway) through books in English and French, although they integrate their Indigenous languages throughout as a way of furt …

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Giller Bridesmaids: Where are they now?

What is the "Giller Effect" for those writers whose books are shortlisted for the prize? A look back at previous nominees might provide a clue, and also serve as a reminder of some great books calling out to be discovered again. NOW UPDATED FOR 2013! 

Book Cover Funny Boy

1994: Winner, M.G. Vassanji, The Book of Secrets

 Bonnie Burnard, Casino and Other Stories: Burnard would go on to win the Giller Prize in 1999 for A Good House. Her latest book Suddenly was published in 2009.

 Eliza Clark, What You Need: Clark's most recent novel is Bite the Stars (2000).

Shyam Selvadurai, Funny Boy: Selvaduri published Swimming in the Monsoon Sea in 2005, a YA novel which was nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award and won the Lamba Literary Award in 2006. His latest novel The Hungry Ghosts has been nominated for the 2013 Governor General's Award for Fiction. 

Steve Weiner, The Museum of Love: Sweet England was published in 2010, and was shortlisted for the 2011 ReLit Awards.

1995: Winner, Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance

Book Cover Piano Mans Daughter

Timothy Findley, The Piano Man's Daughter: Findley would be short …

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A Shoe in the Wall: Guest Post by Tristan Hughes

Tristan Hughes Sticks in Lake

Up here in northern Ontario the hunting season has arrived. The evidence is unmistakable: a sudden proliferation of bright orange clothing, and, in the streets and roads, people talking excitedly about ‘sign’. Stripped of its ‘s’ and turned into a collective noun, sign stands for any evidence of an animal’s presence--scat, footprints, rubbed bark, a snapped twig--and in scrutinizing it, the hunter attempts to apprehend a narrative in the landscape: a story that will tell him what an animal has been doing and so, of course, where it might be. Like any decent novelist, the hunter is trying his best to engineer encounters, to reveal something otherwise hidden, to bring disparate lives into a brief--and sometimes fatal--moment of convergence.

It all reminds me of that literary hunter and tracker par excellence: James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo. In one of the novels in which he features--The Pioneers, I think--Natty comes upon a clearing in the forest, and surveying a nearby valley finds mingled there “scenes of nature, signs of men”. It’s a resonant and memorable phrase (one of my professors at university used it as the title for an excellent book) in which the ‘sign’ on show provides proof of human settlement and occupation, and hence the basi …

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