Off the Page

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

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Book Cover Cedar and Salt

3 Great Recipes from the 2020 Taste Canada Awards Shortlist

By Kerry Clare

Foodies, take note! Great recipes from celebrated cookbooks.

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Book Cover On Nostalgia

Launchpad: On Nostalgia, by David Berry

By Kerry Clare

"Berry’s subject is a wide-ranging one, but he pulls off the impressive feat of covering plenty of ground in a concise …

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Literatures, Communities and Learnings

Literatures, Communities, and Learning

By Kerry Clare

9 conversations with Indigenous writers about the relationship between Indigenous literatures and learning, and how thei …

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The Chat with Faye Guenther

The Chat with Faye Guenther

By Trevor Corkum

Swimmers in Winter (Invisible Publishing) is Faye Guenther’s debut collection of short fiction. These six stories expl …

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Book Cover Little Secrets

Summer Reading Starts Here

By Kerry Clare

Summer is not cancelled, and summer reading isn't either. We've got thrillers, epics, drama, historical fiction, and so …

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Cover Summer Feet

Picture Book Sneak Peek: Summer Feet, by Sheree Fitch and Carolyn Fisher

By Kerry Clare

Summer starts HERE with this glorious celebration of childhood...and filthy feet.

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Book Cover Mr. Frank

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Texts on Textiles

By Julie Booker

Exploring the art of sewing? Here are some tales to comfort and inspire.

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Pondering the “What If” with Shari Green & Caroline Pignat

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Pondering the “What If” with Shari Green & Caroline Pignat

By Erika MacNeil

During this time of self-isolation and social distancing, books can sometimes be our only companions as the days stretch …

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Book Cover Good Mothers Don't

Launchpad: Good Mothers Don't, by Laura Best

By Kerry Clare

"An unlikely page turner replete with hushed surprises, unexpected crescendos, endless love and boundless vitality."

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Book Cover #NotYourPrincess

Exploring Indigenous History

By Kerry Clare

June is Indigenous History Month, a great opportunity to celebrate some of our favourite books over the years, along wit …

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Bob Armstrong's Father's Day Books List

Dadolescence by Bob Armstrong: Stay-at-home fathers were all over the TV screen and book shelves last year, including in my debut novel, which featured a trio of them. My protagonist, forty-something Bill Angus, doesn’t think of himself as a stay-at-home father. He’s an anthropologist conducting participatory-observer studies of the phenomenon of stay-at-home fathers, and in the process asking “What is a man when he isn’t going out into a hostile environment to wrest a living for his family?”

Book Cover The Antagonist

The Antagonist by Lynn Coady: At the heart of this tragicomic story of a young man drawn into violence is a fraught but loving father-and-son relationship. Lynn Coady’s 2011 novel, shortlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize. is also an exploration of the impact of the mythology of rock-'em sock-'em hockey on Canadian masculinity.

The …

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New Read Local Summer Theme: The Great Outdoors

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Are you bristling in your desk chair right now just itching to get outside and start enjoying Canada’s awesome summer pastimes? We can think of a few tantalizing ideas to make you even more restless: hiking, canoeing, picnicking, biking, barbequeing, fishing … And that’s a short list, of course.

Until you get a chance to bolt, relieve some of the pressure and pin some local, outdoorsy books to the Read Local Map under The Great Outdoors theme. The basic guidelines for this theme? If the book’s about something you can do outside, and it’s about or set in a specific Canadian place, it should make it to the map.

Click here for more on how to participate in Read Local.

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Samuel Martin: If the Writer Builds a Fire, the Reader Will Come to Watch You Burn

A Blessed Snarl by Samuel Martin (Breakwater Books).

Samuel Thomas Martin is the author of This Ramshackle Tabernacle (Breakwater Books), which was shortlisted for the 2010 BMO Winterset Award and longlisted for the 2011 ReLit Award for Short Fiction, and the novel A Blessed Snarl, also from Breakwater Books, about a man who moves his family back to Newfoundland to start a new Pentecostal church.

Originally from Ontario, Martin now lives in Newfoundland with his wife Samantha and their dog Vader.

Find Martin at his "e-nook out of the pull of the Google slipstream," The Dark Art Cafe.

(Read Sam's post on finding the right book at the right time.)

Julie Wilson: Your collection of short stories, This Ramshackle Tabernacle, is set in and around the fictional villages of St. Lola and St. Olga in northeastern Ontario. Why was it important to locate the stories in a particular kind of place, a recognizable one, while not naming those places as they currently exist?

Sam Martin: In rural communities, people know each other and, at least in my hometown, there is a lot of emphasis on telling stories—true stories—and getting the details right. You can’t have people over for coffee without storytelling and part of that is cutting in and saying, "That’s not how it happened," or "Come on now, get it right." So, to write …

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Katrina Onstad: Books with a Sense of Place

Katrina Onstad

When you say “sense of place” and “CanLit” in the same breath, everyone scurries over to Mordecai Richler and Montreal’s St. Urbain Street, or to the Bloor St. viaduct in Toronto that cuts through In the Skin of a Lion. I bow down before both (and my initials mean I get to rub up against Ondaatje on the shelves), but they aren’t the ones that moved me most. I love a book in which setting anchors the story with atmosphere and meaning, sometimes becoming character itself, or lending characters their motivations. But a personal connection to setting is something special between the reader and the writer: “The author knows the place I live better than I do” or “Now that place is changed to me forever.”

I appreciate many great novels where the setting isn’t even known, but these aren’t those; these are some books that, if the location changed, the story would be utterly different—to me, anyway.

Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland: No one has dissected Vancouver more than Coupland, granting sympathy and hopefulness to that frustrating …

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Dennis Lee's Groundbreaking Alligator Pie is Reborn

Book Cover Alligator Pie

Poet Dennis Lee's children's classics Alligator Pie and Garbage Delight are brought back to life this month in sparkling new "classic editions" published by HarperCollins Canada. Though the popularity of Lee's work for children hasn't waned since the 1974 publication of Alligator Pie—which went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies around the world—the book has been out of print since publisher Key Porter folded in early 2011. Thankfully, HarperCollins Canada's gain is all of ours, as they've bought up Lee's entire Key Porter backlist and will be reissuing his children's collections season by season.

Alligator Pie was a groundbreaking book. The world of Canadian publishing was very a different place in 1974, and there was very little regard for children's literature within the industry. In his memoir Stories About Storytellers, editor Douglas Gibson recalls that there were no children's bookstores and only one children's publisher, Tundra. He writes of his arrival at Macmillan Canada when “...the corridors... were alive with gossip of how [publisher Hugh Kane] was championing a crazy project, a couple of children’s books by a poem named Dennis Lee, illustrated by Hugh’s old friend Frank Newfield, that would need to sell ten times the usual number of …

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