Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover Trip of the Dead

Apocalypses, Quests, and Survival

By Angela Misri

A great list of books for middle-grade readers by author of new novel Trip of the Dead.

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The Chat with Eva Crocker

The Chat with Eva Crocker

By Trevor Corkum

This week we’re in conversation with author Eva Crocker. Her debut novel, All I Ask, (House of Anansi Press) was publi …

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Book Cover A Town Called Solace

Mary Lawson: A Sense of Place

By Mary Lawson

"I don’t know if it’s a Canadian thing, or if people the world over are similarly drawn to the landscape they know w …

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Book Cover: Elvis Me and the Lemonade Summer

Most Anticipated: Our Books for Young Readers Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

Looking forward to some of the books for young readers (and readers of all ages) that we're going to be falling in love …

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I Read Canadian Day is back!

I Read Canadian Day is back!

By Geoffrey Ruggero

It’s back! After a very successful first year where authors, students, educators, librarians, parents and many other C …

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Book Cover The Adventures of Miss Petitfour

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Scrumptious Stories

By Julie Booker

DELICIOUS books about food and eating.

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Book Cover Firefly

The Kids: Are They Alright?

By Philippa Dowding

What is it like for a child who lives with a parent or who knows an adult struggling with a crisis of mental health, add …

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Where It All Happened: A List of Propulsive Settings

Where It All Happened: A List of Propulsive Settings

By Kiley Turner

Anyone who's read Emma Donoghue's The Pull of the Stars knows just how much the confines of that understaffed maternity …

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Book Cover Night Watch

Seeking Certainty in Uncertain Worlds

By Gillian Wigmore

A fascinating recommended reading list by the author of new book Night Watch.

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Book Cover Hana Khan Carries On

What Is Love: A Romancelandia Roundtable

By Kerry Clare

In honour of Valentine's Day, we got together (virtually) with some of Canada's hottest romance authors to break down on …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Scrumptious Stories

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

*****

The Adventures of Miss Petitfour, by Anne Michaels, illustrated by Emma Block, is a brilliant collection of five short stories, all featuring the enigmatic Miss Petitfour. Miss Petitfour loves to bake little cakes and she loves to eat. She loves her neighbourhood with its bookstore and bakery. And she loves to fly, travelling by tablecloth, puffed up “like a biscuit in the oven,” with her “sixteen cats dangling in one gigantic puss-tail.” Each story brings adventures, big and small: discovering the empty marmalade pot, with the spoon still in it; getting caught up in a jumble of coat hangers; chasing a runaway rare stamp; celebrating Minky, the cheese-loving cat’s birthday; rescuing a neighbour from a confetti explosion.

The charm of this book, besides its obvious appreciation of food and enticing descriptions, is found in the playfulness of the language, imaginative characters and creative plot twists. Plus, there’s the bonus of the authorial voice instructing the reader on key phrases (some of which are even in a different font colour) that can turn a story on a dime or resolve a plot thread or steer into an interesting digression. For example, Mi …

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The Kids: Are They Alright?

Firefly is up for giveaway right now along with three other fab books in the DCB Middle Grade Bundle—Trip of the Dead, by Angela Misri; Birdspell, by Valerie Sherrard; Elvis, Me, and the Lemonade Stand Summer, by Leslie Gentile. Enter for your chance to win!

What is it like for a child who lives with a parent or who knows an adult struggling with a crisis of mental health, addiction, or homelessness?

Canadian children’s authors have written many moving, thoughtful books about kids coping with parents or adults in crisis. While writing my latest book Firefly, I read a lot of them (mostly pretty choked up).  

I couldn’t include them all, but here is a list of some of my favourite titles from recent years.

*

Aunt Pearl, by Monica Kulling, Illustrated by Irene Luxbacher

Dan, Marta and their mother try to help their Aunt Pearl, who is homeless, by giving her a home. But Aunt Pearl is different. She collects garbage and lives in a messy, jumbled way, and yet she shows the children that recycled items can have a purpose, that we can help each other in way …

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Where It All Happened: A List of Propulsive Settings

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Anyone who's read Emma Donoghue's The Pull of the Stars knows just how much the confines of that understaffed maternity ward contributed to this intimate, feminist love story. Donoghue is a master of gripping thrillers set in small spaces—think of The Wonder and of course, Room.

This is a list of books where unusual settings set the scene for all that happens next.

**

The Setting: The Back Room of a Café

The Book: The Company We Keep, by Frances Itani

What It's About

On Tuesday nights in the backroom of Cassie’s café, six strangers seek solace and find themselves part of a “Company of Good Cheer”

Hazzley is at loose ends, even three years after the death of her husband. When her longtime friend Cassandra, café owner and occasional dance-class partner, suggests that she start up a conversation group, Hazzley posts a notice on the community board at the local grocery store. Four people turn up for the first meeting: Gwen, a recently widowed retiree in her early sixties, who finds herself pet-sitting a cantankerous parrot; Chiyo, a forty-year-old fitness instructor who cared for her unyielding but gossip-loving mother through the final days of her life; Addie, a woman pre-emptively grieving a close friend who is seriously ill; and Tom, an antiques dealer and ama …

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Seeking Certainty in Uncertain Worlds

**Win a copy of Night Watch, one of the great books of fiction we've got up for giveaway this week! Don't miss  your chance to get a free copy of this book!**

Somewhere along the way I got the impression that the fundamental property of a novella isn’t its brevity, or that it’s stuck somewhere between a story and a novel, but that it’s this: a novella wrestles with the worst day of a protagonist’s life. I like the German tradition in novellen that the story comes to a surprising but logical end, which for me as a writer means I need to convince the reader there is no other possible outcome than the ending we arrive at together.

You’ll read a lot of different definitions of novellas, mainly about word length (10,000 to 50,000 words by some accounts, shorter or longer by others), but for me, the novella, like a poem, loves a turn, tastes its words as it delivers them, and lasts in the mind long after the book is closed.

This selection of Canadian works is short on novellas but each one is novella-ish in its love of language, its unforgettable characters, or its inarguable nature—some of these read like ur-texts, like they’ve always existed and we were lucky enough to find them washed up intact onshore.

One aspect or another of each of these books echoes a …

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What Is Love: A Romancelandia Roundtable

Romancelandia. It's a sprawling and fascinating place, and some of its most exciting authors are here together (virtually) to talk about the genre, its challenges, and the very best parts of writing happily-ever-after.

*****

49th Shelf: Imagine you were welcoming a new reader to Romancelandia—can you provide a brief description of the lay of the land and its regions? Where in its world do you live?

Barb Curtis: Romancelandia is a world where lovers of the romance genre (both readers and writers) can connect over all things romance. If you follow the hashtag on Twitter, you’ll discover industry news and discussions, book recommendations based on your favourite authors or tropes, and reviews. It’s also a place where important conversations are happening about politics, women’s rights, and representation. It’s a community that comes together and stands up for all that romance is and can evolve into.

Romancelandia is just a click away and all you need to fit in is a love for any genre of happily-ever-afters—from historical romance to paranormal romance to romantic suspense.

Kelly Bowen: What a fun question! Here goes, according to my handy guidebook interpretation (which, of course, is not the only one!):

Romancelandia is a huge, fabulous world that welcomes a …

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