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Alcuin Society’s best-designed CDN books of 2017
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Alcuin Society’s best-designed CDN books of 2017

By 49thShelf
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The Alcuin Society has announced the winners of its 36th annual competition, The Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada, held Saturday March 17th, 2018. Awards will be presented this fall in both Toronto and Vancouver. The winning books will be entered in the international book design competition in Leipzig, Germany in February 2019. They will be exhibited in Germany at the Frankfurt and Leipzig Book Fairs; in Japan, at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, in conjunction with the Tokyo International Book Fair; and in almost every province of Canada. The venues are listed on the Alcuin web site. This year’s judges, Sue Colberg, Shelley Gruendler, and Frank Viva, selected 38 winning titles from 235 submissions, from 10 provinces and 107 publishers. This year’s book design winners are:
Colette's Lost Pet

Colette's Lost Pet


A charming and funny story about navigating new places and friendships. Perfect for fans of Uni the Unicorn and Sparky.
Colette is exploring her new neighborhood and wants to make friends. But when she encounters someone her age she’s never met before, she doesn’t know what to say—so she hastily invents a lost pet! Things spiral a bit out of control as a neighborhood-wide search party is assembled and Colette makes her pet bird more amazing with each telling. Will the neighborhood kids ca …

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tagged : literary

The cartoonist of This One Summer and SuperMutant Magic Academy explores the virtual and IRL world of contemporary women via a lens both surreal and wry Jenny becomes obsessed with a strange "mirror Facebook," which presents an alternate, possibly better, version of herself. Helen finds her clothes growing baggy, her shoes looser, and as she shrinks away to nothingness, the world around her recedes as well. The animals of the city briefly open their minds to us, and we see the world as they do. …

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Dear Ghost,

Dear Ghost,


Catherine Owen's latest collection is an extended love letter to her poetic influences and to the real-world objects, people, places and situations that fascinate her. Inspired by the work of John Ashbery, among others, in Dear Ghost, Owen returns to the kooky imagery and humorous style she last visited with her award-winning collection Frenzy. These poems entertain immensities of sound while plumbing the depths of the psyche's surrealities, content to enter a dreamlike realm where meaning is fo …

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Admission Requirements

Admission Requirements


A Globe and Mail Best Book
A debut collection from a startling new voice in Canadian poetry.

The poems in Admission Requirements attempt to discover what is required of us when we cut across our material and psychic geographies. Simultaneously full and empty of its origins, the self is continually taxed of any certainties and ways of being. The speaker in these poems is engaged in a kind of fieldwork, surveying gardens, communities, and the haphazard cityscape, where the reader is presented with …

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tagged : canadian, nature

Faunics is a fully articulated (compactly composed and beautifully structured) book of poems grounded in deep appreciation and knowledge of nature and in sophisticated language play (the sound and the sense), making it a strangely wonderful hybrid: animal kingdom meets Paul Celan. Erudite yet unassuming, each of the small poems in this highly allusive book is like a seed: planted in a reader, it grows and grows. Emily Dickinson. This is a first book that has been quietly germinating for somethin …

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Lost in September

Lost in September

also available: Paperback

Long-awaited, thrilling new fiction from Kathleen Winter, whose previous novel Annabel was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller, Governor General's Award, Writers' Trust and Orange prizes, was a Globe and Mail "Best Book" and a New York Times "Notable," and was a #1 bestselling Canada Reads selection.

From one of Canada's most exciting writers comes a gripping, compassionate and stunning novel that overturns and rewrites history. Enter the world of Jimmy--a tall, red-haired, homeless thirty-somet …

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The Agony of Bun O'Keefe

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe

also available: Paperback

Little Miss Sunshine meets Room in this quirky, heartwarming story of friendship, loyalty and discovery.

It's Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. What she's learned about life comes from the random books and old VHS tapes that she finds in the boxes and bags her mother brings home. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun's mother te …

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The Only Café

The Only Café

A Novel
also available: Hardcover

The Only Café is both a moving mystery in which a son tries to solve the mystery of his father's death--and an illuminating exploration of how the traumatic past, if left unexamined, shadows every moment of the present.

     Pierre Cormier had secrets. Though he married twice, became a high-flying lawyer and a father, he didn't let anyone really know him. And he was especially silent about what had happened to him in Lebanon, the country he fled during civil war to come to Canada as a refugee. …

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He’d driven his new toy, a vintage Mustang, north to Bloor. He might have then turned west, toward home. But he’d turned east instead, crossed the Don Valley and entered what he’d always thought of as the city’s European microcosm, Danforth Avenue. He drove past the teeming patios, the Greek restaurants, Greek street signs, Greek statuary, Mediterranean enthusiasm. He drove slowly, absorbing all the images of pleasure. Too much pleasure. Too many thoughtless people.He could feel a headache starting.
   He drove until he entered another world. No more patios and pleasure-seeking throngs, no more shish kebab and booze. The signs were now in Urdu, the shops proclaiming halal meat. He drove until he saw the mosque, the unmistakable minaret, the silver crescent, the emerald domes.
   He parked the Mustang, locked it, stepped back, admired his car, felt his spirits lift but only for a moment. The car was a reminder of why he endured days like that day, a day of bad news, double-talk and spin. The car was a reward, like the boat he kept in Nova Scotia. Car and boat, vehicles for fantasy, for flight. But now he needed distance from his car, distance from his day. He needed to escape even his escapes.
   He started walking. And then he spotted the little bar with the peculiar name in this unlikely neighbourhood. He went in, ordered a beer. He sat trying to imagine what awaited him in the days to come. The patio was just outside and beyond it he could see the domes that made him feel at home. 
He’d spent maybe twenty minutes on the first beer, then he’d gone to the bar and fetched a second. Perhaps because he appeared to be out of place in his expensive suit and tie, a stranger came and gestured toward the empty seat across from him.
   Pierre nodded toward the chair. The stranger sat.
   “Have I seen you here before?”
   The agitation of the day was undiminished and he didn’t answer right away. But there was something about the stranger’s accent. Agitation was replaced by curiosity. “I doubt it.”
   The intruder said, “I’m Ari,” and held out a beefy hand. Pierre stared at it.
   Perhaps it was the face. Or maybe it was something deeper, a voiceprint in the memory. Ormaybe it was just the similarity to another name that loomed large in memories Pierre had buried. 
   Ari started to rise. “Sorry. I don’t mean to interrupt.” Pierre quickly grasped the hand. “It’s okay . . . sit . . . Harry?” 
   “Ari. Short for Ariel.”
   “Pierre Cormier. I’ve never been here before. A bit different.”
   “Cormier? Yes. I find the atmosphere relaxing. Casual.”
   “Ari. Interesting name. Ari what?”
   “Roloff. An old Quebec name.”
   “But you aren’t French.”
   “True.” Ari shrugged, looked away briefly. “Nor are you,” he said. There was a trace of aggression in the look, the tone of voice. 
   Pierre could feel the agitation creeping back as he studied the face before him. It was broad and smooth, fleshy, friendly, open, the eyes interested but weary. What a bizarre coincidence. He felt a flutter in his stomach. Ariel. The same name. There was even a bodily resemblance. The man in front of him was short and overweight, borderline obese. The hair, the colour of ash, was thinning at the front but effectively combed over.
   “You come here often?” he asked.
   Ari smiled, shrugged. “Maybe more often than I should.”
   “So how long have you been in this country?”
   Ari laughed. “Where do you think I’m from?” The subtle thickness of his consonants.
  “I know exactly where you’re from.”
   The smile was cautious now. Ari nodded.
   “You could say we were neighbours once,” Pierre said.
   “Ah. Neighbours north? South? East?”
   “North,” said Pierre.
   “Yes. Pierre? Yimkin kenna as-hab. Perhaps we were even friends.”
   “Perhaps. You speak like an Arab.”
   “Maybe not so much. I’ve been here five years,” Ari said. “You?”
   “Quite a bit longer.”
   “You’re from Beirut,” Ari said.
   “No. A bit south of there.”
   Ari hesitated. “Damour?”
   “You know Damour?”
   Ari nodded. “I’ve been there.”
   “I had family in Damour. But I was born in Saida.”
   “Ah. Sidon. But you had family in Damour?”
   “I’m going to order a drink. Would you like another beer? Or something better.”
   “I’ll have what you’re having.” 
   Ari returned with two glasses. Scotch. 
   “And you? I’m going to guess Haifa.”
   “Why Haifa?”
   “Just a feeling. You’ve lived with Arabs.”
   “Yes. But not Haifa. A kibbutz near Hebron. You never heard of it.”
   “Probably not. I suppose you hear this a lot, but you bear a remarkable resemblance to someone famous.”
   Ari laughed. “I don’t hear it anymore so much. Someone no longer visible. Someone slowly being forgotten, yes?” 
   “Forgotten here, maybe. But not so much in other places.”
   “When did you say you came?” asked Ari.
   “I didn’t say.”
   “And you’ve been back?”
   “Not once?”
   “I have nobody left there.”
   “You said you have family in Damour?”
   Pierre shook his head. “Past tense. You know the history.”
   “The important parts.” Ari reached across the table, clasped Pierre’s hand again, held it gently for a moment. “Such a tragedy, Damour. And all that followed.”
   Pierre stood abruptly, light-headed. “I think I have to leave now.” He took a quick mouthful of the Scotch. It was strong. “Thanks for the drink,” he said, setting the empty glass back down.
   Ari nodded and looked away.
   And that was how it started.


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