Off the Page

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

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Book Cover The Skin We're In

Black History/Black Futures

By Kerry Clare

Recent books exploring Black history, Black futures, and experiences of being Black right now.

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Book Cover Summer Feet

Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Books for Young Readers Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

We're excited to be looking ahead to books for young readers, including picture books, middle grade, and YA titles.

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Reconciliation Through Education: Reading Jesse Thistle's From the Ashes with Senior Grades

Reconciliation Through Education: Reading Jesse Thistle's From the Ashes with Senior Grades

By Llana Bruggemann

Jesse Thistle’s memoir, From the Ashes, took me on a heartbreaking journey of his life as a homeless Indigenous man. H …

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Book Cover Our Latest in Folktales

Poems to Return To

By Matthew Gwathmey

A playful and wide-ranging recommended reading list—with dogs, poems that talk to each other, impossible plays and fri …

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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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Bodies and Books

The essays in BIG: Stories About Life in Plus-Size Bodies explore themes of all kinds: from fashion to food, sexuality to surgery, diet culture to fat activism.

BIG is both personal and political, braiding together common themes and differing opinions, in stories that are at times funny, traumatic, surprising, and heartfelt. Readers of all sizes and shapes will find stories that may feel intimately familiar to their own experiences, and others that are new, challenging and surprising. The book is opportunity to ask questions about and—hopefully—reconsider our collective and individual obsession with women’s bodies.

Edited by former reporter Christina Myers, BIG includes the work of 26 writers from across Canada and beyond, among them award-winning novelists and poets, first-time writers, educators, journalists, mothers, fat activists, and more. 

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Bodies and books. Books and bodies. It’s safe to say that the two topics have occupied a large portion of my time, energy, and thought for much of my life. I was a bookworm—growing up in what I thought was an imperfect body; at times, books were an escape from thinking about bodies (or at least a way to think about other people’s bodies instead of my own).

But in recent years, books and bodies have intertwined i …

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Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Poetry Preview

We continue looking forward to spring releases. Don't miss our Fiction and Nonfiction previews.

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Irfan Ali's debut Accretion (April) is set in Toronto, unfurling against the backdrop of an ancient Persian love story. Softening concrete poetry with humour and tenderness, POP (April), by Simina Banu, takes an uncommon perspective on modern poetic traditions, combining deft lyricism with visual poems for a playful romp. In Tanja Bartel’s riveting poetry debut, Everyone At This Party (March), the bucolic Vancouver suburbs clash with the interpersonal. And Ross Belot has a filmmaker’s sense of atmosphere, an environmentalist’s urgency and his stark lines take the reader deep into the heart of industrial man in Moving to Climate Change Hours (April).

Gwen Benaway follows up the Governor General’s Award-winning Holy Wild with day/break (April), exploring the everyday poetics of the trans feminine body. Bertrand Bickersteth’s debut collection The Response of Weeds (April) explores what it means to be Black and Albertan through numerous prisms: histo …

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Eight Books that Help Support Mental Wellness in Students

Twice a month, we invite an educator to share their perspective on essential books for your classroom. To apply to become a contributor, please send us an email!

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I’ve always been a worrier. In elementary school, I was afraid of speaking in class, and dreaded being called upon, even if I knew the answers. Well-meaning grownups would often say, “Don’t worry. There’s nothing to be afraid of. You just need to think positive.” I appreciated their reassurances, but you can’t get rid of anxiety with breezy bromides.

You can help ease fears by opening the door to a conversation, and here are some books that I wish I had growing up—both for myself and for the adults in my life. The following authentic and non-didactic picture books, middle grade, and teen fiction titles show realistic, nuanced characters who work on navigating their fears. These are books in which kids can feel seen and understood, and realize that they aren’t alone. Educators can make a profoundly positive difference in the life of a child, and these engaging stories also offer prescient insight into mental wellness supports. 

Healing power of art

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On the night before the first day of school, Molly Akita can’t sleep because it feels like there’s a pack of rabble-rousing dogs running wild …

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Shelf Talkers: Melting Queens, Mysteries, and More

With all due respect and apologies to the rest of the country (I’m looking at you especially, St. John’s), I’d like us to take a moment to consider winter.

This is a topic with which, until recently, I have been largely unfamiliar. Now, though, having survived two days in which there were several centimetres of snow on the ground in Victoria, I feel uniquely qualified to discuss the frigid season. (Honestly, I’ve never felt more Canadian.)

And I just have to say: I don’t like it.

No sir. Not one bit.

It probably goes without saying that, for me, adding “winter” in front of the word “sports” doesn’t do anything to make them more enticing. And have you noticed that all of these “fun” pastimes are actually accidents waiting to happen? “Hey kids, let’s strap a board or two onto our feet and go down a frozen hill really fast!” “You know what sounds like fun? Tying blades to our feet and trying to stay upright on a sheet of ice!”

Not for me.

And then there’s the matter of trying to figure out where you packed your scarf and gloves twenty-three years ago, after the end of the Blizzard of '96. How can I possibly be expected to keep track of things like that?

No, with my harrowing exposure to winter, I have come to a simple conclusion: the groundhogs have it right.

Think about it: they stay in their dens during the coldest months of the year, they poke their heads out when they think the worst has passed, and if it hasn’t, they sequester themselves for an …

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Spring 2020 Books: What's Trending?

Halfway through our preview of books from the first half of 2020 (check out our Fiction Preview and our Nonfiction Preview, and stay tuned for Poetry coming this week...) and here are some of the trends we're noticing.

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Bigfoot

The Wild Heavens, by Sarah Butler (March)

About the book: It all starts with an impossibly large set of tracks, footprints for a creature that could not possibly exist. The words sasquatch, bigfoot and yeti never occur in this novel, but that is what most people would call the hairy, nine-foot creature that would become a lifelong obsession for Aidan Fitzpatrick, and in turn, his granddaughter Sandy Langley.

The novel spans the course of single winter day, interspersed with memories from Sandy’s life—childhood days spent with her distracted, scholarly grandfather in a remote cabin in British Columbia’s interior mountains; later recollections of new motherhood; and then the tragic disappearance that would irrevocably shape the rest of her life, a day when all signs of the mysterious creature would disappear for thirty years. When the enigmatic tracks finally reappear, Sandy sets out on the trail alone, determined to find out the truth about the mystery that has shaped her life.

The Wild Heavens is an impressive and evocative debut, conta …

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