Off the Page

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

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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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The Chat with Nolan Natasha

The Chat with Nolan Natasha

By Trevor Corkum

Today we’re chatting with poet Nolan Natasha, who's based in Halifax. His debut collection of poetry, I Can Hear You, …

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Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Books for Young Readers Preview

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

*****

Picture Books

Told half in French and half in English, with simple phrasing and visual cues in the illustrations making the story easy for early readers to decode in both languages, Pierre & Paul: Avalanche! (March), by Caroline Adderson and illustrated by Alice Carter, is an engaging story of friendship and imagination. A girl and her neighbour grow a community from their garden in What Grew in Larry's Garden (April), by Laura Alary, illustrated by Kass Reich. Extraordinary things are happening behind the windows of the city in Marion Arbona's Window (March), an interactive, one-of-a-kind wordless picture book. And Christine Baldacchino follows up the acclaimed Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress with Violet Shrink (March), illustrated by Carmen Mok, about a young girl who navigates social anxiety at family gatherings and works with her father to find a solution.

Pairing creative rhyming similes with cut-paper collage art, Ashl …

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

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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Jesse Thistle’s memoir, From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way, took me on a heartbreaking journey of his life as a homeless Indigenous man. His resilience as he battled substance abuse and poverty (and eventually earned his GED in jail) was just part of this courageous story. Although there are many reasons to cheer Thistle on as he struggles to overcome intergenerational trauma, I was drawn in by the honesty of his writing.

This is not an easy story to read and I’d encourage grade 11 and 12 students to read it but still caution teenagers (16+) that there are many difficult aspects to Thistle’s life story that could be upsetting for them. However, the focus on the power of relationships and education shines through. In a CBC interview, the author said, “It was painful, but it was also very beautiful. These were really hard, painful, sharp memories. But I also saw there were people that were trying to help me, like the kind shop owner who gave me food or my friend at the shelter who watched out for my shoes. My brother Jerry always took care of me and took me in an …

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Poems to Return To

Book Cover Our Latest in Folktales

A playful and wide-ranging recommended reading list—with dogs, poems that talk to each other, impossible plays and fridge magnet letters that spell it all outby Matthew Gwathmey, whose debut collection is Our Latest in Folktales.

*****

Short Talks, by Anne Carson

This is a good place to start for multiple reasons, as Anne Carson is a poet whom I return to quite a bit. Autobiography of Red and Red Doc> are two books in particular I’ve enjoyed rereading. Also, I’ll never forget the experience that was Nox. I remember she came and did a reading at UVA while I was there. She began with a joke she just heard: “Where do otters come from? Otterspace.” I remember at one point in the evening we the audience had to perform a response to her call, though I can’t remember for the life of me what exactly it was. It wasn’t forced at all, but felt natural in a great and surprising reading. This particular book, Short Talks, which I only read a few years ago, continued my fascination with the prose poem. It’s a collection of poetic blocks of text, on to …

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Nine Evocative Reads

In my stories, I try to recreate a time and place and mood as honestly as I can. I’m most drawn to story collections that do the same—ones that that feel like they could only have been written by someone from a certain time and place that are then brought back to life each time you read them. The collections below are the best examples of this I know.

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Natasha and Other Stories, by David Bezmozgis

It seems silly to say now, but I didn’t read much CanLit until well into my twenties; it wasn’t taught in high school, and I didn’t pick up much after, except for an intense dislike of Robertson Davies, who I took to represent all of CanLit. Released in 2004, Natasha was the first Canadian short story collection that showed me there was good, contemporary, Canadian writing that was up to par with the British and American stuff I’d grown up reading. Set in Toronto and the suburbs in the '70s and '80s, the stories follow a young man growing up with his immigrant family. The setting and characters were as far from my experiences as they could be, but the …

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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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