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Shelf Talkers: December 2015

It’s that time of year again, that most wonderful time, when the evenings are long, and the air is full of the sound of Year-End Best-Of lists. What, you were expecting carolling?

Sure, the holidays are swell and everything, but as a booklover, the turning of the year is a time to look back, to recall what books brought me joy and, more significantly, to look at other peoples’ lists and see what I missed.

My book budget goes out the window in December, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.

The Year-End Best-Of list has become as much a tradition as turkey dinners and fighting with your family around the table. David Gutowski has, at the time of this writing, more than a thousand such lists aggregated over at Largehearted Boy (and yes, I’m spending altogether too much time there).

But the lists, at least in their more formal iterations, are also a recurring cause of frustration. Open a newspaper, flip through a magazine, click a link, and what do you find? Writers talking about the best books of the year. Reviewers boiling a year’s work down to a handful of favourites. Media figures weighing in with their choices.  It’s as if, in the wake of the major prizes, everybody gets to contribute their voices.

Well, almost everyone.

Who don’t you find, as a rule?


Sure, there’s the occasional broad-based piece: Quill & Quire usually consults with a few booksellers for an article, and Publisher’s Weekly did a great job with a survey of American booksellers last we …

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Shelf Talkers: August 2015

Normally in this space, I try to write something a little clever by way of an introduction to the current round of recommendations from our panel of independent booksellers. (I say “try”—cleverness isn’t something that one can rely on, as my fourth-grade teacher often told me, usually before sending me out into the hallway to think about what I had done.) This month, though, I’m going to go with something a little different: sincerity. Sincerity and gratitude.

I spent more than two decades—the greater part of my adult life—as a bookseller. I know their concerns, the pressures upon them, the constant flurry and flux they face as the industry shifts and heaves around them.

And as a writer, I want to say, simply, thank you.

What independent booksellers do isn’t easy. They face frequently overwhelming odds and strains, long days, and recurring doubts. It isn’t an easy life. And yet, every day, they find time to read. The booksellers I know read incessantly; the backrooms and sales floors of every independent bookstore I’ve ever been to are a hum of “Have you read this?” and “What did you think of that?” No matter the financial pressures and the ongoing stresses, booksellers find time to immerse themselves in books new and old, to read deeply and passionately.

They are also, it has to be said, some of the most critical readers you are ever liable to meet: if they feel strongly enough about a book to recommend it, you know it’s a good one. They won’t dis …

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Coming of Age With This is Sadie

Book Cover This is Sadie

This weekend, the New York Times called This Is Sadie an "elegant tribute to the inner life of an imaginative girl" and declared the book to be "an appealingly rounded glimpse of girlhood that’s somehow both timeless and modern." It's a fitting reception for one of the season's most anticipated picture book titles. Sara O'Leary and Julie Morstad have scored another winner. 

Here, O'Leary answers our questions about Sadie as bildungsroman, the wisdom of five-year-olds, the genderization of play, and reading and empathy. She also suggests Sadie's summer reading list.


49th Shelf: I am having a lot of fun thinking about This is Sadie in conjunction with the idea of coming-of-age and coming-of-age books. Sadie seems to have so many of the fundamentals of the universe worked out already. How old is she, in your imaginings?

Sara O’Leary: I think Sadie is about five—five for me was the year that I started school, received the tremendous gift of a baby brother, and read my first word (wagon). It was a big year.

But Sadie could also be older. There's a beautiful Mary Norton line in Bedknob and Broomstick where she slyly tells you that one of the characters is "about your age." And I hope Sadie's a little like that—about the age of whoever is reading themselves int …

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Gallery: Julie Morstad

Book Cover How To

Julie Morstad was awarded the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award at the Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards on November 6 for her first picture book as author/illustrator, the remarkable How To. Morstad began her career in picture book illustration with Sara O'Leary's "Henry" books, beginning with When You Were Small.

She also illustrated the beautiful book, Singing Away the Dark, by Caroline Woodward, a board book version of Robert Louis Steven son's poem, "The Swing," and collaborated with Kyo Maclear for the recent book, Julia, Child. She's also published two books with Drawn & Quarterly, Milk Teeth and Wayside, and illustrated Jonarno Lawson's poetry collection, Think Again. 

Plans are in the works for a new book this spring with Sara O'Leary in the spring, This Is Sadie. We're excited about this one, but in the meantime are so pleased to share with you this gallery of Morstad's work. 


From When You Were Small, with Sara O'Leary: 


Julie Morstad: When You Were Small

From Where You Came From, with Sara O'Leary:


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