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Launchpad: Sea Otters, by Isabelle Groc

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This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching Sea Otters: A Survival Story, by Isabelle Groc, which no less than Dame Judi Dench calls "an important story, one that gives us hope...Young people will be encouraged to see that positive change can happen, and that we can all do something to help preserve our planet."

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Book Cover SEa Otters a Survival Story

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Sea Otters: A Survival Story, illustrated with my photographs, looks at the history, biology, behaviour and uncertain future of sea otters, their journey from …

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Lives of Girls and Women

The lives of girls and women are multifold, which is why this list is loooong, exploring many different experiences of women in Canada and around the world.

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Power Shift:  The Longest Revolution, by Sally Armstrong

About the book: The facts are indisputable. When women get even a bit of education, the whole of society improves. When they get a bit of healthcare, everyone lives longer. In many ways, it has never been a better time to be a woman: a fundamental shift has been occurring. Yet from Toronto to Timbuktu the promise of equality still eludes half the world’s population.

In her 2019 CBC Massey Lectures, award-winning author, journalist, and human rights activist Sally Armstrong illustrates how the status of the female half of humanity is crucial to our collective surviving and thriving. Drawing on anthropology, social science, literature, politics, and economics, she examines the many beginnings of the role of women in society, and the evolutionary revisions over millennia in the realms of sex, religion, custom, culture, politics, and economics. What ultimately comes to light is that gender inequality comes at too high a cost to us all.

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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, con …

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Great Companions: Because Two Books Are Better than One

As fascinating as books themselves are the connections between books, the curious ways in which books inform and echo each other, creating strange synergies completely outside their authors' purview. In celebration of these connections, we've paired recent Canadian books of note, creating ideal literary companions. Because the only thing better than a book you can't wait to read is TWO of them. 

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To Speak for the Trees, by Diana Beresford-Kroeger and Treed, by Ariel Gordon

Poetry and botany meet in these two books that celebrate the wonder and awesomeness of trees. 

About To Speak for the TreesWhen Diana Beresford-Kroeger—whose father was a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and whose mother was an O'Donoghue, one of the stronghold families who carried on the ancient Celtic traditions—was orphaned as a child, she could have been sent to the Magdalene Laundries. Instead, the O'Donoghue elders, most of them scholars and freehold farmers in the Lisheens valley in County Cork, took her under their wing. Diana became the last ward under the Brehon Law. Over the course of three summers, she was taught the ways of the Celtic triad of mind, body and soul. This included the philosophy of healing, the laws of the trees, Brehon wisdom and the Ogham alphabet, all o …

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9 Great Memoirs by Women

Tiny Lights for Travellers, by Naomi K. Lewis, is a memoir that travels across the world and into family history to make sense of the here and now. Writer Lauren B. Davis calls the book "an irresistibly wise, poignant, and often funny memoir, a spiral dance through time and space exploring memory, desire, the roots of family, race, and religion; as well as what it means to belong in one’s own skin." 

In this reading list, Lewis recommends others memoirs that have inspired her as a writer and as a reader.  

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Between Gods, by Alison Pick

Between Gods was published to great and deserved acclaim just as I was beginning work on Tiny Lights for Travellers. I was both inspired and intimidated: Pick’s family history and ambivalent Jewish identity were so like and yet entirely unlike my own. Intimidation aside, I was so grateful for Pick’s voice and her story. Her memoir reminded me to strive for honesty in my own when I was tempted to shy away from the undignified truth. And it reminded me, tragically and poignantly, that my own experience of the mult …

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Most Anticipated: 2019 Fall Nonfiction Preview

The second instalment of our fall preview is that amazing catch-all: nonfiction. New books about family, mountain climbing, millionaires murdered or missing, travel, history, water, climate change, sexism and #MeToo, disability, the mosquito and the sasquatch, and so much more. 

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Dance Me to the End (September), by Alison Acheson, is the profoundly honest and intensely personal story of a woman who cares for her husband after his devastating terminal diagnosis of ALS. Polepole (October), by Erinne Adachi and Angela DeJong (the title comes from a Swahili term meaning “slowly, slowly,” which is what porters on Kilimanjaro say as you climb the mountain), is a comprehensive long-distance-mountain-trek training manual relevant for anyone looking to engage in one of the more defining moments of their life. Marion Agnew's debut is the essay collection Reverberations (October), a reflection on the endurance of love and family. And Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey (September), by Jeremy Allingham, explores the lives of those who bare-knuckle boxed on ice for a living and investigates the human cost we're willing to tolerate in the name of hockey fighting.

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Resilience, Social Justice, and Race: Reviewing Jael Ealey Richardson's The Stone Thrower

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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It can be very difficult to tell two stories in one book, especially in a work of nonfiction, but this is something Jael Richardson does  masterfully in her debut book The Stone Thrower. In this beautifully written memoir, Jael sets out on a path of discovery to find out how her father, football legend Chuck Ealey Jr., became one of the best quarterbacks in history and why he chose to end his illustrious career. While conducting this exploration of her father’s life, she also explores her own life and what it was like to grow up as a young Black woman in Canada. Even though this book is a tale of two stories, there are common themes that feature prominently in both.

Resilience, true grit, and determination are key components of this book and they are also traits that teachers attempt to instill in their students; which is why it is such an excellent resource and educational tool in multiple curricular areas. Physical Education, History, English, and Global Studies courses could all use this book as it covers the sport of football, provides historical context of the civil rights movement, and looks at …

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Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2019 Nonfiction Preview

Our 2019 Spring Preview continues with nonfiction, featuring books on infertility and parenting, trans experience, island life, creativity, grief and art, nature, Chinese restaurants, menstruation, microbes, poetry and cod. And (obviously!) so much more. 

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Through Not Around (January), edited by Allison McDonald Ace, Ariel Ng Bourbonnais, and Caroline Starr, offers personal stories about what it's like to go through the emotional and physical facets of infertility, miscarriage, and pregnancy loss. Constance Backhouse tells the story of Canada’s first two female Supreme Court judges in Two Firsts: Bertha Wilson and Claire L'Heureux-Dubé at the Supreme Court of Canada (March). With seven kids between them and millions of fans on social media, Catherine Belknap and Nathalie Telfer get real about the parts of parenting that somehow don’t make the Instagram feed in Cat and Nat’s Mom Truths (April). Joan Boxall’s DrawBridge (May) is a sister’s discovery of the healing power of art as she searches for connection with her schizophrenic brother. And Most of What Follows Is True (February), by Michael Crummey, is an examination of the complex relationship between fact and fiction, between the “real world” and the stories we tell to explain the world to ou …

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2018 Books of the Year: Nonfiction

Our celebration of 2018 books continues with this nonfiction spotlight, which includes stories from home and abroad, books about the past, the present, and the future, and something for every kind of reader going. We're so pleased to have featured these titles on 49th Shelf this year. 

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Homes: A Refugee Story, by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung

Homes is the remarkable true story of how a young boy emerged from a war zone—and found safety in Canada—with a passion for sharing his story and telling the world what is truly happening in Syria. As told to her by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, writer Winnie Yeung has crafted a heartbreaking, hopeful, and urgently necessary book that provides a window into understanding Syria.” 

Read 11 Life Stories to Read This Spring

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Midnight Light, by Dave Bidini

“This is an absolute joy to read as his writing just flows, inspired, unencumbered, passionate, his joy at being there, his thrill of living loud, leaps off the page. He consumes it all, the edge of the world and the caravan of characters who populate it.“ …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Great Biographies

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

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Here are some great biographies for Grades 3 to 6, part of both the Reading and Writing curricula.

Book Cover Dennis Lee

Weigl’s Canadian Writers Series is aimed specifically at students writing a biography, and it includes Dennis Lee, Gordon Korman (whose first book was an English assignment, mailed to the Scholastic Arrow Book Club address, at age 12), Jean Little, and Melanie Watt. Each book is organized in a way that students can see how a biography might be structured (e.g., Introduction, School Years, Early Writing, Successes, etc.) and includes writing prompts, creative writing tips from the author, and a quiz. Weigl has other series: Canadian Explorer, Canadian Prime Minister and Aboriginal Biography. These also teach the format of a biography along with a concept web and Internet resources. Grades 4–6.

The Scholastic Canada Biographies, by Maxine Trottier, with various illustrators, does it differently with each book highlighting five figures in each of the f …

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Most Anticipated: Our 2018 Fall Nonfiction Preview

Our Fall Preview continues with nonfiction, which is basically the world in a list of books. Literary hoaxes, family life, weather, bathrooms, music, parasites, recipes, true crime ... and more.

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In her memoir, Home Ice (September), Angie Abdou writes about the ups and downs of amateur hockey from a mother’s point of view. Collectively, the essays in the anthology Waiting (August), edited by Rona Altrows and Julie Sedivy, are as much about hope as they are about waiting. Luanne Armstrong’s memoir, The Bright and Steady Flame (September), is a story of enduring friendship. And Mike Barnes’ Be With: Letters to a Caregiver (September) is what its title promises: four letters to a long-term dementia caregiver, drawing on Barnes’ own years of caring for his mother through the stages of moderate, severe, very severe, and late-stage Alzheimer’s.

In Born Into It (October), billed as Fever Pitch meets Anchor Boy, Montreal Canadiens superfan Jay Baruchel tells us why he loves the Habs—no matter what. Award-winner Ted Barris’s latest is Dam Bust …

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Martina Scholtens: Know What You Don't Know

Book Cover Your Heart is the Size of Your Fist

Our editorial theme for January has been about coziness and notions of home, and Martina Scholtens memoir, Your Heart Is the Size of Your Fist, provides a unique twist on this idea. Scholtens' book is about her experiences as a doctor in a Vancouver refugee clinic, treating patients who are distinctly not at home, both literally but also in terms of their connections to the culture around them. And in her role as these patients' doctor, Scholtens, too, is often unsettled, navigating gaps in language and culture, her professional knowledge pitted against so much that she doesn't know and can only guess at.

In this excerpt pulled from the first part of the book, Sholtens writes about the importance of knowing what you don't know, and how a bit of humility and curiosity can go a long way in fostering connection. 

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As I drove the kids to school on my way to the clinic, winding along Dollarton Highway with the morning sun glinting off Burrard Inlet, my nine-year-old daughter told me about a mathematics contest she had written earlier in the week. 

“I left one question blank,” Saskia began. It was a confession: a perfect score was off the table. She didn’t add up test scores; she worked back from 100. “But I did that because of how the scoring system worked. Y …

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