Margaret Mackey

Margaret Mackey

What is your latest release and what genre is it? One Child Reading: My Auto-Bibliography / nonfiction

Quick description: “The miracle of the preserved word, in whatever medium—print, audio text, video recording, digital exchange—means that it may transfer into new times and new places.” — From the Introduction

Margaret Mackey draws together memory, textual criticism, social analysis, and reading theory in an extraordinary act of self-study. In One Child Reading, she makes a singular contribution to our understanding of reading and literacy development. Seeking a deeper sense of what happens when we read, Mackey revisited the texts she read, viewed, listened to, and wrote as she became literate in the 1950s and 1960s in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This tremendous sweep of reading included school texts, knitting patterns, musical scores, and games, as well as hundreds of books. The result is not a memoir, but rather a deftly theorized exploration of how a reader is constructed. One Child Reading is an essential book for librarians, classroom teachers, those involved in literacy development in both scholarly and practical ways, and all serious readers.

Brief biography:
Margaret Mackey is Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta. She has published widely on the subject of young people’s reading and their multimedia and digital literacies. A voracious reader, she lives in Edmonton.

Links to buy Margaret’s book:
University of Alberta Press

Margaret’s promo links:
What are you working on now?
University of Alberta Press

What are you working on now?
At this moment (apart from moving house and closing my office), I’m just getting started on a project that has the potential to be very intriguing. In the fall I will be recruiting some undergraduates to create a digital map for me of a place that was very important to their early literacy. It can be a real-life landscape or a fictional one (acknowledging that some urban children don’t spend much time out of doors). I will invite them to annotate their map with any kind of records they can come up with – written comments, photographs, videos, audio, interactive ways to “travel” around the landscape, and anything else they can think of. I’ll interview them about the map: why they chose this landscape, what makes the annotations meaningful to them, what they remember more broadly about their literate lives at the time this map was meaningful to them. Pilot work has established that this method of approach can bring out expanded memories of an important stage in developing literacy; and while it is a tool to help articulate these memories, it also allows for some very eloquent forms of expression in its own right. I’m excited to get going on the full-stage project. The idea arose from the work I did for One Child Reading; I was very surprised to re-discover how important my own landscape had been to me and I began to wonder if it was the same for other readers. The pilot work suggests that the answer is yes.

Margaret’s reading recommendation:
I am very happy to recommend a wonderful book called Lakeland: Journeys into the Soul of Canada. It’s by Allan Casey and was published in 2009. Casey talks about the huge significance of lakes to many, many Canadian psyches. He begins with his “own” lake in Saskatchewan and visits at least one lake in every province except PEI. Some of these are working lakes, others are cottage country lakes, and some are just wild. I haven’t been to every lake he mentions but I’ve been to a number of them, and I’ve also driven across Canada three times, which certainly gives anyone a strong sense of what a lake-bound country this is. I don’t think you would need this level of experience to enjoy the book, but it would certainly help a reader if they loved at least one lake, wherever it is.

Kimmy Beach – update on the release of a new book

Kimmy Beach was featured previously on Reading Recommendations in June 2014, and is back now to tell us about a new publication just released!

Nuala, A Fable
Robert Kroetsch Series
by Kimmy Beach
Published by The University of Alberta Press
Genre: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism

“Shh, my Nuala. I am with you. Today I shall teach you the newness of you.”

As the Engine breathes life into Nuala, her gaze falls on Teacher-Servant, the chosen one. He alone will be able to hear her thoughts and interpret her emotions. But soon Teacher-Servant starts to worry that Nuala will be able to give away her thoughts freely. Set in an atypical dystopian world, Nuala is startlingly original and inventive, echoing the work of Margaret Atwood, José Saramago, and Kazuo Ishiguro. Beach’s dark, fearless imagination has created a time and space that are at once remote and strange, but absorbing and deeply credible. Nuala leaves the reader with much to consider about the nature of love, possessiveness, jealousy, envy, and autonomy.

Where to purchase Kimmy’s Book:
The University of Alberta Press
Independent Bookstores

Fran Kimmel Recommends Leslie Greentree

Leslie Greentree photo
Book Title and Author:
A Minor Planet for You and Other Stories
By Leslie Greentree
Published by The University of Alberta Press

What genre is it?
Short story collection

Quick description:
A silver goblet, stale-dated hot chocolate, a telescope aimed at minor planets, abandoned black shoes, magic rope, fancy vinegar bottles. In Leslie Greentree’s exotic mix of stellar stories, these and other objects bring to focus the rich inner lives of girls and women as they sort through their imperfect relationships.

A Minor Planet for You Book Cover

Why I recommend this book:
I reread A Minor Planet for You and Other Stories while I was on vacation this February, and it was like Christmas all over again. The characters in these stories remain so dear to me.

Greentree understands the complexities of the human heart and the lies we tell ourselves as we forge our way through that dark and messy labyrinth of relationships. With crisp prose and searing dialogue, she’s able to bring the feelings of hurt and betrayal front and centre.

There is much humour in these 14 stories and many dark moments too. These characters make plenty of missteps as they try to understand themselves and the people surrounding them. They do bad, sometimes despicable, things. But there is an arc of vulnerability throughout the collection, a jumble of raw feelings that make these girls and women both real and empathic.

For more information on Leslie and her writing, please check her website.

Links to buy it:
A Minor Planet for You and Other Stories can be purchased at your favourite online outlet, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Fran Kimmel PhotoGuest reviewer’s latest title or project: Fran Kimmel is at work on her second novel, (the title TBD) about a rural family that takes in a troubled 12-year-old girl over Christmas, turning their notion of family upside down. Fran has been previously featured on Reading Recommendations.

Alice Major

DSC_5968 2Alice Major

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Standard Candles – poetry

Quick description: A “standard candle” is a tool we use to measure distance, and this is a book about the distances we try to come to terms with – to the stars, to other people, to society. It’s inspired by what scientists are discovering about the birth and unfolding of the universe, but also by the cosmologies that poets have engaged with throughout literary history. This book of poetry is published as part of University of Alberta Press’s Robert Kroetsch Series.

Standard candles2

Brief biography:
Alice Major has published nine previous collections of poetry, as well as a book of essays, Intersecting Sets: A poet looks at science. She has won many awards, including the Pat Lowther and the Stephan G. Stephanson awards for poetry, the Wilfrid Eggleston award for non-fiction and a National Magazine Award gold medal.

Links to buy Alice’s book:
Standard Candles is available through the University of Alberta Press website

Alice’s promo links:
More about this book

What are you working on now?
I’m always working on poems, hoping they’ll pile up into something that holds together as a manuscript. I’m also working on more essays. One of them – “Under the Wide and Starry Sky” – appears in the current issue of The New Quarterly.

Alice’s reading recommendation:
Outside the Box: The Life and Legacy of Writer Mona Gould is a fascinating story of the woman who wrote “This was my brother at Dieppe,” the poem recited in so many Canadian Remembrance Day ceremonies. The biography is by her granddaughter Maria Meindl, who inherited 38 boxes of disorganized paper after Mona’s death. In telling the story of sorting this bewildering archive, Meindl explores her own complicated relationship with this exasperating, wildly talented grandmother who forged an unusual career-woman’s path as a freelance writer in the decades after World War Two.

Peter Midgley

It gives me great pleasure to be recommending a new book written by a very accomplished editor, author, and storyteller. I met Peter Midgley when I was the Alberta sales rep for University of Alberta Press where he continues to work as Acquisitions Editor. A few years ago, Peter asked me to read a portion of the manuscript that has gone on to become his latest release, Counting Teeth. I knew then, from reading just that small portion of text, that this book would be an important one when it was published, and from that moment I also wanted to have a hand in promoting the book and its author. So I am very happy to feature Peter Midgley as today’s Reading Recommendation!

2009e26_-_Peter_Midgley (Charles Earle)Peter Midgley

What is your latest release and what genre is it?
Counting Teeth: A Namibian Story – Travel/Memoir

Quick description: Counting Teeth recounts a trip my daughter and I took through Namibia, exploring the country, its history and my connection to it. We follow the trail of the wars that led to independence for this African nation and consider the significance of returning the indigenous skulls that were taken to Germany during the first genocide of the twentieth century.

CT Cover

Brief biography:
Peter Midgley is an author, editor and playwright based in Edmonton, Alberta. He is a storyteller and author of three children’s books. His plays have been performed in Namibia and South Africa. Born in Namibia and raised there and in South Africa, he came to Canada in 1999 with his family to pursue his studies and found himself staying, though he questions the wisdom of that decision every winter. His daughter, Sinead, is a regular travel companion when he returns to the African continent.

Peter is so humble he failed to mention in his bio that he was recently named the 2013 recipient of the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence by the Editors Association of Canada for editing a book of poetry written by Kimmy Beach – another Reading Recommendations author! Oh, yes … and he’s also President of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta.

Links to buy Peter’s book:
Wolsak & Wynn

Peter’s promo links:

What are you working on now?
I work on several projects at once until one of them takes on a life of its own and forces itself to conclusion. Right now, that is a book of poetry. On the boiler are a novel, another nonfiction project, a third collection of poetry and some children’s picture books.

Peter’s reading recommendation:
I’ve been on an Afrikaans writers binge lately—Karel Schoeman, Etienne Leroux, Etienne van Heerden, and Eben Venter, among others. It’s hard to choose a favourite among them.

Alice Major recommends Ella Zeltserman

Welcome to a new feature on the Reading Recommendations blog, in which I ask established authors to recommend an author whose work has impressed them recently and who they would like to promote to my readers.

Book title and author:
small things left behind by Ella Zeltserman

What genre is it? Poetry – published as part of the University of Alberta Press Robert Kroetsch Series


Quick description:
These poems tell a story of displacement, immigration, longing. They shape the family history of a woman who manages to get out of Russia in 1979 with her husband and small daughter, to make a life in Canada. They capture the ‘youth in a ruthless country’: the scents and sounds of her mother’s kitchen framed by the privations and politics of the USSR, along with the yearning of an immigrant who had to leave but misses home.

Why I recommend this book:
I especially like the way that politics and the big events of recent history find their way into the lyrics of daily life, and I am caught by the poignancy of this particular history. The author left the Soviet Union fully expecting she would never see family again; she was made stateless by her own country. Within a decade and a half, the old Soviet Union had collapsed, its apparently immovable system crumpled. The poet is caught in an in-between place—the simultaneous possibility and impossibility of going back—flooded by memories.

The book brings me into contact with a period of history I really didn’t know before, the history of post-WW2 Russia. It tells me about the shifts that people made to survive and the forces that led so many Jewish people to leave behind their homes there. It tells this story through a quiet lyricism that catches so many details: the Baltic light of St. Petersburg’s sky, the names of streets and foods, the mayflowers by the Neva River, the loss of a pet cat, (“He was picked up by a team from Pavlov’s / Research Institute” while running his usual cat errands.) The details seem exotic, remote, and yet the emotions are utterly familiar.

Links for people to buy it:
University of Alberta Press – paperback and eBook – paperback

This book will be launched in Edmonton on Tuesday, Sept. 23 at The Artery,
9535 Jasper Ave. (Event announcement and more information.)

Here’s an interview with Ella Zeltserman on CKUA Radio’s ArtBeat.

Guest reviewer’s latest title or project:
Alice Major’s most recent book is the essay collection Intersecting Sets: A Poet Looks at Science. She is finalizing a new poetry manuscript called Standard Candles, on the theme of cosmology.

You may read more about Alice Major and her writing here.

Astrid Blodgett

Astrid trimmed Astrid Blodgett

What is your latest release and what genre is it? You Haven’t Changed a Bit. Short stories.

Quick description: Contemporary urban realism with a twist. The stories begin in a straightforward way and take a turn into creepy/unsettling territory.


Brief biography:
Short story writer, editor, renaissance recorder player, hiker, river tripper. Astrid’s stories have appeared in several Canadian literary journals and the anthologies The Journey Prize Stories and Meltwater: 25 Years of Writing from Banff Centre. Once upon a time she co-edited the best-selling outdoor cookbook, Recipes for Roaming: Adventure Food for the Canadian Rockies.

Links to buy Astrid’s book:
University of Alberta Press – print, Kobo and Amazon Worldwide
Audreys Books Ltd. – Edmonton

Astrid’s promo links:

What are you working on now?
A collection of stories.

Astrid’s reading recommendation:
Blindness by Jose Saramago