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See You at the Playground

May 25, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (2)

It gets harder and harder to believe that there are any "best kept secrets" in the city anymore. Share your views on Toronto's best playground and the fun-seekers will arrive en masse. Who can blame them? Outdoor play spaces are worth their weight in gold.

Playgrounds have come a long way. Images from the Toronto Public Library's Digital Archive give us some insight.

Then & Now:

Playground, Elizabeth Street in 1922
Elizabeth Street Playground - 1922.  Public Domain image
Coalition Builds New Playground in One Day for Chicora-Cherokee Community
Coalition Builds New Playground in One Day for Chicora-Cherokee Community           Photo Credit: North Charleston on a CC License 

Global playgrounds are fascinating. An upcycled ambulance in Malawi is the crown jewel in a fully accessible playground. The designer was committed to encouraging disabled and able-bodied kids to connect in a shared space in order to break down stereotypes about the special needs community.

Boy and dad on a swing
Photo Credit: Josée Bisaillon for TD Summer Reading Club

The Welsh play space documentary, The Land definitely takes a wild stance on play, allowing kids to use hammers/nails or start fires, all with minimal adult involvement. The idea is that kids will be empowered by taking risks and conquering them alone. Do you agree that risk is necessary to child development or are you feeling uneasy? Watch the documentary...

How to Raise a Wild Child"How to Raise a Wild Child:  The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature" was written to help kids reclaim a lost love of the outdoors. Sampson says: metal monkey bars and plastic swings are too prescriptive; replace them with rocks, trees and boulders.  Natural play areas excite all of a child's senses, plus imagination.

The Children's Discovery Centre boasts a screen-free, imaginative play space for little ones, complete with a children's library and "pet vet" for stuffed animal check-ups. Bookmark this indoor playground for rainy days.

Grab a kid's book and get to the playground:

Are You Ready to Play Outside?  Inside Outside  King of the Playground  outside the lines  Get outside Guide  playground day  howling on the playground  my dream playground

1.  Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems / 2.  Inside Outside by Lizi Boyd / 3.  King of the Playground by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor / 4.  Outside the Lines by Brad Burg and Rebecca Gibbon / 5.  National Geographic Kids Get Outside Guide by Nancy Honovich and Julie Beer / 6.  Playground Day!  by Jennifer Merz / 7.  Howling on the Playground by Gail German / 8.  My Dream Playground by Kate Becker

Stay tuned for this year's TD Summer Reading Club, a bilingual and inclusive reading program, which encourages kids to see books as a playground for the mind.  Summertime freedom means outdoor fun and plenty of these recommended reads get in the spirit.

Asian Heritage Month Storytimes at Northern District Branch

May 11, 2015 | Nancy-Anne | Comments (0)

We all know that reading out loud to children from a very young age has lots of benefits. We listen to stories at schools, at our libraries, and from all around us. The art of storytelling has historically been a great way for children to connect to their heritage. Unfortunately for those of us who immigrate to Canada at a very young age, it becomes easy to lose our language skills in our mother tongues. Moreover it becomes increasingly likely to lose that oral, dynamic connection to our heritage. 

In honour of Asian Heritage Month, librarians at Northern District will host multilingual storytimes.  Whether you are new to Canada and would like to listen to a story in a familiar language, or if you are looking to get exposed to a different culture, our story times will be the perfect place for you! Stories will be followed by a culturally inspired craft with instructions in English.

Asian heritage month

Urdu:  Tuesday May 19, 10-10:30 a.m.

Gujarati:  Wednesday May 20, 10-10:30 a.m.

Arabic:  Saturday May 23, 1-1:30 p.m.

Tagalog:  Monday May 25, 10-10:30 a.m.

All programs will be held in the Main Floor Program Room of the Northern District Branch.  No registration is required.  For more information, please call 416-393-7610.

If you cannot make it to any of these story times, remember that Toronto Public Library carries multilingual collections in over fortylanguages!  Northern District carries material in French, Serbian, and Chinese.  If you are interested in French story times, Northern District has been running “La Demi-Heure du Conte” / French Story time for the past five weeks as part of Ready 4 Reading.

Check out some of these great multilingual storybooks from the TPL collection!


Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel in Arabic and English

Find it in the TPL catalogue here!  


Jack and theBeanstalk
Jack and the beanstalk in Urdu and English

  Find it in the TPL catalogue!


Red riding hood in gujarati
Karīvāra nahīṃ, Reḍa Rāīḍiṅga Hūḍa! = Not again, Red Riding Hood!

 Find this story in the TPL catalogue here.


See you next storytime!

Storygami, Fold Me an Origami Story

May 9, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (2)

If you've folded a paper plane before, you've done origami. Why not push yourself to fly a bit higher?  

Origami crane
Photo Credit: Shereen M on a CC License

Lillian H. Smith Branch has an origami club for kids and their caregivers: all novice, intermediate and advanced folders are welcome. Each month showcases a new theme and feature folds. Storygami is offered in partnership with our friends from the University of Toronto Origami Club, F.O.L.D. - "Fly with Origami, Learn to Dream."

We welcome kids 6-12 and no registration is required to participate. Just come by Lillian H. Smith Branch every first Saturday of the month from 2pm - 4pm and keep checking our program listing for up-to-date themes.

Saturday, June 6, 2015 / 2pm - 4pm / Unique Animals

Saturday, July 4, 2015 / 2pm - 4pm / Summer

Saturday, August 1st, 2015 / 2pm - 4pm / Festivals

Origami Collage

Our club is called Storygami because you can tell a tale through papercraft. We were inspired by this Story-gami Kit which cleverly uses storytelling as a teaching method.

Origami is an exercise in patience, problem solving and *deep breath* inner peace. Stick with us and you'll never create terrible (though profitable) origami like this.  

Add a bit of flare to your writing with Typogami, an origami font that you can download, plus it's animated!

We're passionate about origami and want to share the love of it with kids.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda 10-Fold Origami Yoko's Paper Cranes 

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes Travel Origami All purpose origami

1. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberer / 2. 10-Fold Origami by Peter Engel / 3. Yoko's Paper Cranes by Rosemary Wells / 4. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr / 5. Travel Origami: 24 Fun and Functional Keepsakes by Cindy Ng / 6.  All-Purpose Origami by Boutique-Sha

From A-Z, ABCs for Adults

May 6, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (0)

Photomarathon - Alphabet
Photo Credit: Eva Van Ostade on a CC License

Colouring books are no longer strictly a child's domain, so why should ABC books be left solely to the kids to enjoy?

Oliver Jeffers is a man after my own heart with "Once Upon an Alphabet." He realizes that every letter is worthy of its own vignette. The man's reverence for picture books really shines through in this video

"Astounding ABC," by the Aga Khan Museum, is a beautiful little book featuring paintings, ancient coins and ceramics.  It's the perfect precursor to a museum trip, or memento for that matter.

Wordplay is rampant in Michael Escoffiër's "Take Away the A." The alligator jamboree in Maurice Sendak's "Alligators All Around: An Alphabet" is definitely not just for tots. Indulge yourself in Ed Gorey's mysterious and dark "The Gashlycrumb Tinies, or, After the Outing." If you're changing careers, perhaps you can find your next job in "Work: An Occupational ABC."  Reaffirm your love of the city with "Toronto ABC."  How many landmarks have you visited?

  Once upon an alphabet  Take away the A  Quentin Blake's ABC  ABC_toronto-abc

 Work: an occupational ABC  Astounding ABC Alligators all around: an alphabet The Gashlycrumb tinies, or, After the outing

Alphabet aficionados must visit the Osborne Collection of Early Childhood Books to check out the marvelously illustrated rhymes in "Quentin Blake's ABC."

"K is for Knifeball: An Alphabet of Terrible Advice" by Avery Monsen and Jory John is hilarious, depending on your humour of course.  Some reviews compare it to "Go the F*ck to Sleep." I happened upon this gem at Page & Panel, the TCAF Shop at the Toronto Reference Library.   

"ABC Dream" by Kim Krans is whimsical and the illustrations are incredibly detailed. Krans also designs Tarot cards. Her book made me fall in love with alphabet titles and helped me see them as something more than juvenile. A full colour version of it will be published by Random House in 2016.
Some books make use of the alphabet in such creative and interesting ways. If you'd still rather reach for a chapter book, then "Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters" is a fun read. The elimination of a letter in each chapter combined with a quirky plot shows incredible linguistic skill.
From Awesome to Zany, find an ABC book that you would be proud to read on the subway as a full-grown adult. Just don't blame me if you catch a few stares.  
Alphabet soup
Photo Credit: Val D'Aquila on a CC License

Upcoming teen events @Lillian H. Smith branch

May 5, 2015 | Nancy-Anne | Comments (0)

The end of the school year is fast approaching, and at Lillian H. Smith we've got an exciting summer and tons of programs planned, starting now! Yes, we're a little early, but there's nothing better than gearing up for warm weather, sunny days, and FREEDOM, GLORIOUS FREEDOM with some fun crafts and programs all at your local library.

Keep reading for what we've got planned for the month of May!


Saturday, May 16th: Teen Craft - Make your own watercolour mug 

If you're anything like us and are equally obsessed with hot drinks, mugs, crafts, and nifty DIY ideas, this is the program for you! We'll be crafting "watercolour" mugs using tissue paper and mod podge, and the results are almost endless! Check out this one we made below:

Watercolour mug

Registration is required and this program is sure to be a hit, so give us a call at 416-393-7746 or stop by the library to sign up! And don't forget to tell your friends and family if they're the crafty, creative types too. It's FREE and open to everyone ages 11 to 19. Here's when and where it's happening:

Saturday, May 16th, 2015
1:30-3:00 p.m.
Room A (lower level)


Thursday, May 28th: The Teen Fanfiction Writers' Coalition


Keep calm and write fanfiction
Image courtesy of Luchsohr on

Are you crazy about fanfiction? Do you love nothing more than to gush about your favourite book, movie, TV show, game, manga, anime, or comic? We sure do, and starting on Thursday, May 28th, the Teen Fanfiction Writers' Coalition will be resuming meetings after a long hiatus, and this time we're back at the Lillian H. Smith branch and better than ever!

The group is open to everyone ages 11 to 21, and it doesn't matter whether you like to read fic, write it, or just want to make friends with other people who can't get enough of their favourite fandom! Everyone is welcome, and this is a great place to talk to other people who share your interests, as well as share (or read) fanfiction, learn writing tips, and get and give feedback.

Meetings will take place on the last Thursday of each month from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m., but please note that our May meeting will run from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.

You can register by calling us at 416-393-7746 or dropping by the library, but here's the details:

Thursday, May 28th, 2015
5:00-6:30 p.m.*
Room B/C (lower level)

*4:30-6:30 p.m. every last Thursday of the month thereafter


Please feel free to get in touch with branch staff if you have any questions about these programs or want to sign up.

We hope to see you there!





Song of the Sea: Selkie love!

May 1, 2015 | Sarah | Comments (0)

Song of the Sea (2014 film)

                                                                        photo credit: Wikipedia Carniolus

If you want to see an amazing animated film, borrow Song of the Sea! For the past few days, I have not been able to get the title track of Song of the Sea out of my head. It is beautifully sung by Lisa Hannigan, with music by Bruno Coulais and Kila.

The movie itself is based on Irish and Scottish legends of Selkies: magical creatures who take a human form on land, and change to seals in the water. Ben's mother Bronagh disappears soon after giving birth to his sister Saoirse - they live with their father, Conor, on a remote island housing not much more than a lighthouse, off the coast of Ireland. A seashell left by her mother leads Saoirse to discover a special coat, and reveals her true selkie nature. When Saoirse and Ben are taken by their grandmother to live in the city, they are very unhappy and try to escape, but in order to find their way home they must first help Faeries recover their stories and evade Macha the witch, who is saddened by the loss of her son, Mac Lir.

My kids and I loved it, but if you are wondering if this film is suitable for your family, GeekDad has a good review here: 7 Things Parents Should Know About 'Song of the Sea'.

Another classic kids' film about selkies is The Secret of Roan Inish

There are many books about selkies if you want to delve further.

For children:

Hidden folk

The Hidden Folk: Stories of Fairies, Dwarves, Selkies, and Other Secret Beings, by Lise Lunge-Larsen, illustrated by Beth Krommes

The Seal Children, by Jackie Morris

The Folk Keeper, by Franny Billingsley

For Teens:

The Brides of Rollrock Island, by Margo Lanagan

Water Shaper, by Laura Williams McCaffrey

For Adults:

Home from the sea

Home from the Sea, by Mercedes Lackey

The Golden City, by Kathleen J. Cheney

Tempest's Legacy, by Nicole Peeler

In the world of shape-shifting magical beings, I say roll over werewolves, it's the selkies' turn! Let us know if you have a favourite selkie story.


"That's Utter Nonsense!" Made-up Words

April 25, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (0)

Whether you admit it or not, you probably make up silly little songs to sing while doing the laundry or crooning to your pets. Making up words might come just as naturally to your creative brain. There is something inherently pleasing about this foolish vocabulary. 

Let’s go back to our children’s book roots for some quality nonsense words.

Owl and Pussycat Embroidery
Photo Credit: Aimee Ray

Edward Lear is famous for his nonsense verse and limericks. In all your renditions of “The Owl and the Pussycat,” did you notice that runcible isn’t even a real word? It sounds like a perfectly legitimate kind of spoon. Surely, the dish could have run off with a runcible instead…

If you’ve ever tried to draw a picture of a Jabberwock before looking in a book, then you appreciate that Lewis Carroll’s "Jabberwocky" is some imaginative nonsense indeed. It is of the portmanteau or "word blend" variety.      

Winnie the Pooh and Piglet’s fear has a name and that name is Heffalump, an elephant-like creature and the stuff of Pooh’s nightmares. We should also credit A.A. Milne with “Poohsticks,” a game of dropping sticks into the river over the side of a bridge; whoever’s stick emerges on the other side first is victorious.  

Allow me to nutshellize this post: nonsense is fun, silly, strange and sometimes just plain convincing. 

Do you dare use made up words? Mayhaps.

Doll Houses: Creepy or Cute?

March 23, 2015 | Sarah | Comments (3)

Doll houses are cute, right? WRONG. Do a quick search for doll house stories, and you are bound to come up with one of the scariest books (of my childhood, at least): The Dollhouse Murders, by Betty Ren Wright. Amy and her sister Louann move to an old farmhouse with their aunt Clare, where the inhabitants of a dusty dollhouse in the attic start to move around at night, revealing clues about a grisly family secret.

Doll Bones, by Holly Black, is about three friends, Zach, Poppy and Alice, who are on the verge of leaving their doll-playing years behind. They are drawn together for a midnight mission involving a creepy China doll with a strange pull and the crushed bones of a dead girl who yearns to be laid to rest.

  The Dollhouse Murders   Doll Bones  

However, for every Chucky there is a Tottie, as in Tottie Plantagenet, from Rumer Godden's classic The Doll's House. A doll who is not cruel or twisted, but well-rounded and caring. Three of my favourite more cheerful doll tales are The Doll People, by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, brilliantly illustrated by Brian Selznick (pre-Hugo Cabret), The Doll Shop Downstairs, by Yona Zeldis McDonough, and The Paper Dolls, by Julia Donaldson. 

  The Doll People   The Doll shop downstairs   The paper dolls

So, what do you think? Do doll houses make you go, "Aaaaarrrgh!" or "Awwwww"? If you can't decide, drop by Lillian H. Smith branch to see the Osborne Collection's new doll house. Do you think these dolls move around at night after all of the library patrons have gone home?


I certainly don't want to stay around to find out . . .

Cartoon Exhibit and Drawing Workshop

June 28, 2014 | Amy | Comments (0)

Cartoon by Tony Wan

Do you love to look at art?

Do you love to draw?

Do you feedback on your work from a professional?

Join us on Thursday, July 24th for an exhibit of Chinese Cartoonist Tony Wan's work, followed by a drawing workshop for teens!



Tony Wan has been drawing for contests and newspapers since he was eleven years old. In 1999, he was on Time Magazine's first list of the 100 most influential and iconic people of the year.


The exhibit will be held on the lower level of the Lillian H. Smith branch, 239 College St (just east of Spadina), from 10:00am until 4:00pm, followed immediately by a drawing workshop from 4:00pm to 6:00pm!

Teens, please phone (416) 393-7746 to register for the workshop. All materials will be provided. You can also bring some of your previous work for feedback!

What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son's Quest to Redeem the Past

June 19, 2014 | Sarah | Comments (0)

WDOBsmallI first picked up this book in the depths of last February, when I was spending a lot of time at home, awake in the middle of the night nursing my newborn son. It was a riveting read for those long dark hours, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Toronto's medical history, in the history of mental health treatment, or in a meticulously-told story of family secrets come to light. Fitzgerald's book won the 2010 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Non-Fiction, and is his second after 1994's Old Boys: The Powerful Legacy of Upper Canada College.

What Disturbs Our Blood probes Fitzgerald's family history: the author's father and grandfather were both recognized pioneers in Canadian medicine, but both men also stuggled with depression.

John Gerald "Gerry" Fitzgerald (grandfather, 1882-1940) became a doctor at a young age, studied in Paris at the Pasteur Institute, and, when he returned to Toronto, was determined to develop vaccines against diseases that he saw raging through some segments of the Canadian populace. He revolutionized public health in Canada, helping to develop and then make available, for free, vaccines against diseases such as diptheria and rabies. Doctors Banting and Best were two of his contemporaries. Sadly, he died in his prime by suicide. His funeral was held at U of T's Convocation Hall.

John "Jack" Fitzgerald (father, 1917-1992) was a well-known physician who worked at Toronto Western, and opened Toronto's first allergy clinic. Despite a successful career, he attempted suicide twice and spent the last few decades of his life in a drugged haze.

While reading, I was struck by how much of the Fitzgerald family story takes place in and around the Lillian H. Smith neighbourhood. Here are some local highlights:

One Spadina Crescent


photo credit: Simon Pulsifer

This was the site of the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories; when Gerry's vaccine operation grew out of it's original Barton Street location, this is where it ended up. It's been 100 years now, as you can see if you visit Sanofi Pasteur (the pharmaceutical company that swallowed up Connaught years ago).

250 College Street

Gerry Fitzgerald worked for Doctor C.K. Clarke at the Toronto Asylum for the Insane (999 Queen St.) 250 College was named after Dr. Clarke: it was first called the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, and is now the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) College St. location.

150 College Street

Fitz 1
This is the Fitzgerald Building at the University of Toronto, built in 1927, currently home to part of the Faculty of Medicine. Visible in the top left corner is the Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building (144 College), and across the street is the Dala Lana School of Public Health. Gerry Fitzgerald was instrumental in creating the original School of Hygiene at U of T in the 1920s, which was devoted to public health training and research. Today, Fitzgerald Academy at St. Michael's Hospital is named in his honour.

If the above snippets of Toronto's medical history grab you, you might be interested in Heritage Toronto's walking tour, "Dr. Fitzgerald and the Connaught Laboratories,"led by James Fitzgerald. It will be taking place this Saturday, June 21 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Lillian H. Smith library, in the heart of the Discovery District, Chinatown and Kensington Market, is a district branch of Toronto Public Library. Learn more about your local library & community, and while you're at it, drop us a comment. If you are visiting us in person, look for the bronze gryphons guarding our door.