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Storygami, Fold Me an Origami Story

May 9, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

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) Facebook Twitter More...

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) Facebook Twitter More...

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) Facebook Twitter More...

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) Facebook Twitter More...

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) Facebook Twitter More...

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) Facebook Twitter More...

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) Facebook Twitter More...

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.

Book Review: Beautiful Darkness (Graphic novel) - Beautiful, and dark

June 4, 2014 | Amy | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

FYI: Most of the links on this page will take you to web pages that are in French, as this is a translated work and the author and illustrator are based in France.

Beautiful Darkness

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann, illus. Kerascoët, trans. Helge Dascher.

Originally published as Jolies Ténèbres by Dupuis.

Generally, I am a fan of Drawn & Quarterly  graphic novels – who doesn’t like books published by an independent, Canadian publishing house based in Montreal? However, when I first placed a hold on this book from the new graphic novels list, I had no idea what I was getting into.

Looking at Beautiful Darkness, I just thought the cover illustration was gorgeous and interesting. Indeed, the illustrator Kerascoët, the pen name for Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset, are very talented and have worked on many different books together. A preview of Beautiful Darkness is available from the publisher’s website, if you want to check out the artwork yourself. The author, Vehlmann Fabien, is fairly prolific as well, although only a few of his works have been translated into English and are available through the library.  

Although I skimmed the description of the book on the publisher’s website, by the time I had the book in my hands, I'd all but forgotten what I read, and so I didn’t really realize how dark it was going to be.

In Beautiful Darkness, we don’t know where Princess Aurora or her tiny friends came from (or how they wound up inside the body of a dead girl), and why they’re wandering and homeless. The book starts off with Aurora attempting to find homes and make a community for the group, but this quickly falls apart when different members don't get along and become abusive. French cover of Beautiful Darkness

With death and decay both prominent themes throughout the book – as well as murder, greed, betrayal, revenge, and all that gritty stuff – “evil writ tiny” seems an apt description. Called an anti-fairy tale, this book contained elements that strongly reminded me of fables I’ve read – the spoiled princess from the original Frog Prince and characters in Thumbelina both come to mind. It also reminded me of both The Borrowers by Mary Norton and, later in the book, of Princess Mononoke, only much darker and more disturbing. (Okay, Princess Mononoke is a little dark and disturbing to begin with).

Overall, I loved it. Dark, disturbing, and retold fairy tale elements? Count me in.

Reader be warned - don’t be fooled by the gorgeous artwork the way I was. Beautiful Darkness is pretty, but Grimm.

If you've already read Beautiful Darkness, what other fairy tales did it make you think of?

Cosplay Inspiration and Events

May 28, 2014 | Amy | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Danbo from Yotsuba&!
Danbo from Yotsuba&!. Photo by author.

Last weekend was Anime North, an annual, fan-run convention in Toronto for anime, manga, gaming, Japanese and other Asian culture, as well as pop culture. I have been a loyal attendee since 2001, and most years, I cosplay. That is, I attend in a costume based on a character from a game, a book, a movie, or a television show. One of our guest bloggers, author Amanda Sun wrote an excellent post for us last summer on what cosplay is, so I'll skip over that here.

Super Mario Cosplayers
Gender-bending cosplay or "crossplay"

Normally, I make a costume based on one of my favourite anime - such as Black Butler (also a manga!) - or a video game, but this year I decided to do something different. This year I decided to make a steampunk costume. Rather than recreating a specific character's costume, I was working from my imagination, and I was paralyzed by choice. Gears, goggles, and gadgets, oh my!

So I turned to the many books on steampunk costumes and accessories available from the library. Here are a couple of my favourites...

Anatomy of Steampunk




The anatomy of steampunk : the fashion of Victorian futurism 

by Katherine Gleason






1000 steampunk creations : neo-Victorian fashion, gear & art

by Joey Marsocci

Both are full of gorgeous pictures of fantastical costumes and creations, done with a level of skill and an eye for detail that I can only dream of one day achieving! But since I was looking for inspiration, I got some excellent ideas for pieces with elements that I wanted to incorporate into my own costume.



For some great ideas that are less daunting, I recommend...

  Steampunk Your Wardrobe



Steampunk your wardrobe : easy projects to add victorian flair to 
everyday fashions

by Calista Taylor





Steampunk: Gears, Gadgets & Gizmos



Steampunk gear, gadgets, and gizmos : a maker's guide to creating modern artifacts

by Thomas Willeford

Not only are these ideas that anyone can achieve, they include the instructions! I particularly like the Taylor book for recommendations of steampunk elements into a daily wardrobe, not just extravagent costume ideas.



1000 Incredible Costume & Cosplay IdeasOur own Library Thomas recommends 1000 Incredible Costume & Cosplay Ideas by Yaya Han, which includes many different types of costumes – not just steampunk. As his review suggests, it's really more for inspiration, and doesn't include a how-to!

If you’re looking for more costume inspiration, you could always take a look at books on Japanese fashion, including Gothic Lolita and how to make your own kimono, watch some anime via Hoopla, or read an eBook on drawing manga?



For instruction, why not look at books for crafting metal jewelry, or eBooks on sewing?


Anime North will be back next May, but if you’re looking for somewhere else to wear your costumes this summer, here are some opportunities!

 and, of course…

 Where else do you plan to cosplay this summer? And what do you use for inspiration?

Edit: Added the link for the Sanderson Cosplay Fashion Show.

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.