Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.


Niagara Falls' Daredevils

October 24, 2016 | Ann | Comments (2)

 Annie Taylor before her trip

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Annie Edson Taylor (1838-1921)

Over a century ago today on October 24, 1901, a 63-year-old teacher climbed into a wooden rowboat accompanied by two men and a half-submerged pickle barrel in tow. Taylor decided that in order to procure more funds to ensure a healthy retirement, she had to perform an amazing act to draw attention to herself. The pickle barrel was fully insulated by a rolled-up mattress, a heart-shaped pillow, and possibly her cat for moral support. 

Annie Taylor with her cat
By GG Bain News Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Both she and the cat survived with minor cuts to their heads. Taylor was able to use her notoriety from this stunt to make some extra cash but was unable to make enough to retire comfortably.

The horrendous drop or the possibility of dying did not deter others daredevils from repeating this stunt. A more recent (2012) article from The Toronto Star called How did these people survive a plunge over Niagara Falls? provides a fresh perspective from the point of view of the survivors who jumped into the Falls and fell all the way to the bottom without any protective wear. One jumper, Kirk Raymond Jones, lived to tell his tale and tour in a circus.


Daredevils Above the Falls

Charles Blondin was a tightrope daredevil and attempted this feat without a net or safety harness to prevent him from falling into the "boiling cataract." His only request was that the day would have good weather. The photograph shows Charles carrying a pole tethered with the Royal Union flag on the left to represent Canada and the American flag on the right and a chair hanging on the tightrope in front of him to perform more death-defying stunts.

Charles Blondin 1946 tightrope walk

Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library 


In 1975, Henri Rechatin rode on a motorcycle driven by a partner on a tightrope, while another acrobatic performer is also tethered to the motorcycle and swings behind the cable car. Henri here attempts to climb down into the cable car below. Three people participated in this daring feat and relied on each other -- the motorcyclist keeping the bike steady, Rechatin using the balancing pole to keep everything in balance, and the female acrobat below to hold her pose.

Winding up his daredevil trip above the Niagara Gorge whirlpool today; French acrobat Henri Rechatin steps down onto the aerial car cable from a motorcycle driven by a friend. Photograph taken by Don Dutton in 1975
Courtesy of Toronto Public Library


Here is another picture of Henri (spelled Henry in this photograph taken by Graham Bezant) Rechatin on May 23, 1976, beginning his tightrope stunt while rolling on a single metallic wheel. It looked to be a chilly day as he was wearing a long-sleeved sweater. This photograph shows Rechatin clearly focusing on his task of balancing his feet on the metal wheel to keep it stable while it rolls over the tightrope.

Henri (Henry) Rechatin riding a metal wheel on a tightrope on May 23, 1976 over the Falls

Courtesy of Toronto Public Library

More interesting resources

There are many more stories on Niagara Falls that are not mentioned here. For more information on Niagara Falls and her daredevils, please refer to the following titles listed below:

Inventing Niagara: beauty, power, and lies Roll out the barrel: The story of Niagara's daredevils Niagara: a history of the Falls
Hidden history of Greater Niagara The second greatest disappointment: honeymooning and tourism at Niagara Falls Moon Niagara Falls

There are more titles written in the nineteenth century on this great travel location from that period's perspective to look through.  Also, for those who have the daredevil in them to zip above the Falls at a fast rate, the Zipline & Aerial Adventure is somthing to try.

Niagara Falls is that extra bit more wonderful with her daredevils there to entertain the tourists with their death-defying feats. Unfortunately for some, these stunts have cost them their lives. The Falls beguile these people to hurl themselves into the mouth of the raging waters or to tiptoe above it, while denying the Falls its tender human morsels. Either way, these brave people are now part of the Falls' history and their stories continue to attract tourists to this great place.

The Trials and Tribulations of Self-Publishing

October 17, 2016 | Paula | Comments (1)


Last weekend, authors came out to share their stories about self-publishing at the first Toronto Public Library Indie Author Day celebration. Nearly 300 libraries across North America invited local writers to take part in the event. The day was celebrated at North York Central Library with an author panel, a self-publishing workshop and a book fair featuring the works of local authors.

The notion of creative freedom came up time and time again at the event, as authors described their experiences with self-publishing. Most talked about wanting to control all aspects of the publishing process -– from book cover creation to marketing.

Chris Grady, a member of the author panel, talked about his writing and how drawing web comics became a way of dealing with depression. Half a million Facebook followers later, Chris is the successful author of the web comic Lunarbaboon.


Tracy L. Ward, another author at the event, discussed treating her writing career like a business. Ward drew up a business plan that involved writing four books. It took three books before the series took off, but she is now an Amazon bestselling author of the Peter Ainsley Mystery series, books about a Victorian morgue doctor and his assistant who set out to solve crimes. In describing her books, Ward called them a mix of “CSI meets Sherlock Holmes, with a little Jack the Ripper thrown in”. Ward discussed choosing the self-publishing route because of her need to be true to the graphic nature of the morgue work, something she thought might be censored if she went with a traditional publisher.

Dead among us

Another common topic was the stigma of self-publishing. Authors discussed the difficulty of overcoming the resistance to unvetted works as the majority of readers are afraid to give something that hasn’t gone through a traditional publisher a try. For readers, the difficulty with self-publishing is how to distinguish quality writing from unedited messes. Quality writing can be found in self-published novels. Here are a few famous examples:

Once we were brothers Still Alice Martian Best laid plans

Once we were brothers – Not able to find a publisher, Ronald H. Balson created his own publishing company to self-publish his World War II legal drama about two brothers who ended up on the different sides of the war.

Still Alice - Lisa Genova, a neuroscientist, chose to self-publish after being rejected by several publishers. Her novel about a 50-year-old professor who develops Alzheimer’s disease went on to be made into a major Hollywood movie starring Julianne Moore. 

The MartianAndrew Weir used his science background to create the story of an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars. When Weir couldn’t find a publisher, he published his novel one chapter at a time on his website for free. When his fans begged him to release an eBook version, he began selling copies on Amazon for 99 cents.

The Best Laid Plans – Unable to find a publisher, Terri Fallis originally released his political satire in podcast format, a chapter at a time. Later he published the story in book form and it went on to win the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.

The other authors on the panel included Sheila Dalton, Benjamin Gabbay, Sephera Giron and N.J. Lindquest. 

Stolen Wingheart House of pain Hot apple cider



Do You Have Radon in Your Home?

October 14, 2016 | Jeannette | Comments (0)

Radon is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas. This radioactive gas is found naturally in the environment, produced by the breakdown of uranium found in soil, rock or water. Radon can be found indoors and outdoors. In the outdoors, it is diluted by the air to low levels so it is not a concern. Unfortunately, when radon is trapped inside a home or building, unsafe levels can accumulate causing severe health problems.

Exposure to radon increases the risk of developing lung cancer. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking!

Not to worry. There are ways to test the levels of radon in your home. There are do-it-yourself test kits or you can hire a certified radon measurement professional.

To learn more about radon, join us at the North York Central Library for an informative presentation by two industry experts. Mainul Husain, radiation specialist from Health Canada and Bob Wood, past president of Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, will explain why you should be concerned about radon in your home and workplace and what you can do about it.


What: Do You Have Radon in Your Home?

When: Monday, October 24 at 6:30 PM

Where: North York Central Library, in the Auditorium

For more information: Call the Business, Science & Technology Department at (416) 395-5613

Registration not required.


For more information about radon, here are some online resources:

The library also has some books about the topic:

Controlling Indoor Radon   Indoor Radon Problem   Radon and the Environment   Strange Glow

How Music Heals

October 13, 2016 | Jane | Comments (0)

"I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me -- like food or water."  - Ray Charles

Beyond the pleasure it gives, music is a tool for both formal and informal therapy. But can it be used to treat disease? Dr. Lee Bartel, an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Toronto, will be at North York Central Library to talk about his collaborative research in music and neuroscience, and his efforts to find ways to measure clinical improvements to health. 

Music Medicine: A New Frontier

Thursday, Oct. 20

7:00 to 8:00 pm

60 minutes

North York Central Library Auditorium

Bartel and his colleagues are working on music and cardio rehabilitation, rhythmic sensory stimulation and fibromyalgia, and studies that link music and the care for people with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. Here are some related titles. . .

HealingPowerofSound   MusicandCancer   MusicasMedicine    Musicophilia


  RhythmMusicandtheBrain   SingingNeanderthals    SoundMedicine   MusicandtheMind


. . . and sounds. 

RaySings   MusicasMedicinecd   Omsoundhealingmusic   

Esperanza      Harrow&theHarvest Arias&DuetstheAnniversary








Free Science Events in Toronto for October 2016

September 30, 2016 | Jeannette | Comments (0)

The Business, Science and Technology Department of North York Central Library compiles a monthly calendar of free science and applied science events in Toronto. Applied science includes health, gardening, pets and food; all subjects found in the department's collection. Here is the October calendar (PDF).

October's highlights include:

Toronto Public Library also offers many free science and applied science events:

At the library, October's highlights include:

Can't attend a program or want to read more about the topics covered? Try some of these books:

Sex in Your Garden   What to Expect When You Have Diabetes   Mosquito   Backyard Pharmacy

Marijuana   Bio-Guided Music Therapy   Indoor Radon Problem   Ancient Trees

Some We Love, Some We Eat: Our Complicated Relationships With Animals

September 23, 2016 | Maureen | Comments (14)

The infamous pig trial will begin again on October 3. In an instance of synchronicity seemingly arranged by Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, World Animal Day is October 4. For those who haven’t been following the case, last summer Anita Krajnc stuck her arm through a vent in a truck stopped at an intersection in Burlington, and gave water to pigs bound for a nearby slaughterhouse. Following an ugly interaction with the truck driver, the police were called. Krajnc was charged with criminal mischief. The worst case scenario for Krajnc is years of prison time. The best case scenario is a fine. Krajnc says she will not pay the fine, and is prepared to go to prison.

Anita Krajnc giving water to pigs on their way to slaughter.
By Elli Garlin - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The pigs on the truck were merely property to the pig farmer, but to activists like Krajnc, a vegan, and the founder of Toronto Pig Save, pigs are sentient beings with the ability to feel pain and emotion. The incident in Burlington is just one example among millions the world over showing how polarized we are when it comes to our feelings and beliefs about animals. Websites featuring news stories about the case have received hundreds of comments, showing widely divergent viewpoints and strong emotions.

In honor of World Animal Day, I considered offering you movies about cute and cuddly animals, like these:

Snow Babies Too Cute Kittens

But I changed my mind after I read the World Animal Day mission statement: “To raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe.” In the spirit of World Animal Day, I offer some thought provoking movies and books on animals, and our often troubled relationship with them.


The Cove
Give Me Shelter
Give me shelter
Cowspiracy: the sustainability secret
The ghosts in our machine
Peaceable kingdom: the journey home


Some we love sme we hate some we eat

Some we love, some we hate, some we eat

Book | eBook | eAudiobook


Beyond words: what animals think and feel

Book | eBook | eAudiobook


Project animal farm: an accidental journey into the secret world of farming and the truth about our food

Book | eBook | eAudiobook | Audiobook CD | Talking Book CD*


Finally, here's a book I think Anita Krajnc would enjoy:


Esther the wonder pig: changing the world one heart at a time

Book | eBook | eAudiobook

 *Please note: Talking Book CD and Talking Book DAISY formats are restricted to print disabled customers.


Henry Hudson and His River

September 12, 2016 | Ann | Comments (0)

Recommended websites on Henry Hudson
By Neemster (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

As schools begin their first full week of studies, this post will briefly examine the history, travel, and trials of Henry Hudson. 

Some Internet sources claim that September 12, 1575 was Henry Hudson's birthday which would make him 441 years old, but his actual birthday was probably near that date. September 12th is better spent commemorating his travel through the river that will eventually be named after him.

Henry Hudson traveled on four voyages on three different ships to try to locate a trade route through the Northeast and Northwest Passage to the Orient, but he never made it to this final destination. Instead, Henry Hudson located trade routes through Canada and the United States. On his third voyage on September 12th in 1609, he sailed down a river which will later be called the Hudson River.

Hudson's voyages across the seas from England to North America have not been smooth. His crew have endured limited food rations, changing temperatures and dangerous weather conditions. These conditions inevitably helped lower the crew's morale and they have threatened to mutiny on a few occasions.

The crew's frustrations culminated on June 22, 1611. With only a 14-day supply of food rations remaining, the crew refused to travel any farther in the freezing ice-filled waters of (what is now) James Bay.  Henry Hudson, his son, and a few fellow sailors too weak and sick to defend themselves were cast off the ship by the angry mutineers. The abandoned crew were placed in a small wooden boat to fend for themselves. The National Film Board presents Richard Gilbert's (1964) film, The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson.

Artist John Collier recreated that fateful moment below of the abandoned crew as they floated among the frozen icebergs. 

More Paintings by John Collier
John Collier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The artist's portrayal shows a resigned look on Hudson's face as well as a sick crewman while John Hudson, his son, clutches Henry's hand for hope to survive this situation. Sadly, the abandoned crew were never found again and presumed dead at sea. Only through Hudson's discovered journal entries and the actual return of the mutineers to England to confess their crime was Henry's tragedy recognized.

To read more of Henry Hudson's travels and the history of the Hudson river, please refer to the following titles: 

A historical inquiry concerning Henry Hudson, his friends, relatives and early life, his connection with the Muscovy company and discovery of Delaware Bay Half moon: Henry Hudson and the voyage that redrew the map of the New World Fatal journey: the final expedition of Henry Hudson-- a tale of mutiny and murder in the Arctic
Henry Hudson: New World voyager The worlds of the seventeenth-century Hudson Valley Henry Hudson: doomed navigator and explorer

For more information on the Hudson River from past to present, the following titles offer a textual and virtual field trip through the waterway:

Bill Moyers on the Hudson America's first river (DVD) The Hudson Valley: a cultural guide (1st edition) The European invasion of North America: colonial conflict along the Hudson-Champlain corridor, 1609-1760
The Hudson River School: nature and the American vision The Hudson: America's river River of dreams: the story of the Hudson River

In Canada, Hudson's Bay and the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) are also named after Henry Hudson. Here are some books on this longstanding company to enjoy:

History of the Hudson's Bay Company 1670-1870 Empire of the Bay The bastard of Fort Stikine: the Hudson's Bay Company and the murder of John McLoughlin Jr.

The voyages of this brave man have greatly influence trade, culture, and history in Canada and the United States. Sadly, his efforts left him in a boat adrift on the freezing waters of James Bay and not rejoining his friends and family back in England. Still, North America has honoured and remembered him by name and by his historical achievements.

Back to School Anxiety

September 2, 2016 | Jeannette | Comments (2)


Daughter getting ready for school
My daughter off to preschool with her security object in hand

When I was younger, I would dread this time of the year the most. The nights were getting cooler and the CNE was coming to an end. It was time to go back to school.

I still remember vividly my first day of junior kindergarten. We received a package in the mail with my name tag. My mom explained that I would be going to school. I was so excited! I wore a grey and pink dress with a bow. My school was just across the street from our apartment. I was so excited walking into the classroom full of colourful posters on the walls. Then it hit me. My mom was not staying. I was going to be alone with a room full of kids and two adults who were strangers. I cried. A lot.

I don’t remember what happened after. But I know I cried every day for the rest of the week (or maybe longer… that part is a bit fuzzy).

My daughter will be starting senior kindergarten on Tuesday. Although she’s already had two years of school under her belt, she still has separation anxiety. Her first year of preschool consisted of crying for two months straight. Then one day, miraculously, she stopped.

Last school year was a lot better. She cried for the first three days and that was it. However, she’ll be starting at a new school on Tuesday.

The Parenting and What to Expect websites provide some helpful tips on how to deal with your child’s separation anxiety:

  • Set a sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up early and eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Practice and role play: At home, have your child pretend play as the parent while you act as the child. Go through all the motions of the first day of school.
  • Bring a security object: Put a security object in your child’s bag to remind them of home.
  • Find friendly faces: Set up a play date with a classmate before school starts.
  • Read books together: Read some books about the first day of school.
  • Keep it short but sweet: Keep the goodbyes short.

I've tried most of these things to prepare her, like role playing at home, reading books, bringing a security object (her elephant) and keeping the goodbyes short. However, I haven’t tried setting up a play date before the start of school. We will be attending a meet the teacher night and I will try to find a friend that I can introduce to her. Hopefully this will help ease her anxiety.

The library also has some great books about separation anxiety:

Calming Your Anxious Child   Helping Your Child Overcome Separation Anxiety or School Refusal   The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution   School Phobia, Panic Attacks and Anxiety in Children

Here are some children’s books to read with your child to help prepare them:

The Kissing Hand   Llama Llama Misses Mama   Mama, Don't Go   Monkey

Does your child suffer from separation anxiety? What are some of the things you've tried?


Free Science Events in Toronto for September 2016

August 30, 2016 | Jeannette | Comments (0)

The Business, Science and Technology Department of North York Central Library compiles a monthly calendar of free science and applied science events in Toronto. Applied science includes health, gardening, pets and food; all subjects found in the department's collection. Here is the September calendar (PDF).

September's highlights include:

Toronto Public Library also offers many free science and applied science events:

At the library, September's highlights include:

Can't attend a program or want to read more about the topics covered? Try some of these books:

Autism and Everday Executive Function   Programming   100 Questions and Answers About Ovarian Cancer   Tipping Point for Planet Earth

Unleash the Power of the Female Brain   People and the Sky   Planet of the Bugs   Learning Virtual Reality

Microhistories: Big Stories About Very Specific Topics

August 29, 2016 | Carrie | Comments (0)

Microhistory is the study of the past through the examination of a very narrowly defined subject. Although the term originally referred to in-depth historical studies of specific people or events, over the past 20 years a more loosely defined 'popular' microhistory has emerged and produced a number of bestsellers. Popular microhistories often tell the story of a seemingly ordinary object, event or concept that helps to illuminate a broader social or cultural history.

Popular microhistories are fantastic reads for those who love narrative nonfiction. Here are some recommendations to get you started:


Salt Cod Paper

Mark Kurlansky is one of the most popular authors in this genre. Salt: a world history takes the reader on a 5,000-year journey across continents to tell the fascinating story of this common, household item that greatly influenced the development of human history. Likewise, Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world tells the story of a seemingly insignificant subject that had far-reaching consequences for the world. Paper: paging through history, Kurlansky's most recent publication in this genre, enthusiastically tells the story of this everyday object from antiquity to present.


6 glasses At home Professor and the madman


A history of the world in 6 glasses by Tom Standage examines the history and impact of six beverages: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and cola from the stone age to present. Bill Bryson's At home is a fascinating examination of the history of domestic and private life. The professor and the madman tells a sordid and exciting tale about the creation of the first Oxford English Dictionary.


  Rain   Ghost map Extra virginity


Rain: a natural and cultural history is a beautifully written 'biography' of rain, weaving together cultural history, geology, natural science, visual arts and poetry. The ghost map by Steven Johnson is a compelling story of Victorian London's worst cholera outbreak and how it impacted the way we view disease, urban sprawl and sanitation. Extra virginity by Tom Mueller is a story of true crime and corruption, examining the history of olive oil from antiquity to present.

Welcome to North York Central Library. We're one of the City's most welcoming spaces, open to all for study, research, relaxation and fun.

Our extensive digital and print collections, programs and services are yours to use, borrow and explore. Expert staff are always on hand to help. Meet us in person or join us online.