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The World in Cabinets: Maps in the Humanities & Social Sciences Department

April 28, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Map of Canada 2014

Last week the Government of Canada issued a new map of Canada, the latest in the Atlas of Canada Reference Map Series, and an update of the 2006 version. It’s available as both digital download and paper. While more and more maps are available online, and the mash-ups created from them become increasingly complex and innovative, there are still thousands of maps available only in print.

The Toronto Reference Library holds over 75,000 maps and plans--the largest map collection in a public library in Canada. Most are located in the Humanities & Social Sciences Department (HSS) on the second floor. Here’s quick tour of the wealth of material available.


(Click to enlarge images or find more info)

HSS Map Collection 2nd Floor TRL

Maps from all over the world are included, but there's a special emphasis on maps for Toronto and Canada. Fire Insurance Plans for Toronto, showing building locations and street configurations over many years, are some of the most heavily used maps in the department. While many pre-1920s versions have been digitized by the library, copyright restrictions mean that most are available only in paper or on microfiche. You'll find facsimile maps in HSS from 1858 to 1955. Originals, other communities’ maps and insurance plans published after 1955 can be viewed in the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the 5th floor.

Fire Insurance Plans Fire Insurance Plan Toronto 1892










There are also hundreds of other maps for the City of Toronto: historical facsimiles from the 1780s to the 1940s; and original maps from 1950 to the present of previous townships and cities that make up today's Toronto, including Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York. There are planning, promotional, land use, electoral, transportation and aerial photo maps.

Map of the Township of Scarboro

Rosedale developers maps

Toronto Land Use maps

Ontario County Historical Atlases


Historical atlases of Ontario counties show farm lots, names of landowners and drawings from the nineteenth century.






Topographic maps of Canada:

Canadian Topographic Index Key Ludgate Lake NB Topo map








HSS Map Colour Codes


Our collection includes maps from every part of the world, including ordnance, political boundaries, road and street maps.





The maps are not limited to land, or even the earth--find nautical charts, ocean maps, extraterrestrial maps.

Great Lakes Nautical Charts

Mars map


Map Card CatalogueThe majority of individual maps cannot be searched through the library website, although images of some older maps are available through TPL’s Digital Archive. Instead, this is one area where the old fashioned card catalogue is still in use. If you’re looking for a particular map, or series of maps, please contact us in the Humanities & Social Sciences Department, in person, by phone or through our email service.

Maps and map-making have a long and fascinating history. On the second floor you’ll also find books exploring the many ways human beings have captured their world in maps.

Map Art Lab The Map Book Maps-finding our place in the world On the Map







For further assistance contact:

Humanities & Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library
trlhss @

Discover Special Collections

April 24, 2015 | Tanya E | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Have you visited the revitalized and recently opened Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the 5th floor of Toronto Reference Library? Well, here is your chance!

Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre
Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre

We invite you to join us for free weekly presentations showcasing rare and historical materials dating as far back as 1469 and up to the present day. Some of the treasures you can expect to find include rare maps, illuminated manuscripts, diaries and letters from World War I, award-winning theatre costume designs, artists' books and first editions of Sherlock Holmes.

Russell's Trade Card from 1890
Russell's Trade Card from 1890

Learn the stories behind these unique items and explore the many collections that make up Special Collections:

Each weekly 30-minute presentation will be given by knowledgeable staff who will be happy to answer all of your questions.

Haag's Candies Trade Card from early 1900s
Haag's Candies Trade Card from early 1900s

Don't miss your chance to get up close and personal with historical artifacts and rare books.

All presentations begin at 2 pm. See the schedule below for dates and topics. All are welcome and no registration is necessary. For more information call 416-393-7156.

(Please note that no food or drinks are allowed in the Special Collections Centre.)

Wednesday, April 29 -- Maps

Wednesday, May 6 -- Illuminated manuscripts
Thursday, May 14 -- WW1 posters and other ephemera (part 1)
Wednesday, May 20 -- WW1 posters and other ephemera (part 2)
Wednesday, May 27 -- Engravings, prints and sheet music from the Performing Arts Collection

Wednesday, June 3 -- Fore-edge painting
Thursday, June 11 -- Early botanical illustration in Canada
Wednesday, June 17 -- Architectural plans (including Archindont)
Wednesday, June 24 -- Canadian postcards

The First Green Wave: Pollution Probe and The Origins of Environmental Activism

April 20, 2015 | Pam | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

FragilePlanet header

Join Ryan O'Connor this Tuesday, April 21st from 6:30-8:00 p.m.

 Toronto Reference Library, Beeton Auditorium



"The First Green Wave: Pollution Probe and the Origins of Environmental Activism in Ontario"


First Green Wave


Ryan will trace the rise of Toronto's environmental movement through the story of Pollution Probe, one of Canada's pioneering environmental activist organizations. Founded in 1969 by students and faculty at the University of Toronto, Pollution Probe confronted Toronto's City Hall over its use of pesticides, Ontario Hydro over air pollution, and the detergent industry over pollution of the Great Lakes. The success of these actions inspired the founding of other environmental organizations across Canada.

Ryan O'Connor received his Ph.D. at the University of Western Ontario. He is a Research Associate at the Frost Centre for Canadian and Indigenous Studies at Trent University, and is an Associate Member of the Centre for Environment, Heritage and Policy at the University of Stirling (Scotland). The First Green Wave is his first book.

TD logoThis program is supported by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.



New Books at the Browsery

April 4, 2015 | Winona | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

We get new books in at the Toronto Reference Library Browsery all the time. I don't have time to read them all (how I wish I did!) but I do like to dip into them whenever I can. Sometimes it's enough for me to glance through a few pages, or even just a few lines; other times I will find myself hooked and either add the book to my (impossibly long) reading list or borrow it and dive in right away.

Here is a sample of some of the latest fiction books at the Browsery, for you to dip, or dive, into:

The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-OlsenThe Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen (audiobook | eaudiobook | ebook | talking book for print disabled patrons)

Publisher's description: Two British pilots during World War II are shot down during a raid over Germany. They survive the crash, but are faced with a German dog patrol. They manage to save themselves by jumping aboard a hospital train and hiding among the patients. But when they reach their destination, it occurs to them that it is a mental hospital. Now they can either try to simulate insanity or try to escape.

Opening lines: "It wasn't the best weather in the world. Cold and windy, with poor visibility. An exceptionally bleak January day, even for England."

Read an excerpt here.

Watch the book trailer below.



Circle of Stones by Suzanne Alyssa AndrewCircle of Stones by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew

Publisher's description: Nik is an eccentric art student obsessed with painting his dancer girlfriend, Jennifer. When one day she inexplicably disappears, Nik’s world is shattered. Determined to find her, he embarks on a cross-country journey following a scant trail of clues. He doesn’t anticipate how far he’ll have to travel, what he’ll do when he runs out of money, or the fact that an intimidating stranger is looking for Jennifer, too. Nik and Jennifer fade into the background of their own tale, surfacing now and again like ghosts as the rest of their mysterious story unfolds through a series of chance encounters with intricately linked strangers.

Opening lines: "He reaches up to turn on the lamp. Hand on his arm, pulling him back down onto the futon mattress. The hand is soft, cool, and he will do anything to feel it on his skin. He leaves the light off."

Listen to an excerpt here.

Watch the book trailer below.



The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas LlosaThe Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa (ebook)

Publisher's description: Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa's newest novel, The Discreet Hero, follows two fascinating characters whose lives are destined to intersect: neat, endearing Felícito Yanaqué, a small businessman in Piura, Peru, who finds himself the victim of blackmail; and Ismael Carrera, a successful owner of an insurance company in Lima, who cooks up a plan to avenge himself against the two lazy sons who want him dead.

Opening lines: "Felícito Yanaqué, the owner of the Narihualá Transport Company, left his house that morning, as he did every morning Monday to Saturday, at exactly seven thirty, after doing half an hour of qigong, taking a cold shower, and preparing his usual breakfast: coffee with goat's milk and toast with butter and a few drops of raw chancaca honey."

Read an excerpt here.


Disgruntled by Asali SolomonDisgruntled by Asali Solomon

Publisher's description: Kenya Curtis is only eight years old, but she knows that she's different, even if she can't put her finger on how or why. It's not because she's black--most of the other students in the fourth-grade class at her West Philadelphia elementary school are too. Maybe it's because she celebrates Kwanzaa, or because she's forbidden from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Maybe it's because she calls her father--a housepainter-slash-philosopher--"Baba" instead of "Daddy," or because her parents' friends gather to pour out libations "from the Creator, for the Martyrs" and discuss "the community."

Opening lines: "In the first grade at Henry Charles Lea School in West Philadelphia, when Kenya told kids that she celebrated Kwanzaa, no one knew what she was talking about. By the third grade, led by the tiny tyrant L'Tisha Simmons, the kids were calling her an African bootyscratcher and chanting to a conga line rhythm:

You don't get no pre-sents! You don't get no pre-sents!

In fact, she did get presents on the last morning of Kwanzaa, seven days after Christmas. By the fourth grade Kenya was down to one friend."

Read an excerpt here.


Find Me by Laura Van Den BergFind Me by Laura Van den Berg (eaudiobook | ebook)

Publisher's description: Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store on the outskirts of Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. When a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, has an advantage: she is immune. After her immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she submits to peculiar treatments and forms cautious bonds with other patients—including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.

Opening lines: "Things I will never forget: my name, my made-up birthday, the rattle of a train in a tunnel. The sweet grit of toothpaste. The bitterness of coffee and blood. The dark of the Hospital at night. My mother's face, when she was young.

* * *

Things other people will forget: where they come from, how old they are, the faces of the people they love. The right words for bowl and sunshine and sidewalk. What is a beginning and what is an end."

Read an excerpt here.


Funny Girl by Nick HornbyFunny Girl by Nick Hornby (audiobook | eaudiobook | ebooktalking book for print disabled patrons

Publisher's description: Set in 1960's London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingenue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby's latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.

Opening lines: "She didn't want to be a beauty queen, but as luck would have it, she was about to become one."

Read an excerpt here.




Related Reading:

A Visit to the Browsery at Toronto Reference Library

Our Newest Titles: Titles Added to the Library Collection Within the Last 30 days


TRL Program Calendar April 2015

March 30, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

See Jane Urquart, Lori Lansens, Sara Gruen, and Guy Vanderhaeghe at the Appel Salon, bring your broken possession to the Repair Cafe and find free classes on the latest technologies.

Click on each image to enlarge or  Download The April 2015 @ TRL as a pdf file.

For a full list of programs to browse or search, visit our Programs, Classes and Exhibits page.

April 2015 1 April 2015 2 April 2015 3 April 2015 4

Canadian Pictorial--a picture's worth...

March 19, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Everywhere we look today, images surround us. Photos, drawings, graphics—all used to inform us, to distract us, to persuade us. Our time could be called the Age of the Image, and many people lament the rise of the quick graphic at the expense of the thoughtful text.

But images, right back to the caves of Lascaux, have the power to draw us in and to teach us. One of the great functions of libraries, and a major function of the Toronto Reference Library, is to preserve all kinds of information, including images, so that we can actually look back into the past as it was. Or at least, at the way people of the past wanted to be seen.

The majority of books, magazines and photographs we hold here were not bought from antique collectors or storage warehouses. They are the original items—the real McCoys—purchased with library funds when they were new and current; preserved here ever since.

Canadian Pictorial v 1 no 1 Oct 1906

One such gem is Canadian Pictorial, bought new in the early twentieth century for 10 cents an issue. This beautiful large format magazine, published from 1906 to 1916, was created specifically to take advantage of the recent advances in photographic printing. According to the History of the Book in Canada, the aim of its Montreal publishers "was to crowd as many pictures in as possible. Throughout its ten years the Pictorial covered wars, royalty, the movies, and scenery at home and abroad in high-quality photographic spreads printed in tints of brown, blue, and red as well as grey.”

Today, those pictures give us a vision of a past reality. Not just the way things looked, but the way people in the past wanted to present themselves and their world. As with all human endeavors, the message sent may not be exactly the message received, and pictures from the past tell us things that may not be very flattering. (Keep that in mind next time you post a selfie.)  What’s more, many of the preoccupations of the past weren’t so very different from the present. (Cute animal pictures anyone?)

Here’s a sampling from Canadian Pictorial.  What’s your interpretation of the world it shows us of the "innocent" times leading up to the conflagration of World War One?


(Click on any image to enlarge)

Canadians in Egypt 1908

Canada US Border 1908

British Bulldog in sailor hat 1913










"Where Canada and the United States Meet", August 1908   British bulldog "Elsimore Mally", April 1913

                       Canadians in Camp 1909

 "All Hands Help the Cook" and "wealthy businessmen... fraternize with their Indian guides...Around the Camp Fire," June 1909

Mob Law in Old Dublin 1913 Assassination Attempt in Spain 1913


Mob Law in Old Dublin, October 1913, and Assassination attempt on the King of Spain, June 1913

A Dustless Home by Acme Vacuum 1909 Invite your Kodak 1913

Similar preoccupations to 2015, from June 1909 and March 1913






Mary Pickford-Canadian girl who is leading favourite of the films 1915

Wonderful Old Lady born minus arms 1913

Come to the Toronto Reference Library to see more. And, for an example of how photos can link us to the past, and what we can read into them, see Photographs of the Child in Canadian Pictorial from 1906 to 1916: A Reflection of the Ideas and Values of English Canadians about Themselves and "Other" Canadians by Loren Lerner, courtesy Project Muse.

How to Research a Toronto Property

March 7, 2015 | Cynthia | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

25 King West  
Not the sexiest title - but if you need to research a particular address or property, we thought we would go with the straight-forward approach. So "How to Research a Toronto Property" at the Toronto Reference Library, it is. The Humanities and Social Sciences Department, 2nd floor, has material specifically on Toronto to help you with your research.  

What we have 

Let's be clear. Researching the history of an address is akin to solving a "Murdoch Mystery". There may be clues around, but you will have to do some serious digging to find them and some careful thought to piece it together. You will need to look at lots of different things.

 Information may be found:

  • in print or online;
  • on microfiche or microfilm; 
  • on maps;
  • in government reports; and / or
  • in a book on the shelf.

Be prepared to spend quite a bit of time on this project. Although there is a lot of material in the library, some things are available online through the Library’s website or outside sources.

What we don’t have

We do not keep land surveys, property ownership records or assessments on individual properties or addresses.

Let's get started

In the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, 2nd floor, Toronto Reference Library, you will find:

The Toronto Collection: a unique collection of books, reports, legislative materials, newspaper clippings, maps, community papers and magazines about the City of Toronto. Although primarily focused on the latter half of the 20th century to present, there are older items as well as books on Toronto's history.

BlogToronto Collection


City of Toronto MinutesCouncil Minutes and other legislative reports; former City of Toronto Council Minutes are available in print from 1859 to 1997; useful to trace the development and changes to a specific property.


  DirectoriesCity directories and phonebooks: print Toronto directories from 1833 to 2001; can be used to trace specific addresses or names over a period of time.


  Historic atlas of TorontoMaps, gazeteers and atlases: Toronto maps include property data maps, topographic maps, aerial photomaps, specialty maps such as land use maps and fire insurance plans.

Fire insurance plan









Community newspapers and magazines: useful to trace developments in a specific area or neighbourhood.

Community paper

 Newspaper room

Newspapers: Free access to the digital versions of the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail available on library terminals. (Microfilmed newspapers are kept in the Toronto Star Newspaper Room on the lower level).



Unique clipping files: Toronto newspaper clippings by subject preserved on microfiche from the mid-1960’s until 2010; clipping files on Toronto buildings and more. Microfiche cards




What you can check online

There are online library resources that you can check before arriving at the Library.

Once on the TPL site, check out information about Toronto’s History and don't miss the guide called How to Research Historic Buildings in Toronto.

If you explore all of the Toronto History links, you should be able to pull up neighbourhood information, older city directories, maps and fire insurance plans, architectural information, archival pictures, newspaper articles and links to other resources. 


Other sources

Toronto logo

Let's go to the City of Toronto site:


  •  The City of Toronto Archives has photographs of neighbourhoods, streets and properties, maps, directories and written records. They have handy pamphlets like Researching Your House. Before you make a visit, get in touch with the Archives to see what is available and appropriate for your research.
  • Council materials and bylaws are available electronically from 1998 on. Sometimes there are reports on a specific address. Often there is some historical background included which may help you flesh out your research. You might need to look at earlier print volumes of the Minutes found at the Library. We can help you to navigate this legislative material.


  • Demographic material is available online, too. As with the other materials, a visit to the library may be in order to uncover older statistics on your area of research.







Did you know that you can book an appointment with a librarian to help you with your search? It's a good idea to get in touch before coming to the Library - just to make sure we have what you need and trained staff on hand to help you.


We can arrange personal sessions, class visits, and group training sessions.

E-Mail :

TRL Program Calendar March 2015

March 2, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Get ready for the Stratford theatre season with a series of talks on upcoming productions.  See and hear authors Kim Echlin, Erik Larson, Kazuo Ishiguro and Andrew Morton.  Find out how to publish your own book with the library's Asquith Press at their information sessions.

Click on each image to enlarge or Download The March 2015 @ TRL as a pdf file.

For a full list of programs to browse or search, visit our Programs, Classes and Exhibits page.

March 1 March 2 March 3 March 4 March 5

From Books to Movies at the 2015 Oscars

February 21, 2015 | Winona | Comments (9) Facebook Twitter More...

Pop your popcorn, place your bets, and call the fashion police: it's Oscar time once again!

As ever, books continue to be a significant source of inspiration for filmmakers. This year, four of the eight nominees for Best Picture were inspired by books, and books of all sorts - from traditional folk tales to contemporary noir novels, superhero comics to real life war stories - appear in several other categories as well.

Here is your annual viewing/reading list of Oscar-nominated movies and the books that inspired them. All of these books are available at the library and some of the movies are already in too. Which ones will you be checking out?


American Sniper

American Sniper by Chris Kyle American Sniper movie posterBased on the autobiography American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle (audiobook | eaudiobook | ebook | large print | talking book for print disabled patrons).

Nominated for: Actor in a Leading Role; Best Picture; Film Editing; Sound Editing; Sound Mixing; Writing (Adapted Screenplay).

Synopsis: "Already skilled with a rifle before he joins the Navy SEALS and departs for Iraq, Chris Kyle becomes one of the most skilled snipers in U.S. military history. As he rotates through four tours of duty, however, Kyle must deal with the high levels of stress and the toll on his personal life that are an unavoidable part of his harrowing work."



The Boxtrolls

Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow The Boxtrolls movie posterBased on the fantasy novel for young readers Here Be Monsters! An Adventure Involving Magic, Trolls, and Other Creatures by Alan Snow.

Nominated for: Animated Feature Film.

Synopsis: "In the city of Cheesebridge, a community of shy trolls lives in hiding, emerging only at night to scavenge anything the humans have left outdoors. When they take a human baby and raise him as one of their own, his disappearance gives ammunition to the sinister Archibald Snatcher, who plans to advance his position in the town by eradicating the trolls."



Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America The Winter Soldier V. 1 by Ed Brubaker et al Captain America The Winter Solder movie posterBased on the Marvel comic book character Captain America, originally created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Sequel to the movie Captain America: The First Avenger.

Nominated for: Visual Effects.

Synopsis: "Steve Rogers, better known as the powerful super-soldier Captain America, finds himself facing a dangerous threat close to home: a U.S.-developed secret weapons system known as Project Insight. Alarmed by the weapon's ability to identify potential threats before they develop, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury calls Rogers in to investigate."



Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle Dawn of the Planet of the ApesBased on the science fiction classic Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle (audiobook | talking book for print disabled patrons). Sequel to the movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a reboot of the original Planet of the Apes movie.

Nominated for: Visual Effects.

Synopsis: "With most of the population wiped out by the virulent simian flu, a few remaining bands of humans live in harsh circumstances and uneasy proximity to the apes who are now the planet's leading species. In an effort to restore electricity to their community, husband and wife Malcolm and Ellie attempt to negotiate with primate leader Caesar, but individuals on both sides oppose any efforts at peaceful coexistence."




Foxcatcher by Mark Schultz Foxcatcher movie posterNot, strictly speaking, based on this book, but based on true events also described in the memoir Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother's Murder, John du Pont's Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold by Mark Schultz (eaudiobook | ebook).

Nominated for: Actor in a Leading Role; Actor in a Supporting Role; Directing; Makeup and Hairstyling; Writing (Original Screenplay).

Synopsis: "Despite having won an Olympic gold medal, wrestler Mark Schultz lives in the shadow of his gregarious brother, Dave, also an Olympic medalist. When wealthy wrestling enthusiast John du Pont invites Mark to live and train at his estate, he is drawn into a bizarre world dominated by du Pont's erratic behavior."



Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Gone Girl movie posterBased on the bestselling psychological crime thriller Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (audiobook | eaudiobook | ebook | large print | talking book for print disabled patrons).

Nominated for: Actress in a Leading Role.

Synopsis: "With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent."



The Grand Budapest Hotel

Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig The Grand Budapest Hotel movie posterInspired by the novels Beware of Pity, The Post-Office Girl, and other books by the great Austrian writer Stefan Zweig.

Nominated for: Best Picture; Cinematography; Costume Design; Directing; Film Editing; Makeup and Hairstyling; Music (Original Score); Production Design; Writing (Original Screenplay).

Synopsis: "As the owner of a once-luxurious Alpine hotel relates its history to a visiting writer, he describes his youth as a lobby boy at the Grand Budapest, where he was the protégé of the hotel's concierge, Monsieur Gustave. Gustave runs the five-star establishment with panache and an iron fist, while also offering his services as a lover to the older, wealthy women guests."



Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy V. 1 Cosmic Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis et al Guardians of the Galaxy movie posterBased on the Marvel superhero comic book team Guardians of the Galaxy, created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

Nominated for: Makeup and Hairstyling; Visual Effects.

Synopsis: "Led by the laid-back human Quill, a group of misfit aliens reluctantly bands together to keep a powerful silver orb out of the hands of Ronan the Accuser, a villainous thug determined to use the orb's power to carry out his deadly plans and destroy the planet Xandar."



The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien The Hobbit movie posterBased on the classic fantasy and adventure saga The Hobbit, Or, There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien (also available in several audio and online formats). Sequel to the movies The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Nominated for: Sound Editing.

Synopsis: "As the saga of hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his adventures with the dwarf warriors fighting to reclaim their homeland comes to a close, the defeat of the fearsome dragon Smaug fails to bring the joy and prosperity to Erebor that its captive citizens had anticipated. As the dwarf prince Thorin Oakenshield yields to a lust for wealth, warring bands of dwarves and elves seek power for themselves in the wake of the dragon's demise."



How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressid Cowell How to Train Your Dragon 2 movie posterBased on the children's fantasy series How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. Sequel to the movie How to Train Your Dragon.

Nominated for: Animated Feature Film.

Synopsis: "Viking dragon tamer Hiccup is now a young man, but he retains his longing for new experiences and his bond with his beloved dragon, Toothless. After Hiccup and his girlfriend Astrid uncover a hidden dragon paradise and the secret behind a family tragedy, all the Vikings must band together to protect the dragons against ruthless hunter Drago."



The Imitation Game

Alan Turing by Andrew Hodges The Imitation Game movie posterBased on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges (ebook).

Nominated for: Actor in a Leading Role; Actress in  Supporting Role; Best Picture; Directing; Film Editing; Music (Original Score); Production Design; Writing (Adapted Screenplay).

Synopsis: "As World War II engulfs Europe, a group of English mathematicians are assembled at Bletchley Park to work in secret on cracking the code of a captured German Enigma encryption machine. With England's fate hanging in the balance, the group's leader, the brilliant, eccentric Alan Turing, must hide his homosexuality or risk arrest and persecution by the country he is fighting to save."



Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon Inherent Vice movie posterBased on the psychedelic noir detective novel Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon (audiobook | ebook | large print).

Nominated for: Costume Design; Writing (Adapted Screenplay).

Synopsis: "Larry 'Doc' Sportello, a pot-smoking private eye living in a California beach town in 1970, finds himself pulled into a web of crime and deception when his former girlfriend asks for his help and then disappears. His investigation leads him to the widow of a musician who insists her husband is still alive, a police detective who works as a television extra, and a cocaine-snorting dentist."



Into the Woods

The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine Into the Woods movie posterBased on the musical Into the Woods with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, which was itself inspired by The Uses of Enchantment, a Freudian analysis of fairy tales by psychologist Bruno Bettelheim.

Nominated for: Actress in a Supporting Role; Costume Design; Production design.

Synopsis: "The stories from familiar fairy tales intertwine as their characters take on tasks and challenges that will change their lives. In order to break a curse cast upon them by a witch, a childless baker and his wife go on a quest in the woods, where they encounter Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and other lively inhabitants."




Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault illu Margaret Early Sleeping Beauty by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm illu Maja DusikovaSleeping Beauty Disney movie Maleficent movie poster Inspired by the folk tale Sleeping Beauty, originally recorded from the oral version by Charles Perrault, later interpreted by the Brothers Grimm, and made into the now classic animated Disney film.

Nominated for: Costume Design.

Synopsis: "Despite the often hostile relationship between humans and magical creatures, a kind young fairy named Maleficent forms a friendship that later turns to love with Stefan, a farm boy who wanders into the woods. Stefan's desire for power leads him to betray Maleficent, however, prompting her to cast a spiteful curse and incite a war."



Still Alice

Still Alice by Lisa Genova Still Alice movie posterBased on the bestselling novel Still Alice by Lisa Genova (audiobook | eaudiobook | ebook | large print | talking book for print disabled patrons).

Nominated for: Actress in a Leading Role.

Synopsis: "Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a devastating diagnosis, Alice and her family find their bonds tested."



The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter interpreted by Kawabta The Bamboo Cutter and the Moon Maiden retold by Teresa Pierce Williston illu Dilleen Marsh The Tale of the Princess Kaguya movie posterBased on the 10th-century Japanese folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (see also The Bamboo Cutter and the Moon Maiden).

Nominated for: Best Animated Feature Film.

Synopsis: "When a bamboo cutter named Okina finds a miniature infant inside a cane stalk, he brings her home to his wife, Ona, and she grows immediately to the size of a human baby. Called Princess by her adoptive parents, the magical child leads an idyllic life until her father finds riches hidden in the forest that he believes are her celestial dowry."



The Theory of Everything

Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking The Theory of Everything movie posterBased on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen by Jane Hawking (ebook).

Nominated for: Actor in a Leading Role; Actress in a Leading Role; Best Picture; Music (Original Score); Writing (Adapted Screenplay).

Synopsis: "Stephen Hawking is a brilliant Cambridge graduate student when he learns that he has a progressive motor neuron disease and may die within two years. For Jane Wilde, Stephen's fellow student and future wife, the prognosis represents not a certainty but a challenge that her faith and Stephen's passionate determination can overcome."



Two Days, One Night

The Weight of the World by Pierre Bourdieu et al Two Days One Night movie posterLoosely based on one of the sociological case studies in The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society by Pierre Bourdieu and Alain Accardo et al; translated by Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson.

Nominated for: Actress in a Leading Role.

Synopsis: "Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job."




Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand Unbroken movie posterBased on the true story Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (audiobook | eaudiobook | ebook | large print | talking book for print disabled patrons).

Nominated for: Cinematography; Sound Editing; Sound Mixing.

Synopsis: "Young Louie Zamperini's talent as a runner takes him to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but the Second World War cuts short his dream of competing four years later in Tokyo. Joining the fighting as a U.S. Navy bombardier, Zamperini soon finds himself facing hardships that will test the will and determination that have been the driving forces of his earlier life."




Wild by Cheryl Strayed Wild movie posterBased on the memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (audiobook | eaudiobook | ebook | large print | talking book for print disabled patrons | book club set).

Nominated for: Actress in a Leading Role; Actress in a Supporting Role.

Synopsis: "A chronicle of one woman's 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe."



X-Men: Days of Future Past

Stan Lee Presents Essential The Uncanny X-Men V. 1 Nos. 1-24 X-Men Days of Future Past movie posterBased on the Marvel comic book superheroes the X-Men, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, which have also inspired other X-Men movies.

Nominated for: Visual Effects.

Synopsis: "With the X-Men and their human allies under attack by a government-developed group of robots known as the Sentinels, Professor Xavier and Magneto send Wolverine into the past using Kitty Pryde's temporal telekinetic powers. His mission is to change the events that took place in 1973 and stop the Sentinel program before it begins."



Note: Film synopses are from the Oscars 2015 website except, from Internet Movie Database: Gone Girl; Still Alice; Two Days, One Night; Wild.


Related Reading:

The Red Maple Leaf: How Canada's Flag Came to Be

February 13, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

A red maple leaf against a blue sky. A quintessential Canadian symbol, and one recognized throughout the world. Even the least patriotic Canadian can’t help but see it and know it marks the place they call home.

National Flag of Canada

The Canadian flag as we know it is only 50 years old this week. It came into being after intense debate and hundreds of years of, well, not making a decision. For Canada, which became a nation in 1867, simply could not decide what to do about a flag, and for most of its history, pre- and post-Confederation, just let things slide.

St George's Cross Fleur de Lis Flag of France 14th-16th centuryThe St. George’s Cross was probably the first European flag to fly over what is now Canada, when John Cabot, a Venetian exploring under English colours, reached the Atlantic coast in 1497. The other major flag was the fleur-de-lis from 1534 when Jacques Cartier claimed North America for France. Elements from both these flags still appear on Canadian provincial flags and coats of arms. 

After the English and French conflict for the New World and the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the Royal Union Flag of Great Britain (aka the Union Jack), which was a combination of the English St. George’s Cross and the Scottish St. Andrew’s Cross, flew over all British colonies in North America. When the Thirteen Colonies broke away to form the United States, many people who remained loyal to Britain relocated to Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, causing the Union Flag to sometimes be called the Flag of the United Empire Loyalists. In 1801, after the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland, the Cross of St. Patrick was added to create the current Union Flag. In Canada, under an act of parliament, it was known as the Royal Union Flag.

Union Flag (Union Jack) 1707-1800 Union Flag (Union Jack) 1801-present







Canadian Red EnsignMeanwhile, sometime in the late 17\P century, the Red Ensign, a red flag with the Union Jack in the corner, was used by the British navy and later specifically by the British merchant marine. It was widely used on land and sea in Canada, and around the time of Confederation, a coat of arms bearing the symbols of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick was added to the fly. This was officially approved by the British Admiralty in 1892 for Canadian use, but only at sea. This is how it came to be known as the Canadian Red Ensign. On land, it was still only used by custom, not official sanction.

Canadian Red EnsignAs new provinces joined Confederation, their symbols were added, and the flag changed several times. In 1924, this unofficial version was modified and authorized by an Order in Council of the Canadian government. It used the Royal Arms of Canada granted to this country by King George V of Britain in 1921, and was approved for use on Canadian buildings abroad. A second Order in Council in 1945 authorized the use of the Canadian Red Ensign on federal buildings in Canada, “until a new national flag was adopted.” Yes, that’s right. Canada fought two World Wars without an official flag.

This is your flag recruitment poster 1914-18
Canadian recruitment poster, 1914-1918

All that time, and still no official flag for the country, passed by the Parliament of Canada and representing all her people. How Canadian, eh? It wasn’t for lack of trying—or argument. According to Conrad Swan, author of Canada: Symbols of Sovereignty, “designing flags became something of a recurrent national pastime.” In 1946, a committee of the House of Commons received 1500 (!) designs from across the country. They failed to decide on one.

But during the Suez Crisis in the Middle East in 1956, then Canadian Minister of External Affairs Lester Pearson was shocked and embarrassed when the Egyptian government refused to allow Canadian troops on their soil, claiming they fought under the flag of Egypt’s enemy, Britain. Pearson, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his solution to the Suez Crisis, believed Canada needed a new symbol to represent its nationhood, and its independent voice. When he became Prime Minister six years later, he vowed to make a new flag a top priority.

Pearson pennantIn 1964, Pearson announced to the House of Commons that the government wished to adopt a distinctive Canadian flag, as the centenary of Confederation approached. He proposed a flag with three joined maple leaves on a white background, with blue bars at either end. There would be a free, non-partisan vote in Parliament. Debate on the “Pearson pennant” raged through the summer of ’64, in Parliament, in the press, in homes and communities across Canada. Descriptions of the flag design included “monstrosity”, “picayune” and “a nosebleed”. Descriptions of the prime minister included “dictator”, “Mussolini”, and “sawdust Caesar”. (Our current parliament may be no less polite, but the rhetoric is certainly less colourful.)

More than insults, it became a litmus test of racial and national identity. What was the place of the British or French or any other group in a national symbol? Were the symbols of Britain colonial fetters or sustaining bedrock? Was choosing a flag a sign of forward thinking or desecration of tradition? Was the maple leaf a symbol of Canada and all its peoples, or a catchall that could mean anything or nothing?

Red Maple Leaf Maple leaves Golden Maple Leaf Toronto_Maple_Leafs_Players_1946






Pearson speaking at the Canadian Club in September 1964, called the flag debate an example of “this strange, almost psychotic soul-searching we are going through nationally today.”

That month, Pearson formed a multi-party flag committee in an effort to create some spirit of co-operation.  By October, the committee had three designs left: a Red Ensign with the fleur-de-lis and the Union Jack, the three red maple leaves and blue borders, and a red and white flag with a stylized red maple leaf.  Eventually the committee unanimously recommended the single leaf design.

Then it went to the House of Commons.  The debate lasted for 33 days, as Conservative party leader John Diefenbaker staunchly (and in the opinion of some, including members of his own party, insanely) defended the Canadian Red Ensign.

By December 10, Diefenbaker’s Quebec lieutenant Léon Balcer was at odds with his leader—this issue was blocking all other business, and could destroy Conservative support in Quebec—and called for closure to the debate.  On a vote, the House, including 31 Opposition members, imposed closure.  The final vote was taken in the early morning hours of December 15.  Shouts of “flag by closure” and “that pinhead” (referring to the Prime Minister) were hurled.  But by 2:15 AM, the decision was made.

That day the Toronto Star headlined:  “Howling House gives OK to the new flag”.  The National Flag of Canada was a reality, almost a century after Canada became a nation.

The flag was inaugurated on February 15, 1965. In the words of the Honourable Maurice Bourget, Speaker of the Senate:

“The flag is a symbol of the nation’s unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion.”

And that’s pretty Canadian too, eh?

For more on the Canadian flags:


A flag for Canada


A Flag for Canada, 2nd ed. by Rick Archbold traces the history of the maple leaf as a Canadian symbol, the selection of the maple leaf flag, and its growing meaning since 1965.



Liberal MP John Matheson's Canada's flag: a search for a country gives a rousing (yes, really) account of the flag debate.  A must for political junkies.  Don't miss the section on citizen's letters to the government.

There are several accounts of the maple leaf flag for children.  Available in book and eBook.

If you're flying the flag, consult Flag etiquette in Canada.

Check here for a selection of pre-1965 flag histories.

A selection of flag ephemera during the First World War from the Toronto Public Library's Digital Archive.

A special treat is Saluting the Canadian Flag: (a patriotic exercise) from 1917, a play-let to be performed by school children.  Its patriotic fervour is expressed partly in verse, though there is a little confusion about which flag they're celebrating--the "tattered old ensign"  or, as here, "O list to the story, 'tis filled full of glory,/This tale of our own Union Jack".  Available at the Toronto Reference Library, and the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books at the Lillian H. Smith branch.


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