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March 2014

Fun projects for mini makers

March 21, 2014 | Sarah | Comments (1)

The spirit of Maker Culture has permeated our collective consciousness. Call it what you will: Making, DIY, constructivism... it seems to be everywhere these days! And the library is no exception - witness our new Digital Innovation Hubs at the Toronto Reference Library and the soon-to-be-opened Fort York branch.

Now that this formerly hidden subculture has made its way into the mainstream, there are lots of opportunities for children to get involved. When my kids and I were bored over March Break, we discovered Sylvia's Super Awesome Maker Show. Sylvia Todd, now 12 years old, has put together some very creative instructional videos on how to make everything from sidewalk chalk to simple circuits, lava lamps and robots. We made periscopes! Here's the how-to video:



Now, how about some books to spark your inner-innovator? This one has a fancy periscope that lights up with LEDs:


Explore the library's collection of science project books. A hot air balloon to go with your periscope?


And this list wouldn't be complete without the latest book on everyone's favourite building blocks:



Maker events for kids coming up at the library include Book Bash on April 26, 2014 at Northern District branch, and Building Buildings on May 24 at Fort York branch. I'd also like to check out the MakerKids space, near Dundas and Bloor in Toronto. They offer a lot of hands-on programs and special events.

Critics of the whole Maker movement for kids may complain that it's just a new way to say "crafts." I beg to differ. Yes, the end result may be a crafted product, but the value lies in the process. True Making for kids is child-led and discovery-based. We are tapping into their fascination with new technologies, but doing it in a communal setting. In a world where children are tempted by so much solo screen time, any trend that encourages social, inquisitive, human interaction is fine by me!


The King in Yellow : Book at the dark heart of True Detective

March 4, 2014 | Sarah | Comments (3)

Have you been watching True Detective? I have been obsessing over it a bit lately, and not only for the gripping performances by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The show quickly moves from a plain old cop drama into a fascinating study in detective-noir, Southern gothic, horror, and possibly things supernatural.


Rust Cohle and Martin Hart are two polar-opposite homicide detectives investigating a string of ritualized murders in Louisiana in 1995. Supposedly, they catch their guy, but the story jumps ahead to the present day when more bodies have been found, and brilliant, obessive, loner Cohle is a suspect. The diary of one of the victims contains complete passages from Robert W. Chambers' 1895 book of short stories The King in Yellow.


photo credit: Devin Faraci 

The stories in the book repeatedly mention a fictional play called The King in Yellow, the second act of which drives readers insane, as well as talk of a mysterious "yellow sign" and a frightening entity known as The King in Yellow. Chambers writes creepy very well, and his work influenced other writers of the weird, like H.P. Lovecraft and horror icon Stephen King.

But what does all of this have to do with True Detective? Well, apparently, the show is rife with not just literary references to Chambers' book, but with symbolism from the stories too. This io9 post by Michael M. Hughes goes pretty deeply into it. 

If you want to read the stories for yourself, you can come in to the Merril collection and have a look at their original copy of The King in Yellow. Otherwise, you can find electronic copies for free through Overdrive (although there are holds!) and the always-available Project Gutenberg.  

When you are done, and dying for some more spine-chilling reads, check out this excellent "True Detective" Reading List, put together by Lincoln Michel of BuzzFeed. It includes the novel Galveston, written by Nic Pizzolatto, writer for True Detective. Wow, I'd better get my name on the holds list for that as well!  

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.