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June 2014

Cartoon Exhibit and Drawing Workshop

June 28, 2014 | Ames | Comments (0)

Cartoon by Tony Wan

Do you love to look at art?

Do you love to draw?

Do you feedback on your work from a professional?

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



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


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

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

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

June 19, 2014 | Sarah | Comments (0)

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

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

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

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

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

One Spadina Crescent


photo credit: Simon Pulsifer

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

250 College Street

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

150 College Street

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

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

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

June 4, 2014 | Ames | Comments (0)

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?

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.