OLA Festival of Trees 2013 review

*UPDATE*: Pictures of the Festival are finally up here and here.

So last week I volunteered at the Ontario Library Association’s Festival of Trees in Toronto, and I had a blast!

The Festival of Trees is a two-day event to celebrate the Forest of Reading program, which aims:

  • To encourage the children, young people and adults of Ontario to enjoy reading
  • To develop recognition for Canadian authors and Canadian books
  • To contribute to the financial stability of the Canadian publishing industry
  • To provide teacher-librarians, librarians, library staff and parent volunteers with a meaningful tool for improving literacy in schools and libraries
  • To respond to community interest and needs

(from About the Forest)

The program is divided into different categories:

For School-Aged Readers

  • Blue Spruce™Awards (primary – Grade 2 picture books)
  • Silver Birch® Awards (Grades 3-6 fiction, non-fiction)
  • Silver Birch Express™ Awards (Grades 3-4 fiction, non-fiction)
  • Red Maple™ Awards (Grades 7-8 fiction, non-fiction every other year)
  • White Pine™ Awards (high school fiction, non-fiction every other year)
  • Le Prix Peuplier (picture books, less text, simpler subject matters, beautiful picture books perfect for read alouds)
  • Le Prix Tamarac (chapter books from 100 to 250 pages, smaller text with little or no illustrations, more complicated verb tenses and vocabulary)
  • Le Prix Tamarac Express (shorter chapter books maximum 100 pages or more mature picture books, larger text with pictures, simpler vocabulary and verb tenses)

For each program, readers are encouraged to read all or a selection of the books, and then vote on their favourite. For the school-aged programs the readers must read a minimum of 5 books to be eligible to vote.

For Adults

  •  Golden Oak™ Awards (adults learning to read, ESL, fiction)
  • Evergreen™ Award (adults of any age, fiction, non-fiction)


So, my days.


We had to be there waytoobloodyearly (defined as before noon, but more specifically about 8 am) for the volunteer orientation. Toronto rush-hour traffic and construction season, oy. I’ve never been to the Harbourfront Centre before, but it was a nice venue. It was raining when I arrived, but someone bribed the weather gods and it stopped right when we were supposed to open, so both of the days the weather was just beautiful–sunny, not too hot, and not too windy even though we were right on the water.

There was a lot of different activities going on–author and illustrator signings, all kids of workshops, games, the various awards ceremonies, a hula hoop tent, a book trading zone, a book store, booths from OWL magazine and the Toronto Zoo, the Story Wall where students could create a story together, each person writing the next line, the Graffiti Trees where students could write comments on Post-Its for the authors, a craft tent, face painting, a clown making balloon animals, a paddle boat ride…

Wednesday morning I was assigned to the tattoo station (yes, they were temporary tattoos), and I was really glad that there wasn’t much wind–I didn’t want to go running after the papers!  Then in the afternoon I was on the ring toss game. The kids had to throw a frisbee onto a pylon–it was actually pretty hard, especially with the wind off the lake! If they managed to get one on, they won a free book, so the game was pretty popular.

OLA Festival of Trees May 15, 2013

Yes, I wore that tattoo on my face all day long, including when I walked around Toronto and when I went to the theatre later.

(Then I saw the new Star Trek movie Into Darkness with some friends, which despite starting late and the IMAX not working, was terrific, but not the point of this post. Still, new Trek, geeker joy! And with added lovely Benedict Cumberbatch goodness!)


Thursday was busy, since we were short-handed, and had even more people. There were 6,000 tickets sold for the 2 days–2,000 people attended Wednesday, and 4,000 people attended Thursday. Fortunately the kids were all really well-behaved, enthusiastic about everything and ready to have fun (and not be in school for a day)!

We started with another volunteer meeting, since several people were new to the event–I don’t think that many people were able to volunteer both days. Then I was on bus duty, making sure that the school buses dropped the kids off in the right place and directing everyone to the right door to get in. There was a ton of construction right in front of the Harbourfront Centre, as well as the Centre’s maintenance people with vehicles and big recycling bins and so on right at the entrance, but even though the kids were excited they were pretty good about listening when we told them to hold up and wait for the road to be clear.

Then I went back to the ring toss, which was even busier than the day before. I was asked at the last minute to go to the hula hoop station because they needed someone to help supervise the area–make sure the kids stayed on the grass and didn’t wander into the walking paths with the hoops, make sure they didn’t stand on the hoops and break them, no throwing the hoops, watch out for other people, that kind of thing. Luckily I didn’t actually have to teach them to use the hula hoops–I’m terrible at it! Instead there was a girl, Isabella Hoops, who taught them all kinds of neat tricks.

For the afternoon I was asked to be the workshop volunteer for Evan Munday, the author of the nominated book The Dead Kid Detective Agency. (You can find his blog post about the Festival and the workshop here.) I introduced him to the audience, counted the attendees, made sure he had everything he needed to present, and watched the workshop to make sure it went smoothly (and to see what happened).

He set up a mystery using characters from his book, and the kids had to ask questions and figure out who the culprit was from among the suspects. It was all I could do to keep my hand down and let the kids ask the questions. (Ok, I did raise it once, when he was asking them what are the parts of a mystery story–with the age range attending, no one knew what a red herring was). It was a great workshop, everyone had a lot of fun guessing whodunnit, and Evan Munday was a lively and interesting presenter. It was the last event of the day, so he agreed to stick around for a few minutes afterwards and sign books. Then we had to clean everything up quickly and let the Centre people have their building back, and we were free.

It was a wonderful experience, and I’m so glad I went and volunteered. I wish it had been around when I was in public school! Honestly, the sole problem that I had was that there was so much going on and I was so busy working that I wasn’t able to see much. I did walk around on my breaks and look at things, but I missed all of the awards presentations. I would like to say congratulations to all of the winners and nominees, and thank you to everyone who attended–the kids loved meeting them and getting their books signed and the chance to ask questions and participate in the workshops. And a big thank you to all of the organizers and volunteers–I’ve worked a lot of events, and this one went incredibly smoothly. I didn’t notice any serious problems, even though we were short-staffed on Thursday. Everyone jumped right in and did whatever needed doing.

I’m definitely going to keep an eye out to help with next year’s festival.

PS. I will add links to pictures from the festival as soon as they pop up on the Forest of Reading website.


Today I Read… Doctor Who

So things got busy. I have a backlog of reviews, which will go up…eventually.

Today I read Doctor Who: Series 2, Volume 2: When Worlds Collide, written by Tony Lee and art by Mark Buckingham and Matthew Dow Smith.

This graphic novel trade paperback features the story When Worlds Collide, featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Amy and Rory. While en route to the football game, the TARDIS gets there a little early–by about a thousand years. After Rory has a football shoot-out against a Viking for Amy’s hand, they end up in the Old West, with dinosaurs and Nazis. Then things get crazy.

This story contains a lot of elements that were later used on the show, with Nazis from Series Six’s “Let’s Kill Hitler” and dinosaurs and the Old West featuring in the current Series Seven. No Vikings yet, though. This is a highly entertaining story, and one well-suited to the comic medium, since it would be insanely expensive to pull off the special effects on the show. It’s always nice to see new adventures of the Doctor and his Companions, especially with the strange schedule the show seems to be on now.

Today I Read…Doctor Who

Today I read Doctor Who: Series 2, Volume 1: The Ripper. This is a graphic novel trade paperback consisting of the stories “Spam Filtered” and “Ripper’s Curse”, both written by Tony Lee, art by Andrew Currie, Richard Piers Rayner, Horacio Domingues, and Tim Hamilton.

In “Spam Filtered” Amy and Rory learn why they shouldn’t check their email on the TARDIS. In “Ripper’s Curse” the Doctor and his companions travel to 1888 London and find that the infamous murderer Jack the Ripper may come from out of town…really far out of town.

While 11 isn’t my favourite Doctor (ah 10, how I miss you!), and I can’t wait for Amy to leave at the end of the upcoming season (Rory can stay though), I really enjoyed “Spam Filtered.” All of Amy and Rory’s spam emails come to life and start chasing them around the TARDIS and a planet inhabited by hard light holograms. This story will be funny to anyone who’s ever received spam email. And someone FINALLY found a use for that bloody annoying stapler help thing from MS Word! Which may well be the most impressive part of the story…

“Ripper’s Curse” felt more like an episode, since it was 3 chapters long instead of 1 like “Spam Filtered,” which was more of a running joke. Amy wants to save the Ripper’s victims while the Doctor wants to keep the timeline undisturbed by making sure he kills the same women, but then the Doctor wants to catch him and return him to his home planet. The usual pop culture alias, arguments about the integrity of the timeline, running from danger, and having to rescue Amy after she gets captured by the insane alien serial killer.

Stargate: SG-1 and the Quest for the Long-Lost Library of TBN

SG1 and the Quest for the Long-Lost Library of TBN

This is an online graphic novel project we had to do for school. It was actually kinda fun, especially when I was taking pictures of my action figures out in the garden and all of my elderly neighbours out for their evening walks were stopping to stare at the grown woman playing with toys in the dirt.