Word on the Street Toronto 2013 review

Last weekend I volunteered at the Word on the Street Festival in Toronto. I’ve heard about the festival before, but I was never able to attend, so I was glad to have the chance to go this year. Word on the Street is an annual free community celebration of the written word, with exhibitors including authors, publishers, libraries, and literacy groups. It was held at Queen’s Park Crescent on Sunday.

Saturday was the set-up day, and of course the day that it rained. Heavily. One of the organizers even ran out at lunch to the dollar store to buy us all ponchos, but it was raining so much that they didn’t really help. Oh well, after this summer we should all be used to the rain. And kudos to Boston Pizza for donating lunch to the volunteers!

We spent the day setting up the tables and chairs for the exhibitor booths and the various stages, organizing the supplies for the information booths and stages, and trying to make sure that things were ready for the morning. You know, you go to events like this and you never think about the amount of work it takes, not just arranging for permits and exhibitors and media relations, but tent and table and chair rentals and setting up signs and making sure everything is ready for the event to actually start.

Sunday began dark and cold and way too early, but clear. I was there before 7 am to finish setting up the tables and chairs that we hadn’t gotten to the night before and as an exhibitor liaison when they started rolling in around 9. My partner and I introduced ourselves to the exhibitors in our zone, made sure that they had all of the tables and chairs that they had requested, made sure that the signs for each booth that the festival had provided were correct, and in general handled any problems and passed on complaints. There really weren’t many- the most common request was for coffee. And why doesn’t Tim Horton’s have a delivery service? Really, you’d think it would be a goldmine. And there were comments about how cold it was, but unfortunately the warm weather has been on backorder all summer. I was on shift until 1:30, and then I went off to explore my first WotS festival.

The crowds rushed in as soon as the festival officially opened, and it stayed busy all day long. I didn’t really have a chance to see any of the authors’ presentations, since I only had a few hours and the festival was pretty big- I wanted to see everything, and of course book lovers like to browse.

The Toronto Public Library Workers’s booth was fun- they had a red carpet and took pictures of people with fake librarian glasses. Here I am with my friend Hailey.

WotS TPLW

There was also a booth doing pictures promoting the next Hobbit movie, Fangirls will watch anything with Benedict Cumberbatch… I mean The Desolation of Smaug. (See my comments about the first movie.) These ones didn’t turn out as well-too much light in the booth. And I found the Polkaroo at the TVOKids booth!

Polkaroo headI also grabbed a few good finds. The Doctor Who graphic novels Through Time and Space and The Only Good Dalek by Justin Richards and Mike Collins; The Dead Kid Detective Agency by Evan Munday, who I met at the OLA Festival of Trees, though I didn’t manage to get him to sign it even though he was at WotS; and Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories 01 by Naoko Takeuchi (only copy left! Score!). I even found a couple of Christmas presents for the little niece (though I may have to keep her from trying to eat them for a while since they’re not board books): Girls A to Z, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Suzanne Bloom, which shows different girls with a different hobby for each letter of the alphabet; and Nightgown Countdown written by Frank B. Edwards and illustrated by John Bianchi, who also signed it, where farm animals go to bed one by one.

It was a long and cold day (sorry to keep mentioning it, but I was up to 5 shirts and it was still freezing!), but I had a really good time. Next year’s festival is definitely going on the calendar!

Today I Read…The Hobbit

The HobbitToday I read The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End, in the Shire, was a perfectly respectable hobbit, and perfectly respectable hobbits do not go on adventures. no, they have no truck with nasty, dirty, dangerous adventures that might interfere with tea-time, no indeed! But then the wizard Gandalf returns to the Shire and picks Bilbo to be the burglar for a fellowship of dwarves, off to recover the Lonely Mountain and its long-lost treasure from Smaug the dragon. Thanks to the secret dreams in his heart (really, dreaming of adventures, it must come from the Took side of his family, the Bagginses certainly never went on adventures!), Bilbo agrees, and soon finds himself fighting goblins and trolls, dining with elves, rescuing dwarves, riddling with–what exactly is a ‘gollum’?–and worst of all, doing it all without his handkerchief.

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I wanted to reread the Hobbit in time for the movie last Christmas–didn’t quite get it finished in time, and I’m still catching up on my backlog of reviews (I read a lot faster than I review). As for the movie, it was excellent, though I really don’t think they needed to stretch it into nine hours. However, Martin Freeman was so well cast as Bilbo that I *almost* forgive him for making me wait so long for more Sherlock (I fully expect that I’ll end up forgiving Benedict Cumberbatch for making me wait once I see the next Star Trek movie).

As for The Hobbit, I know it’s supposed to be a children’s book, at least compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I’ve never really seen it as such. The language is beautiful and lyrical, with vivid imagery, in a way that is quite rare nowadays. It’s a very old-fashioned story, in the best possible way. I would give it to a strong reader, with a great deal of patience, who wants to explore the world of Middle-Earth and not rush straight through to the end of the book.

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By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast smoking an enormous long wooden pipe that reached nearly down to his woolly toes (neatly brushed) – Gandalf came by. Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort I of remarkable tale. Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the most extraordinary fashion. He had not been down that way under The Hill for ages and ages, not since his friend the Old Took died, in fact, and the hobbits had almost forgotten what he looked like. He had been away over The Hill and across The Water on business of his own since they were all small hobbit-boys and hobbit-girls.

All that the unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning was an old man with a staff. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which a white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots.

“Good morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. “What do you mean?” be said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is morning to be good on?”

“All of them at once,” said Bilbo. “And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. If you have a pipe about you, sit down and have a fill of mine! There’s no hurry, we have all the day before us!” Then Bilbo sat down on a seat by his door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over The Hill.

“Very pretty!” said Gandalf. “But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this morning. I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

“I should think so – in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty .disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them,” said our Mr. Baggins, and stuck one thumb behind his braces, and blew out another even bigger smoke-ring. Then he took out his morning letters, and begin to read, pretending to take no more notice of the old man. He had decided that he was not quite his sort, and wanted him to go away. But the old man did not move. He stood leaning on his stick and gazing at the hobbit without saying anything, till Bilbo got quite uncomfortable and even a little cross.

“Good morning!” he said at last. “We don’t want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.” By this he meant that the conversation was at an end.

“What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!” said Gandalf. “Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won’t be good till I move off.”

“Not at all, not at all, my dear sir! Let me see, I don’t think I know your name?”

“Yes, yes, my dear sir – and I do know your name, Mr. Bilbo Baggins. And you do know my name, though you don’t remember that I belong to it. I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me! To think that I should have lived to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took’s son, as if I was selling buttons at the door!”

“Gandalf, Gandalf! Good gracious me! Not the wandering wizard that gave Old Took a pair of magic diamond studs that fastened themselves and never came undone till ordered? Not the fellow who used to tell such wonderful tales at parties, about dragons and goblins and giants and the rescue of princesses and the unexpected luck of widows’ sons? Not the man that used to make such particularly excellent fireworks! I remember those! Old Took used to have them on Midsummer’s Eve. Splendid! They used to go up like great lilies and snapdragons and laburnums of fire and hang in the twilight all evening!” You will notice already that Mr. Baggins was not quite so prosy as he liked to believe, also that he was very fond of flowers. “Dear me!” she went on. “Not the Gandalf who was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures. Anything from climbing trees to visiting Elves – or sailing in ships, sailing to other shores! Bless me, life used to be quite inter – I mean, you used to upset things badly in these parts once upon a time. I beg your pardon, but I had no idea you were still in business.”

“Where else should I be?” said the wizard. “All the same I am pleased to find you remember something about me. You seem to remember my fireworks kindly, at any rate, land that is not without hope. Indeed for your old grand-father Took’s sake, and for the sake of poor Belladonna, I will give you what you asked for.”

“I beg your pardon, I haven’t asked for anything!”

“Yes, you have! Twice now. My pardon. I give it you. In fact I will go so far as to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, very good for you and profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it.”

“Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning! But please come to tea – any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Come tomorrow! Good-bye!”

With that the hobbit turned and scuttled inside his round green door, and shut it as quickly as he dared, not to seen rude. Wizards after all are wizards.

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Far over the misty mountains cold

To dungeons deep and caverns old

We must away ere break of day

To seek the pale enchanted gold.

 

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,

While hammers fell like ringing bells

In places deep, where dark things sleep,

In hollow halls beneath the fells.

 

For ancient king and elvish lord

There many a gloaming golden hoard

They shaped and wrought, and light they caught

To hide in gems on hilt of sword.

 

On silver necklaces they strung

The flowering stars, on crowns they hung

The dragon-fire, in twisted wire

They meshed the light of moon and sun.

 

Far over the misty mountains cold

To dungeons deep and caverns old

We must away, ere break of day,

To claim our long-forgotten gold.

 

Goblets they carved there for themselves

And harps of gold; where no man delves

There lay they long, and many a song

Was sung unheard by men or elves.

 

The pines were roaring on the height,

The winds were moaning in the night.

The fire was red, it flaming spread;

The trees like torches biased with light,

 

The bells were ringing in the dale

And men looked up with faces pale;

The dragon’s ire more fierce than fire

Laid low their towers and houses frail.

 

The mountain smoked beneath the moon;

The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.

They fled their hall to dying -fall

Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.

 

Far over the misty mountains grim

To dungeons deep and caverns dim

We must away, ere break of day,

To win our harps and gold from him!