Since we started in 2009, we’ve created several literary programs for wordsmiths aged 2-12 that have proven to be hugely popular. Totsapalooza and Toronto Roald Dahl Day, for instance, are perennial season highlights for kidlit connoisseurs.
Our catalogue of programs is below. It serves as the basis for the FREE programming we offer during the year in libraries and community centres across the GTA. We also routinely conduct private workshops for a modest fee, at schools and even birthday parties. Kindly note that our schedule is already booked-up for March (Break) 2017.
Upcoming public programs are posted on the Events page.
TOTSAPALOOZA Every February, roughly 500 people turn up for Totsapalooza, a celebration of the DIY spirit in kid culture, featuring performances by indie bands and picture book authors, at the Revival Nightclub. The shows sell out early.
Each show has a theme and related crafts. At Mouse City Calling, for instance, kids built a city for storybook mice out of recycled materials with Councillors Mike Layton and Adam Vaughan.
Over the past eight years, Totsapalooza has hosted internationally celebrated children’s authors like Oliver Jeffers and Julia Donaldson (and The Gruffalo) and Dennis Lee, award-winning Canadian creators such as Heather Mattick, Ashley Spires, Kevin Sylvester, Cybele Young, as well as countless emerging artists and artisans.
Totsapalooza has also featured a veritable who’s-who of Canadian indie rock: from stalwarts like Dave Bidini (Rheostatics) and Don Kerr (Communism) to mainstays The Bicycles, Bellwoods Trinity, Hooded Fang and The Monkey Bunch.
For a video clip of our 2013 show with Oliver Jeffers, shot by Jenn Catanazaro and featuring a song that Don Kerr especially penned for the event, just click here.
TORONTO ROALD DAHL DAYFor the past decade or so, Roald Dahl fans throughout the United Kingdom have marked his birthday (September 13th) with a day of readings, screenings, parades, and so forth. Toronto-based Dahl fans were finally able to join the festivities in 2011, when we mounted the first Roald Dahl Day celebration in Canada.
Toronto Roald Dahl Day celebrations take place in October and revolve around a short story contest for middle-grade students. We ask them to write a Toronto-based variation on one of Dahl’s classic novels. An all-star panel reads aloud the top five tales at our event.
COMIC ARTS FOR KIDS EXPO (CAKE)Comic Arts for Kids Expo (CAKE) is a daylong celebration of image-based storytelling for young readers that we present with the superheroes at Little Island Comics. The morning is devoted to interactive activities for the 2-8 set conducted by picture book creators. Graphic novelists lead workshops for creators 8-13 during the afternoon.
Throughout the day, leading artists will sketch and sign their books. Everyone who attends CAKE can contribute to a series of giant comic book panels. And the Little Island Comics team is on hand to assist collectors of all ages.
MOUSE CITY A mouse navigating an environment designed for humans, cobbling together a dwelling out of discarded items, is a mainstay of children’s literature. What would a city built by these tiny citizens look like? Urban planners aged 2-8 can explore this question as part of Mouse City, our popular model city-building program.
After reading a picture book featuring mice, the Mayor of Mouse City briefly chats with the kids about a related, real-life urban issue such as public transit. Budding city builders address this issue, with input from the Mayor, as they build a miniature, cardboard city for storybook mice.
Over the past few years, Mouse City’s mayoral office has been occupied by such picture book authors as Barbara Reid, John Sobol and Roslyn Schwartz, urban affairs journalists Matt Blackett of Spacing Magazine and Ed Keenan of The Toronto Star and even real life politicians Mike Layton and Adam Vaughan.
RHYME STEW CREWDr Seuss meets Dr Dre at our rap-poetry workshop for writers 6-12, Rhyme Stew Crew. Poet Claire Caldwell conducts the sessions. After setting a classic work of children’s verse, like Green Eggs and Ham, to old school hip-hop beats, Claire and the crew create their own rhymes and make noisemakers out of recycled materials. Mindbender Supreme (Addi Stewart), Jenn Catanzaro, and Ann-Marie Williams are regular guest artists.
BLOCK LETTERS Block Letters is a social mapping exercise for urban explorers 2-8 inspired by A Few Blocks by award-winning artist-author Cybele Young. After hearing her remarkable book read aloud, kids can go on a short guided walk with Rani Sanderson. What magical stories will they discover along the way? Afterwards, explorers can record their observations in booklets that Young designed exclusively for this project.
CHILDREN’S STORY JAM Children’s Story Jam is where KidLit authors get feedback on works-in-progress from their most discerning critics: young readers. Every session has a “free jam” portion, during which young people can share writing they bring from home or create something on the spot.
For instance, Can Lit icon Dennis Lee (pictured above) consulted wordsmiths between 4-6 years old about whether his new poems were ready to be published in his latest collection. Dennis then launched the book, Melvis and Elvis, at Totsapalooza.
CRACKING THE CASE Cracking The Case is essentially a mystery writing workshop wrapped in a scavenger hunt. Leading mystery authors for young readers such as Shane Peacock (above) present an original site-specific scenario to wordsmiths 8-12. The young sleuths compose an ending to the tale, based on clues they find during a search of the ‘crime scene.’ The clues range from props like a bloody glove to actors playing mediums, who answer the sleuths’s questions from the beyond. Participants get a printed copy of the story they create.
STARTING LINESEvery sporting event is a story: there’s a clear conflict between clearly defined, sympathetic characters and the action unfolds with a beginning, middle and unpredictable conclusion. Young sports fans can explore the parallels between their favourite stories and games at the Starting Lines workshop.
Fans 8-12 can work as a team to write and illustrate a story inspired by such mysteries as whether you can stay best pals with someone who cheers for a rival team. And the 2-7 shift can create crafts based on questions like, what does the flag for an intergalactic team look like? And what is their mascot called?
TOT STUDIOOur Tot Studio series encourages 2-8 year olds to approach reading as a creative, interactive process. From Paulette Bourgeois to Jon Klassen (pictured above, in conversation with Vikki VanSickle), and, from Kevin Sylvester to Cybéle Young – many of today’s top picture book artists have appeared in our author showcases over the past five years.
THE VOLUME ONE PROJECTThe Volume One Project is a writing exercise created by Chris Reed and Natalie Kertes, based on workshops she conducted with novelist Roddy Doyle at his centre Fighting Words Dublin. It served as the basis for the three month project about neighbourhoods that Small Print Toronto conducted in elementary schools with Luminato, collected in the book A Toronto Alphabet. (As chance would have it, Doyle was able to attend that book launch).