Word on the Street Toronto switched things up a bit this year, moving from Queen’s Park down to the Harbourfront Centre. You couldn’t have asked for better weather with a clear blue sky, sun shining of the lake and temperatures in the twenties. I think the new, more central location probably benefited from a lot of foot traffic as everyone was out enjoying the weather.
I arrived at the festival around 11:30 a.m. from the direction of the shore and as always there was a handy information booth set up for visitors who weren’t coming from the street. Then it was straight into the hustle and bustle of the vendor booths. The closely packed booths were nice for not having to trek all over to find the booth you’re looking for—you could see quite a few names at a glance—but it also meant that people were crammed in there pretty tightly as the lines all blurred together from different directions. Not going to lie, it was a bit overwhelming.
I stopped at the Groundwood/House of Anansi booth, which had amazing deals on kids books. $10 for hardcover picture books? Crazy awesome. I ended up getting This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.
Most of what I wanted to see was on KidsStreet, which was on the opposite side of the Harbourfront Centre on the “lawn” (still a bit weirded me out by the fake grass). Alison Hughes and Suzanne Del Rizzo were at the signing tent when I got there so I picked up a copy of their book Gerbil, Uncurled, which I am so excited to see in print since I discovered it in the slush pile as an intern a few years ago. It always amazes me that illustrators can do spur-of-the-moment drawings when signing—Suzanne drew me a little gerbil. While at the signing tent I also bought The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear and Katty Maurney and The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.
At the TD Children’s Literature Tent I heard Kyo Maclear read then ran back over to the signing tent to have The Specific Ocean signed, along with my copy of Julia, Child. Kyo was giving out pretty little pieces of sea glass she’d scavenged herself and we chatted about something dear to my heart: the shore.
Then Barbara Reid—the Barbara Reid—was reading from her new book Sing a Song of Bedtime. Well, she wasn’t so much reading as reciting from memory while she showed blown-up pictures of her amazing plasticine artwork. She was so good with the kids, getting them up on their feet.
Next I attended (half) of a panel on writing historical fiction at the Wordshop Marquee. This was the only event I went to that was inside the Centre but it was quite pleasant. Authors Marsha Forckuk Skrypuch and Nino Ricci were very well spoken and informative. I would have liked to stay for the whole thing but I really wanted to go to the TD Children’s Literature Award readings. So I tried to slink out quietly but my chair was having none of it and resulted in the most awkward, squeaky exit ever. If you were at that panel, I apologize!
At the TD Awards reading, some highlights include Hugh Brewster, author of From Vimy to Victory, telling a story about an unfortunate carrier pigeon who lost its way; Juno-award-winner Emilie Mover singing the theme for the show Stella and Sam in Marie-Louise Gay’s absence; and Jonathan Auxier’s energy reading from The Night Gardener and making monster-faces with young fans. At the signing table afterward I enjoyed discussing my love of middle grade and YA with Jonathan (no matter that I don’t fall into those age groups anymore, a sentiment he shared).
My last reading of the day featured stories about WWII: The Farmerettes by Gisela Sherman (which I picked up afterward) and War in My Town by E. Graziani. It was a bit spooky when a plane could be heard flying overhead as Gisela read about a plane crash.
Before leaving I took advantage of the sales going on at the Penguin/Mable’s Fables booth where everything was 20% off. I nabbed The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, and Bug in a Vacuum by Melanie Watts.
By that time I was beat. And hungry. Apparently there were food trucks, which I didn’t even see. But there were lots of vendors already at the Harbourfront Centre, so although I missed my usual corn-on-the-cob from years past, I enjoyed a yummy chocolate gelato from Lavazza Cafe.
One last thought: I liked the change of venue. There were a lot of places to sit and a good mix of shade and sun, indoors and outdoors. The more concentrated layout meant I was less exhausted at the end of the day and didn’t have to haul my books back and forth to get between tents. My one complaint is that because things were so close together the loud microphone from the Youth Launchpad was really overpowering the poor authors speaking at the TD tent and street noise was more noticeable.
At the end of the day, though, I had a good time, bought far to many books and discovered some new authors. A pretty perfect day for this book lover.
What did you think of the new venue? Share your thoughts below.