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Photos: Small Print Toronto celebrates Roald Dahl Day

Almost 400 golden-ticket-holding fans turned out at the Toronto Reference Library on Oct. 19 to celebrate Small Print Toronto’s Roald Dahl Day and the 50th anniversary of one of the author’s most beloved works for children, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Now in its fifth year, the free event has become a highlight of the fall book season for kidlit connoisseurs, rivaling Small Print’s perennially popular Totsapalooza, the next instalment of which is set to take place Feb. 7.

“This one sold out in three weeks,” says Chris Reed, Small Print’s artistic director. “It was one of the weirdest things for us because we’re so used to promoting the stink out of things, and we’ve actually had to sit back and sort of do nothing, sit on our hands – which is a good problem, but a weird problem.”

In addition to craft tables where kids could design their own “candy” boxes, create new suits for Willy Wonka on giant bookmarks, and learn about how cocoa beans become chocolate, attendees were also treated to a photo booth and a Charlie-themed movement lab to get them on their feet.

“The Roald Dahl Foundation very kindly gave us permission to use some of the classic images from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as backdrops for the photos,” says Reed. “They’ve been such amazing supporters.”

The main draw was the award ceremony for Small Print’s annual Dahl Day story-writing contest for eight-to-12 year olds, which was hosted by Alligator Pie poet Dennis Lee. The finalists’ stories were read aloud by such literary personalities as children’s author Vikki VanSickle and Lynne Missen, publishing director of Penguin Canada’s young readers division, while the “Oompa Loompa Orchestra” (a.k.a. Don Kerr, Kevin Lacroix, and Paul Linklater) performed songs based on the young writers’ work. Contest winner Matteo Mazzotta received a stack of new books and the news that his story will be published in an upcoming issue of Taddle Creek magazine.

Plans are already afoot for next year’s event, which will focus on Dahl’s The Witches. “Just in time for Halloween,” notes Reed.