Elena Vanishing, A Memoir is about Elena Dunkle, 17, who battles on both sides of a war with anorexia. Told from Elena’s perspective over a five-year period and co-written by her mother, Elena’s memoir is an intimate look at a deadly disease. The second book, In Hope and Other Luxuries, A Mother’s Life with a Daughter’s Anorexia, Elena’s mother, Clare Dunkle, writes her side of the story.
This month, I did an email interview with Elena.
1. I was going to say congratulations on recovery, but my impression is anorexia is not something you make a complete recovery from. Is it something you will always battle?
I feel that I’m in a good place now, but I do believe at this point that I’ll always battle anorexia. It can flare up in response to stress, so even if I do well for years, I can’t guarantee that under extreme stress (the death of someone I love, for instance), it won’t flare up again. I’ve had friends who have declared themselves to be cured, and that hasn’t worked out well. In some cases, when the anorexia has re-emerged, they’ve been too embarrassed to ask for help until things were really desperate.
2. In your mom’s book, Hope and Other Luxuries, she mentioned stress can cause anorexia to rear its head. What do you do to ensure your recovery stays on track? Are there signs you look out for that require you to stop and get help?
I keep a food diary, and I journal every day specifically about how I’m doing with food. Because of my high metabolism and the damage I did to my digestion, I still have to work hard to gain weight. For years, I didn’t have a scale, but now I do, and I’ve tried to learn to use that scale in a healthy way, to help myself see weight gain as progress toward health. And I also use my husband and family to help reflect back to me how I’m doing. If one of them says, “Hey, I think something’s going on here,” I pay attention.
The most important thing I watch out for is skipping meals or snacks. It can seem innocent at first: maybe I have the flu and don’t feel good, or maybe I’m in a hurry. But then, before I know it, a whole week has gone by and I haven’t eaten lunch a single time. That’s the kind of red flag I try to watch out for.
3. I read an interview that said your internal voice is still not quiet. How do you deal with that voice in your head? Has it changed over the years? Are there times when the voice is louder than others? Have you started to see in yourself what other people see?
No, that voice hasn’t really changed. It still hasn’t shut up, and it still becomes louder and more disruptive over food. I deal with it by journaling what it tells me and thinking about those comments logically. I ask myself, “What would I think if someone said this to my husband or my sister? OK, if it isn’t fair to say to them, why is it fair to say to me?”
I wouldn’t say that I can see in myself what others see in me, but at least I respect their opinions now. I can say, “That’s great that you think that way,” whereas before I would have maybe thought they were lying.
4. I read your blog about your health issues on the Huffington Post. Other than infertility, I didn’t realize the extent of the long-term effects of starvation. You said you wished you could go back to your teenaged self and tell her what the “lifestyle” would cost you in the future. What would you tell her? Do you think your teenaged self would have listened?
Honestly, unless I really were faced with me myself coming back from the future, I don’t think there’s anything anyone would have said that I would have believed. I know I would try to tell myself about all these long-term costs, but I wouldn’t expect any teenager, much less the teenaged me, to pay attention. I had my hands full trying to survive my senior year. I couldn’t cope with anything further into the future than that.
5. With your book, Elena Vanishing, you can instead speak to other people – both girls and boys, men and women – who are battling anorexia. What do you hope to teach them? What advice would you give people throughout their journeys?
The main thing I never got from the memoirs and talks of other anorexics in recovery was a sense that they had been as bad off as I was. The memoirs were too hopeful. They made the disorder seem more sanitary, more acceptable. But what I was living through was very ugly. So I used to think, How do I know she ever felt like I do? No wonder she could recover, she was healthier to begin with!
That’s why I wanted to put everything in my memoir — all the bad, shameful, self-destructive things I lived through. I want even the anorexics who are very unhealthy to be able to say, OK, this person gets it. She gets me. And then I want them to see that things have gotten better for me, that I got help and that I’m walking that path of recovery. Because if I can do it, so can they.
That’s all I’m trying to tell them. It’s the only advice I have to offer: I went very deep into that black hole that is anorexia, and I came out and reached recovery. With enough hard work and the right support, recovery is possible.
6. Why did you want to write this book? Why was it important for your mom to write her side? Did you read it?
I want people who are as sick as I was to have a reason to feel hope again. I didn’t get that hope from the memoirs and novels I read because it didn’t feel to me that they told the whole truth — or maybe that’s unfair to say, so I’ll just say this: they didn’t tell my truth, the truth of what I was living through with anorexia. They either made it seem too easy to recover or they made anorexia seem like a glorious lifestyle and a free choice, when it’s not, it’s a mental disorder that kills you slowly. That’s why I wanted to put my story out there.
When my mother and I first wrote my book, she would write parts of it from her point of view. I think it was a relief to her to write something from a healthy mindset for a change. But by the time my book went to our publisher, Chronicle Books, all of those parts were gone. It was our editor there, Ginee Seo, who said, “I think there’s another story to tell here.” And when she said that, my mother mentioned those parts she had written way back at the beginning, that she too had felt that need to tell my story from a healthy perspective. So they decided to see if she could write the other memoir.
Ginee wanted that book for the parents and family members because there’s so much that goes on in a family when someone has an eating disorder, and I’ll admit it, we anorexics are the last people to notice that stuff, so it wasn’t in my book at all. We get so drawn into the disorder; our own pain is all we can think about, our own battle with the critical voice, with the eating disorder voice. So I supported my mother writing her book because the more voices that join this conversation, the better. And I read it, too.
7. What has publishing those two books done for you in your own journey of recovery as well as for anorexia in general?
It’s given me a powerful reason to work on my health. At one point, when I was really ill, Mom stopped working on my book for a while, and I was upset; I thought, Why isn’t she finishing it? And then it occurred to me, Well, she needs to tell a story here, a story with some good news in it. She can’t just end it with “And then she died.” And now I think my mother was right to hold off and wait for some progress. There has to be hope here, and it has to come from me.
It’s too soon to tell whether these books have done much to affect the course of anorexia in general, but I certainly have been thrilled and humbled by the warm response and support the books have received and by the incredible stories fellow survivors have shared with me since they came out.
8. In the Huffington Post blog, you mention how much pain you are in and that you don’t think you’ll ever feel comfortable again. Instead, you hope for a time when the pain level is only three out of four. Does this get you down? What do you do to keep your spirits up?
It does get me down. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I have a high pain threshold, so I can usually ignore it, but my scoliosis has gotten severe enough that I hurt in any position, and my immune system is still rebuilding, so I still get sick a couple of times a month.
The thing is, the pain isn’t at a constant level, so that means I can still look forward to those relatively good days. In any case, I’m used to it. I’ve been in pain for years, so it almost seems like a part of me. And I have other things in my life that I look to for comfort, even though it’s emotional instead of physical. My Chihuahua, Mimsy, is a constant source of joy and amusement, and my husband and family give me unconditional love. I work on my hobbies every day, too. I love to cross stitch and read.
9. Did you reach your goal of being a nurse? Do you still love it as much as you did? Do you do it still?
My husband, Matt, has a career that keeps him on the road all year round. As a catastrophic insurance claims adjuster, he gets sent from one storm to another and lives out of hotels. When we decided to get married, I put my nursing career on hold so I could travel with him. In the last year, we’ve gone from Colorado to New Jersey to Indiana to Georgia. There’s no way we could be together if I were working as a nurse.
But I do still love my chosen career, and I miss it very much. One day soon, we’ll transition to a more stable lifestyle, and I’ll be able to work in nursing again.
10. Can you tell me a day in the life of Elena? What does a typical day entail? Ultimately, what do you hope your future looks like?
A typical day in the life entails coffee, my dog, my hobbies and communication with those I love. It’s comfortably mundane. In terms of my future, I hope I can continue to work to reach out to those who are struggling with this disorder and to be an example of hope and recovery. I also hope I’ll be working in the midst of my own family and enjoying many of the things I do today.
11. Do you mind sharing a bit about yourself:
I have a travel-pack of cuteness, a six-pound Chihuahua who has been all over the country with me. She’s the first dog I’ve owned who hasn’t been a rescue dog, so she didn’t come with health or behavior issues, which is nice. We say she’s spoiled rotten, but she’s well behaved. On the other hand, family members buy her Christmas presents, so I still think the term “spoiled rotten” applies.
I love to cross stitch, and I love video games, too. Our consoles travel with us. Harvest Moon is one of my favorite game series for handhelds, and for the big game system, favorites would be Fallout, Skyrim, Bloodborne and The Witcher, among others. We’re also huge comic book geeks. Sometimes I combine the hobbies and make cross stitch patterns based on games or comics.
– Do you like to read? Favourite book?
Yes, very much. At the moment, I’m reading about the brilliant Korean naval commander, Yi Sun-Sin. (The book, The Imjin War, is completely fascinating and is a labor of love by author Samuel Hawley.) Beyond that, I have a new favorite book every week, although Edna Ferber and P.G. Wodehouse remain perennial favorites.
– Favourite movie?
The South Korean drama, Hansel and Gretel, directed by Yim Pil-Sung. And any movie with Kang Dong-Won in it.
A Brush full of Colour, the World of Ted Harrison
Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson
Pajama Press, pajamapress.ca/
“Art must be part of every child’s education. Painting is the last great freedom. You ca paint what you like.” Ted Harrison. Ted Harrison’s brightly coloured and imaginative paintings set in the Yukon have become synomymous with the north. A Brush Full of Colour is the story of a boy whose passion for learning and adventure, would save him from a life in the coal mines. The authors trace the life and career of Harrison and the influences that would lead to his unique style as an artist.
Editor’s Note: Older students from my son’s school were doing their own copies of Harrison’s work, which is why I recognized his art when I received a catalogue from Pajama Press. Each chapter offers information about one part of Harrison’s life with enough pictures and graphics to make in interesting. There is also a lot of art throughout the book, not all of it the pieces Harrison is known for. And it is actually those pieces, particularly Impressions of Native Quarter, 1948, which made me read the book more fully. I have mentioned font before. I like this font. It’s also a great size – lots of information, but without seeming like it.
A Day in Canada
Kids Can Press, http://www.kidscanpress.com
From the author of Hockey Book, among other Canadian adventures, comes A Day in Canada. Explore the hours in a day from coast to cost and discover lots of fun things to see and do along the way.
Editor’s Note: As always, the illustrations are beautiful in this book and it’s always great to see Canada highlighted. My only complaint is each page mentions great things to see and do, but it doesn’t always tell you were it takes place. I guess I could look it up, but when I am reading I want that information available so we can talk further.
Crazy About Hockey
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com
Fast, smart and exciting? That’s hockey.
Editor’s Note: What a neat book. There is information including the most typical hockey injury (concussion and what you should do to protect your brain) and the very fun underwater hockey (now that is a game I could play).
Our Flag, The Story of Canada’s Maple Leaf
Anne-Maureen Owens and Jane Yealland
Kids Can Press, http://www.kidscanpress.com/
Canada is the only country in the world with a maple leaf on its flag, but creating such a unique symbol wasn’t an easy task. In Our Flag you’ll discover the full story of how Canada got its distinct Maple Leaf flag.
Editor’s Note: The book not only tells the story of our Maple Leaf flag, but offers lots of other information such as flag manners, making your own flag, flagpole included, Flag Day and more. Too much information for my liking, but it would be a great book for any project on our wonderful flag.
Pier 21, Stories from Near and Far
$12.95ages nine to 12
From 1928 to 1971, a cavernous, shed-like building stop at the ready in Halifax Harbour to welcome more than one million newcomers to Canada and send close to 500,000 Canadian service personnel off to battle during the Second World War. Across its threshold, a tide of “home children” and “guest children” soldiers and war brides, refuges and displayed persons carried to and from its doors by great ocean liners. This is a chronicle of Pier 21. It is a story of hope and courage in times of change and turmoil.
Editor’s Note: Another beautiful book filed with information in bite-sized pieces. You can read it from cover to cover or flip through it and stop and read things that interest you. There is information, historical pictures, copies of newspapers, historical notes and personal memories. A great book and one I plan to read to get a taste of what it would have been like when my mom and grandparents arrived from Holland.
Ride The Big Machines Across Canada
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., http://www.harpercollins.ca
I’m going on a trip from sea to sea. How will I do it? Come ride with me.
Editor’s Note: This rhyming board book offers shows a boy and his family taking part in the highlights of Canada, including a stop in Toronto where you see the TTC, CN Tower and a Toronto police car. My six year old and I fought to find the boy’s RV and looked for the flags of each province and territory. I need to brush up on our flags.
Toulose The Story of a Canada Goose
Schiffer Publishing, http://www.schifferbooks.com
Toulouse the Canada Goose has been getting into mischief every since he was a little yellow gosling. But nothing compares with the trouble he finds on his first fall migration to Maryland. Separated from his family, he is left to find his own way south with a lost snow goose, who becomes a special friend for life.
Editor’s Note: I like to read, but this book makes me hesitate. It is super long. I did flip to the end, which seems sad to me.
Angel of Eden
In 2011, D.J. McIntosh (http://www.djmcintosh.com/ ) took the book world by storm with her bestselling debut novel, The Witch of Babylon, which introduced readers to John Madison, a rakish New York art dealer who uncovered a fabulous treasure trove of antiquities in the hills outside Baghdad and the truth behind a famous story long believed to be a myth.
In this highly anticipated conclusion, Madison is hired by a famous magician to find a rare 16th century book on angel magic and the former assistant who stole it 35 years ago. Madison’s quest leads him from the great mosques and churches of Istanbul to the ruins of Pergamon and the temples of the ancient Near East, where he discovers the true location of the Garden of Eden, the nature of angels and the dark story of his birth.
Editor’s Note: This is the final in a series of three. I have not read the other two, but Penguin Canada was correct – it didn’t matter. This book is a standalone. I loved the characters and I loved the writing – it’s action packed. Each time I thought I would sit down and read a chapter, it ended up being several hours later. I was disappointed in the ending. It was too much for me.
Everything I Never Told You
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese-American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
Editor’s Note: This book pulled me right in, although half way through I was so angry about the mother and the choices she made, I hesitated in finishing it. I am glad I did. I can only say wow. Fantastic.
Eighteen-year-old Ada Concannon has been hired by the respected but eccentric Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts. Despite their difference in age and the upstairs-downstairs divide, Ada strikes up a deep friendship with Miss Emily, the gifted elder daughter living a spinster’s life at home. But Emily’s passion for words will dominate her life: she will wear only white and avoids the world outside the Dickinson homestead. When Ada’s safety and reputation are threatened, however, Emily must face her demons to help her friend with shocking consequences.
Editor’s Note: Ada and Emily are two believable and likeable characters, who are head-strong and true to themselves. It must be hard to be Emily in the 18th century – hiding who she truly is. I got nervous half way through and my feelings, unfortunately, were correct. A great read.
The Hundred-Year House
Penguin Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca/
Editor’s Note: In fairness to this book as well as The Vacationers and The Rock (see below), I am in a bit of a reading slump; I read an amazing book called Amazing Grace (Lesley Crewe, Nimbus Publishing) set to be released in September and everything else has fallen flat. I found I don’t care about any of the characters I am reading and found most of them quite awful. I stopped reading both The Vacationers and The Rock, which is unlike me. I like to finish the books I start. So to beat the slump, I forced myself to finish The Hundred-Year House. It didn’t love it. I found myself reading it and wanting to read it, but none of my answered were answers; I had to piece things together and nothing was ever proven. (I read once that true readers know that not everything is wrapped up in a neat little package, but perhaps I like neat little packages, particularly in light summer reads, which I now realize this isn’t.) I found myself liking the characters of the past better than the characters of the present. And what Zee does to her fellow professor is just disgusting; the motive isn’t much better.
The Rocks, A Novel
Penguin Random House, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/316755/the-rocks-by-peter-nichols/
Set against dramatic Mediterranean Sea views and lush olive groves, The Rocks opens with a confrontation and a secret: What was the mysterious, catastrophic event that drove two honeymooners apart so suddenly and absolutely in 1948 that they never spoke again despite living on the same island for 60 more years? And how did their history shape the Romeo and Juliet–like romance of their (unrelated) children decades later? Centered around a popular seaside resort club and its community, The Rocks is a double love story that begins with a mystery, then moves backward in time, era by era, to unravel what really happened decades earlier.
Editor’s Note: A spectacular beginning to this book, but I disliked Lulu so much, I couldn’t read it.
The Vacationers, A Novel
Penguin Books, http://www.penguin.com
For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their 35th wedding anniversary and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface and ancient wounds are exacerbated. This is a story of the sides of ourselves that we choose to show and those we try to conceal, of the ways we tear each other down and build each other up again, and the bonds that ultimately hold us together. With wry humor and tremendous heart, Emma Straub delivers a richly satisfying story of a family in the midst of a maelstrom of change, emerging irrevocably altered yet whole.
Editor’s Note: Almost from the beginning, you knew something had happened between Franny and Jim. You could feel the tension. Author Emma Straub did a good job about dropping hints until you finally were told for sure what happened. When I found out, I realized I didn’t care enough about any of the characters that I wanted to keep reading. And while I don’t like Franny, despite now knowing why she might have horns (“Franny could be a demon. Jim was grateful that, at least for the time being, Franny’s horns seemed to have vanished back inside her head”), I did find something I could relate to: “Some people smoke crack in alleyways. Franny ate chocolate. On the scale of things, it seemed entirely reasonable.”
101 Great Science Experiments, A step-by-step guide
DK Books, http://www.dk.com
Make science fun with 101 experiments that are safe and easy at home.
Editor’s Note: This is a re-release. We love science experiments and these ones offer some that are new and some we have done before. You can make your own camera, look around corners (good for when you are spy), wave a magic wand and more.
A Ticket Around the World
Owl Kids, http://www.owlkidsbooks.com
I am taking a trip around the world. Want to join me?
Editor’s Note: This is not what I was expecting. The little boy has friends in a variety of places and we tag along, celebrating Holi, the Festival of Colours, in India; eating tourtiere in Canada; discovering the Great Wall of China, which, as a note, can be seen from space. There is lots of information in this book and my six year old seem to enjoy it. We read pieces from each of the places he was interested in going including Canada, France, Botswana and Brazil.
A Trip Through the Body
DK Books, DK.com
In DK Adventures: A Trip Through the Body, winners of a science competition are given the opportunity to experience a tour of the human body as if shrunk. Using exciting new technology, they explore the systems of the human body, are propelled around in the blood stream, are hurtled down windpipes through the digestive system, navigate around the liver, escape from the white blood cells in the bone marrow into the muscles, and are propelled up the spinal cord. Discover the world inside us all.
Editor’s Note: There is lots of information in this book with (gross) pictures. I like the fast facts that go along with it such as all you ever want, or need, to know about blood, using your head and a genius quiz.
And What If I Won’t?
Benny, please put your plate in the sink. That seems like a simple request, but for Benny it’s just the start of an adventure that takes him from his house to the zoo and to the moon. Benny’s mom is going along for the adventure, taking part in her son’s mischievous one-upmanship while making sure his feet don’t stray too far from the ground.
Editor’s Note: My six year old read the title and was interested in reading the rest of the book. He listened and we laughed as Benny kept pushing and pushing his mom. As a mom, the ending is perfect.
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com
Referred to as “America’s National Pastime,” and “The Greatest Sport on Earth,” baseball has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people. Behind the game lies a wealth of science, folklore, mathematics, psychology, and a very colorful past. With lots of humourous, colourful illustrations, charts and graphs, Baseballogy explores such diverse topics as the materials used to make the balls (including fish eyes, once used for the core), freak injuries (one player was stabbed by a bat) and the chances of making it to “the show” (one in about 14,000 baseball playing kids will get to the big leagues).
Editor’s Note: There is a lots of information in this book, presented in a way that makes it interesting to read.
Boost Your Brain
DK Books, http://www.dk.com
Give yourself a complete mental workout and keep your brain in tip-top shape using fun and memorable teasers, puzzles and exercises.
Editor’s Note: This full-colour book has multiple puzzles on each page. My six year old thinks it’s pretty fantastic and we have done a number in the short-term memory practise. The book has 13 chapters including advanced numeracy puzzles to techniques for boosting revision and recalling of facts.
Dk Books, dkbooks.com
This exciting illustrated encyclopedia is packed with clean, well-researched information and quizzes for curious minds.
Editor’s Note: So much information, but presented in easy-to-read snippets. My son loves about learning about energy and the section on the universe is beautiful.
Four Little Witches
Schiffer Publishing, http://www.schifferbooks.com/
Friends forever in work or play, four tiny elemental witches – Fiona, Gale, Marrie and Blaze – help the earth thrive using their own special powers for nurturing the planet.
Editor’s Note: Not sure why they are witches; usually it’s fairies who help the Earth and have the powers of the elements. But cute nonetheless.
Great Things To Do Outside, 365 Awesome Outdoor Activities
DK Books, http://www.dk.com
Make a bug hotel, create a cloud, find a fossil. Clear step-by-step instructions and photographs explain exactly what you need and what to do.
Editor’s Note: I love this book. I was looking forward to summer any way, but now there are so many things (365 in fact) I want to do. Our summer to-do list is growing.
It’s Catching, The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes
Look closer, closer, closer. What do you see? Your skin? A door handle? A glass of water? Maybe so, but what you’re also seeing are the homes of millions upon millions of tiny, tiny creatures called Microbes. Microbes want to live in peace and do their thing, which is fine, except for the ones whose thing is making you sick. These disease-making microbes are called germs and they are literally everywhere.
Editor’s Note: Despite the nastiness of a book about germs, it is actually quite interesting. I flipped through it thinking I would read enough to understand what the book was about, only to get pulled in, reading all about rabies (still scares me despite the fact many places has wiped it out), ebola and malaria. Everything you want, and didn’t want to know, about germs. Wash your hands.
Jasper John Dooley You’re In Trouble
Kids Can Press, http://www.kidscanpress.com/products/jasper-john-dooley-youre-trouble
When Jasper John Dooley realizes a can of Torpedo High Energy Drink has rolled out of the vending machine instead of the bottle of apple juice he selected, he knows he shouldn’t drink it. But Jasper finds the allure of the ice-cold can irresistible. He just has to take a sip. “Right away his mouth exploded in prickles. When he swallowed, the prickles went down, too. But the drink was sweet, and as soon as he took one sip, he wanted another.” And before Jasper knows what hit him, the overabundance of caffeine and sugar in the energy drink has fueled all kinds of misbehavior. Is there anything that can bring him back to his senses?
Editor’s Note: We loved this book. There was many times I laughed out loud, usually before it was appropriate as I read ahead. My son laughed out loud and we are onto the second reading of the
book. We will be getting the others in the series.
Little Bird’s Bad Word
Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of MacMillian, mackids.com
Little Bird learned a new world. He loves it so much, he’s bursting to share it with all of this friends. The only problem is this isn’t a nice world. Little Bird doesn’t realize it, but it might even hurt someone’s feelings.
Editor’s Note: I was unsure of reading this to my six year old as he doesn’t know any bad words and I didn’t want him to know they exist. In the end, it was a made-up word and we both enjoyed the story. We particularly laugh at the end; that situation required a blark.
Look at Me Now
Carol McDougall and Shanda LaRamee-Jones
Nimbus Publishing, nimbus.ca
I’m growing bigger every day. Look what I can do! Celebrate the exciting milestones of toddlerhood. This book’s lively text and charming illustrations will encourage conversation between you and your child.
Editor’s Note: What a cute book. It makes me miss those toddler days.
Merriam-Webster Children’s Dictionary
Revised with nearly 100 new entries and updated photographs, this newly designed edition of the bestselling illustration children’s dictionary is now thoroughly up to date.
Editor’s Note: It’s a great book, but I forgot it was American based so the reference materials were all American. Otherwise there is lots of information and great photos.
Power Down, Little Robot
Henry Holt and Company, mackids.com
It’s time to power down for the night, but Little Robot isn’t ready! He quickly opens his stalling program. Luckily, Mom Unit knows exactly how to get him into his sleep module.
Editor’s Note: As my son offers a stalling program every night, I like this story as much as he does. Little Robot uses all the tricks in children’s book to avoid going to bed before initiating dream sequence in record time. I am afraid Mom Unit is sometimes more patient than I am.
Power Up, A Visual Exploration of Energy
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com/Power-Up
It’s impossible to imagine our lives without energy, but how often do we really think about where it comes from? With Power Up! discovering what you need to know about energy is easy and fun. Each bright, dynamic spread illustrates cool facts about energy use with colourful infographics, including charts, diagrams and maps.
Editor’s Note: My son never tires about learning about energy. We read the book from cover to cover, looking at the charts, reading the infographs. We then spent days after, drawing our own charts and marking down different types of energy. We often come back to the book to read it again.
Reptile Flu, A Story about Communication
Second Story Press, secondstorypress.ca/
Kamal is terrified to go to the live reptile show with his class, but he’s embarrassed to admit he’s afraid. He tries various ways to let people know without actually saying it. In desperation, Kamal finds a last-minute way to communicate clearly with surprising results.
Editor’s Note: I am getting really got out picking out illustrator Qin Leng’s work. I love her style. My son really enjoyed this book (part of the I’m A Great Little Kid Series, Boost Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention series). The book offers a lesson, but not one that is overly noticeable, at least to my six year old. I liked this one, but I think I enjoyed the second one better: Never Give Up, A story About Self Esteem is about Shaun, who may be weak on bike-riding skills, but he is strong on determination. With the help of an understanding friend and his own will to succeed, Shaun feels great about himself and wins the respect of others. I liked how his friend watched how the other children teased him, but then apologized for not standing up for her friend. I liked how she worked with her dad to help Shuan learn how to ride his bike. My son was so surprised to have two stories with the same character. He thought that was really neat.
Fifteen Dollars and Thirty-five Cents, A Story about Choices
When Joseph and Devon find money in the schoolyard, the two friends have different thoughts about what they should do. Joseph thinks they should keep it, but Devon thinks they should try to find out who lost it. When he sees their classmate Lin looking upset and looking for the same amount of money they found, he is sure that “finders keepers” isn’t the best rule to follow. But convincing Joseph to do the right thing isn’t going to be easy. How can Devon keep his friend and see that Lin gets her money back? It takes some courage and resourcefulness, but in the end, Devon proves to be a good friend to both Joseph and Lin. And, even though it was hard, making the right choice makes everyone — especially Joseph — happy.
Rocket Science, Readers 3
DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca/
Ages five to eight
A top secret assignment to design and test a spy’s rocket is taking place in the lab of Prof. X.
Editor’s Note: My six year old wasn’t interested in reading this one himself, but did enjoy me reading it to him. He also wanted to do all the suggestions inside the pages.
Chronicle Kids, http://www.chroniclekids.com
In this deliciously entertaining book, a not-so-sweet cake, who never says please or thank you or listens to its parents, get its just dessert.
Editor’s Note: What a fun book. This is one of those books you can read over and over again. There is the main text as well as the conversation between rude cake and the polite Cyclops. My son and I laugh this book and we read it almost nightly. When he had to act out a scene for the TD Summer Reading Club, he choose a part from this book. Too funny.
Smithsonian Eyewitness Explorer, Nature Ranger
Discover the natural word with more than 30 easy-to-do, fun activities plus stunning pictures and amazing facts. Find out what you can grow from the mode on your shoes. Create your won mini dessert and go on a nighttime patrol.
Editor’s Note: Study flowers and learn how to press them. go on a nighttime prowl and learn to make a bat box and learn about bark and create bark rub. There are always lots of ideas in DK Books to keep children and adults occupied this summer.
Titanic, The Disaster that Shocked the World, Readers 3
Dk Books, http://www.dk.com/ca
Read the incredible true story of the unsinkable ship that sank. Discover what really happened on the Titanic.
Editor’s Note: I can’t help but read Titanic stories, although I am not reading it to my son quite yet. There are some real pictures mixed in with illustrations and a chart about those who lived and died in each class, which is where my son started reading.
You’re a Crab, A Moody Day Book
Henry Holt and Company, an imprint of MacMillan, mackids.com
Some days it’s easy to feel happy or funny or silly. But other days, it’s easier to feel mad or mean or snappy, in other words be a crab. Author Jenny Whitehead shows its OK to have days when you’re feeling crabby.
Editor’s Note: The first time I read it, it felt like it should rhyme (do you know what I mean? Books have a rhythm and when it gets out of sync, you feel it). However, it didn’t seem right. The second time I read it, I read it different and I really liked it. One of these readings, I hope to look at the pictures. There is so much to see. What a great book and it does exactly what it says it does – shows you everyone feels crabby sometimes, but eventually things turn out happy again.
Other learning books
10 Rivers that Shaped The World
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com
Rivers can be extraordinarily powerful, and not just because of their fast-flowing currents. They can make civilizations rise or crumble, divide cultures or link them together and even provide crucial clues to where we came from. Dive into 10 surprising stories about the power of rivers through the ages.
Grade 2 Made Easy
DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca/
The Canadian edition supports the curriculum in Canadian schools and builds confidence and reinforces understanding.
Draw to Learn: Francais!
Chronicle Books, http://www.chroniclebooks.com/titles/draw-to-learn-francais.html
The ultimate language-learning tool for visual thinkers, these portable sketchbooks help budding artists and travelers build vocabulary with 150 drawing prompts in French or Spanish (with English translations printed nearby to peek at as needed).
Draw, Paint and Print Like the Great Artists
In this imaginative new activity book, Marion Deuchars makes learning about art fun. Young readers are introduced to more than thirty great artists, then encouraged to try out the techniques that lie behind their greatest works.
First French Picture Dictionary
DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca/
From bonjour to au revoir, this revised and updated visual dictionary is an invaluable introduction to French vocabulary for Canadian children.
How to Do Math
DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca/
Using an innovative visual approach to explain and define math concepts taught in schools, this interactive math reference presents key topics using colourful graphics, which are reinforced by real-life examples and facts.
Henri Matisse, Meet the Artist
Princeton Architectural Press, http://www.papress.com
Henri Matisse: Meet the Artist! takes young readers of all ages on a colourful interactive journey through the work of the beloved French painter and sculptor. Featuring flaps, cutouts and pull tabs, this engaging pop-up book covers Matisse’s entire artistic career, including his paintings, drawings, sculptures and paper cutouts, as well as the story of his lifelong friendship with Pablo Picasso. With activities that encourage readers to explore the artist’s signature methods, this hands-on introduction will inspire budding artists from eight to 80.
How To Raise Monarch Butterflies, a Step-by-Step Guide for Kids
Firefly Books, http://www.fireflybooks.com/index.php/catalogue/children-s-books/juvenile-nonfiction/product/10575-how-to-raise-monarch-butterflies-a-step-by-step-guide-for-kids
How to Raise Monarch Butterflies explains what threats Monarchs face today and how readers can help conserve the Monarch’s feeding grounds from encroachment. Revel in one of the most remarkable miracles of nature.
Little Miss, Big Sis
Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The big news is this — Little Miss becomes a big sis!
In the perfect follow-up to Plant a Kiss, Little Miss learns the wonders of becoming a big sister as she and her family celebrate the momentous arrival of a new baby.
Play and Learn with Wallace: Everyday Math
Priddy Books, http://www.priddybooks.com
Whether at the store or around the home, children learn and absorb math skills through their everyday experiences. With sections including weight, money, measurement, fractions and time, this wipe-clean activity book is full of practical exercises to reinforce first math learning.
Superbrain, the Insider’s Guide to Getting Smart
Toronto public Library
Annick Press, http://www.annickpress.com
Want to be supersmart? Find out how. Vibrant, energetic and informative, this essential resource shows you how to become a lifelong super learner.
The Incredible Math Games Book
DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca
Roll the dice, spin the wheel, pop, lift, pull and learn with this fun-filled cool math game book.
The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
Daniel J. Levitin
Penguin Canada, penguinrandomhouse.ca/imprints/penguin-canada
The information age is drowning us with an unprecedented deluge of data. At the same time, we’re expected to make more — and faster — decisions about our lives than ever before. No wonder, then, that the average American reports frequently losing car keys or reading glasses, missing appointments, and feeling worn out by the effort required just to keep up.
Ultimate Survival Guide for Kids
Firefly Books, http://www.fireflybooks.com/index.php/catalogue/product/11224-ultimate-survival-guide-for-kids
The first three chapters in this book – Animal Dangers, Natural Dangers, and Human Hazards – describe what to do in a total of 24 specific emergencies. The fourth chapter, Basic Survival Skills, has 14 important tips on emergency preparedness and survival skills.
Each crisis is summarized on a double-page spread with 1-2-3 what-to-do checklists, “Fast Facts”, “Life Savers”, “Did You Know”, and “If You” sidebars, and margin notes. The book’s eye-catching design features brilliant full-bleed color and dynamic action photographs.
Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products
Firefly Books, http://www.fireflybooks.com/index.php/catalogue/adult-books/nature-and-science/ecology/product/11060-your-water-footprint-the-shocking-facts-about-how-much-water-we-use-to-make-everyday-products
Your Water Footprint reveals the true cost of our lifestyle. A “water footprint” is the amount of fresh water used to produce the goods and services we consume, including growing, harvesting, packaging, and shipping. From the foods we eat to the clothes we wear to the books we read and the music we listen to, all of it costs more than what we pay at the check-out. The 125 footprint facts in this book show the true cost of our lifestyle and what it is doing to Earth, including draining it dry.
Other summer reads
Conversation Sparks Trivia Worth Talking About
Chronicle Books, http://www.chroniclebooks.com
Jump-start any conversation with this collection of more than 350 fascinating, little-known facts. Hand-drawn speech bubbles and a charming conversationalist add personality to memorable tidbits on everything from the number of shipping containers lost at sea (about one per hour) to now-retired Twinkie flavors (banana cream). Who knew that any month beginning on a Sunday will have a Friday the 13th? Or that there are more cellphones in the world than toothbrushes? Engaging and addictive, this is trivia with character.
The Book of Speculation A Novel
St. Martin’s Press, us.macmillan.com/smp
Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone in a house that is slowly crumbling toward the Long Island Sound. His parents are long dead. His mother, a circus mermaid who made her living by holding her breath, drowned in the very water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, ran off to join the circus six years ago. One June day, an old book arrives on Simon’s doorstep. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things – including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of mermaids” in Simon’s family have drowned – always on July 24, which is only weeks away. As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister. Could there be a curse on Simon’s family? What does it have to do with the book, and can he stop it in time to save Enola?
See You Next Year
Owl Books, http://www.owlkidsbooks.com/
Every summer, a girl’s family drives down the same roads, passes through the same towns and spends a week at the same beachside motel. Year after year, everything is comfortingly predictable: the families they see, the rhythm of the days, the stars, the bonfires and even the pattern the tractor makes as it rakes the sand on their beach. But this year, something is different: the girl, our narrator, meets a new friend who shows her how to dive under the waves and spot satellites in the night sky. When it’s time to go, she’s sad to part ways. But she knows she can look forward to seeing him next year.
St. Martin’s Press, us.macmillan.com/smp
June, 1998: At 27, Catherine Coombs, also known as Cat, is struggling. She lives in London, works as a journalist and parties hard. Her lunchtimes consist of several glasses of wine at the bar downstairs in the office, her evenings much the same, swigging the free booze and eating the free food at a different launch or party every night. When she discovers the identity of the father she never knew she had, it sends her into a spiral. She makes mistakes that cost her the budding friendship of the only women who have ever welcomed her. And nothing is ever the same after that.
June, 2014: Cat has finally come to the end of herself. She no longer drinks. She wants to make amends to those she has hurt. Her quest takes her to Nantucket, to the gorgeous summer community where the women she once called family still live. Despite her sins, will they welcome her again? What Cat doesn’t realize is that these women, her real father’s daughters, have secrets of their own. As the past collides with the present, Cat must confront the darkest things in her own life and uncover the depths of someone’s need for revenge.
The Other Story, A Novel
Tatiana de Rosnay
St. Martin’s Press, us.macmillan.com/smp
Vacationing at a luxurious Tuscan island resort, Nicolas Duhamel is hopeful the ghosts of his past have finally been put to rest. Now a bestselling author, when he was 24 years old, he stumbled upon a troubling secret about his family – a secret that was carefully concealed. In shock, Nicolas embarked on a journey to uncover the truth that took him from the Basque coast to St. Petersburg, but the answers wouldn’t come easily. In the process of digging into his past, something else happened. Nicolas began writing a novel that was met with phenomenal success, skyrocketing him to literary fame whether he was ready for it or not – and convincing him that he had put his family’s history firmly behind him. But now, years later, Nicolas must reexamine everything he thought he knew, as he learns that, however deeply buried, the secrets of the past always find a way out.
St. Martin’s Press, us.macmillan.com/smp
Life has never been easy for the three Campbell sisters. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live on a remote ranch in Western Canada where they work hard and try to stay out of the way of their father’s fists. One night, a fight gets out of hand and the sisters are forced to go on the run, only to get caught in an even worse nightmare when their truck breaks down in a small town. Events spiral out of control and a chance encounter with the wrong people leaves them in a horrific and desperate situation. They are left with no choice but to change their names and create new lives.
Eighteen years later, they are still trying to forget what happened that summer when one of the sisters goes missing and they are pulled back into their past.
This time there’s nowhere left to run.
This column was first published on insidetoronto.com