Are you happy?
Life coach Kristi Ling is happy. In fact, her happiness can be found within the pages of her new book Operation Happiness by Rodale Wellness and Raincoast Books. I got a chance to ask Ling questions about being happy and teaching others to be so.
Q. It’s an interesting concept, that happiness is skill we have forgotten – or have never been taught – and one that we need to practise. Do you think most people are generally happy? Why or why not?
A. I think most people have times when they’re generally happy, but struggle with it often as well. It’s all about simply dedicating ourselves to become better at the skill of happiness. People who are willing to learn what it takes to create happiness and do the work to sustain it will have greater levels of happiness and satisfaction, as well as more peace, energy, and fewer ups and downs.
Q. Of all your lessons about becoming happy you share in your book, which one is the most important? Which one do you want people to embrace the most?
Next to changing the way we view happiness to see it as a skill and something we actively do, I would say the most important place to begin is by changing the way we live our mornings. I dedicate a whole section to this in the book. The way we start our day is the way we will live our day — and our life. It’s vital to make those first couple of hours positive, nurturing, and supportive of the way we want to feel on a regular basis. Just focusing on that first part of the day can be life-changing.
Q. In your motivational talks, what are most people seeking from you? Are they willing to listen to what you are sharing?
A. What I love is that many people will come to a talk or take an online course with me feeling like they are seeking something, but leave realizing they need to be doing something. Taking action is the key to creating anything we wish to experience. I do find that when people take the time to attend a talk or take a workshop, it’s because they are definitely willing to listen and be open to new ideas and inspiration. And, when I teach, I learn and find inspiration as well, which I love. I’m a big believer in co-creation. Recently, I was speaking to a group about Operation Happiness and taught a happiness practice I write about in the book called The 3 S’s. A lovely man asked if I’d ever tried it in front of a mirror, which I hadn’t, but I thought it was a fantastic idea! I thanked him and encouraged everyone to give it a try.
Q. Do you think what you are saying is more important now than it was in the past? Why?
A. I think it’s always been very important. I personally feel that teaching happiness as a skill and an activity, rather than just a choice or a feeling, is like teaching the missing link to happiness for so many. But, I do think that today with the level of technology in our lives we have more things grabbing for our attention and draining our energy than ever before, so this conversation is here at the perfect time.
Q. In your book you tell your readers that things aren’t always easy and you are not always happy. What are the things that bring you down and what do you do to combat it?
A. This is a great question. It’s true, life is not always rainbows and ice cream, no matter how good we become at the skill of happiness. There will always be challenges, off days, and losses for anyone who is human. For me, taking on too much never fails to bring me down, but over the years I’ve learned that I’m a person who needs to be very aware of this, and that it’s something I tend to do if I’m not being careful. Being aware of it helps me manage it, which has made a huge difference and definitely added to my happiness. Negative and sad news can definitely bring me down. I try to take breaks from news, and I have my social media newsfeeds filtered so it’s nearly all positive stuff with a couple of news sites that resonate with me. When I’m having an off day or something is affecting me emotionally, I first honour those feelings by reminding myself that it’s OK to be in that place. Then I step into a higher level of self-care and take action according to what my soul is telling me I need at that time. It also helps to remember that there has never in the history of the world been a storm that didn’t pass, and life works the same way. Occasional sadness is part of the beauty of it, and is actually part of a full and happy life.
Q. What makes you the happiest? The saddest?
A. I feel happiest when I’m helping others to be happy. Happiness is contagious that way! Creativity also makes me happy. When it’s flowing it’s such a great feeling. I feel most sad when I’m missing people I’ve lost, but it helps to turn to the gratitude I feel for having had them in my life.
Q. After all these years – your research, your living, your coaching – do you still practise happiness or is it now automatic? Do you do anything to keep up your skills? How do you improve?
A. I do still practice and keep it up like we have to keep up any skill to stay good at it. It’s a permanent job. But there are many positive habits and mindsets that to come naturally to me now after working at them, and that’s the magic in it. This is what I’m passionate about helping other people to do — create happiness habits and perspective shifts that will eventually come easily and support them in creating their best life.
Q. I also like the idea of self love. When your negative voice comes through, what to do you do stop it?
A. One of the things I do is talk to it. I’ve found if I recognize that inner mean voice and engage it in conversation with my higher self, it either goes away, or conveys what it’s trying to tell me. Sometimes that negative voice has a lesson or a message we’ve been trying to avoid. This is ego, and can serve a purpose. The key is managing it and learning to avoid needless negative self talk, which takes awareness and dedication, but is so worth the effort. Also, training our inner loving voice to speak louder and talk to us like the amazing beings we are is a wonderful endeavor.
Q. I liked that you included in your book food to make you happy. I see you eat organic as much as possible (and raise chickens for their eggs, which is pretty fantastic) what is your favourite happy food? If you could eat anything you wanted – when no one is looking – what would you choose?
A. I’m passionate about this topic, because what we eat is so directly linked to the way we feel emotionally, as well as to the energy we create in our lives. It’s not just physical. I could write a whole book on this. When I want to indulge, I allow myself that. My occasional splurges are macaroni and cheese and cupcakes. I love them both. But even then I’m conscious about the ingredients and quality of what I’m eating. I love cooking and baking at home from scratch, because I can control the ingredients and it’s also fun. I think of myself as a health-minded foodie.
Q. I was just finishing your book, when I came across a post from a Toronto Tibetan society that basically said the same thing you did – be kind to unkind people; They need kindness the most. The story about your friend Lisa stuck with me. I hear what you are saying. I hear – even understand and appreciate – what the Tibetan society is saying. I am not sure at this point in my life I have the patience for it. When do you give up on being kind to nasty, negative people who constantly bring you down, but whom you can’t get away from? What do you do for/with these type of people?
There are always boundaries to be set here. The first approach I always take with negative people who are lashing out is loving kindness, because it truly can transform the whole situation. But sometimes a person is so attached to their negativity and judgmental thinking that they’re simply not willing to be open to love or change in that moment, in which case it may be time to create some distance, which is totally OK. I’ve also been known on occasion to straight up tell a person that their negativity is bringing them down and affecting others around them. Honesty isn’t always what people want to hear, but sometimes it’s what they need to hear, and I believe honesty can also be seen as an act of love.
Rodale Wellness, rodalewellness.com
In Operation Happiness, happiness strategist and life coach Kristi Ling teaches you how to create immediate, positive shifts in your life by proving that happiness is a skill that can be cultivated, learned, and mastered – much like playing an instrument.
Part memoir and part how-to guide, Operation Happiness combines compelling personal stories, inspiring perspective shifts, and clear actionable steps to help you create a solid foundation for sustainable happiness that will propel you into a new, light-filled way of living.
Editor’s Note: There was some really great information in this book, presented in a way that was easy to read. I liked that there was enough personal stories in there to see where Ling was coming from. I also like that she shared some of the research she found while undergoing her personal happiness journey. I think I am a pretty happy person – I have a great work-life balance, I know what I want, I do what I love and I know what is important in my life. But there were still strategies and information that I found within its pages that I will re-read when the time is right.
Happy Easter, Curious George
Margret & H.A. Rey
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
One fine Easter morning, George and the man with the yellow hat head to the park. George can’t help but join in the fun when he sees children dyeing Easter eggs, but what’s that man doing with their prized creations?
Editor’s Note: Happy 75th anniversary, George. We have read a lot of George, but not this one. Sometimes I find the older George books rather frustrating. George causes trouble, but gets away with it because he is a monkey. This one is just nice – a curious money, being just that, with cute results.
Chronicle Kids, chroniclekids.com
It’s only a yellow dot… but what a dot it is! Readers won’t be able to resist this jaunty, adventurous dot, nor its invitation to play along. Thus begins a spectacular ride of color, motion, shape, and imagination, filled with the artistry and delight that we know and love so well from Press Here and Mix It Up! But on this journey, prepare to leap headlong into a completely new dimension: emotion. Connecting not only to the mind but also to the heart, this dot expresses an extraordinary sense of humor, fear, joy, and more as it pushes, lurches, wiggles, and slides its way through-and even off!-the pages.
Editor’s Note: Herve Tullet’s latest book is as fun as the first two. I pulled the book out for my seven year old and he spent the next 15 minutes reading through it and and following the yellow dot. I like how it is a dot, yet Tullet finds a way to make it interesting again. Read an interview with author Herve Tullet about Mix it Up here.
My Heart Fills with Happiness
Monique Gray Smith
Orca Books, orcabook.com
What fills your heart with happiness?
Editor’s Note: I like that this book is about a First Nations family. While all of what brings this child happiness is universal, I like that there is some First Nations culture references such as making bannock, dancing and drumming. The first page of this board book of a mother and her child is my favourite picture in this story.
Doubleday Canada, Penguin Random House Canada
When a family holiday ends in the death of their young son, the grieving parents struggle to cope, and Shiv, their 15-year-old daughter, must come to terms with what happened…and her part in it. Off the rails and tormented by guilt, she is sent away to an exclusive clinic that claims to “cure” people like her. But this is no ordinary psychiatric institution, and Shiv discovers that her release – from her demons, and from the clinic itself- will come at a bizarre and terrible price.
Editor’s Note: What a great, terribly sad book. I hope to never experience what these teens are going through. The book flips from past to present with each chapter, with each chapter bringing us closer to what happened to Shiv’s brother Declan.
Farrar Straus Giroux, us.macmillan.com/paperwishes/loissepahban
Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family’s life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It’s 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat, but she is caught and forced to abandon him. She is devastated, but clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn’t until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can accept all that has happened to her family.
Editor’s Note: I knew Japanese-Canadians (Americans) were forced into internment camps during the Second World War, but I never understood what that really meant. This book opened my eyes to what happened to our fellow North Americans. And this story, while fiction, is still heartbreaking. Imagine the sense of betrayal one would feel to be born in your country and basically being forced into jail. The book was easy to read, following the story of one family who tries to make the best of their forced imprisonment.
Rebel of the Sands
Penguin Random House. penguin.com
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female. Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead. Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.
Editor’s Note: I misread the preview for this book so I spent most of it finding the stories the main characters spoke of mythical beasts too much for my doubting mind. Once I realized these creatures were true, not stories, Rebel of the Sands become a much more enjoyable read. Wish I had of realized it sooner. I am looking forward to the sequel.
Pajama Press, pajamapress.ca
Jared’s plane has crashed in the Alberta wilderness, and Kyle is first on the scene. When Jared insists on hiking up the highest hill in search of cell phone reception, Kyle hesitates; his Cree grandmother has always forbidden him to go near it. There’s no stopping Jared, though, so Kyle reluctantly follows. After a night spent on the hilltop – with no cell service- the teens discover something odd: the plane has disappeared. Nothing in the forest surrounding them seems right. In fact, things seem very wrong. And worst of all, something is hunting them.
Editor’s Note: If that description seems creepy, just wait until you read this fantastic book. Creepy, a tad bit frightening, but an amazing story about two different teens who come from two very different worlds. I enjoyed the book a lot. It was a great story, interesting information, but I did find Kyle frustrating. He complained that Jared was racist, yet he didn’t see he was the same.
The Inn Between
Roaring Press, mackids.com
Eleven-year-old Quinn has had some bad experiences lately. She was caught cheating in school, and then one day, her little sister Emma disappeared while walking home from school. She never returned. When Quinn’s best friend Kara has to move away, she goes on one last trip with Kara and her family. They stop over at the first hotel they see, a Victorian inn that instantly gives Quinn the creeps, and she begins to notice strange things happening around them. When Kara’s parents and then brother disappear without a trace, the girls are stranded in a hotel full of strange guests, hallways that twist back in on themselves, and a particularly nasty surprise lurking beneath the floorboards. Will the girls be able to solve the mystery of what happened to Kara’s family before it’s too late?
Editor’s Note: What a great book. As it’s aimed at those eight to 12, it is a quick read, but one that keeps you reading, and guessing until the end. I never figured it out and now that I finished it, would like to go back and read it again.
The Bad Mother
Second Story Press, http://www.secondstorypress.ca
Born in Germany, Marguerite was just into her 20 when she moved to Tunisia with her French lover. She thought she was choosing a life of adventure and freedom, but what she got was children and a marriage that quickly became abusive. Constrained by the minutiae of everyday life, Marguerite longs for the agency to make her own choices. Eventually she flees, leaving her children behind for a year and a half. As the world labels her a wife, a mother, and eventually a bad mother, Marguerite wrestles with her own definition of personhood. Can you love your children and want your own life at the same time? A half-century later, this fictionalized account of Andersen’s life is written with brutal honesty, in spare, pithy and often poetic prose, as she expresses her own conflicted feelings concerning a difficult time and the impact it had on her sense of self. Andersen confronts the large and small choices that she made — the times she stayed and the times she didn’t — all the while asking, “What kind of mother am I?”
Editor’s Note: This is one of the weirdest books I have read. I try very hard not to judge a women’s choice when it comes to children – I know the choices have to be made and you try your hardest to make them on what is best for your children, but eventually you have to also consider yourself. Saying that, I think the first couple times when Marguerite leaves her children, she had no choice, but eventually the choices she makes leaves me shaking my head and wondering if one ever learns from one’s mistakes.
Where Future Ends
Penguin Random House, penguin.com/teen
Five teens. Five futures. Two worlds. One ending.
One year from now, Dylan develops a sixth sense that allows him to glimpse another world.
Ten years from now, Brixney must get more hits on her social media feed or risk being stuck in a debtors’ colony.
Thirty years from now, Epony scrubs her entire online profile from the web and goes “High Concept.”
Sixty years from now, Reef struggles to survive in a city turned virtual gameboard.
And more than a hundred years from now, Quinn uncovers the alarming secret that links them all.
Five people, divided by time, will determine the fate of us all. These are stories of a world bent on destroying itself, and of the alternate world that might be its savior–unless it’s too late.
Editor’s Note: A review on the front cover of this book says its “one of the most ambitious YA novels I’ve ever read” Tommy Wallach. I disagree. I don’t think it’s ambitious. I think its terribly frightening and it’s frightening because I can see we are heading in that direction, and I feel powerless to stop it. In addition to big brother, which people don’t seem to mind, there is social media and the desire for everyone to know everything about you at all times. Finally, although perhaps it should be higher, there is the global warming and how the future looks for us all. A terrifying, eye-opening read that should be read.
Crafts and activities
101 Things For Kids To Do Outside
A Firefly Book, http://www.fireflybooks.com/
Packed with games, projects, crafts, experiments and gardening inspiration, 101 Things for Kids to do Outside will have your children racing out to try something new. The huge selection of ideas covers all four seasons and ranges from quick 10-minute activities to a full day of fun. From party games and treasure hunts to simple gardening projects, each idea is simple to follow and illustrated with colour photography, so you can’t go wrong!.
Editor’s Note: When this book arrived, it made me long for the lazy days of summer when you could make a nature walk bracelet, make a sand ball run, play jingle jangle and more. Many of these games and activities will likely find their way on our summer to-do list.
All Aboard Train Matching Game
Chronicle Books, chroniclekids.com
The fanciful art of Marc Boutavant is on display in this matching game inspired by the beloved All Aboard Train Puzzle. Oversized cards feature detailed train cars brimming with adorable characters, detail-rich scenes and whimsy galore!
Editor’s Note: I haven’t seen the puzzle this book is based on, but the game is pretty fun. Each board book stock card has tons of details, yet are different enough for little people to tell them apart.
DK’s Let’s Sew, Learn to sew with 12 easy projects
A learn-to-sew book for budding beginners, Let’s Sew explains how to master the basics of sewing.
Editor’s Note: There is no exaggeration in this book – they are easy projects that don’t require a sewing machine and with instructions that even someone like me can follow. While I have made felt stocks and a bag of love before, these are different ideas, which will be perfect for my seven year old.
DK Supercraft Easy Projects for every weekend
Sophie Pester and Catharina Bruns
Includes 52 projects with DIY ideas for every weekend, ranging from jewelry and accessories to home decoration and furniture. Embroider a notebook, print fabric with starfuit, or make a hanging garden for your bathroom. The projects are easy to accomplish, and you can use lots of things you already have around the house or had even planned to throw away!
Editor’s Note: There are some really different craft ideas in this book. I love the spray-painted lampshade and printing with sunlight bag. There is paper embroidery, working with leather and even knitting basics. As my stepdaughter already hand-bound me a journal and taught herself to embroidery, this book went to her, and she found other projects that she liked.
DK Ultimate FACTIVITY Collection Human Body
Learn how your body works with fun activities and amazing facts! Filled with more than 500 stickers, Ultimate Factivity Collection: Human Body has fun activities that help you discover amazing facts about the human body and how it all works together to make you you. Do you know how fast your nails grow or how you taste flavours? Find out in Ultimate Factivity Collection: Human Body, and create a book about the body you live in.
Editor’s Note: I am not sure how DK does it, but they have created another fantastic series that helps you learn while you are having fun. My son has story and activity time each night, and this book falls into storytime despite the puzzles, games, mazes and stickers we play and use. That is because he reads the information in the spots he lands on in the game or learns about different hardworking cells in his body (might be his favourite page). He is listening as he goes through the maze and he thinks about whether the quiz answer is true or false before finding out if he is right or wrong. Amazing, fun book. It was hard to choose just one title because there are so many great ones including space, sharks, bugs as well as popular character titles such as Frozen, Lego and more.
Doodle Magic Animals
Prepare to draw a wild collection of furry, feathery, scaly, and silly creatures! The delightful world of Doodle Magic: Animals contains 64 pages full of inspiring doodling ideas and step-by-step drawing prompts. With a mixture of projects that use the included plastic stylus and reusable luminous drawing sheet as well as printed pages for doodling with their own pens, pencils, or crayons, kids can draw an unlimited variety of animal scenes.
Editor’s Note: Most people my age will know about the magic doodler where you take a sylus, draw away, lift the plastic to erase your picture and lay the plastic back down – without getting air bubbles underneath. This book brings back that magic doodler, but this time your drawing is in neon orange. My seven year old was so amazed the pen never runs out.
Make & Move Animals
Laurence King, Laurenceking.com
From flapping penguins to swimming turtles, and everything in between, create fantastic moving animal puppets to play with. Each model comes with easy-to-follow assembly instructions, and no scissors or glue required! Contains nine ready-to-play animals, plus three to colour in with your own fantastic designs. Created by Sato Hisao, talented paper artist and engineer for age six plus.
Editor’s Note: This puppet book is for those six plus, and apparently for people who can do math and follow directions, which I apparently can’t do. I attempted to do the easiest one – a sea turtle. It had two pieces and the stick to make the puppet move. I couldn’t even make the stick. My seven year old enjoyed the process more as he is better at math and has more patience.
Story Box Create Your Own Fairy Tales
Lawrence King Publishing Ltd.
This game will allow your family to create its own fairy tales. Highly original and with a contemporary twist, this game contains 20 puzzle pieces printed on both sides, which can be interchanged to allow for all kinds of plots. With three alternative endings. Can you save the missing elf before he is eaten by the big, bad wolf? Is the witch offering you a poisoned apple, or will she help you… by magically shrinking the giant pink rabbit that is terrorizing your castle? Tell a different story each time you play, in this eight-foot long fairytale puzzle.
Editor’s Note: What a fun concept. My seven year old laid out the board-book stock puzzle pieces and I told the story.
To the Moon
Illustrated by Sarah Yoon
Laurence King, Laurenceking.com
Climb up to the moon with this amazing fold-out coloring book, the tallest in the world! Colour an amazing tower, all the way from your house down on the ground, past dragons, witches, space ports and flying elephants, to reach the moon at the very top!
Editor’s Note: Confession, I don’t like adult colouring books. I like children’s colouring books. Adult colouring books are too full of details and colouring the pages stresses me out – the opposite of what it is supposed to do. However, To The Moon is super fun. Fifteen feet of colouring. I love it. And while there are some small details, there are a lot of big spaces as well. Well done Sarah Yoon. My seven year old chose this colouring book for his activity for several nights in a row. He was colouring fast, and scribbling, and I suggested he could take his time because there was no way we could colour 15 feet in a week. He told him a scribble can be beautiful, too (Scribble, Scholastic, Ruth Ohi).
The Year of Cozy
125 Recipes, Crafts and other Homemade adventures
Editor’s Note: I like that this book is more than delicious looking recipes, it’s also offers crafts, helps you find a new hobby and enjoy life. There are a variety of homemade adventures in this book for various skill levels. I look forward to trying flaky, buttery biscuits, Thanksgiving name tags and maybe the pet teepee.
A Beetle is Shy
Dianna Hutts Aston
Chronicle Kids, Chroniclekids.com
The award-winning duo of Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long team up again, this time creating a gorgeous look at the fascinating world of beetles. From flea beetles to bombardier beetles, an incredible variety of these beloved bugs are showcased here in all their splendour.
Editor’s Note: I am sorry, but did the description call beetles beloved? I can’t say I have ever looked a beetle and thought – I love those creatures. Even the ladybug, which I like a lot providing it’s the tradition red with black spots one, is pushing its luck as the orange ones have taken over our house in a gross beetle infestation. Yuck. But beyond that, this book is as beautiful and is as full as information as the last book by Aston and illustrator Syliva Long – A Nest is Nosy. Actually, our complaint with the latter was there was too much information in A Nest is Nosy. A Beetle is Shy offers lots of information and bright colours so it’s interesting, but without the feeling that Ashton is trying to ram information into your brain. My seven year old wasn’t interested in reading past the first few pages, but I did and shared with him another cool beetle fact. The arrow-poison beetle is so poisonous, some African hunters use the beetle secreation on the tips of their arrows to kill large animals. Crazy. And scary.
DK’s Bugs, Bees and other Buzzy Creatures, Full of fun facts and activities
What’s the buzz? Learn all about the insect world with fun activities and amazing facts in Bugs, Bees, and Other Buzzy Creatures. Discover why bees buzz and why ladybugs are red as you complete different fun craft activities.
Editor’s Note: My son was amazed (I am just disgusted) that there are more than 100 legs on a millipede (750 on some. Yuck.). Most double-page spreads in this book offer tons of easy-to-read information, followed by a double-page spread easy-to-make craft such as a clothes pin dragonfly or ladybug pebbles. Interesting fact, did you know some ladybugs have many spots and some of stripes. As a personal note, one ladybug looks more bettle-ish than the others and therefore more disgusting. The double-page spread following the information on ants is a maze with real pictures showing each home within the tunnel.
DK Grow Vegetables Gardens, Balconies, roof terraces and yards
Enjoy growing more than 80 types of delicious vegetables, lettuces and herbs including rare and heritage varieties.
Editor’s Note: I was wondering how people made their garden books different and what caught my eye about this one was the fact rare vegetables information are found within its pages. There is also addition information such as the case of kale, where you are shown how to harvest young leaves as well as recommended kale varieties. Did you know celery can cause celery rash? Who knew. Each item contains a chart, which tells you when you should plant in and out.
DK The Bee Book
The Bee Book is a great introduction to bees and beekeeping and celebrates the wonder of bees in nature, in our gardens and in the hive. The Bee Book offers startling insights into the lives of bees and shows how we can best support and benefit from their presence in our gardens and hives.
Editor’s Note: My seven year old is super interested in bees and this book will certainly helped give him the information he craves. It also made him even more interested in visiting a real bee farm. Lots of information including catching your own bee swarm and harvesting honey as well as information about the bees themselves. Some great recipes in the back. I see honey and mint lip balm and bubble bath in my future.
Green City, How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future
Farrar Straus Giroux, mackids.com
In 2007, a tornado destroyed Greensburg, Kansas, and the residents were at a loss as to what to do next–they didn’t want to rebuild if their small town would just be destroyed in another storm. So they decided they wouldn’t just rebuild the same old thing; this time, they would build a town that could not only survive another storm, but one that was built in an environmentally sustainable way. Told from the point of view of a child whose family rebuilt after the storm, this companion to Energy Island is the inspiring story of the difference one community can make–and it includes plenty of rebuilding scenes and details for construction lovers, too!
Editor’s. Note: What a beginning to an uplifting story. Tornadoes scare the life out of me. I had one experience with a tornado and hope never to repeat it. I liked this story though. It showed how the town people came together to build a better, stronger city after the tornado completely destroyed their community. I also liked how there were ideas on how to build a sustainable house and small steps to go green.
Growing Beautiful Food
A Gardener’s Guide to Cultivating Extraordinary Vegetables and Fruit
Growing Beautiful Food is both inspiration and instruction, with detailed growing advice for 50 remarkable crops, a memorable narrative, and evocative imagery. It’s a photographic journey through four seasons in the garden, fueling the dream that you can connect to the land by growing your own food. Benson encourages us to start small like he did, celebrate every harvest, and understand that heartbreaking crop losses are simply part of the process. Whether gardeners, families, farmers, or chefs, readers will come to the table motivated by the flavor of homegrown, the message of self sufficiency, and the beautiful food that’s as local as their backyards.
Editor’s Note: March is a wonderful time to offer a blog featuring gardening books as it opens the possibility that spring is coming. What a beautiful book. While I got an advance reader’s copy (ARC), my heart swooned at the pictures of author Matthew Benson’s farm, gardens and vegetables. I am envious. There is lots of information packed into this book including building the bones and soil types. The book also lists a variety of vegetables along with site and soil, planting, growing, harvesting, pest and disease, varieties on each type of vegetable or fruit listed. I like that there is a section of cut flowers, herbs and edible blooms. One of my dreams is located in this book. Sigh.
My Nature Sticker Activity Book, Butterflies of the World
Princeton Architectural Press, papress.com
Butterflies of the World introduces different types of butterflies and moths through a range of interactive activities and stickers. This activity book will keep children entertained for hours through fun activities, such as sticking on the missing wing of a comet moth or coloring in the wings of a Large Blue butterfly. In the process children learn how caterpillars turn into butterflies, what they eat, how they trick predators, and other interesting facts. A quiz at the end of the book tests their knowledge.
Editor’s Note: Each colourful page has information about the butterfly or moth, then has something you can do, whether that is to colour the butterfly’s wing scales based on a colour code or adding one of the 56 stickers. There is a quiz at the back to test whether you have been paying attention.
Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening
A Beginners Guide to Starting A Healthy Garden
Deborah L. Martin
Rodale Books, rodalebooks.com
In Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening by Deborah L. Martin, general garden-building skills (from “Do I need to dig?” to “Where do I dig?”) and specific techniques (from “How do I plant a seed?” to “How much should I water?”) are presented in growing-season order―from garden planning and planting to growing and harvesting. Many other need-to-know topics like soil, compost, seeds, pest control, and weeds are explained in simple language to ensure success, even on a small scale, on the first try. More than 100 common garden terms are defined, and Smart Starts sidebars offer doable projects to build confidence and enthusiasm for expanding a garden when a gardener is ready. A flower, vegetable, and herb finder highlights easycare plants with good track records. Plus, there are no-dig garden methods, simple garden layouts, and tips and hints inspired by the most popular page views on OrganicGardening.com
Editor’s Note: There is so much information in this book, including information about pretty flowers, but I can’t get my head around a gardening book without photos.
Strange Trees and The Stories Behind Them
Princeton Architectural Press, papress.com
Have you ever heard of a chocolate tree? Would you be brave eend a night beneanth the branches of a spooky ghost tree? Andd id you know the some trees can walk?
Editor’s Note: Each double page spread offers a page of information about a tree, told by the tree itself, and a picture of the tree. The book is really fascinating both in the main story and some highlighted information such as the Sausage Tree, which fruit can be three-feet long and weight up to 25 pounds.
The New Canadian Garden
Mark Cullen with Marette Sharp
Mark Cullen, explores new trends that are redefining today’s gardening experiences. Many of us are utilizing small urban spaces — balconies, patios, and even rooftops — and growing our own fruits, vegetables, and herbs, both at home and through community gardens. Mark has lots of suggestions about which crops will work best for your particular space and how to attract birds, bees, and butterflies to your garden. And he combines the best practical information with an insightful approach to help improve your gardening
Editor’s Note: Tons of information in this book including shade-tolerant crops, planning a roof-top garden and community garden etiquette. There are also bat house instructions, how to make a raise bed and a variety of charts with information including native plants and their requirements
Your First Garden, A Landscape Primer for New Home Owners
A Firefly Book
Judith Adam targets new homeowners in sterile, still-to-be-landscaped suburbs. Creating an attractive setting for a new house is a high priority and hard to resist, as all improvements will add to the property’s dollar value as well as the enjoyment of the new home. With a light hand Adam outlines the basic steps toward transforming an empty yard into a welcoming, appealing space, beginning with identifying a personal garden style and assessing the pros and cons of a site, then choosing, planting and maintaining plants.
Editor’s Note: It’s not my first garden, nor do I have a new home, but this book is a keeper. I no longer have copious amounts of time to plant or even take care of the garden I do have, but sections such as shade-tolerant plants, low maintenance perennials and planting for two bursts of colour will be very helpful come summer. Beautiful pictures and snippets of information, this is a perfect book to dream about flowers and summer.
Other gardening books
The Forbidden Orchid
Sharon Biggs Waller
Penguin Random House, penguinrandomhouse.com
Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of 10 sisters living in a small English market town in 1861. The girls’ father is a plant hunter, usually off adventuring through the jungles of China. Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan fails to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid, meaning that he will be thrown into debtors’ prison and the girls will be sent to the orphanage or the poorhouse. Elodie’s father has one last chance to return to China, find the orchid, and save the family – and this time, thanks to an unforeseen twist of fate, Elodie is going with him. Elodie has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China. But even if she can find the orchid, how can she find herself now that staid, responsible Elodie has seen how much the world has to offer?
Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness
It all started with Nathanael Johnson’s decision to teach his daughter the name of every tree they passed on their walk to daycare in San Francisco. This project turned into a quest to discover the secrets of the neighborhood’s flora and fauna, and yielded more than names and trivia: Johnson developed a relationship with his non-human neighbours. No matter where we live – city, country, oceanside, or mountains – there are wonders that we walk past every day. Unseen City widens the pinhole of our perspective by allowing us to view the world from the high-altitude eyes of a turkey vulture and the distinctly low-altitude eyes of a snail. The narrative allows us to eavesdrop on the comically frenetic life of a squirrel and peer deep into the past with a ginkgo biloba tree. Each of these organisms has something unique to tell us about our neighborhoods and, chapter by chapter, Unseen City takes us on a journey that is part nature lesson and part love letter to the world’s urban jungles.
Note: This books comes out in April.
Far From Fair
Elana K. Arnold
Houghton Miffli Harcourt Books, hmhbooks.com
Odette Zyskowski has a list: Things That Aren’t Fair. At the top of the list is her parents’ decision to take the family on the road in an ugly RV they’ve nicknamed the Coach. There’s nothing fair about leaving California and living in the cramped Coach with her parents and exasperating younger brother, sharing one stupid cellphone among the four of them. And there’s definitely nothing fair about what they find when they reach Grandma Sissy’s house, hundreds of miles later. Most days it seems as if everything in Odette’s life is far from fair. Is there a way for her to make things right?
No Time to Cry
Vera Leinvebers, http://veraleinvebersbook.com
Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iUniverseIn her memoir, piano instructor and performer Vera Leinvebers shares her story about a child caught in the middle of the Second World War in the Baltics, and how those events would intrude upon her consciousness throughout the rest of her life.
In order to face her traumatic childhood memories, Leinvebers channels her experiences through the eyes of a young Latvian girl named Lara. The story, however, is very real, winding throughout Leinvebers’ life from age six to present day. A true testament to her survival, Leinvebers hopes to share how the harrowing ordeal shaped her personality today, and encourage readers to never give up faith in times of struggle.
The Dark Days Club
Penguin Random House, penguinrandomhouse.com
London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?
The Storyteller, The Riverman Trilogy No. 3
Farrar Straus Grioux, mackids.com
Keri Cleary is worried about her brother, Alistair. As the one witness to a shooting, he has been shocked into near silence. But Keri – and everyone else – needs to know the answers to three questions: Who shot Kyle Dwyer? Where is Charlie Dwyer? What does this all have to do with the disappearance of Fiona Loomis? Perhaps the answers lie in stories. As Alistair makes strange confessions to his sister, Keri becomes inspired. She tells stories, tales that may reveal hidden truths, fiction that may cause real things to happen. In the concluding volume of the Riverman Trilogy, readers are asked to consider the source of inspiration, the borders of reality, and the power of storytelling.
Walking the Stones of Time
Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Xlibris
The story unfolds as a young man makes it his mission to free a beautiful young girl from slavery. What follows is an adventurous story of deceit and betrayal overcome by courage, resolve and fidelity despite overwhelming odds.