I was pretty excited to hear insidetoronto.com blogger Natasha Sharma had a book coming out. And there is no better person to speak out kindness than Sharma, who graciously answered my long list of questions after just having a second child. Congrats.

Congratulations on your book. You must be so excited. What is your favourite part about being a published author?
Thank you, it is exciting! And thank you for taking the time to chat with me about The Kindness Journal. I would have to say that my favourite aspect about publishing this book – and one of the reasons I wrote it to begin with – is the opportunity it provides to help people live better lives by sharing things I have learned over the years, not just from my time in clinical practice but also from just simply living life and observing how we interact and relate to one another as human beings. From understanding what truly lies at the heart of happiness. Not everyone has the means or time to attend regular counselling or therapy sessions to take the important time to work on their mental self. I wrote The Kindness Journal partly as a way for all people to have access to a very efficient tool that really works to help increase one’s personal sense of happiness and well-being. I believe everyone should be able to easily access that kind of tool.

I thought it was interesting you wanted to teach your son kindness. Is this something you teach or something you show by your actions?

It’s definitely both. Kindness – both to oneself and to others – is very much a teachable skill. And our actions are arguably much more powerful in influencing our emotions than our thoughts are. Teaching anything to anyone is a two-way process. One part of this process is didactic: The more knowledgeable or skilled person (parent/caregiver/other) instructs and talks about what it is to practice kindness with the less skilled person (child). The other part of teaching involves modelling the behaviour yourself. How can you effectively teach something to someone if you don’t believe in it yourself? Learning something also requires the person to be motivated by some gain they will ultimately receive by acquiring the knowledge. In this case, the feelings of happiness and increased social connection (among a myriad of other benefits) that result from practicing kindness are powerful motivators for anyone. That’s why The Kindness Journal is so neat; it’s a simple but powerful way to happiness by teaching ourselves the practice of kindness and building it into each day.

Why did you decide this was the type of book (journal with information) you wanted to write? Did anything happen to you to make you decide you want to publish a book?
As I say right off the top of the book, I was inspired to write this book after I had my first son. We need more kindness in today’s world. And I have seen and experienced first hand the positive and contagious effects of being around people who are constantly kind. When I had my son, I realized that more than anything – aside from his being in good general health – I wished for him to be a kind human being. Whatever role I could play in that process is what interested me and ultimately led me to write this book. I chose to create a Guided Journal because it’s a simple format that distills the science and research behind kindness and happiness into an engaging read, and because I want readers to achieve maximum daily benefits with minimal time and effort put behind it. Each day’s guided entries should take approximately six minutes in total to complete.

Do you journal? Have you always journaled? When do you journal? What is the importance of journaling?
I have tried several formats of journaling in the past including trying to write down what I had dreamed upon waking up (easier said than done!), single line per day journals and the proverbial ‘blank page’ approach, which, after staring at it long enough realizing I couldn’t consistently commit to filling up the space with my narrative each day, I gave up. That’s why The Kindness Journal works so well. The daily entries are short enough to keep you committed and accountable, but also substantial enough to be highly effective. I write my journal every day before I go to sleep. It’s built into my nightly routine. The secret to our well-being really is in the little things we do each day, so it’s important to journal every day. Habits provide structure around our daily lives and enormously influence how we feel. Studies show that writing a journal every day is one of the most beneficial things we can add to our daily routine.

You suggested anyone who can read or write should use this journal. Why is it important for children to record memories of kindness – both to themselves, to others and receiving kindness?
Kindness helps people to connect with one another. When we are young, we are still developing our core personalities and social connectedness. Some of that is determined by our genetic makeup, but a lot of our development is determined by the environment to which we are exposed and the behaviours we undertake. It’s so important for children to develop functional and positive behaviours from an early age because it becomes more difficult (though not nearly impossible) to do so later in life. Recording memories of kind acts, in addition to planning and carrying out our own acts of kindness, has consistently been shown in research to increase happiness and social satisfaction – for people at most ages. The Kindness Journal is suitable for people aged 12 years and up.

Before your book, were you recording bits of kindness in your regular journal?
I wasn’t physically recording them, like The Kindness Journal guides you to do. But at some point I did start mentally recording them. I forced myself to become more tuned in and aware of small things people did around me, intentionally noticing things like people holding doors open for me, offering to help me carry something, letting me cut into a turning lane on the road. And this did have a positive effect, filling me with more gratitude. However the act of recording these daily events by journaling them was far more powerful. The Kindness Journal is based on the core principles of positive psychology and also includes an “acting as if” entry, “things I’m proud of” entry, and a “reliving your favourite moment” of the day entry.

You are suggesting people write in your journal daily for four months. Why?
I am actually suggesting people write in The Kindness Journal each day for the rest of their lives. However I realize a book can only be so long, and I also did not want to deter readers by starting them off with a life-long commitment. Studies also show that starting smaller is better when it comes to tackling change and a healthy new routine. I thought four months was just the right amount of time to realize how very beneficial this journal is, but you certainly do not need to wait until the end of the fourth month to feel those benefits. You’ll feel a difference after your first day’s entry, and better every day thereafter.

What do you hope people get from this journal?
By using the journal, I hope people will learn how to embrace and integrate kindness into their every day lives. The literature is pretty clear on how practicing kindness benefits us: More positive mental state, stronger relationships with others, increased self-esteem, increased compassion and empathy, more confidence, feeling a higher sense of purpose in life, having more energy, increased productivity and creativity…it’s quite a list! Most of all, I hope for people to cultivate a new way of life that leads to a more positive mindset by reading and writing the journal, so they can be happier and live more satisfying lives.

What was one of your favourite kindness moments you did for others? What was your favourite kindness moment that happened to you?
I’m not sure if it’s a favourite moment, but this is a recent one that sticks out. I was in Las Vegas with my husband for a getaway and we had minutes to spare before catching the taxi for our plane home. We hadn’t gambled at all our whole visit, so I threw some money down on the roulette table for fun as we waited. I won about $40, which would have come in handy for our cab fare. When I cashed in the chips, there was a cleaning lady standing next to the cashier. She smiled at me and said “nice job!” I took the $40 and gave it to her. Being kind doesn’t have to involve giving money away. And it doesn’t have to involve sacrificing something of your own or making yourself or situation somehow worse off to help someone else (I hadn’t; that money was moot – I had won it). Although that might be the case sometimes, kind moments are simply moments where we give to others – physically, mentally, or spiritually – without any conditions. That’s all.

What is the simplest act of kindness people can do to one another.
Absolutely hands down the simplest acts of kindness people can do for one another are to smile, say hello, be friendly and caring. You don’t have to bend over backwards or sell your soul to be kind. Spend time in a children’s hospital if you want to see the simplest and most powerful acts of kindness all day long. The people there are trained to religiously be sweet and compassionate to everyone at all times, because they know some of the other people there might be having the worst day of their entire lives. You won’t believe the effect it will have on you. Any razor-ish ‘edge’ will be checked at the door the moment you’re immersed in that kind of environment.

Being kind to yourself is also key in your book. What do you do to show kindness to yourself? Do you show kindness to yourself on a daily basis?
It’s so key! For myself it can range from the simplest of things like an extra long hot shower, splurging on a nice body wash, watching a great movie. And never underestimate the ‘do good-ing’ a glass of good red wine can offer! But there are other things too, like not allowing myself to feel guilty about something I had no control over, or ensuring I have healthy boundaries with someone in a relationship. At times, practicing kindness to myself has necessitated terminating certain relationships in my life. I do try to show myself kindness every day. Writing in The Kindness Journal every day is one of the easiest and quickest ways.

You are an incredibly busy person, how do you make time to be kind to yourself?
Well I’ve literally just had my second child (late June) so in addition to being a mom of boys (which I adore), I continue to run my psychotherapy, psychology and assessment clinic NKS Therapy in Toronto. I am also finishing up my Psy.D (Doctor of Psychology), which will take another 1.5 years, and my writing and media appearances also keep me quite busy. I love it all though, it never feels like work. I took some time off before I had my baby just now and finally dabbled in some photography classes. They were amazing! I’ve been wanting to learn how to take better shots for ages and finally did it!

Anything else you would like to say?
Being kind has sort of a ‘bad rep.’ People associate kindness with being a pansy or a pushover. That’s not what it’s about at all, and it is not what The Kindness Journal promotes. Kindness is about intentional and thoughtful action, and we cannot please everybody in life. The first person we need to be kind to and take care of is ourselves, and that may involve decisions that other people disagree with or feel unhappy about. Those reactions are their own, and being kind means trusting in yourself and what you think is best as well. Being kind doesn’t mean never getting angry, feeling frustrated, or saying a resounding “No” sometimes. Being kind is to be a human. In my book, I define being kind as holding yourself, your choices, and your actions to a set of standards that allow you to move through life with class, grace, and peace of mind. It’s always cool (never cruel) to be kind.


The Kindness Journal
Natasha Sharma, https://www.amazon.com/Kindness-Journal-Minutes-Your-Happiest/dp/099519730X?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc?
Editor’s Note: I enjoyed the information at the beginning of the book and the easy-to-fill out spots. I didn’t do it for four months, but I did it for a few days – I know, it is not yet a habit, but I will get back to it.

Made in Canada
Brace for Impact

Air Crashes and Aviation Safety
Peter Pigott
Dundurn, https://www.dundurn.com/books/Brace-Impact
The history of air accidents is a harrowing one. Yet today flying is the safest mode of transportation, thanks in no small part to the work of crash detectives. Whenever a plane falls from the sky, the investigators pick through the wreckage for the clues they need to decipher what happened to that flight. Before the invention of the ‘black box’ and the evolution of forensic accident investigation, the causes often remained a mystery. Since the Wright brothers first took flight, aircraft design, pilot training, aircraft maintenance, and air traffic control have all evolved to current standards of safety. Because of lessons learned from tragedies such as what befell the Comets in the 1950s, the Douglas DC-10s in the 1970s, and ill-fated Air India, TWA, and Swissair flights, flight safety continues to improve. In many ways, the history of aviation is the history of air crash investigation.
Editor’s Note: What a cool book, although also rather scary. I didn’t read the chapters dealing with the early days of air flight, but loved the pictures including information about the JN-4s, which crashed with regularity. According to the book, as pilots were considered more valuable then their students, the teachers sat in the back seat as when these aircraft crashed, they did so nose down, smashing the pilot (or in this case, the student) into a hot engine. Good to know. And did you know that Billy Bishop and William Barker refused to be tested for their pilot licenses and were quietly granted the permission to fly by the Air Board without doing either? In the 1930s, crews and passengers had to breathe oxygen at 9,000 feet (there was no pressurization), with flight attendants personally strapping the rubber masks around the head of each passenger. How airline travel has changed. I found I read more information about flights that crashed in the modern day of flight. I found myself pulled into to investigator’s words – what job that must be. I know there really aren’t that many crashes when based on how many flights there are, but it is still scary when oftentimes it seems crashes are caused by pilot or manufacturer’s error. You are at the mercy of both. Scary.

Building a Healthy Child
Melina Roberts, ND
True Directions, iUniverse, iuniverse.com
Many parents feed their children as if they’re adults, without ever thinking that perhaps they should not be eating like a fully-grown adult. The truth is, however, that organs and body systems mature at different times, which means nutrition needs at different ages vary. This guidebook helps promote optimal health in infants and toddlers.
Editor’s Note: There is a lot of information in this paperback book. It’s a great start for people looking for information regarding mother’s supplements during breastfeeding and problem foods (formula included) to introducing solid foods and the liver and toxins. There is a number of great recipes with in the book (no pictures, black and white) that sound delicious including gluten-free Brazilian cheese bread, nut-free granola bars and rainbow quinoa salad. For those who have babies, there are alternative recipes to formula and recipes for babies to three year olds.

Five Roses
Alice Zorn
Dundurn, https://www.dundurn.com/books/Five-Roses
Fara and her husband buy a house with a disturbing history that reawakens memories of her own family tragedy. Maddy still lives in the house, once a hippie commune, where her daughter was kidnapped 27 years ago. Rose grew up isolated with her mother in the backwoods north of Montreal. Now in the city, she questions the silence and deception that shaped her upbringing. Fara, Maddy and Rose meet in Montreal’s historic Pointe St-Charles, a rundown neighbourhood on the cusp of gentrification. Against a backdrop of abandonment, loss and revitalization, the women must confront troubling secrets in order to rebuild their lives.Zorn deftly interweaves the rich yet fragile lives of three very different people into a story of strength and friendship.
Editor’s Note: What a fantastic read. I loved all the characters found in this book. They were authentic, different and wonderful. I was sad the book had to come to a close and part of me wishes it would go on so I could see how the future for these strong women plays out.

Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles

Shari Green
Pajama Press, Pajamapress.ca
Eleven-year-old Bailey believes in miracles. She has to; it will take a miracle to keep her warring parents together. This summer they are at a Marriage Counselling camp, leaving Bailey and her little brother Kevin with their estranged grandmother in the island town of Felicity Bay. There, an eccentric deposed minister makes a prophecy that a stranger from the sea will change everything. When Bailey discovers a mermaid-shaped piece of driftwood, she begins to believe that the mermaid is this stranger from the sea. Then, when a dolphin becomes stranded on the beach, Bailey forgets her own troubles and rouses the reluctant locals into action.
Editor’s Note: This book written in “lyrical free verse”. I really liked this book. It was a nice story that makes you long for the carefree days of summer spent by the ocean. Great characters and a wonderful story.

Sea Change
Frank Viva
Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca
One summer can change your whole life. As soon as school lets out, Eliot’s parents send him to the very edge of the world: a fishing village in a remote part of Nova Scotia. And what does the small town of Point Aconi have to offer? Maggots, bullies and grumpy old men. But along the way, Eliot discovers much more – a hidden library, starry nights and a mysterious girl named Mary Beth.
Editor’s Note: While there are several parts in this book that I didn’t think was necessary (and played havoc on my weak stomach), I quite enjoyed this book. I liked how the a remote small town in Nova Scotia, the sea and its people – grew on Eliot. Great story, quick read, and one that I plan to read to my son when he is a bit older. The illustrations weren’t to my style, but I liked how they were mixed in with the story.

The Great Atlantic Canada Bucket List
Robin Esrock
The Great Atlantic Canada Bucket List highlights the best travel experiences to be had on Canada’s East Coast. Not your typical travel guide, Escrock’s recommendations encompass outdoor adventure and natural wonders as well as the unique food, culture, and history of the Maritimes. Categorized by province.
Editor’s Note: We are heading to New Brunswick for our summer vacation this year and I have a list of things I want to do that is already two pages long. This book is perfect to add unique experiences to our already-packed agenda.

The Most Heartless Town in Canada
Elaine McCluskey
Anvil Press, anvilpress.com
The story starts with a newspaper photo taken in an obscure Nova Scotia town after the murder of eight bald eagles. The bizarre photo wins a contest and, over time, the unidentified girl in the foreground becomes, like Diane Arbus’s Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, infamous. Rita Van Loon decides, after seven painful years, to explain herself and the events surrounding the murders.
Editor’s Note: My seven-year-old son thought the fact the man on the front cover’s shirt said I’m With Stupid was the funniest thing he had ever seen. I had to explain to him how this one shirt changed this one character’s life. While Rita’s character was OK. I was more interested in Hubert’s story.

The Tea Book
Linda Gaylard
DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca
Where does tea come from? In The Tea Book learn where in the world tea is cultivated and how to drink each variety at its best, with steeping notes and step-by-step recipes.
Editor’s Note: So much information in this book by Canada’s tea sommelier. The information is presented in a way that is easy to read – each page has a variety of information presented in a different way. An information graph that shows you the trip tea takes from plantation to your pot; pages of different types of teas with photos for each kind; quick hits to tell you how to store tea; maps; real pictures; graphics (teacups from around the world) is presented so you can get a lot of information out of this book. There is a whole section of recipes including how to make bubble tea (I am still not convinced it is good, although it does sound interesting to make) and a rooibooze, a tea twist to a martini.

The Worm
Elise Gravel
Tundra Books, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca
The second in a series of humorous books about disgusting creatures, The Worm is a look at the earthworm. It covers such topics as the worm’s habitats (sometimes they live inside other animals), its anatomy (its muscle tube is slimy and gross), and its illustrious history (worms have been on earth for 120 million years). Although silly and off-the-wall, The Worm contains real information that will tie in with curriculum.
Editor’s Note: We love Elise Gravel’s Disgusting Critters series. We actually read The Fly (The Fly is a look at the common housefly. It covers such topics as the hair on the fly’s body, its ability to walk on the ceiling (it’s pretty cool and its really disgusting food tastes – garbage juice soup followed by dirty diaper with rotten tomato sauce, for example) and The Slug (It covers such topics as the slug’s two pairs of tentacles, one pair for seeing, one pair for smelling, its breathing hole on the side of its head, and its pretty gross mucous covering – in order to find a partner, the slug can follow another slug’s mucous trail) truly disgusting critters, before reading the worm. I actually said to my seven year olds that I don’t find worms gross at all. That was until I read the book and found out there are giant worms around. Now that is disgusting.

Other Made in Canada books
Dan Vs. Nature

Dan Calame – Canadian author
Candlewick Press, penguinrandomhouse.com
Shy and scrawny, Dan Weekes spends his time creating graphic novels inspired by his dream girl and looking out for his mom as she dates every man in the state of California. Then his mom drops a bomb: she and her latest beau, Hank, are engaged, and she’s sending her “two favorite men” on a survivalist camping trip to “bond.” Determined to trick Hank into showing his true — flawed — colors on the trip, Dan and his nerdy germaphobe best friend, Charlie, prepare a series of increasingly gross and embarrassing pranks. But the boys hadn’t counted on a hot girl joining their trip or on getting separated from their wilderness guide—not to mention the humiliating injuries Dan suffers in the course of terrorizing his stepdad-to-be. With a man-hungry bear on their trail, no supplies, and a lot of unpleasant itching going on, can Dan see his plan through now that his very survival depends on Hank?

ONE ~ The Power of One Step
Kellie McNabb
Now Available on Amazon & Chapters/Indigo
ONE ~ The Power of One Step is the true story of a woman who thinks that becoming an Ironman will put all of the pieces of her divorced, broken, needy life back together again but with a little faith, trust and love discovers so much more.

Coding With Scratch Made Easy: The Basics, Projects and Games

DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca
Developed in consultation with leading educational experts, Coding With Scratch Made Easy is designed for children ages nine to 11 and packed with exercises and activities to teach computer coding using Scratch, a free coding program from MIT developed especially for children. With easy-to-follow instructions and Minecraft-style illustrations, Coding With Scratch Made Easy is the perfect introductory practice book to build and sharpen vital skills in one of the fastest growing industries.
Editor’s Note: My seven year old received Super Scratch Programming Adventure from his uncle for Christmas. When DK Books asked me if I would like to try out their programming book, I had to say yes. I didn’t realize beginning coding for kids all started with Scratch, a type of programming language that allows children to join coloured blocks together, creating basic programs. Scratch is free. My son has used Made Easy books before and he loves it. He loves that there are gold star stickers for each page so as he finishes one project, he can star it and move on. He immediately started to write his own program, making a puppy move closer to his water dish (which my son drew) and saying hello.

DK Big Fantastic Earth
Level 4
DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca
Explore the highest peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the deep grooves of the Grand Canyon, and discover how the incredible landscapes around the world were formed. Big Fantastic Earthtakes readers on an exciting journey around the world’s incredible natural architecture. Perfect for nine to 11 year olds reading independently, reading becomes a fact-discovering adventure with these Level 4 readers.
Editor’s Note: OK, I admit it. There is too much information in this book. I think I prefer the fast facts of other DK Books. But as always, the pictures are beautiful.

DK Sea Otters
Level 1
Get a close-up look at the lives of sea otters and watch them eat, play, groom and dive together. Filled with bold, adorable images of these aquatic creatures in their natural habitat, Sea Ottersexplores a day in the life of these furry, whiskered marine mammals. Perfect for three to five year olds learning to read, Level 1 titles contain short, simple sentences with an emphasis on frequently used words. Stunning photographic images with labels provide visual clues to introduce and reinforce vocabulary.
Editor’s Note: We recently went to the Toronto Zoo and my seven-year-old son spent about a hour and took dozens of pictures of the river otters. So when I had a chance to get a book out sea otters, I thought he would be so excited – he wasn’t, but I suspect it might be the fact I made him read it himself rather than me read to him. Personally,I thought the pictures adorable and there was lots of information.

Sharks and Other Deadly Creatures, Visual Encyclopedia Encyclopedia
DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca
Brought to life with cutting-edge CGI technology, more than 200 sharks and fierce fish are featured in highly visual profiles. From great white sharks to barracudas, children can explore dangerous waters with age-appropriate texts and photographs. Compare different ocean habitats, body sizes, tails, and more in the eight chapters that cover the different classifications of sharks, including bullhead sharks, ground sharks, and carpet sharks.
Editor’s Note: You can sink into the pages of this book and come up hours later with information about creatures you didn’t know existed suck as the Velvet-Belly, which has 21 pups in a litter and is covered with photophores, lanterns that may help to dazzle prey or confuse bigger predators. About 41 centimetres long, it lives in deep waters of the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Its eyes make it obvious it doesn’t see much light. Learned a couple new things about my favourite creepy creature of the deep – the anglerfish has paddle-like pelvic and pectoral fins that help it ‘walk’ on the ocean floor and its stomach expands to fit in extra-big prey. Yuck. There are two or four creatures (there are some shrimp and other sea creatures in here, too) to each double page spread with information about each. Found out the Galapagos shark, which can be found throughout the world and not just on the Galapagos Islands, may hunch its back to threaten nearby divers. Fun.

Spell Check, Canadian edition
DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca
Mastering the ability to spell English words correctly can be a difficult and frustrating task for young students. DK’s new Spell Check gives kids a fun way to practise spelling. From homophones and contractions to how to use a dictionary, Spell Check covers all the spelling rules and exceptions your child needs to know, with loads of tips and tricks to help them spell correctly. Learn the tough words like “elephant” and “telephone,” and remember which words have tricky plural endings. Spell Check is so much more than “i before e!”
Editor’s Note: As my seven-year-old son is in French immersion and learning the basics in French, this book is amazingly helpful. While I do copy editing for a living, I don’t remember all of the rules. I just know how to do it. This book is a great reminder of all the rules and why we do things the way we do. While I am pretty excited by it, my son grudgingly does the work for me. He hasn’t got to the fun parts yet – word art and mixed up pictures.

Smithsonian Maker Lab, 28 Super Cool Projects
DK Books, http://www.dk.com/ca
Created in association with the Smithsonian Institution and supporting STEM education initiatives, Maker Lab includes 28 kid-safe projects and crafts that will get young inventors’ wheels turning and make science pure fun. Each step-by-step activity is appropriate for kids ages eight to 12 and ranked easy, medium or hard, with an estimated time frame for completion. Requiring only household materials, young makers can build an exploding volcano, race balloon rocket cars, construct a solar system, make a lemon battery and more. Photographs and facts carefully detail the “why” and “how” of each experiment using real-world examples to provide context so kids can gain a deeper understanding of the scientific principles applied.
Editor’s Note: This book goes beyond simply listing an experiement and how to make it, but gives you step-by-step information on why it works and the science behind it. I can’t wait for my son to try to make a waterwheel, a fabulous filter, a jungle in a bottle, baked Alaskan. The first thing he wanted to make was the slime, of course. This one uses shampoo and cornstarch rather than Borax I need to find light-sensitive paper – the prints are beautiful.

The Big Book of Activities Totally Toronto
Peg Connery-Boyd
Decode secret messages; connect the dots to find hidden images; solve mazes and crossword and more.
Editor’s Note: The book is pretty fun, althouh the crossword is too hard for my seven year old. I was pretty excited. Not only do I know Toronto, I can finally complete a crossword puzzle. This is a great book to take on long car trips.

Turn to Learn Multiplication
DK Books
Young students can test themselves by spinning the wheel built right into the book’s cover and watching the times tables appear. On each page in the book, readers will then find great tips and tricks to help memorize times tables from one to 12. Turn to Learn Multiplication uses various techniques such as number grids, times tables charts, tips and memory clues, and number lines to help reinforce the times tables until young readers have them memorized.
Editor’s Note: This book makes me anxious and proves to me why I dislike math so much. Thankfully, my seven year old doesn’t have the same loathing as I do and he was so exited for this book. There was a lot of ‘wows’ coming from him as he flipped the pages and turned the wheel. He created charts, explained how he got his multiplication numbers and just enjoyed a book about math.

Other learning books
Guinness World Records 2016, Gamer’s Edition

With a mega Minecraft Section
The bestselling video games annual is back! Bursting with mind-blowing records and tantalizing trivia, the Guinness World Records 2016: Gamer’s Edition is a must-have for any gaming fan. Whether you’re all about the latest first-person shooter, an app aficionado, an MMO master, or a die-hard retro gamer, you’ll find show-stopping records, top 10 roundups, quick-fire facts and stats, and hundreds of amazing new images from all your favorite games. What’s more, brand new for this year’s book is a dedicated section just for Minecraft fans, with a mega-showcase of the greatest construction records, in-game tips and lots more blocky goodness.

Summer Reads
All is Not Forgotten

Wendy Walker
In the small, affluent town of Fairview, Conn., everything seems picture perfect. Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world. As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town – or perhaps lives among them – drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.
St. Martin’s Press, us.macmillan.com/publishers/st-martins-press
Editor’s Note: What a great book. The book kept me reading almost to the end, but grudgingly. I was so mad about the choice the doctor made that I didn’t think I could keep reading, but I did. It is also a disturbing read – without giving away anything – it makes you wonder, and be incredibly scared. My niece wondered why I had two bookmarks going while reading and I told her that I marked a chapter I wanted to go back and re-read. Re-reading parts in what I call “summer read” books, books meant to read fast, doesn’t happen. But there are many parts in this book that I thought what the psychiatrist said was not only really smart, but worth remembering. The part that really struck me was: “I know I belabor this analogy, but I have come to see these teenage years as a construction project. I tell my young patients, and my own children, that this is not their life. Not yet. What they are doing now is building a house. It is a house they will have to live in for the rest of their lives, so they better get it right. They will be able to remodel, redecorate, and repair. But they can never rebuild. Everything they put in this house, every emotional scar from a bad relationship, every sexual perversion they give in to, every opportunity they secure for themselves, every drug they allow to interrupt the maturing of their growing brains, will be forever in the foundation of that house.”

Julia Vanishes
Catherine Egan
Doubleday Canada, penguinrandomehouse.ca
Julia has the unusual ability to be unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses. It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned – crime pays. In her latest job, Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding – though from what or whom? Worse, Julia suspects that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.
Editor’s Note: The book got off to a slow start by my standards, but by Page 64 I was pulled right into to Julia’s world and didn’t stop reading until the book was done. I liked that it was set on Earth in an earlier time, but still a fantasy world. It’s a neat mix.

The A to Z of you and Me
James Hannah
Sourcebooks sourcebooks.com
He has all kinds of everyday joy in his life – he’s young, he’s in love, he has friends who promise to stand by him if life ever goes wrong. Then one day, life does go wrong. He makes a mistake, and it’s big and unforgiveable. Now time is running out, and his life is falling apart. But he’s going to put it back together again. His own way. This is a story about how far love must stretch to gather a life in pieces – and about how a strong friendship never dies.
Editor’s Note: I find writing a review of this book rather hard. It’s a good book, and one worth reading. The story flows from present to past using letters of the alphabet connected to body parts and the memories associated with them. But it is a sad one, and an ending that is heartbreaking, but perfect (if you don’t try to think beyond the story).

The Big Bucket List Book, 133 Experiences of a Lifetime
Gin Sander
Sourcebooks, sourcebooks.com
The Big Bucket List Book will transform the way you look at the world and the power you have to achieve your dreams. In this charming and practical collection, Gin Sander offers over 130 fresh ideas for infusing your life with a bit of glamor, adventure, and style for every budget and adventure level,
Editor’s Note: What I like about this Bucket List is that it goes beyond jumping from an airplane or traveling the world on foot. I am definitely past both of those desires if, indeed, I really wanted to do them for more than a passing moment. This list is doable – from the annual Audubon bird count, to deaccession (or giving something up), to being a hero by signing up for a CPR class  and starting a humanitarian movement. There are also things like seeing the world by horseback or participating in a vintage bike race in Tuscany. I will be crossing off one thing from the book this summer (fingers crossed) – rekindle memories (for me) and creating memories for my son of the sea.

The Muse
Jessie Burton
HarperCollins, https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062409928/the-muse
The story of two young women – a Caribbean immigrant in 1960s London, and a bohemian woman in 1930s Spain – and the powerful mystery that links them together. It is a vividly rendered tale of desire, ambition and the ways in which the tides of history inevitably shape and define our lives.
Editor’s Note: I couldn’t get into this book. I was enjoying the tale of the Odelle Bastien, the a Caribbean émigré trying to make her way in London, England, in 1967 at a time when being a woman was hard enough (and being a black woman was even harder), but the book didn’t pull me in right away. I am interested to know about the mystery that links Odelle and 1930s Olive Schloss together.

Children and parenting
As a Boy

Plan International
Second Story Press, http://www.secondstorypress.ca
Boys around the world are treated differently than girls just because of their gender. They are given an education and choices that girls are not, and their needs and success are often put above the needs of the girls and women in their families and communities. But boys are also given special burdens. They are expected to “be a man”, to work, to fight, to be brave. Once again amazing photographs from Plan International are paired with simple text to convey a message: that boys want to see the same choices and freedoms that they have been granted being given equally to the girls and women in their lives. As a Boy is a perfect companion to Because I am a Girl: I Can Change the World.
Editor’s Note: I really enjoyed this book as it showed by seven year old that many boys around the world have to worry and do things he himself doesn’t have to worry about. At the same time, it empowers boys to stand up for all the girls in their life.

Counting with Barefoot Critters
Teagan White
Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca
What is a day of counting with Barefoot Critters?
Making pancakes
Helping friends
Playing pirates
Learningabout numbers!
Editor’s Note: What a different counting book. This one has a real story that flows from page to page, number to number all the way up to 12 – with an extra page to wrap up the story. The illustrations are lovely as well. While my son is well beyond counting books, this one is one I don’t mind reading over and over.

Helping Children Succeed
What Works and Why

Paul Tough
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, http://www.hmhco.com/
Now, in Helping Children Succeed, Paul Tough takes on a new set of pressing questions: What does growing up in poverty do to children’s mental and physical development? How does adversity at home affect their success in the classroom, from preschool to high school? And what practical steps can the adults who are responsible for them-from parents and teachers to policy makers and philanthropists-take to improve their chances for a positive future?
Editor’s Note: I couldn’t get into this book. It was too academia for my liking. I just wanted the author to tell me what I was doing right, or conversely what I might be doing wrong. I guess I am looking for the Cole’s Notes rather than prove of his opinion.

Nobody Likes a Goblin
Ben Hatke
First Second, http://us.macmillan.com/nobodylikesagoblin/benhatke
Goblin, a cheerful little homebody, lives in a cosy, rat-infested dungeon, with his only friend, Skeleton. Every day, Goblin and Skeleton play with the treasure in their dungeon. But one day, a gang of “heroic” adventurers bursts in. These marauders trash the place, steal all the treasure, and make off with Skeleton—leaving Goblin all alone! It’s up to Goblin to save the day. But first he’s going to have to leave the dungeon and find out how the rest of the world feels about goblins.
Editor’s Note: What a great book. I love the illustrations, which are different from most you see. What a beautiful book about friendship.

Old MacDonald Had a Truck
Steve Goetz
chronicle kids, chroniclekids.com
Old MacDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O. And on that farm he had a… TRUCK?! With a DIG DIG here and a SCOOP SCOOP there, this classic folk song just got revved up! Beloved machines-the excavator, dump truck, bulldozer, and more-will have the vehicle-obsessed of all ages reading and singing along.
Editor’s Note: When we finished reading it, my seven year old paused and said “well…that was weird”. I am not sure how I felt. I liked that it was different from the traditional telling of Old MacDonald had a farm, but still found it way too long. I liked new song, and the illustrations. My truck-loving five-year-old nephew liked it better.

Playing from the Heart
Peter H. Reynolds
Candlewick Press, candlewick.com
When a young boy begins to play on his family’s piano, reveling in the fun of plunking the keys, his father signs him up for lessons so that he can learn to play properly. With his father’s encouragement, Raj learns notes, then scales, then songs, and finally classical pieces that his father can recognize and be proud of. But the more Raj practices and the more skilled he becomes, the less he enjoys playing, until he grows up and stops playing altogether. But when his father becomes ill and asks Raj to play for him, will Raj remember how to play from the heart?
Editor’s Note: What a beautiful book and a wonderful story – a realistic one as well. I am not sure if my seven year old got the point, but his mother sure did. Just because someone loves to do something doesn’t mean that person immediately needs lessons to make him better. The best things come from just letting one be.

Other Children’s Books
Feathered (chapter)

Deborah Kerbel
KCP Fiction, kidscanpress.com
“When I was three years old, Mom plucked a curly white feather out of my neck. If I get scared or the loneliness comes over me, I run my fingertip over the tiny scar and dream about the day the rest of my feathers will grow in. That’s the day I’ll fly away from here.” For 11-year-old Finch, there couldn’t be a better time to fly away from her life. Her dad died last year and her mom hasn’t been the same since, her best friend dropped her and her brother’s awful classmate is too mean for words. But when a girl named Pinky moves in next door, a girl from India who also doesn’t seem to fit in, Finch feels a flicker of hope that her life might just be turning around. And when something terrible happens and it seems Finch may be the only one who can help her new friend, she comes to understand that flying is not the answer – sometimes right where you are is the best place to be.

Raising Stress-Proof Kids, Parenting Today for Children for Tomorrow’s World
Shelley Davidow
Familius, http://www.familius.com/
Drawing on cutting edge research from the Institute of HeartMath, California, as well as Shelley Davidow’s extensive experience in working with children and teens, Raising Stress-Proof Kids explores the powerful and potentially long-term effects of stress on our children. Most importantly, it offers simple but effective steps that parents can take to minimize the impact of stress at home and at school. These include tools from the author’s Restorative Parenting Toolbox,” empowering parents with the necessary skills.

The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting, How the Science of Strategic Thinking Can Help You Deal with the Toughest Negotiators You Know – Your Kids
Paul Raeburn and Kevin Zollman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, http://www.fsgbooks.com/
As every parent knows, kids are surprisingly clever negotiators. But how can we avoid those all-too-familiar wails of “That’s not fair!” and “You can’t make me!”? In The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting, the award-winning journalist and father of five Paul Raeburn and the game theorist Kevin Zollman pair up to highlight tactics from the worlds of economics and business that can help parents break the endless cycle of quarrels and ineffective solutions.

Why Can’t We Just Play
Pam Lobley
Familius, http://www.familius.com/
Facing summer with her two boys, ages ten and seven, Pam Lobley was sifting through signups for swim team, rec camp, night camp, scout camp, and enrichment classes. Overwhelmed at the choices, she asked her sons what they wanted to do during summer: Soccer? Zoo School? Little Prodigy’s Art Club?” “Why can’t we just play?” they asked.

Dandelion & Quince, Exploring the Wide World of Unusual Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs

Michelle McKenzie
Roost Books, roostbooks.com
Strolling through your local farmers’ market or grocery store, you’re familiar with the standard produce—the autumn kale and heirloom apples, the eagerly awaited peaches and tomatoes of high summer – and you know how to make the most of them. But what about the nettles, kumquats, green garlic, and quince? For those with a curious palate there is a world of beautifully simple yet overlooked ingredients to be discovered and enjoyed.
Editor’s Note: I really enjoy Roost cookbooks. They are different from other cookbooks out there, but designed the same way (or at least that has been the case with the last two I have receive). While not every recipe has a photo, which I think is important to a cookbook, the use of white space, font size and colour makes it a beautiful book to flip through and read. What makes this cookbook particularly interesting to read is that it uses ingredients you don’t often see featured in a book such as fava leaves; fennel fronds, flowers and pollen; nettles; and dandelion. The recipes sound delicious, and the pictures that are featured look pretty fantastic, too.

Other reads
Fifteen Lanes

S.J. Laidlaw
Tundra books, penguinrandomhouse.com
Noor has lived all of her fourteen years in the fifteen lanes of Mumbai’s red light district. Born into a brothel, she is destined for the same fate as her mother: a desperate life trapped in the city’s sex trade. She must act soon to have any chance of escaping this grim future. Across the sprawling city, 15-year-old Grace enjoys a life of privilege. Her father, the CEO of one of India’s largest international banks, has brought his family to Mumbai where they live in unparalleled luxury. But Grace’s seemingly perfect life is shattered when she becomes a victim of a cruel online attack. When their paths intersect, Noor and Grace will be changed forever. Can two girls living in vastly different worlds find a common path?

Finding Audrey
Sophie Kinsella
Penguin Random House, penguinrandomhouse.com
An anxiety disorder disrupts 14-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

My Lady Jane
Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Medaows
epicreads.com, HarperCollins.ca
At 16, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim
Shane Peacock
Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca
Edgar Brim is a sensitive orphan who, exposed to horror stories from his father as a young child, is afraid of almost everything and suffers from nightly terrors. His stern new guardian, Mr. Thorne, sends the boy to a gloomy school in Scotland where his dark demons only seem to worsen and he is bullied and ridiculed for his fears. But years later, when 16-year-old Edgar finds a journal belonging to his novelist father, he becomes determined to confront his nightmares and the bullies who taunt him. After the horrific death of a schoolmate, Edgar becomes involved with an eccentric society at the urging of a mysterious professor who believes that monsters from famous works of literature are real and whose mandate is to find and destroy these creatures. With the aid of a rag-tag crew of friends, the fear-addled teen sets about on his dark mission, one that begins in the cemetery on the bleak Scottish moors and ends in a spine-chilling climax on the stage of the Royal Lyceum Theatre in London with Henry Irving, the infamous and magnetic actor, and his manager, Bram Stoker, the author of the most frightening and sensational novel of the day, Dracula. Can Edgar Brim truly face his terror and conquer his fears?

The Last Immortal
Alex Marlowe
In Victorian London, 13-year-old Luke dreams of joining the Immortals, a supernatural crime-fighting squad, founded by his father, the infamous Victor Frankenstein. But when Luke secretly follows the Immortals on a mission against the resurrected Dark Pharaoh Sanakhte, he is killed. Luke is preserved for 160 years before he is reanimated in the modern day by his childhood friend Evelyn and her father, Jonathan Harker—both vampires. His reconstructed body is fitted with cybernetic upgrades that make him an incredible athlete and fighter. And he’ll need them, because Sanakhte and his followers have returned. Now Luke and his friends must reunite the scattered Immortals: Raziel, a living gargoyle; Aurora Cage, a werewolf bounty hunter; and Dodger, a Victorian pickpocket cursed with eternal life. But to destroy the Dark Pharaoh, Luke must first uncover a terrible secret hidden in his past.

The Skeleth, Book 2 of the Nethergrim Epic
Matthew Jobin
Penguin Random House, penguinrandomhouse.com
In a vast kingdom divided by power-hungry lords, land equals power. With the Nethergrim now awake, her limitless wellspring of evil means opportunity for those willing to do her bidding. One ambitious Lord, eager to overthrow his counterparts and rule the north, succumbs to temptation, helping to let loose the Skeleth, forces of energy that absorb whole anyone who attempts to kill them. In this way the slain end up as slayers, a vicious cycle that never ends. Yet that will not stop young Edmund–an apprentice wizard–and his friends Katherine and Tom, from trying to stop the evil threatening to overtake their kingdom. Together, they team up with the legendary Tristan in a battle of courage, brains, determination, and sacrifice to stop the Skeleth and save the Barony of Elverain from being conquered.

This article was originally published on insidetoronto.com