Posted in picture books

Mop Rides the Waves of Life: A mindfulness story for kids

Mop Rides the Waves of Life: A Story of Mindfulness and Surfing, by Jaimal Yogis/Illustrated by Matt Allen (June 2020, Plum Blossom), $16.95, ISBN: 9781946764607

Ages 5-8

A friend of mine passed this book on to me, and I knew I had to write about it, because who couldn’t use a little more mindfulness these days? Mop is a kid with a wild mop of hair. He loves to surf, and he has a bit of a temper and a tendency to act out when he’s angry. His mom takes him to the beach and explains that he has to learn to surf life, too: “Breathing mindfully helps you notice the emotional waves inside”. She explains that he has to learn to surf those waves of fear and anger, because they will pass; when the good feelings come, to enjoy them, and when they start to ebb, keep paddling, because there are always good waves coming. Armed with this new information and linking it to his love of surfing, Mop is able to get through school interactions and enjoy his friends while being present and mindful. It’s a simply stated premise that makes for a good readaloud, and lets readers practice breathing and visualizing waves to surf during the storytime. Illustrations are soft, gently colored beach scenes and classroom scenes, a mixture of peaceful mindfulness with surfing movement. Waves take on the aggressive emotions of fear, anger, and sadness both in the water and atop Mop’s head when he’s learning to control his emotions, and he visualizes those waves turning to love, joy, and gratitude. A good book to add to your mindfulness readalouds and collections.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A Little Space for Me addresses kids’ need for their own space

A Little Space for Me, by Jennifer Gray Olson, (July 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250206268

Ages 3-6

In a story that speaks to all of us, but especially young children, A Little Space for Me is a relatable story of a little girl who needs a little space of her own from time to time. The opening sentence says it all: “Sometimes my life feels very crowded”: the art depicts a young girl sitting on a window seat of a living room, along with five other family members and a pet cat. The child’s life is crowded; her space gets too loud, messy, scratchy, bright – you get the idea. After seven months of quarantine and living in the age of the Coronavirus, this an unbelievably relatable observation. The artwork speaks volumes, showing the girl, curled into herself against the white space of the page, with a riot of color swirling around her as becomes “too much for no reason at all”. She needs space, and claims it for herself: in the story, she physically grabs the page and pulls it down, revealing a black and midnight blue stretch of our space that she puts into a bottle around her neck and claims more and more, as her need for space grows. When she decides to share her space, we see members of her family all have a piece of the space in their heads; their hair revealing the calming cosmos of space as the main character sits in a cross-legged meditation pose with her fingers in a meditation mudra.

Artwork and simple text really reaches readers in this story, made even more relevant by current events. When I first read this, pre-pandemic, I thought of many of my library families, many of whom live with extended family, which can make for crowded spaces. Reading it now, it takes on even greater relevance, as many of us are still sheltering in place, remote learning, with several family members working and attending school together in the same space. The book brings home the importance of meditation and mindfulness and the need to give kids their own space, and, even more important, to help kids understand how to recognize their need for space and ways they can claim that space. This is an excellent book to read at storytime, and an excellent companion read to Charlotte and the Quiet Place (2016) by Deborah Sosin and Leyla by Galia Bernstein (2019).

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

I Speak Peace talks mindfulness and respect for all

I Speak Peace, by Kate Carroll/Illustrated by Rainer M. Osinger, (March 2016, Ferne Press), $10.95, ISBN: 978-1-938326-46-2

Ages 6-8

I Speak Peace is a message to all from a first grade teacher who promotes peace, respect, and understanding in her classroom and wants to see that good in the world. The story is narrated by a young blond girl who talks about what peace means, and emphasizes that peace starts from within – “a feeling we have when we are calm and happy” – and how those feelings affect our outlook and how we work with others. Letting go of angry thoughts and mindful breathing come up here, teaching kids the importance of staying in touch with their own feelings. We live in a world where we may look different, speak different languages, and hold different beliefs, but we have just as much in common: we all need love; we all want to be happy; we all live on this planet, and we all need to work together to make it a better place. Kate Carroll promotes different ways of spreading peace that kids will easily recognize: smiling and listening to others; standing up for others; and being considerate are messages kids learn in their homes and classrooms, and go a long way toward making the world a better place. It’s an upbeat, positive message and it’s not that hard a message to spread. An author’s note explains how author Kate Carroll promotes peace in her classroom, and how she was moved to share her message in this contentious, high-strife society today. Kids can take a Peacemaker Pledge (nice library or classroom idea) and an original song, Peace Begins with Me, rounds out the book.

The artwork features children from different cultures and with different abilities working and playing together. The art is bright and positive, with primary colors and full-bleed pages.

I Speak Peace emphasizes an important message and makes for a good classroom, storytime, or cuddle time readaloud. I really like the Peacemaker Pledge and may put that up in my children’s room at the library at the start of the school year. You can visit Kate Carroll’s I Speak Peace page to learn more about the author and contribute your own I Speak Peace stories.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Ahmed’s Journey is a study in mindfulness

Ahmed’s Journey: A Journey of Self-Discovery, by Jill Apperson Manly, (Jan. 2019, Jabu Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-9980220-0-0

Ages 4-7

Yogi, author, teacher, and award-winning author Jill Apperson Manly creates a quietly eloquent tale of mindfulness against a backdrop of the Arabian peninsula. A boy named Amend and his family have traveled across the desert to race their camel in the famous camel races. As Ahmed feeds the camels, he start to feel anxious about the race. As he meditatively rubs his favorite camel’s ear, he stands still, in the moment, and senses his surroundings, and his place within his surroundings. He senses a sandstorm building, and notices that his anxiety is causing a storm within him, too. He breathes, he takes an inventory of himself and his emotions, and rides out both the inner and outer storms. At the story’s conclusion, Ahmed feels strong, peaceful, patient, and wise; he’s confident that everything he needs within him.

Ahmed’s Journey uses techniques to walk readers through the process of mindfulness and being present. Ms. Manly uses visual and verbal cues to help readers get in touch with all of their senses, even bringing the tactile to life as she describes the grittiness of the sand, the discomfort of anxiety, and the warmth of love. The title refers to both the outer journey Ahmed and his family make to the races, and his internal journey to inner awareness. Gentle, earth-toned watercolor illustrations create a desert landscape and present a calming influence on readers. The text is brief and impactful, making this a wonderful story to read during a yoga or mindfulness storytime. A nice add to multicultural and yoga/mindfulness collections.

 

Award-winning author of Nothando’s Journey, Jill Apperson Manly’s second book, Ahmed’s Journey, deepens the themes of exploring thoughts, emotions and sensations. Manly uses international cultural festivals to educate the reader and teach the importance of  self-love. Jill is a certified iRest® teacher and Somatic Yoga Therapist and loves sharing yoga and meditation with children and adults, coaching girls’ high school basketball, and being a mom to her four children. She lives with her husband and children in Newport Beach, CA.

 

Some questions for Jill, courtesy of JKS Communications:

How important is it for kids to explore and know their own emotions?

Jill: There is nothing more important.  It is essential to learn and value who you are.

Do you think that emotional lessons can be integrated into school studies?

Jill: Yes, Absolutely! Globally and in the U.S. we are seeing this done right now. My first book, Nothando’s Journey, is part of part of an SEL curricula created by Think Equal (www.thinkequal.com) currently in 147 schools across 15 countries. The pilot program is being evaluated by Yale Center for Emotional Learning. Kids live in present. There is no better time to discuss how a child is feeling then when  it is occuring. Of course, you cannot disrupt the class to deal with each emotion so therefore, it is better to have a set time within a lesson, for example in social science, to include a SEL lesson.

How did your experience teaching and studying in Saudi Arabia affect the writing of Ahmed’s Journey?

Jill: My overseas teaching experiences with children gave me great joy. Picking stories from “far-away places” gives a different perspective and we all benefit by learning about others. It’s fun to think about riding a camel. Kids in America don’t get to do that. It is even more fun to think about racing one!

 

 

What aspects of yoga do you bring to writing children’s books?

Jill: Yoga is seen in mainstream America as primarily a form of exercise, in my books, some of the deeper benefits of yoga or any mindful (peaceful) practice are explored.

How were the emotions and sensations that Ahmed experienced in the book reflections of your experiences traveling abroad or those of your own children?

Jill: I hope my experiences do not create experiences for others. I hope they are only a springboard for a discussion of everyone’s self potential. There is SO MUCH in our kids and in ourselves that gets stuffed down or swallowed up or is undervalued. I hope my books encourage and support kids and adults to value who they are on the inside.

Why is it important for kids to experience cultures different from their own?

Jill: We are more alike than different. As we see others, we see ourselves.

What is some advice you can give to parents who have children experiencing fear and anxiety like Ahmed?

Jill: The best advice is to have the conversation around these topics. Our children have lots of anxiety and being able to help them address their anxiety around their fears is very empowering. My website has additional resources both for the child and adult on this topic.

 

How is Ahmed’s Journey a continuation of your first book, Nothando’s Journey?

Jill: It takes kids and parents to another place in the world to learn about others and, at the same time, to learn about themselves.

Posted in picture books

Henry is Kind encourages acts of kindness

Henry is Kind: A Story of Mindfulness, by Linda Ryden/Illustrated by Shearry Malone, (Oct. 2018, Tilbury House Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 9780884486619

Ages 5-8

Henry is a young boy whose teacher, Mrs. Snowden, assigns a Kindness Project. The students have to illustrate a kind act they’ve done for someone – or something – that week. Henry’s friends all do wonderful things, like cleaning up litter, setting the table, and giving balloons to siblings, but Henry is upset because he can’t think of a single kind thing he’s done. Luckily, his friends are all there to remind him about the kind things he’s done for them, like reaching books on high shelves, sharing snacks, and talking to a new student. Mindfulness and heartfulness educator Linda Ryden’s story speaks to younger kids that may not always recognize the everyday ways they demonstrate kindness to one another. Henry is Kind encourages kids to seek out ways to be mindful and kind to one another while recognizing that even the seemingly smallest acts are meaningful, remembered, and appreciated.

Shearry Malone’s illustrations are soft and expressive, featuring a comfortable classroom decorated with encouraging slogans like, “You could play with someone who looks lonely”, “Plant kindness and gather love”, and my favorite, “Don’t believe everything you think”. There is diversity among the kids and teacher.

An author note at the end offers ways to encourage mindfulness and heartfulness, and includes a list of additional resources to explore. It’s a bit word-heavy for younger independent readers, but this would be a nice mindfulness/kindness storytime selection or book discussion choice for a school-wide reading. Author Linda Ryden’s Peace of Mind website offers training for educators and caregivers and a Peace of Mind curriculum series. Videos help show kids how to engage in mindful breathing. Kiddie Matters has a free kindness scavenger hunt printable that lets kids check off acts of kindness as they complete them. With World Kindness Day happening on November 13, this is a great book and activity to keep in mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Just Breathe… Mallika Chopra brings meditation to kids

Just Breathe, by Mallika Chopra/Illustrated by Brenna Vaughan, (Aug. 2018, Running Press Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0-7264-9158-2

Ages 7-12

Self-help guru Deepak Chopra’s daughter, Mallika, began meditating at age 9. In Just Breathe, she introduces mindful meditation practices to a younger audience. She discusses stress, how stress affects the body, and how meditation can help in her introduction; she ends her introduction with a baseline meditation; something to allow readers to create a “safe, happy place” inside them. Other practices in the book build on this base. Divided into subsequent sections on breathing, moving, being silent, noticing, asking, and creating, she leads readers through breathing and meditation exercises that help reduce stress and anxiety, cope with pain, and get them moving. There are sections on walking meditations, and on yoga, with each breathing exercise lasting anywhere fromn one to five minutes (the introductory exercise is the longest at 15 minutes, but she emphasizes that even one minute of meditation can greatly help).

The artwork is calming, featuring kids of all colors and genders in various stages of mindfulness, from yoga to walking to laying down. The muted colors and gentle expressions add to the calm, meditative feel of the text. Chopra provides prompts for thought throughout the book, which could be really helpful in a guided session where a reader can gently prompt meditative thoughts. Chopra encourages face-to-face interaction and disconnecting from devices, even for a little while; she also brings attention to our inner voices, the power of journaling, and the joy that comes with creativity. She applies these lessons to everyday stressors kids encounter, including bullying or test jitters, providing solid context.

Just Breathe is a solid introduction to mindfulness and meditative practices for kids. I’m looking forward to adding it to my yoga collection, and want to see how a meditation program for school-age kids will go over at my library. I miss my yoga storytime!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Take it Slow! Sloth at the Zoom shows you how

Sloth at the Zoom, by Helaine Becker/Illustrated by Orbie, (Aug. 2018, OwlKids), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771472494

Ages 3-7

Poor Sloth! She thought she was being dropped off at the Zzzzzoo, but something must have gone wrong with the paperwork: she’s been brought to the Zoom! It’s a very big difference, you see. At the Zzzzzoo, life moves along at a gentle pace; there’s time for naps in the sun, it’s relaxing, it’s all good. But at the Zoom? Whoosh! Zebras run by so fast, they leave their stripes in puddles! Parrots fly so fast, their tails draw rainbows across the sky! It’s VERY stressful, especially for poor Sloth, who wants to make friends, but no one has the time to give her. Finally, she meets Snail. Snail has time! Snail becomes Sloth’s friend, and the next thing you know, the Zoom is becoming a much nicer place to be. Sometimes, you just have to slow down and enjoy life, right?

It’s so nice to read a story that encourages life in the slow lane, isn’t it? I feel like we’re overscheduled and stressed out, our kids are overscheduled and stressed out, everyone’s got extracurricular activities, work, school, and deadlines seem to pop up everywhere, like neon signs. Kids are racing around like zebras, leaving their stripes behind, and so are we. Seeing two friends meet in the middle of this chaotic atmosphere, and bond over their shared moment of slowing down, gives hope to the rest of us, doesn’t it? Sloth at the Zoom shows readers that it’s in our hands to just stop, just slow down, and to discover the wonderful things that we often miss when we’re running by them. Slow living is contagious, too – if you slow down, someone else may, too. And that’s a good thing.

Sloth at the Zoom celebrates the Slow Living Movement, a lifestyle that puts the importance on mindfulness and embracing the slower aspects of life. There are blogs and websites dedicated to the movement, and there are books for adults and kids alike. One of my current favorites is The Slowest Book Ever, by April Pulley Sayre, which celebrates the science of slow in our world. But to start, all you really need to do is just take a deep breath and slow down.

Cuddle up with your little ones and enjoy a nice, slow read.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Can you help Yoga Frog cheer up?

Yoga Frog, by Nora Carpenter, (May 2018, Running Press Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780762464678

Recommended for readers 4-10

Yoga Frog likes to start his day off with some stretching, but sometimes he’s grumpy. He’s not much of a morning frog, and frankly, I don’t blame him. But Yoga Frog has a secret mood lifter for those tough to drag yourself out of bed mornings: yoga!

Yoga Frog introduces young readers to 18 different poses, each illustrated by our friend and guide, Yoga Frog. Each spread is brightly colored, with one page describing the pose, and the pose’s name in both English and Sanskrit; the facing page has our green amphibian yogi demonstrating the pose. Not every pose maps to its “real” English name; for instance, what grownups may know as “warrior” is “giraffe” here, in keeping with the nature-themed names. It doesn’t matter here, it’s gives the kids something fun to relate to and envision as they stretch and bend, releasing those endorphins and giving them a spot of Zen. The digital art is simple and sweet, with a big-eyed, friendly frog working his way through his asanas. A note to parents reminds caregivers about the benefits of yoga and breath awareness, and there’s a fun poster depicting the poses – not in order – that you can hang up and have kids refer to during a yoga storytime.

This nicely fits in with my yoga storytime books as a nice instructional. If you have a yoga storytime program, this is a nice add; ditto, if you need some yoga books for your collection. There’s a lovely emphasis on building childhood mindfulness lately – and it’s well-needed – so I’d jump on it.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Where does your mind go during class?

Free Association: Where My Mind Goes During Science Class (Adventures of Everyday Geniuses), by Barbara Esham/Illustrated by Mike Gordon, (May 2018, Sourcebooks), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492669951

Recommended for readers 4-8

Emily is a  young student who loves doing science: the hands-on stuff, not the rote memorization that comes with the routine school day, which tends to set her mind off, wandering. Emily wants to be like Albert Einstein, setting her off into a daydream where Einstein climbs out of a classroom poster; he ends up sticking around as a quiet mentor throughout the book. After catching Emily daydreaming again, her teacher gives her a science journal – a way to be mindful of when she’s paying attention, versus when her mind is about to wander. Emily discovers that the journal is just what she needed, and the teacher, impressed with a theory Emily comes up with in her journal, encourages the whole class to keep science journals and use their imaginations.

The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses is a series of books for kids who may learn in nontraditional ways. Where My Mind Goes During Science Class addresses everyday boredom in class – come on, we all know it happens – as well as how to reach students with ADHD. The teacher embraces creativity and imagination, and understands that journaling can lead to some pretty exciting work – bravo, teacher! Emily speaks for most kids when she grouses, “It seems like the only thing we do in science is memorize information from a book”. Who hasn’t felt like that at some point? Emily is relatable to all kids (and a heck of a lot of grownups). Back matter talks to readers who are “everyday geniuses” and offers tips for focusing and centering themselves when their minds wander. The story font is set in OpenDyslexic, a font specifically designed for readability with dyslexia; an impressive commitment by the publishers to readers. Kids may recognize illustrator Mike Gordon’s artwork – he illustrates the super-popular Robin Hill School Easy Reader series.

Find out more about the Everyday Geniuses at the series website. This looks like a good series to have in classroom and library collections, to introduce kids to different ways of learning. I’m going to request other titles in the series from my libraries, to get to know this set better. The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses series is Reading Rockets Recommended, a Parents Choice Award Winner, and an ALA Booklist Pick.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Preschoolers!

I’ve been loving the books that publisher Walter Foster Jr. has put out the last several months. They’ve been promoting writers, artists, and concepts that introduce kids to different ways of looking at life: different colors, languages, and songs, for a few. There are two more books out this month that speak to young readers once more; this time, addressing mental and physical health. Let’s take a look.

ABC: Mindful Me (ABC for Me), by Christiane Engel, (March 2018, Walter Foster Jr.), $16.95, ISBN: 9781633225107

Recommended for readers 3-6

Christiane Engel’s ABC for Me series is so good for young readers and listeners. Her Baby Signs book illustrates the ABCs by introducing readers to simple sign language words that parents and children can use to communicate together; with ABC: Mindful Me, children learn the ABCs of being present and aware of themselves and the world around them. Using rhyme and child-friendly illustration, little ones learn about compassion and Zen; yoga and mandalas. There are even activities for caregivers and kids to work on together: make a mandala using found objects; make a gratitude tree, engage in some deep breathing and meditation. An index at the end helps us grownups refer to the 26 different “mindfulness pillars” introduced throughout the book. It’s a nice addition to young reader collections, and could be a good add to storytimes (especially yoga storytimes) and social discussions about empathy and kindness to ourselves and others.

 

My First Book of Pilates: Pilates for Children, by Rida Ouerghi/Illustrated by Elsa Fouquier, (May 2018, Walter Foster Jr.), $16.95, ISBN: 9781633225893

Recommended for readers 3-6

This is SO cute, and so perfect for my toddler/preschool yoga kids. An introduction to Pilates, this fits right in with books like Downward Dog with Diego, where kids learn simple yoga poses through animal illustrations. My First Book of Pilates offers a little more information, introducing readers to 12 Pilates poses, one per spread. On the left hand page, Rida Ouerghi and Elsa Fouquier use creative visualization to show us anthropomorphic explanations that make perfect sense to kids – imagine being a boat floating on the water; imagine rolling around like a hedgehog – and on the right hand page, an illustrated child recreating the Pilates pose, with simple instructions. There are some helpful tips at the beginning of the book to get your kiddos started. Absolute fun, and absolutely adorable! During a storytime, you can easily add some mindfulness practice in with the imagines, too: ask the kids to close their eyes and envision themselves floating on the water, rolling like a ball, or feeling their legs become strong, like trees.