Already A Butterfly: A Meditation Story (Julia Alvarez)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Already A Butterfly: A Meditation Story, written by Julia Alvarez and illustrated by Raúl Colón, a magical tale of finding inner peace.

Mari is a very busy butterfly. Each day, she rises with the sun and spends every waking moment in motion. There are flowers to pollinate, nectars to gather, exercises to practice, to-do lists to consult, and the future to worry about. Yet even with all that work and worry, she still doesn’t feel like a real butterfly; she longs for the time she spent in her chrysalis, when she was warm and safe and had only her instincts to guide her. One day, she meets an unusual new friend: a flower bud named “Bud” who has embraced their transitional stage of life. Mari wonders how she may do the same, and Bud encourages her to quiet her mind, deepen her breaths, and find an inner safe place once more.

Truly unique. While most children’s books about meditation are more instructional, this title introduces the concepts of mindfulness and meditation through an original parable. Mari’s busy life will certainly strike a chord with older readers, and especially with adults, who will understand how quickly overwhelmed one can feel trying to get everything done in a day, and how one can often long for a quiet and safe place to decompress. And the resolution to Mari’s story is equally satisfying, as a few moments of meditation allow her to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the world around her long enough to untangle her mind and find her confidence. The artwork is similarly unique, and certainly filled with the ecstatic colors that a story of flowers and butterflies would want for. And while, purely personally, I was a little creeped out by the human/butterfly hybrids, the image of a brown-skinned girl in twists and wearing a golden crown as a beautiful butterfly will most certainly resonate with young readers of color. The length is best for slightly older bookworms, and JJ enjoyed this peaceful tale. A one-of-a-kind fable, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Ahmed’s Journey: A Story Of Self-Discovery (Jill Apperson Manly)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Ahmed’s Journey: A Story Of Self-Discovery by Jill Apperson Manly, a look at mindful thinking through the eyes of a young Saudi boy.

Ahmed has traveled a great distance across the desert to compete with his family in his country’s traditional camel races. While men and older boys share tea and stories, Ahmed wanders by himself, tending the camels and attempting to calm his mounting nerves about the big race. As he observes the life of the desert around him – a mouse, a falcon, his camel Jamal, a distant brewing sandstorm – Ahmed feel turbulent and afraid. He tries to calm himself by looking inward, taking deep calm breaths, and reflecting on his emotions and fears. When he is done with this mind-and-body meditation, he begins to feel better, and more prepared for the challenges to come. He sets off to rejoin the others, his worried thoughts abated.

Interesting and unique. Children’s books about mindfulness are starting to crop up here and there as it and activities around it (such as meditation and yoga) become more mainstream. What sets this one apart is certainly the story, utilizing the unique perspective of a child from a middle-eastern culture and setting. I’ll be honest, I was afraid that these choices would have the unpleasant smack of exoticism, but I was very pleased to find that the cultural aspects of Ahmed’s story are covered with respect and restraint – if anything, his nervousness about not racing well or disappointing his family are meant to illustrate how these worries can be universal, and how taking moment to calm our bodies and minds can help us deal with them. It’s subtle and inclusive rather than exploitative, and very well done. The text itself is fitting of the topic: smooth, calming, with a relaxing rhythm. The illustrations are especially lovely, pen-and-ink art that uses thin lines and a command of negative space to suit the tone. The length was fine, and JJ enjoyed it – this was a wonderful surprise. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Yoga Bunny (Brian Russo)

Hello, everybody! Today’s book is Yoga Bunny by Brian Russo, a sweet book about a bunny teaching his friends patience and calm through yoga.

It’s a beautiful day outside, and Bunny is going to spend it doing some yoga. As he begins practicing his poses, a few of his friends stop by to see what he is doing. Bunny invites them to join him, but each refuses: Lizard is tired and cranky, Fox is rushed and flustered, and Bird has terrible hiccups. Bunny is disappointed; he wishes his friends would try yoga, as they might find that its practice could help with their problems. Will they ever give it a try? Will Bunny ever find someone to share his love of yoga with?

This was another very calming children’s book about yoga, and in most places, it hit the mark. It introduces a few basic poses within the story (downward dog, sun, tree), with more examples on the inside covers. Unlike I Am Yoga, this is more a linear story about the benefits of yoga than its actual practice, stressing its abilities to soothe, calm, and focus the practitioner. The art was cute yet calming, and the length was nice. Only one problem: JJ was just not into it. The story seemed to be paced a bit slow for her, and she quickly grew disinterested, even in pointing out the different animal species. This one may be more appropriate for slightly older readers, but more so, for children more familiar and/or invested in yoga. Still, overall it was a nice, soothing book with some adorable illustrations, so we’re still calling this one Baby Bookworm approved.

I Am Yoga (Susan Verde)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Am Yoga, written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, a children’s introductory guide to yoga poses and a story about the benefits of calm mindfulness in one.

A little girl confesses that sometimes, the world seems too big. Sometimes, it’s hard to know where she fits in, or everything moves so fast that it’s hard to keep up. So when she feels this way, she tries to quiet her mind, relax her body, and open her heart. Then, she is yoga. In her yoga poses, she can be tall as a tree, or free as a bird, or strong as a warrior. She can be beautiful like a flower, shine like a star, or just relax and be. And when her yoga is done, the world is a much more manageable size, and moves at a much easier pace, for her mind and body are quiet and peaceful again.

Honestly, I hesitated before picking this book because no one in our family has really practiced yoga before, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, this story was a very pleasant surprise! Simple, meditative texts that explore concepts like mindfulness, self-awareness, and calming one’s mind and body (not a bad lesson for hyper-wiggly little ones) are combined with very lovely illustrations that incorporate each pose with the feeling and/or object it is meant to represent. For instance, being in a row of trees in tree pose, or flying through the sky in crane. The result is a lovely, soothing book with gorgeous visuals and a calming effect. The length was perfect, and JJ really loved it. Overall, a fantastic book for anyone, be they practiced yogi or the completely uninitiated. Baby Bookworm approved!

Dreamland With Mommy & Beautifully Different (Dana Salim)

(Note: Copies of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Hello, everyone! It’s a special two-for-one review day! Today, we read the first two books in the Yousuf’s Everyday Adventures series, Dreamland With Mommy and Beautifully Different, both written by Dana Salim and illustrated by Pavel Goldaev. 

In Dreamland With Mommy, we are introduced to Yousuf, a young boy getting ready for bed. As a fun bedtime game, his mommy invites him to play the “imagination time-travel game,” a sort of guided meditation to help Yousuf prepare for sleep. In his Dreamland, he can swim in strawberry pie, ride a magic carpet, and even face down a fearsome pirate by solving a riddle. By the time his adventures have ended, he is relaxed and ready for sleep. In Beautifully Different, Yousuf returns to his dreamland to help defend it against malevolent weeds, finding that our differences are what make us beautiful and strong.

These are two pretty neat independent books, each with their own positives. Dreamland With Mommy is more fun, exploring the joy of using your imagination (bonus: I got to use my pirate voice while reading it, which is always a plus). Beautifully Different has more of a message: our differences should unite us, not divide us, which is always an important theme. The art is somewhat basic, but bright and colorful enough to engage baby bookworms like JJ, who enjoyed the illustrations. The length of each book was fine, and while the rhythm of the text (which switches back and forth from rhyming to not) can be a little stilted at times, the stories are fun. Overall, we enjoyed joining Yousuf on his adventures. Baby Bookworm approved!