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.)

Now (Antoinette Portis)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Now by Antoinette Portis, a lovely meditation on the simple pleasures of living in the moment.

An exhilarating breeze blows through a little girl’s hair; this is her favorite breeze. She holds a crimson autumn leaf the same span as her face; this is her favorite leaf. With each new object, sensation, or activity, the little girl proclaims each as her favorite – the tree because she is swinging from it, the mud because she is squishing it between her toes, the moon she is gazing up at. Each moment she is currently in is her favorite, because each is what she is experiencing right now… and because of who she is experiencing it with.

This is a simple story with a quiet and somewhat unassuming presence, but it will surprise you: it’s filled with quiet, guileless elegance and a phenomenally satisfying emotional payoff. While the tone definitely suggests themes of zen or mindfulness, the truth is that it does a great job of embodying the way little ones see the world – that each moment is their most important yet – and how we as adults impact this. It’s an enlightening perspective for both age groups to consider. Portis’s art echoes this, capturing both the trivial and the sublime, and examining the magical details that children notice and adults all too often overlook. The length is great, JJ adored the art, and the last page is a stunner for anyone who loves to read with their child. Thoughtful, warm, and full of wonder, and it’s 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!