Breathe and Be

illus. by Emilia Laitinen. 32p. Sounds True. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781622039371.
K-Gr 3—These 14 original tanka poems introduce children to the concept of mindfulness and incorporate meditation practices. The first poem sets the tone, encouraging readers to breathe in and out for "My breath/is a river of peace." While the poems are independent of each other, their stark beauty and personification of nature unify the work. Each powerful emotion conveyed through figurative language, whether it is anxiety, doubt, fear, or anger, is reinforced with expressive watercolors. When Coombs offers advice for "Thoughts [that] flutter and dart like birds," the illustration reveals a young girl's troubled backward glance at her kite stuck in a tree that is overwhelmed by brightly hued birds. It is a staggering image, to see thoughts made manifest in such numbers, but the scene provides a sense of serenity as the girl leaves her footprints behind in the snow. It is recognizing the words "There is time to breathe and be" within the poem as well as the stillness in the illustration that helps to release the tension inherent in the birds and thoughts. The harmony between children and their environment, along with the inclusion of minute details in the artwork, instills a sense of wonder as each panel challenges readers to dwell in the moment. It is the same message conveyed in the poetry. An author's note explains mindfulness as a concept and provides a definition of the tanka form. Pair with Kerry Lee MacLean's Peaceful Piggy Meditation and Mariam Gates's Good Night Yoga.
VERDICT A serene collection celebrating nature and the importance of mindfulness, and a swell addition to poetry shelves.

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