Toward the end of December the winter solstice descends in the northern hemisphere. It's a signal from Mother Nature for the flora and fauna under her care to rest. As it progresses the calendar for humans begins a new year. For many it's a time of introspection and seeking balance.
When we step outside away from noise and distractions during this period of calm and quiet using all our available senses, the stillness envelopes us. Author Susan Verde and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds in their third collaboration, I Am Yoga (Abrams Books for Young Readers, September 8, 2015) show readers how to expand their reflections. We discover how to tap into the serenity supplied now as well as during the other three seasons.
When I feel small in a world so big,
when I wonder how I fit in,
when the world is spinning so fast ...
Children (and adults) can relate to those three voiced thoughts. It's when the busyness of the everyday overwhelms our enjoyment of life in general. We certainly can't control everything the day delivers but we do have the potential as to how we respond.
Three specific actions are chosen by the girl as she inwardly speaks to herself. Her composure opens the door to possibilities. She can become more than herself.
In a series of sixteen poses she mirrors the likeness of elements in our natural world, man-made objects, animals and particular people. As a tree she is tall enough to touch the sky. She can bring luminosity to the darkness like the light of the moon. She is strong enough to support another as well as herself.
With purpose she moves from one state of being to the next. She closes with tranquility. A peaceful perspective is in place.
Susan Verde writes with knowledge about the feelings of a child. With her words she takes those feelings influencing them through the art of yoga. She describes the poses in such as manner as to invite readers to participate. Rather than specifically name the pose, she creates a vision. Here is a sample. For the boat pose she says:
I can sail on the sea.
I go with the flow.
The permeating peace seen on the front of the dust jacket continues to the left on the back. In both illustrations the girl, with eyes closed, is in a yoga pose. The warm wash of colors in these two images is carried throughout the book by Peter H. Reynolds. The title text is in foil. On the book case, two interior pictures are shown. On the right the girl is in the star pose on a soft golden yellow background. On the left among hues of blue she is in the half moon pose. The opening and closing endpapers are a swirl of rosy shades. The title page is the same visual as the front dust jacket but in black etching with only orange and blue. Smaller illustrations are placed on the verso and dedication pages. Each one reinforces a sense of harmony.
Rendered in ink, gouache, watercolor and tea each of the pictures with the exception of two is placed on single pages surrounded by white space. Prior to the poses Reynolds depicts the unrest she experiences in motion and movement. Each yoga pose is beautifully portrayed, moving in color from oranges and yellows, to green, blue and purple and rose and a blend of these. For a few of the visuals, the viewpoint shifts bringing us close to the girl or making her much smaller as when placed inside a flower.
One of my favorite illustrations is for the downward dog pose. The text is placed along the top of the page. Underneath is grass with tree tops growing toward the bottom of the page. The girl is bending in place with the sun shining through the v formed by her position. Her feet and hands are on top of clouds. The text reads:
I can turn things upside down.
I am playful.
On the first reading of I Am Yoga written by Susan Verde with art by Peter H. Reynolds a sense of calm generated by the text and pictures will wrap around the reader. No matter their age each will feel as though the practice of these yoga positions is within their capabilities. In my experience children enjoy creative dramatics. This book will make for a delightful and memorable storytime. At the conclusion are an author's note and three pages of pose descriptions with thumbnails of the images.
To learn more about Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds and their other work please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites. Follow this link to listen to the original song, I Am Yoga, written and composed by Emily Yarrow. At the publisher's website you can view four interior images and two of the pose description pages. You can listen to the podcast or watch the video when Susan Verde and Emily Yarrow visit with Rocco Staino at KidLitTV.