Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, September 29, 2017

Sensing The Moment

As soon as the door opened and we stepped outside, we were acutely aware of our surroundings.  The crisp, cool air was a welcome respite from the heat and humidity amid a lingering dry spell.  The overpowering perfume of skunk was not as desirable.  To be sure my canine companion and I were moving our heads as fast as possible to locate the source of the odor.  Fortunately the culprit was nowhere in our vicinity.

In this instance, happening in seconds, we were totally conscious of where we were, who we were and what was in the range of our senses.  We were fully engaged in the moment.  I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness (Abrams Books for Young Readers, September 26, 2017), a companion title to I Am Yoga (Abrams Books for Young Readers, September 8, 2015) written by Susan Verde with art by Peter H. Reynolds supplies answers to questions.  Concern is replaced with calm.

There are times
when I worry about
what might happen next
and what happened before.

The child speaking to readers is full of doubt. She feels as though her mind is swirling out of control.  She likens it to water, fast flowing water.  She imagines herself in a boat on that water, adrift and caught in the current.  She flips.

With water all around her, she pauses.  She assures herself.  A tiny island lifts her up.  As her thoughts gather, her spirit finds strength.

I am Peace.

The child discovers peace opens up opportunities within us.  It expands our generosity.  It gives us the confidence to know we matter.  Our observations and actions broaden our world view.

Smell, taste, touch, see and hear are finely tuned as each breath goes in and goes out.  The water around the island, the island now home to new life, is still.  The boat and the child are secure.  This is now the time for the release of peace.

During the waking hours of our days, children (and adults) sometimes get caught up in the craziness of things to do and schedules to keep.  When we need to rest, it's nearly impossible.  Susan Verde reminds and shows us to how to practice peace.

She leads us with her narrative from our own jumbled and troubled thoughts to the place where we long to pass the mindfulness to others.  Her simple, direct sentences are a soothing, soft song.  Here are some samples.

I can watch my worries gently pop and disappear.
I let things go.

I can say what I feel inside out loud.
I know myself. 

When you are so still, so in tune with your surroundings, birds feel safe resting on your out-stretched arms, then you are indeed peace.  This image on the front of the dust jacket conveys the essence of the book.  The complementary colors used in the attire, the peace hat and peace necklace, supply a sense of calm.  They act as statements of intention and achievement.  To the left, on the back of the jacket, the child is resting on the island beneath the tree, the foliage a rainbow of color.  The boat, island and trunk of the tree are shown in rich, warm shades.

Beneath the jacket on the book case, a white background highlights the child, first on the front, playing a guitar as a bird resting on the neck sings along with the notes.  The child's eyes are closed in contemplation.  On the back, on the left, the child is feeding the birds who sit on his hand, head and one is flying toward them.  The child is carrying the bag of seeds, of peace.

A swirl of blue-green with a center on the opening and closing endpapers reflects the idea of water and our thoughts before we attain calm.  On the title page the child is leaning back on his arms, eyes closed, as the sun shines on him and the small new island.  Rendered in ink, gouache, watercolor, and tea the illustrations of Peter H. Reynolds extend the text beautifully.  In this particular title Peter uses predominately warms colors with only spot cool hues of blue, green and teal on white backgrounds.

When the child's thoughts are out of control, he features the hat unwinding like a ribbon, creating the water upon which the boat rides.  After the words

I can make a difference

Peter, without words, gives a special new dimension to the story for five pages.  He shifts his perspective to focus on the new possibilities growing.  It's a lovely transition to the next text.

One of my many favorite pictures is when the child is shown with arms straight out and up at his sides.  We are closer to him only seeing his body from the waist up.  His eyes are closed as he stands in stillness.  Two birds are resting on his hands.  A third bird with wings open for flying is coming to the top of his head.  Animals have the ability to know what we hold inside and these three birds are aware of the calm.

You cannot read this book without a sense of complete serenity enveloping you.  I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness written by Susan Verde with art by Peter H. Reynolds shows readers how we are capable of bringing harmony within and without ourselves.  At the close of the book, Susan leaves readers with a guided meditation.  I know children will willingly gravitate to this title. I highly recommend this title and its companion volume for your professional and personal bookshelves.

To discover more about Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds and their other work please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Be sure to visit Peter's blog too.   At the publisher's website you can download the meditation guide.  I'm placing the video here with Emily Arrow and Susan from the first book for you to enjoy again.  Susan Verde and Emily Arrow stopped by KitLit TV with Rocco Staino.

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