I am delighted to share with you today Kate Coombs latest book BREATHE AND BE: A Book of Mindfulness Poems, illustrated by Anna Emilia Laitinen, brought to us by Sounds True.
I am a huge fan of Kate's books -- I wrote a whole middle grade novel (still searching for a publishing home!) after her picture book THE SECRET-KEEPER, and her WATER SINGS BLUE is one of my go-to poetry books. So I was thrilled when she told me about this new book -- and that it should be on the topic of mindfulness... well, how wonderful and fitting! A few years ago I bought myself a subscription to Headspace and began a meditation practice that continues to sustain and teach me. So much of Kate's book reminds me of my practice! Like this tanka:
I watch the stream.
Each thought is a floating leaf.
One leaf is worry,
another leaf is sadness.
The leaves drift softly away.
- Kate Coombs
On Headspace, Andy teaches it from a different vantage point: thoughts aren't leaves, they are clouds. And waiting behind each one is a clear blue sky. I love having this new image to consider!
On another spread, the tanka asks a question:
I see myself
by the ocean, toes touching sand,
fingers finding a shell
at the edge of blue water.
Where is your quiet place?
- Kate Coombs
What a perfect jumping off place for sharing this book with young writers! My answer today is...
scarved by sky,
- Irene Latham
Another tanka in the book focuses on NOW, which is something I'm really trying to do... not regretting the past, but also not dwelling on it. And not worrying about the future. Now!
Tomorrow's an egg
that hasn't hatched. Yesterday
is a bird that has flown.
But today is real. Here now,
this minute, the true wings.
- Kate Coombs
The publisher has also made it really easy for teachers/parents/librarians/booksellers to share mindfulness with kids by creating this Story Hour Kit. I love it!
And now, here's Kate with responses to a few prompts. Welcome, Kate!
Kate: The difficult was describing mindfulness, especially for children. I suppose even before that there was the difficulty of researching and understanding mindfulness myself. Now I could give you a grownup definition of mindfulness using abstract phrases like “paying attention without judgment,” but I still fumble with it a bit. At this point I’d rather just hand you the book!
Kate: The day I get my first author copy is by definition delicious. Seeing the artwork in electronic galleys is just not the same as holding an actual book in your hands. There are wonderful details, like the paper in this case, which is heavier than usual and does not have a glossy finish. It seems to match the illustrator’s style and the whole idea of nature and the outdoors. Plus you get to experience the page turns for yourself. These are magical when envisioned, but even better as you catch the pages with your fingertips and turn them over reverently to discover the next poem. Beyond that visceral experience, you get to run around the house showing everybody in your family and taking pictures to post on Facebook. That night you read your very own book to yourself as a bedtime story. It’s a great day!
Kate: Because mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism and therefore in Asia, and the poetry form I used is the tanka, I had a vague picture of the art for the book as having an Asian look. It was surprising to me when we got a Finnish illustrator whose artwork depicts Northern forests.
Anna Emilia’s art has been described as showing “the great generosity of nature,” and she and I share a love of nature, especially trees—the art is filled with trees! My own experience of mindfulness first and foremost has to do with being among trees. Anna Emilia even added a few lines in praise of trees to the dedication. And of course, the illustrations are gorgeous. So the surprise turned out wonderfully well.
|the opening spread!|
Kate: This project came to me in the form of an invitation to write something on spec. I’m so grateful to author/editor Jen Adams for thinking of me. This has been an amazing experience. I still need to work on incorporating mindfulness into my own life, but I feel like I’m off to a good start with Breathe and Be.
A good start, indeed! Thank you, Kate! And thanks, everyone, for reading! xo