Friday, October 20, 2017

Mindfulness for Kids with Kate Coombs

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Leigh Ann at A Day in the Life for Roundup.

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...

Quiet Place

a bluff
scarved by sky,

sporting blue 
- 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!

The Difficult

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!

The Delicious

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!

The Unexpected

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!

Anything Else

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


  1. Soothing and soaring poems from Kate C., & from you, Irene.
    Mindful Q/A answers with delicious writerly/authorly details.
    Today's post is a keeper leaf for the hall table of my mind.
    Appreciations for the links & for sharing this new book. Must. Have.

  2. What a delicious concept for a poetry collection. Thanks for introducing it, Irene.

  3. I absolutely love Water Sings Blue and it certainly looks like I'll love this book too. Off to order it!

  4. I adore this book and Kate's spirit and how you both inspire me to be more mindful. And this art - yes - what a glorious match! Thank you, Irene! I'll have Kate over at my place next week! xx

  5. We're had requests at my library for subjects like mindfulness for kids, so this will be a welcomed addition.

  6. I'm waiting for my copy to arrive. After reading the tanka here, I am more anxious than ever for it to arrive! I also enjoyed Kate's responses. Thank you, Irene, for this lovely post.xo

  7. This is a book to savor and to treasure. Thank you for sharing it, and I hope to become better at practicing mindfulness myself. The peaceful words and illustrations do point the way and invite us to notice and breathe in each moment.

  8. What a beautiful concept for a book...the illustration shown is exquisite. I think this would be an especially good book for an older adult and young child to share. Thank you for introducing me to this gem.

  9. I have the book on my list, want to climb into that cover and sit and read Kate's poems. I like how you wove your own thoughts, and poem, into this sharing, Irene, and that "bluff scarved by sky"!

  10. I can imagine this would be a very tranquil read. It sounds beautiful - and how cool that it came about as an invitation to write on spec.

  11. This is a book I need in my life. It's also important for kids nowadays who are often over-scheduled!

  12. This looks like a lovely book!

  13. The selections that you share capture the delicate but eternal peace of mindfulness. Kate did an amazing job of hitting the right notes for kids, and the illustrations are delightful.

  14. Have to echo Kat's response above, wonderful that "Breathe and Be" was an invitation for Kate, and how marvelous it has turned out in both words and art! I loved your response to a quite place Irene, "
    " a bluff
    scarved by sky,
    and Kate's delicious response of being able to read her own book as a "bed time story," perfect, thanks for all!

  15. Thank you for sharing this beautiful book, Irene! I adore Kate's poem about her "quite place" as well as your response. "Scarved by sky" is perfect!

  16. I can't wait to buy this book. Thank you so much Kate and Irene for this interview. I love the leaf in a floating stream tanka. It's beautiful, soothing and important work.
    Janet Clare F.

  17. Clearly I have taken my time in getting to this post, Irene. But it's one I did not want to miss. Thank you for turning me on to Headspace a couple years ago, and thank you again, for posting about Kate's book. It's beautiful and delicious as liquid sunshine. xo Congratulations, Kate, and thank you for writing it.

  18. Oh, I've taken even longer than you, Michelle.... but wanted to circle back and take it in. Thank you, Kate and Irene, for the peek into what is obviously a beautiful book! Love those "northern forest" illustrations, too. :0)


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