Monthly Archives: July 2018

PPBF – I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness

The weather tells me it’s summer in the northern hemisphere – a time of relaxation and rejuvenation for many. But the news feed is anything but relaxing, as we – adults and children, learn of families being torn apart, young children housed with strangers, and long-time allies acting and speaking more like enemies than friends.

The past few weeks I’ve reviewed multicultural fairy tales, as, I believe, we can uncover truths, make sense of the bad in the world, and gain empathy for others through these ancient, ever-evolving tales.

Today, I’m reviewing a book that’s written and illustrated in the US and doesn’t deal directly with refugees, war, or regions of the world affected by travel bans. But hopefully you’ll agree that, like fairy tales, this Perfect Picture Book will help you deal with the bad in the world and find and share peace.

9781419727016_s2Title: I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness

Written By: Susan Verde

Illustrated By: Peter H. Reynolds

Publisher/date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8, and older

Themes/Topics: mindfulness; meditation; self-care; peace


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

Brief Synopsis: A young child expresses feelings of being worried and upset, and shows readers how to find peace.

Links to Resources:

  • Try the Guided Meditation that appears as an Afterword or is downloadable here;
  • Draw a peaceful scene. What colors do you use? Picture yourself in that place – why does it help you feel calm and happy?
  • Find, print, and photograph yourself or friends with downloadable peace signs.

Why I Like this Book:

A lyrical monologue, I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness is a “how to” guide to mindfulness, to “being fully engaged in the present moment,” experiencing our surroundings and feelings “without judgment, but with kindness and curiosity.” The nameless, genderless main character starts as a sad-faced worrier with thoughts rushing like water in a boat “being carried away.” But s/he pauses, reflects, steadies him or herself to focus on the “here” and “now.” As s/he finds peace, s/he is able to share kindness and make a difference.

I Am Peace is a quiet book that, I think, will appeal to kids and adults needing to calm down – whether from a tantrum, a hectic day at child care, camp or school, or from the news bombarding us constantly. I think its message of peace for oneself and for others is an important one, too. How often do we hear that we’ve done something wrong when, instead, the message should be “It’s alright”? So even if no one else says it, say it to yourself, let those worries go and be at peace.

Set against white backgrounds, Reynolds’ expressive illustrations show kids how they can make a difference, whether by feeding birds or by planting a tree. I especially love how they incorporate peaceful symbols. Per the copyright page, they were created with “ink, gouache, watercolor, and tea.”

A Note about Craft:

As mentioned above, Verde crafted her meditative text as a first-person monologue. I think this point of view promotes immediacy and lets the narrator, and reader, focus on his or her own feelings, without interruption from other characters.

The symbols in Reynolds’ illustrations include doves and peace signs worn on a necklace and hat. The peace signs, in particular, combined with the narrator’s style of dress, reminded me of the 1960s and the protest movements prevalent in my youth. This helped solidify the connection in my mind between promoting inner peace and peace in the world.

See a lovely review of I Am Peace by Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal.

Visit Verde’s website to see more of her books, including The Water Princess, a collaboration with Reynolds, which I reviewed last year, and her upcoming collaboration with Reynolds, I Am Human: A Book of Empathy (Abrams Books for Young Readers, October 2018).

Read Reynolds’ blog post about I Am Peace and see more of his art on his website.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – La Princesa and the Pea

I’m keeping with the theme of fairy tales and princesses this week. Today’s Perfect Picture Book is a retelling that celebrates Peruvian handicrafts with a sprinkling of Spanish text. Enjoy!

9780399251566Title: La Princesa and the Pea

Written By: Susan Middleton Elya

Illustrated By: Juana Martinez-Neal

Publisher/date: GP Putnam’s Sons (an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group)/2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: bilingual (English/Spanish); rhyming; fairy tale


There once was a prince who wanted a wife.

But not any niña would do in his life.

Brief Synopsis:

When a young princess arrives in a kingdom where a prince seeks a wife, his mother, the queen, tests her by placing a pea underneath several mattresses.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the Glossary at the front of the book and then find the Spanish terms in this Word Puzzle;
  • In a Note from the Illustrator, Martinez-Neal explains that the textiles in the illustrations were inspired by the weaving & embroidery of indigenous people of Peru. Learn more about the Andean communities where alpaca wool is woven into blankets and clothing;
  • Add patterns and color to el Principé’s blankets;
  • Find more coloring and activity pages on Martinez-Neal’s website.

Why I Like this Book:

La Princesa and the Pea is a delightful retelling of this classic fairy tale, with a fun twist at the end. With Spanish terms scattered throughout, this rhyming text is fun to read, and reread.

Martinez-Neal’s warm, colorful illustrations that draw on Peruvian weaving and embroidery designs further the Latino feel of this retelling. I think kids will love looking for and counting the small animals on every page, including two alpacas, several guinea pigs, and most notably, a very grumpy-looking cat.

A Note about Craft:

Rhyming well in one language is difficult. Sprinkling Spanish text into the rhyme makes it that much more challenging, but such fun to read. Elya manages this feat well, and I’d argue, this is a story that benefits from the addition of rhyme.

Elya added the Spanish text to the story, but Martinez-Neal chose the distinct setting: an Andean kingdom. As Martinez-Neal explains in the Note from the Illustrator, the indigenous peoples of Peru practice different types of handicrafts, so she was able to clothe the prince and his mother in fuzzy, alpaca wool clothing, while the princess appears in lighter, embroidered clothing. I love how a fairy tale with a visitor from outside the kingdom lends itself to this adaptation, and how we, as readers, can learn a bit about the distinct native cultures still evident in Peru.

Finally, as Dora M. Guzmán pointed out in a review at Latinx in Kid Lit, the mother-son dynamic evident in Latinx culture works well with this fairy tale of a mother wanting nothing but the best for her son.

La Princesa and the Pea was the 2018 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner. See more of the illustrations and links to starred reviews on Juana Martinez-Neal’s website. You can also see more of her art by following her on Instagram.

Visit Susan Middleton Elya’s website to see some of her other bilingual picture books.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!