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.
Title: 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).
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!