Kaya’s Heart Song
Diwa Tharan Sanders and Nerina Canzi
From the cover illustration it’s evident that the little girl – her name is Kaya and she lives in the Malaysian rainforest– is truly savouring the moment.
As the story begins Kaya observes her mother sitting yoga style and humming. “Mama, what are you singing?” Kaya wants to know.
Her mother explains that it’s her heart song and that having a heart song makes anything possible. Kaya’s response is that she doesn’t know hers: her Mama encourages her to learn to listen for it and sends her daughter off to play outdoors.
Maya follows a butterfly into the jungle and it leads her to an unfamiliar spot but there she discovers someone who is familiar – her friend Pak.
Pak is the guardian of a gate behind which, nestling among thick foliage, is a broken elephant carousel.
Intrigued, Kaya decides to investigate and as she untangles the vines from around one of the elephants her mind begins to quieten and become still. A soft rhythmic beat sounds in her ear as with a Boom taktak boom taktak boom / Shick shak shook / Boom taktak boom taktak boom / Shick shack shook’ the carousel begins to rotate and the elephants move in time with the music.
Suddenly Kaya understands that she has found her own heart song and then, just as her mama had told her, magic happens …
Grounded in the practice of mindfulness – being fully in the present moment – this is a truly mesmerising picture book.
With a lush colour palette Nerina Canzi depicts Kaya’s magical world, creating a truly immersive place both for the main protagonist and for the reader. Her spreads work in perfect harmony with the author’s words and to lose yourself between the covers of the book is to be, like Kaya, in the here and now throughout the experience.
The final page explains simply the practice of mindfulness, linking it with yoga and meditation, and also reminding the reader what brought Kaya to a mindful state.
From the time they start school children today live in an ever more pressurised and often stressful world and this beautiful book demonstrates to both children and adults the benefits of cultivating the mindfulness habit. It can help them change their own world and perhaps that of others. Just a few minutes a day: no distractions; just being fully present in the here and now.
It’s a state of being that young children absorbed in their play (especially with creative materials) reach when adults stand back and watch without interrupting or trying to guide what they’re doing: watch that total concentration, nothing else matters – that’s mindfulness. When I taught 4 and 5 year olds I saw it many times every day; it wan’t taught to them, it’s just how they were.