Galia Bernstein
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Young hamadryas baboon Leyla finds her large family overwhelming with their constant noise, grooming and snuggling.

She just wants some peace so decides to run away in search of a quiet space of her own.

Having run sufficiently far, so she thinks, for there to be nothing around, she stubs her foot on a sharp rock

and then comes upon a lizard; a very still, quiet creature “very busy doing nothing” so he says.

At her request, the lizard teaches Layla to do the same: they sit peacefully in meditative mode feeling the warmth of the sun and listening to the rustling of the leaves, the buzzing of insects.

Some time later, Layla opens her eyes and realises that she now misses her family and is ready to go back to them. She does so however, safe in the knowledge that she can always return to doing nothing with her new friend for “I’m always around,” he assures her.
As a result she finds herself better able to cope with all the attention she receives from her welcoming family, partly because true to his word, that lizard was ‘always there.’ And she certainly enjoys talking about her adventure.

As someone who practises meditation (and yoga) daily, I can attest to the benefits of what that lizard offered Layla.

The author’s warm story, we learn was inspired by watching hamadryas baboons, in particular a very young one, in a Brooklyn zoo. Her expressive illustrations created digitally with the addition of hand-painted textures, say plenty about Layla’s feelings be they overwhelmed, angry, in pain, scared, peaceful, happy or excited.

In our ever busy, pressurised lives, we all, young and not so young, need to become more mindful; this book is a fun demonstration of the importance of mindfulness.

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