Tag Archives: Peter H. Reynolds

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy / Let’s Talk About When Someone Dies

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy
Susan Verde and Peter H.Reynolds
Abrams Books

The team who gave us I am Yoga and I am Peace now explore what it means to be human.

Humans have a playful side and find joy in relationships, we hear; but on the negative side sadness brings a heavy heart. This though, is countered by a reminder that part of being human is the ability to make choices.
Positive actions – such as compassion and helping others, being fair and treating all people equally, bring a feeling of connectedness with fellow humans.

In keeping with the child narrator’s mood, Reynolds changes his colour palette from bright to a dull bluish grey as the actions switch from positive to negative.

Yes, we’re all flawed human beings who make mistakes but Susan Verde and Peter Reynold’s little book of empathy is perfect for starting a discussion with young children about making good choices. To this end, there’s also a loving-kindness meditation to share.

Let’s Talk About When Someone Dies
Molly Potter and Sarah Jennings
Featherstone (Bloomsbury)

Most young children will bring up the subject of death either at home or in school, or both, and many adults are unsure of how to engage in a discussion about it. This book, written in child-friendly language by a teacher, will for those adults especially, prove extremely helpful.

Each double spread – there are a thirteen in all – takes a different aspect and almost all start with a question such as ‘Are there different words for death?’; ‘What might you feel when someone dies?’ …

‘What do people believe happens after death?’ and, the only one that isn’t prefaced by a question, “To remember a person who has died, you could …’.
There’s a brief ‘It’s important to know’ paragraph at the end of most sections and Sarah Jennings has provided bright, appealing illustrations (often including speech bubbles).

The tone of the entire book – both verbal and visual – is spot on for the primary audience and is suitable for those of all faiths or none.

I Am Peace / The Two Doves

I Am Peace
Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds
Abrams Books for Young Readers

This is a companion book to yoga teacher, Verde, and illustrator, Reynolds’ I Am Yoga.
Here, a worried child narrator, feeling “like a boat with no anchor” …

shares with readers how focussing on the here and now helps to calm all those worries and troubling emotions, allowing them to dissipate and disappear. Inwardly watching the breath enables the child to feel centred and then, through acts of kindness, by connecting with nature and fully using the senses, feelings of at oneness with the world, inner peace pervades and can be shared with all those who need it.

With today’s increasingly fast-paced, pressurised and stressful world, this is a lovely gently joyful reminder to children, and also adults of the importance of cultivating the habit of mindfulness. That (along with yoga), can help them change their own world and perhaps that of others. Just 3 to 5 minutes a day with no distractions, no doing, merely being.
Peter Reynolds’ ink, watercolour and gouache illustrations reinforce the mindfulness message and add a delightful touch of whimsy as he portrays the child, peace symbols and all, balancing, cloud watching, feeding the birds and meditating.
(A guided meditation is included at the end of the book.)

 

The Two Doves
Géraldine Elschner and Zaū
Prestel

In search of a safe place to rest, a white dove lands on a deserted island; deserted save for another dove, a blue one that has been badly injured.

The white dove tends to the blue one until after a few days, it’s sufficiently recovered to take flight,
Together the two birds take wing eventually landing in – or rather in the case of the blue dove, falling – into a large garden where, under an olive tree, a man was painting, while around him some children played.
The man is the artist Picasso. The children see the wounded dove and want to care for it. Soon though both man and children are busy creating pictures of the bird,

pictures that Picasso tells them as their images are borne aloft by a gust of wind, will “go to countries all around the world.
Soon after, the white dove takes flight once more leaving the blue one safe in the children’s care.

This lovely story of Géraldine Elschner’s, inspired by Picasso’s iconic work, The Dove of Peace, is beautifully illustrated by Zaü whose ink drawings filled mostly with greys, greens and blue give a strong sense of both the desolation of the war struck third island and the stark beauty of its countryside.
Adults using the book with primary age children may well need to fill in with a little information about the Spanish Civil War and on the visual references from Picasso paintings that the book’s illustrator mentions in a note at the end of the book.

The Food of Love

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Playing From the Heart
Peter H. Reynolds
Walker Books
There’s a whole lot of heart in this, the latest Peter H. Reynolds story. Herein we meet young Raj who, as a small child, starts as a piano plunker, delighting in every sound …

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and without lessons develops into a creative player making up his own music. Impressed, his father hires a piano teacher who teaches him the skills and techniques …

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but despite his accomplishments, there’s no joy and eventually Raj stops playing altogether.

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Raj grows up, leaves home and goes to work in the city. His father grows older and notices the silence left by the absence of his son. Time passes and then Raj hears that his father is not well. He hurries home and his father has a special request: he asks his son to play him a song, not one he’d been taught but that one of his own making – the one that flows straight from his heart.

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Like his protagonist’s playing, Reynolds surely creates this from the heart. It’s a plea to nurture, rather than stifle children’s natural creativity: to let imagination and enjoyment thereof, not precision and preoccupation with the ‘perfect form’ to lead the way.
Everything about this book is a delight: the hand-lettered text which somehow serves to heighten the intensity of the telling, the mixed media (pen and ink, watercolour, gouache and tea) illustrations. Reynolds’ use of colour too speaks volumes: his palette is limited to browns, greys and blues with a touch of gold and purple except where Raj is in creative mode; then the notes flowing from the piano are brightly coloured ‘whispery and sweet’.
A beautiful and timeless tale, (for parents, almost a cautionary one) that will resonate long after the covers have been closed and the book set aside.

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Jack’s Worry
Sam Zuppardi
Walker Books
Jack loves to play his trumpet and eagerly anticipates his ‘first-ever concert’ with his mum in the audience. On the big day however, the lad awakes with ‘a Worry’. And no matter what he does and where he goes, the Worry is right there with him.

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So overwhelming is the wretched Worry that Jack finds even playing his trumpet doesn’t shift the thing: seemingly it’s there to stay. Then comes the time to leave for the concert and that’s when the poor boy feels completely overwhelmed …

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Eventually he confronts the THING and explains to his mum: “I don’t want to play in the concert … I’m worried I’ll make a mistake and you won’t love me anymore!
Fortunately he has an understanding mum whose reassuring words Jack takes on board and later, even passes on to his classmates: “The concert isn’t about playing perfectly. It’s about having fun and sharing something you love with people who love you.”
By the time Jack gets to school, the Worry has shrunk to tiny proportions and he and his friends  all enjoy their performance tremendously.

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Brilliantly empowering: a cracking book to share with children faced with any potentially tricky situation; and in particular one to help youngsters understand and deal with their anxieties. It’s sympathetic without being sentimental and Zuppardi’s whimsical style illustrations really do capture the intensity of Jack’s emotions superbly well.

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I Am Yoga

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I Am Yoga
Susan Verde and Peter H.Reynolds
Abrams Books for Young Readers
A young girl narrator, feeling overwhelmed by a world that seems to be spinning way too fast for her,

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calms herself through her yoga practice. She quietens her thoughts, focuses on her breath, then closes her eyes and begins first to imagine, and then move into a series of yoga asanas beginning with the grounding Mountain pose and thence into Tree pose and on to what the author calls ‘Airplane’ pose.
I can sparkle with the stars./ I shimmer and shine.” she says in Star pose and in Moon pose …

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I can dance with the moon./ I light up the sky.” thus describing each asana according to how it makes her feel.
Yoga means union and here is a wonderful demonstration of how this child can become through her practice of yoga, at one with herself and with the world …

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and nature itself.
The connectedness to nature is beautifully captured in Reynold’s depiction of savasana:,how perfectly he portrays that feeling of ‘shanti’ in his watercolour picture of the narrator by the sea’s edge.

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Indeed every one of his watercolours is both expressive and so aptly coloured, be it in a single hue, or several.
Verde’s lyrical text is full of both joy and tranquility, and perfectly pitched for young children to engage with the asanas, a more detailed verbal description of each of the sixteen covered, together with their Sanskrit names, being given in an author’s note in the final pages.
As an early years/primary teacher and a yoga teacher, I believe yoga should be part and parcel of every child’s daily experience from an early age and have seen the benefits it yields. For anyone wanting to introduce children to this life-enhancing practice, this little gem of a book, with its affirmations on every page …

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is a splendid starting point. Just get it and get going with some yoga.

If you like yoga why not try meditation with some meditational mood music

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Christmas is Coming part 2

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I Love You Father Christmas
Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd
Orchard Books
A small child’s delight in the festive season is lovingly portrayed through Giles Andreae’s bouncy rhyme, which is actually a letter to Father Christmas, and Emma Dodd’s characteristically bright, bold pictures.

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The latter have enormous child appeal and her jolly scenes of a totally endearing character should reassure any young child who is slightly nervous about Santa.
One to give to the youngest children.
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Are You Ready For Christmas?
Helen Lang
Templar Publishing
It’s Christmas Eve and Reindeer meets and greets friends Mouse, Squirrel and Dove. Each tells him of their special last minute preparations but then Reindeer seems to have forgotten what his special role is. The final fold-out reveals all.

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This is actually in board book format but I think this rhyming story could be enjoyed by children beyond that stage too. With its bold, coloured lines, patterns and touches of sparkle, Helen Lang’s artwork is quirky and charming. The scenes set against the dark night sky are particularly striking.
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Lollipop and Grandpa and the Christmas Baby
Penelope Harper and Cate James
Phoenix Yard Books pbk
When Lollipop receives the news that there’s to be a new addition to her family and that it will arrive just in time for Christmas, she is far from enthusiastic. Crying, stinky and attention grabbing is what she thinks of babies. “Christmas is ruined!” she feels as the infant’s arrival time draws ever closer. Fortunately for Lollipop, Grandpa is on hand to involve her in all the festive preparations and when on Christmas Eve, Dad and Mum have to leave her to go to the hospital, he helps her hang up the stockings. But on Christmas morning, although Santa has left presents, her Mum and Dad still haven’t come back. It’s over to Grandpa once again – to do the Christmas dinner this time. And even if it’s not quite the conventional festive meal her parents might have expected, it does have that Wow factor. So too does the tiny Christmas Baby that Dad is holding all wrapped up and definitely NOT crying.
This, the fifth of the series, is as enjoyable as the others and Lollipop should win some new friends with this seasonal goodie.
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Belle and Boo and the Merry Christmas
Mandy Sutcliffe
Orchard Books
The fourth in this series about a little girl and her rabbit friend (toy or real?) sees the inseparable pair getting ready for Christmas. First they decorate the tree and Belle has to explain to Boo what Christmas entails and then together they put up paper-chains, make cards and Christmas cookies, hang up their stocking and finally snuggle up for the night. Then, next morning after opening their respective presents, Boo decides they should share the joys of Christmas with their animal friends outside in the garden.
A gentle, slightly whimsical story with an old-fashioned charm, illustrated in appropriately soft colours. with just a touch of festive sparkle on the cover.
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Father Christmas Comes Up Trumps!
Nicholas Allan
Red Fox pbk
A few years back, Father Christmas was in need of a wee; now he needs something much more explosive. It’s the result of his over indulgence in – wait for it – Brussels sprouts – on his final supper before departing on his Christmas Eve delivery round. With his wind-filled tum, it’s a good thing that Santa is accompanied by his helpful elf who is on hand to push him down chimneys and utter ‘Sssshhh!“ warnings when those bubbling, rumbling, gurgling sounds start to emanate from his explosive belly. Santa does his level best to keep his wind in but his utterance of “Ooooo! my tum – it’s going to start. This time I’m really going to f . . . !” signals that the effort has become just too much. Out comes a ‘cheep’ and its time to run from the stirring child. But, horror of horrors! His reindeers are totally zonked in the sleigh. Perhaps it’s as well then that the elf’s final exhortation goes unheeded: time to make use of that WIND power to launch the sleigh skywards and homewards. PWHOOOAH!
As before, this slightly risqué humour will have young children wriggling on their bottoms in delight especially, in anticipation of the final grand
F F A A A R R T T !
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A Letter for Bear
David Lucas
Flying Eye Books
Bear is a postman, painstakingly ensuring he delivers every letter in his sack to the correct address each day and then trudging back to his cave to drink soup and wonder what it would be like to get a letter himself. The trouble is Bear never sends any letters. One windy day when out on his round, the wind takes the mailbag scattering the contents all over the snow. Bear collects all the letters but the addresses are smudged so he conscientiously knocks on each door to ensure correct delivery. The recipients are thankful but Bear feels even lonelier as he returns to his cave. Time for a change, he thinks as he gazes out at the snowy night. He sets to work writing Christmas party invitations and next morning he delivers a whole snowstorm of letters to his new acquaintances.

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That evening having waited for ages and ages, Bear is about to give up when he hears voices outside. It’s party time after all and even better, the following morning guess who gets a whole sackful of letters of his very own.
The real strength of this book is Lucas’ intricately patterned illustrations. Almost every double spread has a geometric border of patterned triangles, rectangles, diamonds or scallops and set into some of the scenes, we view Bear’s lonely world through circular peephole vignettes. His use of limited colours – shades of blue, orange, purple, russet, pink and orange and his use of geometric shapes for, or to pattern, trees, buildings, flowers and more, add to the impact. Then there are angled viewpoints, interrupted borders and beautiful snowscapes . This book is a small masterpiece of design.
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The Smallest Gift of Christmas
Peter H. Reynolds
Walker Books
Having eagerly anticipated the great day, Roland is less than impressed when he dashes downstairs on Christmas morning to discover a very small parcel awaiting him. So, he wishes for a larger one again and again and … Still not satisfied he storms off and eventually launches himself in a rocket to search the whole universe. It’s not until he glimpses Earth as a tiny dot growing ever smaller through his telescope, that Roland begins to realize that bigger isn’t always better, unless of course, it’s your home and you are heading back towards it.
A simple message amusingly rendered through Reynolds’ comic scenes. This author/artist has the unfailing knack of getting right to the nub of things every time and, he clearly demonstrates with all his books, that small things can often be among the very best.
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Alfie’s Christmas
Shirley Hughes
Bodley Head
Making cards and decorations, counting down the days with an advent calendar featuring a nativity scene, Christmas cooking, buying and decorating a Christmas tree, choosing and wrapping presents, writing to Santa, carol singing, hanging up Christmas stockings and a family Christmas dinner with visiting relatives:

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these are just some of the ingredients of four-year old Alfie’s Christmas so lovingly told and illustrated in Shirley Hughes incomparable style.
This is a traditional family Christmas full of warmth, friendship, love, bustle and excitement, and some secrets too. It’s Christmas as we would wish it to be for everyone, before Christmas started in October and consumerism took over.
A book to buy and cherish year after year.
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Don’t forget:
Snow Bunny’s Christmas Wish
Rebecca Harry Nosy Crow pbk
Lonely Snow Bunny’s Christmas wish is for a friend so she writes to Santa with her request.
For full review of this lovely story, now in paperback, see Seasonal Selection: Christmas Books 2012

Also reviewed there and now in paperback is :
When It Snows
Richard Collingridge
David Fickling Books pbk
A small boy’s favourite book transports him on a magical snowy Christmas adventure .