Anew year calls for new hopes, but also the warmth of old values and abiding dreams – an awareness of all that nourishes and sustains us when the chips are down. A look at a clutch of books, old and new, that can nudge young readers towards a life of mindfulness:
A brand new book from author-illustrator Corinna Luyken, known for her wonderful The Book of Mistakes (2017) on the genesis of creativity , starts at the very beginning — the heart. After all, a life of mindfulness needs to begin with the self before it goes on to embrace others. In the just-released My Heart (2019, appropriate for: 4+ years, Dial Books), she speaks of the capriciousness of the heart and how it needs care and love in just the same way that we need to care for others. “My heart is a window. My heart is a slide. My heart can be closed…or opened up wide,” she writes. Accompanied by Luyken’s watercolour illustrations, this is a book whose simplicity belies its profundity.
The road to empathy begins with an awareness of how loved one is and what better way to be reminded of that than to have a parent tell you how cherished you are. A father and director of the Centre on Children and Families at the University of Florida, Gainesville, the US, Shani King writes an endearing note from a parent celebrating his child’s individuality as well as urging him to embrace differences in Have I Ever Told You?, illustrated with mixed-media artwork by Anna Horvath (2019, appropriate for: 5+ years, Tilbury House). “Have I ever told you that you make me the happiest person in the world, just by being you? Have I ever told you that?” or “Have I ever told you that you should stand up for people who need help or are being picked on? People of any colour, people of any faith, people of any size or shape or ability? Have I ever told you that?” are notes that every child, irrespective of age, gender or nationality can do with.
“Can you see Brian, the invisible boy?” asks Trudy Ludwig in The Invisible Boy (2013, appropriate for 6+ years, Knopf Books). Even though he’s kind and bright, no one ever seems to notice Brian, simply because he is too shy to communicate with words, preferring to express himself through his drawings instead. He is left out of birthday parties and games and even his teachers sometimes forget that he is there. It takes a friendship with the new boy in class for Brian to blossom and for everyone to discover what a wonderful person he truly is. Ludwig’s vision of how, sometimes, a kind word or a small gesture can change a person’s world, is brought to life by Patrice Barton’s illustrations, that move from plain sketches that highlight Brian’s isolation to colourful ones that show how friendship makes him come into his own.