Breathe and Be: a book of mindfulness poems
By Kate Coombs
Illustrated by Anna Emilia Laitinen
Boulder CO. 80306
Ages 4-8 years
“Breathe and Be: a book of mindfulness poems” by Kate Coombs, can assist children in developing a mindfulness practice of breathing and paying attention to small moments. Each poem and page flows onto the next like a stream of consciousness, so that the book can be read as a whole or dipped in to. Each poem functions as either a stand-alone poem or as a continuation of an experience. The collections of poems are bookended by the same poem, which grounds the reader in noticing a single breath and moment in time. The central figure of the poem is the gender non-specific “I”, which the reader is free to interpret as themselves or as one of the children depicted in the illustrations.
Each poem directs the readers to some particular aspect of thought or bodily sensation, often linking them to the natural world, such as thoughts that swim like fish, or leaves that stand in for worries or sadness and can simply drift away.
This is a subtle and effective way to introduce children to the concept of mindfulness and leaves it up to the parent to decide if each poem will simply be read or used more explicitly as a mindfulness meditation.
As one would expect the poems are consistently and rhythmically calm in tone and all follow a Japanese poetry form called Tanka, which is explained further in the end notes.
The illustrations are rich in harmonious colour and detail. They allow for a listener to become absorbed in each page as they listen to the poem. Each page is colourful but muted in tone. The children illustrated in the book are from diverse cultural backgrounds, as depicted by skin tone and hair colour. They include both girls and boys engaged in natured based play together.