Breathe and Be
A Book of Mindfulness Poems
Hear thunder crash, feel your toes touch sand, and watch leaves drift softly away on a quiet stream. The simple poems in Breathe and Be help children learn mindfulness as they connect to the beauty of the natural world.
Mindfulness teaches us how to stay calm, soothe our emotions, and appreciate the world around us. Whether we’re watching tiny colored fish darting in the water or exploring the leaves, branches, and roots of a towering tree, the thoughtful words and the lovely art of Breathe and Be remind us how much joy we can find by simply living with awareness and inner peace.
How did this book come to be?
An editor friend asked me if I’d like to write a book for Sounds True, a publisher I fondly nicknamed “my yoga publisher.” Given my choice of topics, I was drawn to the idea of mindfulness. Not being the world’s most talented meditator, I felt a bit unworthy at first. Then I realized that I did know about mindfulness—I had experienced it most often in nature. In particular, Sequoia National Park with its wonderful meadows, mountains, and giant trees had become a place of spiritual refuge and mindfulness for me.
As a poet, I thought about writing the book as a set of haiku, but the form seemed too short for what I wanted to accomplish. I was happy to discover the Japanese poetry form that historically preceded the haiku, the tanka. This five-line form was just right for the moments of mindfulness I hoped to capture. Remember, mindfulness is about being clearly, strongly, and peacefully in the present moment—a moment that turns out to be a good fit for a tanka.
I will just add that I felt mindfulness as I wrote Breathe and Be, an experience unlike any other I’ve had while writing one of my books. I would like to think the universe conspired to help me convey the joyful, peaceful spirit of mindfulness to readers young and old alike. I am going to share a number of reviews below because I’ve found that many readers have had a special experience with the book.
About the Illustrator
Anna Emilia Laitinen is a Finnish illustrator who is also known for her design work creating stationery, tableware, and textiles. Her love of the outdoors, especially trees, made her the perfect illustrator for this book about mindfulness and nature. Her thoughtful artwork creates a graceful, peaceful world. Anna Emilia has said poetically of her illustration process: “When I paint I think of all the faraway places the wind reaches and hope to hear from them.”
A Reading of Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems
The Breathe and Be Story Hour Kit
Note that there are many mindfulness resources on the web.
A Very Special Book
“While the poems are independent of each other, their stark beauty and personification of nature unify the work. Each powerful emotion conveyed through figurative language, whether it is anxiety, doubt, fear, or anger, is reinforced with expressive watercolors... A serene collection celebrating nature and the importance of mindfulness, and a swell addition to poetry shelves.”
—Rachel Zuffa, School Library Journal
“Nature provides reassurance in times of trouble and allows disruptive moods and angry thoughts to be moderated and transformed into peaceful mindfulness… Finnish artist Laitinen’s delicate, detailed pen-and-watercolor illustrations of children in nature are well-suited to the contemplative nature of the poems and will work well in the context of a yoga or meditation group for young children or as a gentle, reassuring bedtime story.”
Who is this book for?
For grandmas and grandchildren
“It’s good for everyone: The most beautiful children’s book I’ve ever seen, and I can’t wait to read it to my grandson over and over...”
“I bought this small lovely book for my grandchildren, and when it came to my house, I couldn’t let it go. It is marvelous, gentle, soothing, and beautifully crafted in words and illustrations. A keeper for all ages 2 to 92. P.S. I sent other copies to my grandchildren.”
“I’m a 4th grade teacher in Colorado and my class has a mindful morning meeting every day before we start anything else. We just got your book Breathe and Be, and have started reading a page or two after our mindful breathing exercises. It is everyone’s favorite! It is magical. Thank you for writing it.”
—Shelley F., email to author
“Use during Circle Time with students: I love this book. Each page is its own little poem and world and the artwork is interesting and beautiful. I have a very wiggly and chatty class, but when we do mindfulness on the rug together, they will sit still and silent for this book. They really like to inhale and exhale silently with the poems. I ask them to look for “secret details” in the pictures as I read, and many of them enjoy that, along with asking them to pay attention to different parts of their body with each page. This is a beautiful book and as an educator, children really love the words and pictures.”
For grownups who meditate
“I have a soft spot for poetry and reading this beautifully written and illustrated book of mindfulness poems by Kate Coombs and Anna Emilia Laitinen was a sheer delight… Floating leaves, passing clouds, rivers, eggs in a nest or colourful fish... these are just some of the examples of the parallels that Kate draws so effortlessly between the state of our minds and the natural world. I have started using her “hidden egg in a nest” description during my own meditation practice.”
—Diwa Tharan Sanders, BookTrust reading charity blog
“The tanka in this book, and the absolutely lovely full-spread illustrations by Anna Emilia Laitinen, are like one-minute vacations for your mind. As I read this book, my mind lets go a little bit. The weight of the heavy stock paper, the grounded words—it all feels so calming and reassuring...”
—Laura Purdie Salas, poet
For children who need soothing
“I have often wondered what we tell kids who are in horrible situations: refugees, people displaced by natural disasters, kids in abusive homes… So many times, we can offer limited practical, immediate help. And though the practical problems need to be solved, too, I would wish to place this book in the hand of every child in a dire situation. Because sometimes all they have is this moment. This breath.”
—Laura Purdie Salas, poet
“Very good book for kids with anxiety: I bought this book for my 8-year-old and it really did help so much. We would read together and now no need for mommy to read it. It’s helped to know how to deal with situations and what helps to feel better and understand so when something does happen all these things in the book come in very handy.”
For yoga teachers
“Absolutely beautiful! As a children’s yoga instructor, I am constantly looking for new books I can share with my students. I purchased this book for my three-year-old daughter for Christmas, and WOW—I was deeply moved by its beautiful message and illustrations. I immediately tucked it into my yoga bag to take to work. Probably one of the best books I’ve come across in this category, and trust me, I’ve read many! I plan to give this book as a birthday gift to all the little ones in my life. LOVE it!”
“Like many churches, we are holding services online with live stream. I wonder if you would give us permission to read your beautiful book, Breathe and Be, in an upcoming service?”
—Kathleen S., email to author
“Our world of turmoil needs this beautiful book of calm: What a timely book for children and adults alike. The calming prose and ethereal illustrations transport the reader to a place of beauty and peace. I personally struggle with meditation and poetry, but this book magically makes both accessible. This book would be a wonderful companion piece to teachers who are incorporating meditation in their classrooms. I’m excited to gift this book to all of my grandchildren and their parents this holiday!”
“Each page of Breathe and Be offers a miniature poem to tune the mind to the pitch of that which is nourishing and beautiful. 'There’s a quiet place in my head like an egg hidden in a nest.' The clever and delicate drawings are not to be rushed through. My eight-year-old daughter declared, 'Wow, this is my favorite one.' Breathe and Be is, to put it simply, classy. It would be as much a gorgeous book to give to my daughter as a gift to give to my mother. It has a lovely timeless quality about it. I could see having this one on my shelf for generations.”
—Heather Grimes, the Mindful organization blog