Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story

May 25th, 2020 · Books

ALREADY A BUTTERFLY by Julia Alvarez and Illustrated by Raúl Colón is a poignant reminder to (almost literally) stop and smell the roses. Mari is a beautiful butterfly who is always busy, anxious, and productive, but she can’t say she’s happy. Told by her parents, also busy butterflies with good intentions, to “trust her instincts” to find happiness, she continues keeping herself so busy that each flower is a blur.

It is only when Mari meets Bud, a flower bud still waiting to blossom, that she is reminded of a time in her chrysalis that her whole existence focused on becoming who she was meant to be. Bud reminds her that she was “following her instincts” and not thinking about what she “ought” to do or “must complete.”

Bud guides Mari through a meditation that reminds her of where she came from and what she’s already accomplished and who she is and was meant to be. “Breathing in, you are a butterfly. Breathing out, you feel happy.” Mari’s senses allow her to notice the sounds, sights, and smells around her, and she finally feels like the beautiful butterfly she’s always been. Bud, as you can imagine, becomes a beautiful flower and Mari takes a piece of him – in the form of pollen – with her as thanks.

What works in this story is its matter-of-fact and simple treatment of meditation, or mindfulness, as well as the non-judgmental description of Mari’s self-imposed pressure to be busy. Bud is friendly but not pushy, and Mari’s relief at being “in the moment” is palpable. The beautiful, softly elegant illustrations help convey a sense of calm and comfort throughout.

The author’s note, “Growing Your Own Wings,” explains the origins of the picture book and relates the challenges facing the girls in the Dominican Republic involved in the Mariposa DR Foundation to Alvarez’s granddaughters and their packed schedules surrounded by social media and concerns about global issues like the environment. The note continues with encouragement to take the time to meditate when thoughts and worries crowd your thoughts to “make room inside yourself for your wings to grow.”

A lovely picture book and meditation guide.


review by Kristin Wald

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Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse

May 13th, 2020 · Books

For a riotous romp through destruction and ambitious ideas gone wrong, Jonathan Stutzman’s LLAMA UNLEASHES THE ALPACALYPSE, the second installment in his Llama Book series, is just what kids and families will want. Full of fun messes and outrageous plans, Llama takes readers through his Big Idea to clone Alapaca, who loves to clean, never thinking that too much cleaning could create just as many problems as not enough cleaning.

Heather Fox’s adorable illustrations convey both the enthusiasm and chaos created by Alpaca and Llama without overwhelming the pages. Each page is colorful and silly, which matches the creative, rich vocabulary of the text. Children will have fun identifying all the different ways Alpaca “cleans up” around town, and adults will appreciate the frightening results of energetic completion of chores.

A delightful adventure that combines STEM and SILLY in perfect proportions.


review by Kristin Wald

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The Unicorn Came to Dinner

May 11th, 2020 · Books

THE UNICORN CAME TO DINNER by Lauren DeStefano is a story about change and how one girl deals with it…for a while. Like many children who have emotions that feel too big or powerful to deal with, Elizabeth has found a fantastical way to handle her feelings: She becomes something else! As the titular unicorn leaves behind a mess, is rude and grumpy to Elizabeth’s parents, and complains about having to eat carrots, the parents are patient and understanding. By playing along with Elizabeth as a unicorn, her parents walk the fine line of supporting and keeping basic expectations in tact. In the end, Elizabeth finds that she has the ability to adapt without becoming a unicorn.

Young readers and listeners will love the swirling, colorful unicorn mane and tail and caregivers will appreciate the exasperated but loving faces of Elizabeth’s parents, including a line that explains that “Mom closed her eyes and counted to five.” The collage-style illustrations, by Gaia Cornwall, suit the fantastical story with myriad patterns and strong pastel colors. This storybook will become a naptime and bedtime staple for children who love naughty but lovable unicorns.


review by Kristin Wald


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How To Speak Dog

April 22nd, 2020 · Books

HOW TO SPEAK DOG by Aline Alexander Newman and Gary Weitzman, D.V.M. is irreverent and nutty and fun and incredibly informative. With scores of body language, barking, and general dog-behavior examples to learn, any child who adores dogs will be absorbed and entertained in perpetuity. As with most National Geographic children’s publications, the photographs and graphics are sometimes silly and sometimes adorable, but always kid-friendly and on topic.

This colorful book explains sweet doggy behaviors like putting a pay on your knee and licking your face, and it goes into concerning actions like ear scratching and chewing the woodwork around your home. Everything is explained in easy-to-understand language and images. Important for children — really everyone — there is also a page about greeting a “new” dog that includes how to approach and handle meeting a dog in public. One important section in “Body Talk” is the “Wiggles Away From You” tips. Children especially can get into sticky situations with dogs, and the authors explain how a dog may feel with a relatable comparison: “Hugging might feel as scary to a dog as it would to you if a bigger kid sat on your chest and refused to get off.” Yikes!

There is so much to learn in How to Speak Dog, and families will refer back to the different sections time and again. The different types of barks and tail wags and facial expressions. Younger children can focus on the photos and graphics and “fun facts,” while older children and adults can learn about the nuances of canine behavior and dog facts.


review by Kristin Wald

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