3 out of 4 stars
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In the hectic, nonstop world we currently live in, children can easily get caught up in our always-moving world as well. Yoga is a fantastic way not only to become flexible and get (or keep) in shape, it's also perfect for slowing down, appreciating the moment and reflecting. Elchanan Ogorek reaches out specifically to children in his picture book The Present is a Gift, a short little beginner's book to plant the seed of mindfulness and yoga in young ones.
In The Present is a Gift, Elchanan uses bendy stick figures to show eight yoga poses, and then goes through eight various animals who are using them (or something close to them) in a natural way. On each of these pages there's a bit of text about the animal, followed by a statement for how one should take that first text and use it in their lives. For example, a squirrel sits on a tree branch as if ready to leap! The text reads "Squirrel continues to learn and grow from every movement. Squirrel's front teeth never stop growing so they can continue to scavenge for food", and then the reflection text says "I will remain curious and non-judgemental".
After all eight of these there's a blackboard image with a summary of lessons from all eight animals and a "mindfulness guide" that once again shows each animal with the beginning of a sentence. These are a little more easy for parents to demonstrate for everyday use since they're the beginning of sentences, so if a child is feeling depressed about doing something they don't want to, a parent can point at the wolf and read "I will be proud of myself and grateful for the opportunity when I...", and then add something like "do the dishes".
However, the art is really hit and miss. The first image in the book shows the inside of a classroom and the perspective is way off, and the art style doesn't quite work on some of the animals. Sometimes it's fine, like the cover, or even pretty great like the wolf, squirrel and frog. It seems like blended mediums: the cat image has a rather photorealistic hardwood background, for example. Everything is passable, however, so unless you're just looking for a colorful, cartoony picture book this should still be fine.
The book is very short, and I can see it being used with animal lovers, children who may be interested in yoga (or children of parents who do yoga), or children who need to learn to slow down a bit. I'd give the book 2.5 stars if I could, but since I can't, the lessons within are what make me round up to 3 out of 4 stars. With that being said, I still only recommend it to those mentioned above.
The Present is a Gift
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