Focus, Dude

Three new children's books by South Fork authors

It’s enough to take the cynic right out of you.

Even if you’re not a big fan of trends, fads, sweatpants, rolled mats tucked under the arm signaling hip and healthful purpose, gyms, alien Eastern religions, stretching-induced flatulence, cultural co-optation by whites, therapy of any kind, or sincerity generally, kids change everything, kids make it all right, kids doing yoga will bring a smile to your face, and so will “I Am Yoga” (Abrams, $14.95), a new children’s book about the practice by Susan Verde of East Hampton that hits all the right notes for today’s beleaguered young.

“I can say I’ve had enough for today,” a girl, the book’s heroine, as it were, says toward story’s end as she curls in a fetal position shoreside, her face to the sand. “I relax.” Then, splayed out on her back: “I can rest. I am calm.”

This comes hard on the heels of a depiction by Peter H. Reynolds, Ms. Verde’s artistic collaborator, of a maelstrom of activity enveloping our pigtailed protagonist — papers, books, homework, soccer, dogwalking, violin lessons, taking out the trash, maybe a little sleep thrown in, all punctuated by the looming face of a clock. (And the book doesn’t even address the black hole of so-called “screen time.”)

“When I feel small in a world so big . . . when the world is spinning so fast, I tell my wiggling body: be still. I tell my thinking mind: be quiet. I tell my racing breath: be slow.”

For God’s sake, kid, take a break.

Following “The Museum” and “You and Me,” this is this duo’s third picture book together, Mr. Reynolds’s charming and unadorned watercolors matching Ms. Verde’s careful storytelling in that they both simply do not overdo it. Ms. Verde, a children’s yoga instructor, has included an author’s note for adults and a three-page glossary of poses.

So it’s okay if you find “mindfulness” to be jargon and a bit vague, here’s some you can get behind. Breathe, you kids. Dream big. You think the difference-making work of the world is done by grade-conscious grinds?

“I’m Cool!”
In Jim and Kate McMullan’s popular series of bold and colorful picture books (“I’m Brave!” being the previous, “I Stink!” perhaps the most memorable), the former Sag Harborites seem to have saved the best for last. Or latest, anyway.

First of all, you can have your fire trucks and backhoes, the Zamboni machine is the most fascinating thing on four wheels, its mesmerizing ice-smoothing act the highlight of many a hockey game. Now, behold, the scraping, squirting box of ingenuity comes to you in a wisecracking personification in “I’m Cool!” (Balzer and Bray, $17.99).

“Crank up your X-ray vision,” the happy machine invites the reader, “and I’ll show ya how!” Blade, augurs, water pipes, paddle, towel. “Even if you know how a bumblebee flies or a spider spins her web, it’s still magic.

This primer on engrossing work by neato equipment is accented by the interjections of an amusing, cavern-mouthed hockey announcer, his natty suitcoat and tie, widow’s peak, and tabletop microphone somehow connoting the middle of the last century. “Hey down there, Zamboni machine — go, go, go!” he hectors our hero during intermission. “The clock’s ticking! Hit the gas! Finish up so we can get back to the game!”

“Chill, big talker. I’ve got what it takes to do the job,” comes the response. “Coolest job in the world, right here, baby.”

And wall-to-wall fun.

“A Spooky, Sparkly Halloween”
Oh sure, why not, Saturday is Halloween, after all, the holiday on pace to knock Santa from his place atop popularity’s heap.

Sag Harbor’s mother-daughter team of Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamiton, in returning to their “Very Fairy Princess” endeavors, have put a welcome spin of good citizenship on the pumpkin-carving-and-candy festivities in their new one, “A Spooky, Sparkly Halloween” (Little, Brown, $18).

In it, Gerry, who’s so deep in her princessness she doesn’t even consider her wings and tiara a costume, helps out a friend, Delilah, whose pure white dentist getup gets splattered with ketchup, leading Delilah to wittily lament, “I can’t wear this in the parade! It sends totally the wrong message about dentists!”

This calls for quick thinking and a bit of sacrifice on the part of Gerry, who stays thematically consistent and cleverly transforms her friend into an oversized walking (and cavity-free) tooth.

All is thus well. Till next year, then.

With, as ever, illustrations in ink and color pencil by Christine Davenier.



Emma Walton Hamilton will give a reading of “A Spooky, Sparkly Haloween” at Harbor Books in Sag Harbor on Oct. 31 at 11 a.m.