Happy Me!: Relax and Breathe

Eileen Michele

Publisher: Archway Publishing Pages: 31 Price: (paperback) $16.95 ISBN: 9781480827325 Reviewed: May, 2017 Author Website: Visit »

With today’s awareness of early anxiety disorders, parents and caretakers know that trying to calm an anxious child can sometimes be distressingly ineffective. Eileen Michele’s debut picture book uses animal characters to teach simple breathing techniques to help anxiety-ridden children.

In the book’s first chapter, titled “Blow Out the Candles,” various animals are shown blowing out candles on a birthday cake. In the next, “Funny Tummy,” a bear is seen floating on a cloud, blowing a feather and ribbon high into the air. The author instructs readers to do the same: “Blow out 1,2,3. You will see how SMALL your tummy can be.” When the bear draws in air, in order to smell, the bear’s tummy grows. In the last chapter, “Smell the Flowers,” a few animals are seen smelling flowers and blowing away the hovering butterflies and bees.

The narrative is told mostly in rhyme without breaks between the lines, as in: “Take a deep breath and count 1,2,3,4. Blow out the candles. I can’t wait for more.” Unfortunately, some rhymes are forced, and many cadences are uneven, making for awkward reading: “Take a deep breath and count 1,2,3,4,5,6. Blow out the candles and make a bug skip.” And the illustrations, although featuring appealing animals, have a flat, unoriginal appearance.

The most pressing problem, however, is that the book never explains the purpose for this blowing in and out. While the author notes on the back cover that she developed “these stories when one of her daughters showed anxiety symptoms when very young,” she never tells children how to use this blowing technique to manage their own anxiety. The book begs for a character who is shown transformed by the effects of relaxed breathing.

Although young children will have fun imitating the animals, the book’s lack of context limits its usefulness. Still, it could provide a springboard for discussion between parents and children about stressful feelings and how to manage them with mindful breathing.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

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