[review] Today I Am a River by Kate Coombs and Anna Emilia Laitinen

If you could choose to be any animal, plant, or aspect of nature, what would it be?

In Today I Am a River (Sounds True, 2023), Kate Coombs and Anna Emilia Laitinen invite readers to immerse themselves in the natural world by engaging in imaginative play. What could be more fun than pretending to be a spider, a tree, a cloud, or even the wind? In so doing, children gain new insight into Mother Nature’s beauty, power and magic.

This companion book to Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems, contains fourteen meditative, winsomely illustrated free verse poems that are life affirming and self empowering, reminding children that the imagination knows no bounds. The more we learn about the world around us, the more we realize there is simply no end to the wonder. This is how the collection begins:

I can be anything --
reaching high,
curling small,
leaping, whirling,
stopping to see --

I can be anything,
everything.

Kate’s beautifully crafted lyrical verses sing with spontaneity and gorgeous imagery. Children can’t help but respond to the unique first person voices and personalities in the poems, and will enjoy considering perspectives other than their own. As in “The River,” phrasing, movement, and rhythm have been polished to perfection.

RIVER

Today I am a river.
Here I come!

I ride down a mountainside,
flow boldly
across a wide valley,
explore a canyon
written in cursive --

I reach rocks and stones,
stumble and rumble,
leap and bound,
tumble around.

But still I flow.
Fast or slow, I find my way.

Inside I know
where I want to go.

I head for the sea. The be of me.
The big blue heart and soul of me.

Today I am a river.
Here I come!

Anna Emilia’s soothing illustrations abound with delicate details, and show children communing with nature in joy and harmony. There is an overall feeling of peace, contentment, and wholeness. Poem and picture enable us to appreciate trees in a new way.

TREE

Today
I am a tree.
Sun catcher,
Heart healer,
message of tomorrow
written on my leaves.

I feel the coming and going
of wind and birds,
rustle of green in summer,
shiver of gold in fall,
reach of bare branches
in winter.

I hold up the world
with my growing hands.
I breathe
for many lands.
Today I am tall.
Troubles
have become small.

I am a tree.

I like how there are gentle lessons in some of these poems. We can better understand a spider’s persistence and hard work as it constantly repairs damages to its web caused by animals, insects, strong winds, and falling branches. The repetition of the phrase, “I repair it,” is a life lesson for us all. “Those of us/who are makers know:/building a thing/isn’t enough./You must repair it.”

Kate’s charming metaphors, judicious use of alliteration and rhyme, and child-friendly personas speak to emotions kids can relate to. A pond is a “green eye/looking up at the sky,” who dreams icicle dreams during winter; rain is a skydiver; a snake, “a paintbrush/in a summer field,” and a cloud, “a quilt for the day,/stretched by wind.” There is the reminder, too, that there is a time for quiet, reflection, and being alone, “thinking my own thoughts.” So lovely!

An endnote includes suggestions for ways to use the poems for embodied learning — learning “with all of our senses, our surroundings, and our bodies, not just with our brain.”

Don’t miss this joyous celebration, this heart happy song and dance of becoming one with nature. Shine on!

SUNLIGHT

Today I am sunlight!
Heart happy,
bright
as a yellow bird
flying to the top
of the sky,
shining and calling
HOORAY!
Goldlight,
gladlight,
today
I am sunlight!

*

TODAY I AM A RIVER
written by Kate Coombs
illustrated by Anna Emilia Laitinen
published by Sounds True, April 2023
Children’s Poetry for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
*Includes Endnote

*

🐷 FATHER GOOSE GIVEAWAY WINNER! 🦋

Thanks to everyone for your wonderful comments on my Charles Ghigna interview (and thanks to Charles for responding to them)!

We are pleased to announce that the lucky person who’ll be receiving a brand new copy of THE FATHER GOOSE TREASURY OF POETRY is:

🌺 ANDREA POTOS!! 🌹

WOO HOO!!!

🎉 Congratulations, Andrea!! 🎈

👏👏👏👏👏

We know you’ll enjoy the book. It’s truly a treasure in every aspect of the word!!

*

Lovely and talented Linda Baie is hosting the Roundup at TeacherDance. Be sure to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Happy May, Happy Weekend!


*Interior spreads text copyright © 2023 Kate Coombs, illustrations © 2023 Anna Emilia Laitinen, published by Sounds True. All rights reserved.

**Copyright © 2023 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

14 thoughts on “[review] Today I Am a River by Kate Coombs and Anna Emilia Laitinen

  1. “If you could choose to be any…” questions send me into a spin – there are too many options to pick! Which, is why this book is so wondrous. Every time you turn the page, a completely, new life is laid out before you for the choosing. It is the very best of everything!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. oooooh! I’ve already started collecting poems for next year’s poetry pandemonium. These are lovely…and SO kid friendly (adults too). I think I need this book. Thank you, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have long been a Kate Coombs fan, and this one has been on my radar for quite some time. Thanks for featuring! This year, since my ArtSpeak theme is “light,” I think I’ll choose to be sunlight. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t know how I’ve missed this one and it looks fabulous, Jama. I love Kate’s idea of bringing children into who/what they can be and the way Anna shows how it can be imagined. It’s a wonderful review. I have Breathe and Be and enjoy it, love that there’s another by Kate. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am a big fan of Kate Combs’ poetry. Thanks for this lovely introduction. Now for your question, what wouldn’t I want to be? (Well, maybe a tick or mosquito…but even those might be an adventure.) Here’s a quick answer, with thanks to Kate for inspiration:

    Today I am a whirligig,
    a spinning top of stream and lake.
    Two eyes up,
    two eyes down,
    I taste the clouds and watch for fish.
    Swirly-twirly beetle,
    Today I am a whirligig!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love BREATHE AND BE, and I’m looking forward to this new companion book. Congratulations, Kate, and thanks, Jama, for sharing it. I think I’d be clouds, flitting around the world, swooping low when there was something I wanted to explore better, but escaping the world’s madness way up high, with just some birds for visitors.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, my goodness, this books looks sooo lovely. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    I think if I could choose to be any animal I would choose to be a cat. (Inspired by our kitty, Maisy, who turns ONE tomorrow. Her life looks purr-fect from my vantage point. :))

    Liked by 1 person

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