Mindfulness is the new hot topic in education, so this effort could be a timely addition to the “picture books for parenting” shelf.
Clara wants to be nice, but her temper flares when things don’t go her way. Eventually, her unpredictable behavior alienates her friends. Fortunately (and rather improbably) a wisecracking bird named Brodhi shows up poolside to teach her to “chill out”—slow down and breathe deep. The well-meaning message is clear, but that is part of the problem. The lesson overpowers the slight story. There is no doubt where the story is heading or how it will be resolved. The muted pastel illustrations are certainly calm but unlikely to draw in children who are not already calm themselves. Similarly, the picture-book format will be most attractive to young children, not the 8- to 12-year-olds Levitt seems to be targeting. Clara is white and decidedly middle-class. While she has two friends of color, the friend who features most prominently is also white. “Butter tarts,” a uniquely Canadian treat, also feature heavily in the story, which may puzzle U.S. readers.
Even for New Age parents and kids, Clara may be just too calm. (Picture book. 8-12)