Miyuki’s lesson in mindfulness


Thank You, Miyuki

Written by Roxane Marie Galliez, illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2020, 32 pp., $17.95, hard cover)

“Thank You, Miyuki” is the third story in a series about ebullient Miyuki and her kind, caring grandfather. In this tale, Miyuki sees her grandpa doing tai chi and seated meditation. She becomes curious and wants to learn how to do what he is doing. Grandpa guides Miyuki to explore the beauty of nature that surrounds her: bees hovering, light sparkling off water, fluffy clouds in the sky. “Miyuki, look at the water. Not the flow. Not the twigs floating by. Only the water in front of your eyes.” When they are looking at the clouds, Miyuki asks Grandpa what he sees and he replies,” I see a cloud. A cloud watching a grandfather and his granddaughter.”

Through these experiences, she learns to be in the moment and to appreciate her natural surroundings.

Seng Soun Ratanavanh’s breathtaking Japanese-inspired illustrations highlight the tender bond between Miyuki and Grandpa. In one scene, Grandpa and Miyuki are gazing at the same rose, fingers almost touching, as they take in the fragrant scent. In another scene, they are both seated and Miyuki is leaning gently against her grandfather while they are reminiscing about the day. You can tell how secure they feel in one another’s company.

Ratanavanh also illuminates the characters’ relationship with the greater natural world by playing with scale in her illustrations to create a magical, whimsical garden where blossoms are as tall as trees and goldfish are almost as large as Miyuki and Grandpa. It is a constant reminder of nature’s presence and our small place in it.

The connection between Miyuki and her grandfather is touching. It’s wonderful to have stories for children that celebrate intergenerational relationships and all that children can learn from their elders. Although the author uses the word meditate throughout the story, I think what Grandpa is teaching Miyuki is mindfulness, being aware of what is going on in the present moment.

I think this would be a marvelous book to teach young children (pre-K to second grade) how to be mindful. Many schools have embraced teaching mindfulness to help children learn how to calm themselves, focus attention, and improve their well-being.

Especially in this unprecedented time of COVID-19, we should all read this book and take a moment to stop and focus on the clouds in the sky or a flower in bloom, and appreciate the beauty around us. It just might improve our well-being, too.

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