Saturday, March 7, 2020

Review - Finding Om

Finding Om
by Rashmi Bismark
illustrated by Morgan Huff
Date: 2020
Publisher: Mango and Marigold Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Finding Om is an illustrated children's book that shares the story of Anu, an Indian African girl who explores the mantra Om with her beloved grandfather, Appuppa. Through this story, she begins to uncover techniques of mindfulness that readers can explore along with her. This wonderful multicultural, intergenerational story is sure to become a staple in classrooms and homes across the world.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Sometimes I wonder if picture-book authors really understand children at all...

Finding Om is a simple explanation of mindfulness and meditation using the Om mantra. Anu learns about Om from her grandfather, Appuppa. Then she goes on to practice, eventually finding peace within herself.

What I'm struggling with are two things. First, Anu is depicted fairly unrealistically. After learning about Om, she struggles to maintain focus... until she obsessively starts chanting while letting the world go on around her. Do children really need to be that mindful? (There's one illustration that I found particularly disturbing, in which she's sitting and meditating while the rest of her family are simply enjoying their lives. What's the message? Kids are supposed to give up joy in favour of enlightenment? Her family are unenlightened boors who need to be taught a lesson? In fact, the book ends with Appuppa suggesting they teach the even-younger sister about meditating. I'm not sure how well that's going to work, given the girls' apparent ages.)

The second thing that's bothering me is the way the book is written. It's difficult to understand, even for adults! The main narrative itself isn't so bad, but check out one of the definitions provided for clarity:

Meditation: an introspective practice for becoming more familiar with ourselves in relationship with internal and external life experience; depending on the style of practice, may cultivate certain modes of paying attention, like focus and/or receptivity; may also reinforce connections to various attitudes and intentions for attending with presence, awareness, wisdom, and care

Got that, kids?

The pictures are cute, and the overall premise is commendable, but I think this is aimed at the wrong age group. Do young children really need to be reminded to notice things around them? I don't think so. These are valuable lessons for older readers who may have forgotten how to be mindful, but I question whether encouraging kids to get obsessed with chanting and trying to be mindful 24/7 is that healthy.

Thank you to NetGalley and Mango and Marigold Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.83 out of 5

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