By Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrations by Ruth Jeyaveeran
Uma Krishnaswami has a few things in common with Meena, the main character of her latest book, The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story, published by LEE & LOW BOOKS. “I used to be one of those restless kids who talked too much and could never stay still. While in a school play, I once stepped on a loose floorboard and fell right through the stage.” The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story focuses on Meena’s struggle to overcome her clumsiness to perform in her class play. “Meena is a tree in the play, but trees have to be still, and Meena just can’t manage that,” says the author. “In yoga class with Auntie, (Mrs. Vohra), Meena learns that there’s more to trees than roots and branches, and there’s more stillness inside herself than she suspected.”
For Krishnaswami, yoga was also a familiar subject. “I did a book called Yoga Class for young readers which was published by Bebop Books, and that got me thinking about the possibility of doing a picture book with a yoga theme.” The author has practiced hatha yoga for many years, and she felt that children could embrace the idea of yoga. “My son went to a Quaker school when he was young. They always began the day with a moment of silence, so I know it’s possible for very young children to understand this concept and get beyond the frustration of being restless and fidgety,” says Krishnaswami.
While working on the book, Krishnaswami kept finding leads and ideas in unexpected places. “I was in San Francisco for a conference, and I shared a shuttle ride to the airport with a woman who happened to be a yoga teacher. She ended up reading the manuscript and gave me some excellent suggestions for making the text about specific poses clear and accessible to children.” This wasn’t the only research Krishnaswami conducted for the story. “I wrote a lot of character notes, filling a notebook with questions about the story. What did Meena want, and why? What was Meena avoiding? I always write character and plot questions down as preparation for entering a story. Like the breathing in yoga, this helps me make room in my mind for what comes next.”
Krishnaswami says she is looking forward to sharing the book with children. “So far I’ve only had a chance to show the book to writing project teachers, and they laughed in all of the right places, which is very reassuring!” What does the author hope children will take away from this book? “What I hope readers will take away is the knowledge that kids often feel clumsy and inadequate as they grow up; that learning to step back and find a quiet place in yourself can help in a host of difficult situations; that the crowd isn't always right. You become your best self from the inside out. Growing in the same way that trees do.”
About This Title
Interest Level:Grades K - 3
Reading Level:Grades 2 - 3
Classroom Activities, Sports, Identity/Self Esteem/Confidence, Overcoming Obstacles, Mothers, Mentors, Friendship, Families, Dreams & Aspirations, Dance, Disability, Childhood Experiences and Memories, Art, Asian/Asian American Interest, Empathy/Compassion, Persistence/Grit, Realistic Fiction, Self Control/Self Regulation, Pride, India
English Fiction Grades 3-6, Fluent Dual Language , Fluent English, Bilingual English/Spanish and Dual Language Books , India Culture and History Collection, English Fiction Grades PreK-2, Appendix B Diverse Collection Grades K-2, Social and Emotional Learning Collection, Realistic Fiction Collection Grades PreK-2, Identity and Individuality , Dual Language Collection English and Spanish, Dual Language Levels N-Z Collection, Recognizing & Managing Emotions Collection, Social and Emotional Learning Collection, English Guided Reading Level N
Asian American Collection English 6PK
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