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Buddha at Bedtime - Children's Book Review
Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom for You to Read With Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten, and Inspire*, by Dharmachari Nagaraja, is simply lovely. Appropriate for children ages 4-10, this collection of bedtime stories is based on Buddhist Jataka Tales - a collection of folk tales originated in India, and used to relay ethical teachings to children. Many of these stories feature animals and magical creatures, and in Buddhist cultures are often performed through song and dance at festivals.
Buddha at Bedtime retells some of these stories in contemporary words and style, and includes luminous anime-style pictures at the start of each story. Each story begins with the phrase "Relax, be very still, and listen", and ends with a summary of the 'lesson', such as this one at the end of the first story, 'The Brave Little Parrot':
"Sometimes we can feel helpless when faced with a great challenge. A wise person knows that love and compassion can give them the courage to achieve things that they thought were impossible."
Or this, from the end of 'Two Ducks and a Turtle':
"All too often, we open our mouths in anger without thinking about what might happen next. A wise person thinks before they speak, and if they can't say something kind, they keep silent."
For some parents, this might seem a little too morally heavy-handed, but personally I don't think it comes across that way in the book. The stories themselves are fun, and the pictures and page accents so captivating that this book has become a favorite of my own children, and the lessons don't diminish their enjoyment one bit. All of the themes are very universal, which makes this book appropriate for both Buddhist and non-Buddhist parents and children.
The book also includes a great and accessible introduction to Buddhism, including an overview of The Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, and The Five Precepts. It offers suggestions for how to discuss the stories with your children, and guidelines for introducing some age-appropriate relaxation and meditation techniques. The book includes 20 stories, meant to be read aloud to children ages 4-10, but I think independent readers on the upper end of that spectrum or even older would enjoy reading them themselves.
I previously reviewed Dharma Publishing's collection of Jataka Tales, which is also excellent. The difference is that those versions are offered one to a book, in classic picture-book stye, with a coloring page included at the end of each book. Buddha at Bedtime is a collection of stories in one book, each 3-4 pages long, with one picture included for each story. Dharma Publishing's versions are geared more towards teachers, with curriculum ideas included, while Buddha at Bedtime is geared towards parents. However, both versions could be used in either setting, in my opinion (and my own children love both.)
Overall, Buddha at Bedtime is a beautiful addition to any bedtime collection, and one that would probably stay a favorite in any household for many years.
* This book was sent to me free for review by the publisher. I am disclosing this per BellaOnline's Ethical Review policy.)
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