Empty Spaces

Susan Verde calls for compassion, Jake Rose invites color

There’s a name to what Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds have been doing in the children’s book realm — the wellness series, they call it, referring to “I Am Yoga,” then “I Am Peace,” and now “I Am Human” (Abrams, $14.99), in which our unnamed hero contemplates just what that means.

But don’t worry, parents, despite lines like “I have big dreams” and “I have a feeling of wonder,” it’s not all pie-in-the-sky pabulum, as it dawns on the kid that he can be an idiot. Or, shall we say, that he makes mistakes: “I can hurt others with my words, my actions, and even my silence.” He knows fear, the root of so many of our problems, wouldn’t you agree?

And yet this book of fewer than 30 pages, each with only a smattering of Ms. Verde’s words in ample white space surrounding and showcasing Mr. Reynolds’s fetchingly inked and watercolored illustrations, is in fact a journey, as our guide hints at the outset. He can power past the sadness that dogs modernity, he comes to realize; he can choose to be thoughtful and compassionate. He can help that old lady with her groceries, play fair, listen. He can show contrition, for God’s sake.

All of which might put a reader in mind of how the schools — with their stabs at teaching “character,” their nice-try cellphone bans, their gymnasium banners pleading for adult restraint during athletic contests — continue their game efforts at stanching the disintegration of decent society brought on by the digital scourge. 

But while the man’s too big, the man’s too strong, as they say, he needn’t always win. Here, Ms. Verde, an East Hampton yoga instructor, extols in an extended author’s note the “many positive psychological and physiological benefits” of loving-kindness meditation, in which, she writes, you close your eyes, breathe deep, and repeat four phrases wishing health and happiness for someone else, and then four more wishing the same for yourself.

It’s a start.
 

“Color East Hampton”

Speaking of series, Jake Rose’s “Color East Hampton” (Color Our Town Press, $14.95) is the 11th in a succession of handsome coloring books celebrating historical or merely significant structures, all geographically specific. It follows “Color the Hamptons,” should you feel the urge to let your crayon stray as far west as the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center.

With them, Mr. Rose, a student of history, “pursues his passion for architecture, photography,” and, it says in his biographical note, “historic landmarks.” He collaborates with other artists, who produce line drawings working from his photos. 

In East Hampton, this is most clearly evident in an interior showing the chockablock counter at Scoop du Jour. It’s detailed, as most of these images are. Too detailed for coloring? The notion does pop up, but then again, colored markers know no boundary, and lines are meant to be obscured. 

He’s too polite to say so, but downtown East Hampton is pretty sterile, corporate, even unappealing, so after a quick nod to tucked-away Rowdy Hall and its “Arts and Crafts inspired dining room with a copper topped bar and fireplace,” number 15 out of the book’s 24 images on the graphical tour, he hightails it for the outskirts, each structure in the hit parade — the Cedar Point Lighthouse, the LongHouse Reserve — accompanied by a solid paragraph of local history, occasionally recounted with welcome idiosyncrasy: “Conveniently located between Sag Harbor and Amagansett,” he writes of Three Mile Harbor.

Mr. Rose is a summertime resident of a place with a real downtown, a funky, walkable village, Greenport, which naturally he has documented with a coloring book, something he’s done as far afield as the Upper West Side of Manhattan. And this enterprising young man apparently isn’t done, eyeing as he is, it says in a release, “neighborhoods and small towns across America.”

Let me finish the thought: before time, tide, and bad taste sweep them away.