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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Lisa Robinson and Review of Forest Bath Right Down This Path

Lisa is a psychiatrist who works with children, teens, and adults and a children's book author.

She has an MFA in Creative Writing for Young People from Lesley University where she now teaches an elective course, Creativity and the Unconscious Mind. She lives in the Boston area with her family and three cats. When she's not working or writing she's flying through the air on aerial silks at her local circus studio.

She’s the author of 5 picture books, including, The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Revolution, illustrated by Stacy Innerst (2022), Were I Not A Girl: The Inspiring Story Of Dr. James Barry, illustrated by Lauren Simkin Berke (2020), Madame Saqui, Revolutionary Ropedancer, illustrated by Rebecca Green (2020), Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten, illustrated by Eda Kaban (2019) and Pippa’s Night Parade, illustrated by Lucy Fleming (2019).


For some basic information on Lisa, check out our earlier interviews (here), (here), and (here).


Her newest nonfiction picture book, Forest Bath Right Down This Path, was released May 9th.


Lisa, thank you so much for stopping back by to talk about your newest picture book.


What do you like to do outside by yourself or with friends and family?


Every morning I go for a walk in a small woods near my home. I love walking the same paths each day and watching the how the trees and plants transform as the seasons change. I head out daily even if it’s raining or snowing. I often go on walks or hikes with my friends. Writing about Madame Saqui, a wirewalker from the French Revolutionary era, inspired me to learn to wirewalk; my wire is in my backyard, so I enjoy getting outside to practice.


Sounds fun. What was your inspiration or spark of interest for Forest Bath Right Down This Path?


Every year my family goes to coastal Maine for a summer vacation. My favorite hike is in a fog forest—Barred Island Preserve.

Lush moss lines the paths in this fog forest and it feels like we are swimming through a sea of green. The hike ends at a rocky beach where we picnic and explore tidepools. When we leave, we feel peaceful and begin to dream about next year’s visit. When I learned that there is a name for the calming effects of immersing oneself in nature—forest bathing—I knew I had to write a story set in Maine.


This looks so like the moss forests in the PNW, especially along the Olympic Penninsula. I'd never heard of this term either, but I love it. What is the most fun or interesting place that you’ve written a manuscript or started a story?


I have to say Maine. On our annual summer vacation, we always stay in Brooklin, Maine, a mile or so down the road from E.B.White’s farmhouse. One year we attended the Blue Hill Fair which is part of the Charlotte’s Web story!

Wow! That would be so fun! How long did it take Forest Bath Right Down This Path to go from its spark to publication?


I started writing the story soon after the pandemic began in 2020. . .so it took about three years.


And what was the hardest thing you encountered about writing Forest Bath Right Down This Path?


The story has two components—a lyrical guide to the sensory experience of forest bathing—a poem—and a story about a father and daughter enjoying their forest walk. The original version was simply the poem, but my critique partners encouraged me to add a story with a child. Marrying the story to the poem was the biggest challenge in writing it.


Ooh, I can imagine. Congrats for pulling it off. Is there something you want your readers to know about Forest Bath Right Down This Path?


I hope this book inspires you to spend time with your loved ones outdoors and soak in all its beauty and mental health benefits. As a parent of two children (now young adults), I’ve been concerned about the ways phones and screens are interfering with paying attention to the natural world as well as one another.


As a practicing child psychiatrist, I’m always looking for ways to help people manage stress and anxiety. Some of the recommendations I make for doing this include exercise, taking time away from screens, meditating, and connecting with family and friends. It’s known that spending a lot of time on social media is contributing to the worsening of teens’ mental health. Adults need to take time away from their phones, too. That’s why the main character of my book, Kayla, encourages her father to put away his phone and fully engage in their walk through their forest. Children want their parents’ undivided attention; often they’re the ones encouraging adults to turn off their phones and be present.


Did anything surprise you when you first saw Khoa Le’s illustrations? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Lisa Robinson, 2023. Image © Khoa Le, 2023.


I adore the illustrations! My favorite spread is the full page spread of Kayla and her father’s feet in the water. . .this spread captures the notion of “immersion” in the forest bathing experience and it occurs right after Kayla shuts off her father’s phone. I love how Khoa Le conveyed this aspect of the experience.


What a soothing and enticing image. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I have two more picture books forthcoming. Giraffe and Jackal are Friends (Again!) arrives in November 2023 with Sounds True Kids. This is a book based on Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication technique, about a friendship conflict between Giraffe and Jackal. I LOVE Nicole Michels’ art for this book. It’s amazing.


In 2024 I have a book coming out with Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, Gifts from Georgia’s Garden, How Georgia O’Keeffe Nourished her Art. Hadley Hooper has done an amazing job with the art.


I love Georgia O'Keeffe's art; I am so looking forward to this book. Congrats on both of them. Last question, what is the best advice you’ve ever gotten - whether it’s regarding writing, publishing, or not ?


The three P’s:

1. Follow your passion

2. Cultivate patience

3. Persevere. . .


(And psychotherapy! It can be so helpful! I speak from experience as a giver and receiver of it.)


😉 Thank you, Lisa for stopping by and sharing with us. It was great to chat with you again.

To find out more about Lisa Robinson, or contact her:

To see more of Khoa Le’s artwork:


Review of Forest Bath Right Down This Path

and Giveaway


A wonderful book encouraging families to take time together and explore our forests, parks, and outdoor spaces.

Forest Bath Right Down This Path


Author: Lisa Robinson


Illustrator: Khoa Le


Publisher: Sounds True, Incorporated (2023)


Ages: 4-8


Fiction


Themes:

Rejuvenating, forest time, family time, and the exploration of senses.


Synopsis:

Join in a forest bathing adventure as a young girl helps her father to leave his cell phone behind and embrace the sights, smells, and sounds of the natural world around him.


On a sticky summer day, when it is too hot to do anything, Kayla suggests a forest bath. Daddy needs a little more convincing, but soon they are heading into the forest.


Kayla takes in the sights, sounds, and smells of the natural world around her. Cinnamon fern and bunchberry grow in the shade. The packed dirt under Kayla’s feet is hard and the sunlight through the branches is soft. She breathes a symphony of scents—soil, sedge, and moss—and finds a stream with an icy current. A black-throated green warbler trills in the distance zee-zee-zee-zoo-zee.


As the worries and distractions of the day melt away, Kayla and her father relax and enjoy the pleasure of forest bathing—and of being together.


Opening Lines:

One sticky summer day, it is too hot

to do anything.


Even enjoy a picnic.


“Mama packed cold, crunchy carrots.”

Kayla hands one to Daddy.


“I don’t want a carrot,” Daddy

grumbles.


“No carrots, no ice cream. That’s

what Mama says.”


“I don’t want ice cream.” Daddy

stares at his cell phone.


Kayla and Bunny finish munching,

then pack up the picnic.


What I LOVED about this book:

I love the way Lisa Robinson and Khoa Le juxtaposes the story of a social media-entrenched parent and his forest loving daughter, Kayla, looking to escape a hot "sticky, summer day" (on the left) with a wonderful, mindful free-verse poem about enjoying nature (on the right).

Text © Lisa Robinson, 2023. Image © Khoa Le, 2023.


Slip inside the cool caress

of shadows and shade—

maple, spruce, pine.

Branches rustle and sway,

leaves flutter

and wave hello.


Again and again, Kayla tries to interest her dad in slowing down, wiggling his toes in the dirt or a puddle, and enjoying sparkling sunbeams while sitting on a log. But her dad is focused on his cell phone. While both adults and kids may identify with Kayla's dad (or the frustration of spending time with someone who's focused on their phone), the soft, detailed illustrations focus on Kayla and the forest. Inviting the reader to experience the fascinating forest details along with her.

Text © Lisa Robinson, 2023. Image © Khoa Le, 2023.


feel the packed dirt of the path

underfoot—

a stick, a stone,

a root, a rock.


Khoa Le's illustrations beautifully expand and play off the lyrical and inviting poem encouraging Kayla and the reader to stroll slowly, feel the dirt, balance in the terrain, touch, look, breathe, and listen to the forest and "the chitter of a chipmunk/ the whisper of wind/ the creak of a tree." I really enjoyed the variety of plants, animals, and birds which Khoa Le wove into the story. Eventually Kayla's has enough and she mutters, what I imagine her mother may have told her before, "Sticks and stones but no cellphones!"


Just as her dad puts away the phone, they find a stream and he offers to take a photo (with his cellphone). Sneakily, Kayla asks to take the picture. She then "turns it off and slides it into his pocket." Begging him to “Come in the water!” This is the first time, since the opening spread, that the focus is entirely on Kayla and her dad. I love the illustrations sweet touch of Kayla's stuffed bunny dipping its toes in the water and the real rabbit peeking from behind a tree.

Text © Lisa Robinson, 2023. Image © Khoa Le, 2023.


After a tender moment, the lyrical poem resumes and Kayla and her dad...well, I guess you'll have to check out the book to discover her dad's reaction to being barefoot in a forest stream. This is a wonderful book encouraging everyone to take time in nature - which as the ending notes state could be a forest, a park, a garden, or even a balcony with plants. What matters is to "slow down and use your senses." This is also a great father-child book, perfect for Father's Day. A reminder to enjoy and make the most of our time, as children and grandchildren grow up so fast. It's a loving exploration of family and a celebration of curiosity and the needed rejuvenation of nature.


Resources:

- when you first read the title, what did you think a "forest bath" was? How would you defint it now?


- visit a park, forest, garden, yard, or balcony. Find a place to relax for a while. Using a journal, draw or write down what you can see, feel, hear, and smell. Where is your favorite place to go outdoors?


- Check out Lisa's story kit for Forest Bath Right Down This Path. And try some of the sensory activities.



Forest Bath Right Down This Path Giveaway

Awesome news! Lisa & Sounds True are offering one lucky reader a copy of Forest Bath Right Down This Path.


- Simply comment below to be entered in the random drawing on May 23rd at 11:50 pm PT.


- Be sure to say where (if) you shared the post (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), and I'll add additional entries for you.


- *Sorry US Residents only.*

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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