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Willow the Wonderer picture books have gone into reprint - again!

We started this month with an exciting milestone : Our debut picture book series Willow the Wonderer has gone into yet another reprint. This marks the third printing for our first book in the series, Willow the Wonderer and the second for Honey Time.

At over 2 metric tonnes, this will be our biggest print-run yet and yes, includes our upcoming new title - but more on that later...

Right now we are nervously eyeing the last few boxes of the books we have on-hand and hoping that the next lot arrives before we run out!

little girl peering from the top of her Willow the Wonderer picture book
Willow the Wonderer picture books gone into yet another reprint!

From lockdown book launch to living in a changed world

The journey we've been through over the last three years is what makes this milestone all the special.

We produced and released a book about the search for happiness in the midst of the prolonged COVID lockdowns that challenged our very beliefs and assumptions about what makes us happy.

It was a difficult time for some but with the benefit of hindsight, I feel that for many others this was a mixed blessing.

The lockdowns gave us the time and space to stop, reflect and take stock.

For me personally, it was life changing. I walked away from a corporate career I was once devoted to and finally pursued a line of work that was more in-line with my values and interest in the life - in wisdom, in writing and in publishing.

COVID era policies have had lasting impact on our society

Whatever we may think about the COVID era public health policies, it's hard to argue that they haven't had lasting impact on our societies. Seeing the once entrenched "face-time" corporate work culture desimate away, for example, caught me out by surprise. Having spent 15 years of my life working long hours in the office, I could have never imagined such a wholesale change could ever occur.

The recent stand-off playing out between CEOs and workers, as the bosses try every trick in the book to induce their workers back into the office, has also been rather fascinating to witness.

From calling workers entitled and lazy, to making thinly veiled threats about career progression, and even making it about 'fairness' (whilst conveniently forgetting the obsence disparity in incomes, bonuses and lifestyles that a minority of senior executives enjoy...) - nothing seems to be working. Workers seem to be quietly united in their fight to hold onto their newfound freedoms.

It seems that people everywhere have turned over a new leaf and choose the joy of a school drop-off or simple pleasure of a sleep-in to enduring the morning commute.

I find myself quitely cheering on my former colleagus from the sidelines in this epic #WFH tussle!

Mental health is also no longer stigmatised

The other positive change that has come about has been the elevation of mental health - our inner subjective state of mind - in our national conversation.

Now, more than ever, we are talking openly about the importance of paying attention to what is going on 'inside us' as much, if not more, than what is happening on the outside.

And that brings us squarely back to Willow the Wonderer series...

Connecting to our inner world lies at the core of our stories

The first book begins with Willow the Wonderer posing the most existential of all questions : What is happiness and where does it lay?

After going on an epic, yet externally focused adventure, Willow finally heads back home and lays on his bed. As he lets go of his externally focused search for happiness, he has an epiphany:

The happiness he'd been looking for had been there all along, inside him - even better, he discovers that it is boundless!

At one level, this is a simple and intuitive, insight. At another, it's worthy of many volumes of research, commentary and debate. Indeed much has already been written about the nature of happiness in our human history!

I had in fact written out several different endings for the book, before settling on this one in the final stages of editing.

"...Willow the wonderer

Had finally found

Happiness lies within

And it knows no bounds!"

Seeing this was going to be the first book in the series, I decided to leave our readers - young and old - with 'the' essential insight on happiness : Happiness lies within and knows no bounds.

The ending very simply reminds us that happiness is something that we feel on the inside. In other words, happiness is an inner subjective experience or as I like to think of it, an inner mental state of wellbeing.

In doing so, I was laying the groundwork from which I could explore different facets of our inner mental states in future books in the series.

I was also alluding to the fact that most of us, with enough practice and perseverance, can ultimately control our inner mental states. This is why the final line of the last stanza ends with the statement that our inner happiness "knows no bounds" - and why should it when we have the ability to generate and draw from this well endlessly?

The final stanza pointed to the theme that would recur in every Willow the Wonderer book that is to follow : The importance of paying attention to our inner world.

A little donkey in a striped purple onesie is lying in bed with a broad smile
Willow the Wonderer smiles contentedly - He has found happiness

Why pay attention to our inner world?

So why pay attention to our inner world? It's a good question and took me a long time to figure out for myself. It's hardly surprising as I,like many others of my generation, grew up with narratives that promised that we'd "live happily ever after" once we had:

  • Got the grades...

  • Got the job/promotion...

  • Met our prince/princess...

  • Had a dream wedding/honeymoon...

  • Built our castles...

  • Had (higly accomplished) children...

  • Made our fortune ...

The list goes on and in fact, never ends. The focus is also always on the outside - what we achieve, acquire, conquer and win!

Rarely are we told to stop and look within - and examine our inner state: What is our mind doing, what thoughts are arising, are these thoughts congruent to our external reality, why or why not?

It goes without saying that paying attention to our 'survival needs is important - and the list above will see to that. But finding lasting contentment and peace of mind from material wealth alone is next to impossible.

As Jim Carrey famously said, "I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.”

This inconvenient truth rarely gets airtime in our highly consumer focused economies. And even when we do get told this, we are prone not to believe it.

"It will be different for me", we tell ourselves...

But science is now confirming what yogis and philosophers from both, eastern contemplative and western philosophical traditions long knew and taught for millennia: Our inner mental state is more critical to our wellbeing than even our external.

Turns out that mental health, is health.

The many realities of our inner worlds

Ever been in a situation where everyone in the room seemed to have a different take?

A person's perception is their reality. Coloured by our upbrining, social and cultural backgrounds, history, attitudes, assumptions, beliefs, and physiology our inner subjective experience of the world can be, and often is, very different from person to person.

Individually, this inner subjective experience is more real to us than what is happening 'objectively' on the outside.

It is no wonder that the same yogis and philosophers were also tirelessly teaching everyone to heed their inner world - and strive to control it. They also showed us that just as we can train our bodies to be stronger and healthier through physical exercise, we can also do the same with our minds through mental exercises such as meditation.

Most of these teachings became lost to the mainstream as our economies went through rapid industrialisation - but as conversations about mental health returned to the forefront, they are once again seeing the light of the day.

Mind training techniques like meditation are now becoming mainstream again - to such an extent that they are even seen to be "trendy". But it is important to look beyond the hype and understand that there is nothing "new-agey" about any of this...

Here are but a few quotes from ancient thinkers and traditions around the world that point to not only the universality, but also the timelessness of this wisdom:

"The mind is everything; what you think you become” -- Socrates

"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world." -- Buddha

"We suffer more often in imagination than in reality." -- Seneca

"The mind acts like an enemy for those who do not control it." --Bhagavad Geeta

"You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength." -- Marcus Aurelius

"Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. -- Tao Te Ching

Slowing down and being still is one way to achieve the connection to our inner world

We further explored the idea of coming back to our inner self in Honey Time, the second book in the Willlow the Wonderer series.

Our little wise ass wakes up with the 'zoomies' and causes absolute mayhem as he runs trying to 'do it all'. This is no doubt something that parents of toddlers can relate to...

But it's not just two year olds that suffer from the zoomies ... Willow's story illustrated the modern human condition. It was the perfect metaphor for how disconnected we can become when we too run around in our daily lives trying to do it all. We not only cause mayhem but also miss out on the many wonderful moments in our lives.

It finally took an intervention by the wise Queen Bee for Willow to slow down. Once again, it was only when he let go of the struggle and became still that he began to see and feel the beauty of the world inside him.

The story ends with Willow's next insight on life:

'Slow dow and be still,'

He said with a grin.

'It's a wonderful way

To find happiness within.'

It's a timely reminder in our fast paced world to take time out and connect to the world within.

A little donkey is trapped in a round honey mound and looking at the natural world around in wonder.
The hasty haze clears as Willow finally slows down and becomes still

The exploration into our inner world continues in our third Willow the Wonderer picture book

We will continue exploring our inner mental states in future Willow the Wonderer books. I am personally very excited about the release of the third book because it explores a facet that I felt very keenly in my early life - all the way through childhood and into young adulthood.

As per usual, the story will end with an age-old universal wisdom into life and living that will help us understand and manage this state of mind better.

We like to see these snippets of wisdom as a seed - a fruitful, potent seed - that we have no doubt will blossom with time in our young readers mind and help them navigate the vicissitudes of life - or is it of our minds?

I am not ready to give away all the details of our third book just yet ... but will leave you with a third and final clue as to what it is going to be about.

(In case you missed the last two, read these two blogs: First clue, Second clue)

The third and final clue is that the third Willow the Wonderer book is based on the 'wisdom of astronauts'.

So why are we excited about this third printing?

When we stared working on the Willow the Wonderer series, it was with the intent to create stories that we wish we'd grown up with - beautiful stories that plant seeds of wisdom, wonder and joy.

It was our heart's desire that these stories find their way into the hands of all the little ones all over the world and help them connect to their inner world - and tap into their inner happiness.

It's been wonderful seeing the books find their way into homes all across Australia - and this third printing means that it will find it's way into many more little hands still.

It is only fitting that as I end this blog I extend our sincere thanks to all of you - our readers, book sellers and advocates - for your support and help in spreading the seeds of wisdom. We could have reached the third printing without you. Thank you.


Young woman. Children's book author

About Reeta

Reeta Dhar is the author of the Willow the Wonderer picture book series and co-founder of independent publisher, Wise As Stories.

We are creating beautiful stories we wish we'd grown up with - stories that plant seeds of wonder, wisdom and joy.


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