Get your own! Why coloring books are good for you

In fourth grade at lunch break my classmates would run around the playground, unleashed from the confines of the classroom. I can’t remember exactly how much time we were given, but it wasn’t long enough to tire everyone out so we would be settled and ready for more learning in the afternoon.

I look back now and see the genius of our teacher, Miss Gardener, who handed out intricate abstract design pages for us to color as we walked in the door. For the next half-hour we would color while she read to us. The soothing activity calmed us all and in minutes even the unruliest kids had settled.

Photo by Matt Doucette

I’ve been following the activities of Lisa Congdon since I took her CreativeBug drawing class and a few weeks ago she posted on Instagram about working on a coloring book for adults. Then while browsing a local bookstore, I came across the intricate work of Johanna Basford and was immediately taken back to that fourth grade classroom. In researching Basford’s other books, I found they were sold out! (I ended up waiting two months for The Secret Garden.) I soon discovered that coloring books for adults, including Basford’s, are outselling cookbooks and other more traditional books. Today’s list of Amazon bestsellers shows four different books in the top 20, some ahead of Stephen King’s new thriller.

What’s going on?

The trend started in France over a year ago when a publisher started marketing a few books as “art therapy,” and French women started grabbing them up. It took a while for the enthusiasm to reach the United States, but it is certainly here now, probably thanks in part to social media and Zooey Deschanel also posting about Secret Garden on her Facebook page. Now you can find a color book for your personality:

Here are a few:

Balance: Angie’s extreme stress menders volume 1 by Angie Grace

The Mindfulness Coloring Book: Anti-Stress Art Therapy for Busy People by Emma Farrarons.

Color Therapy: An Anti-Stress Coloring Book by Cindy Wilde, Laura-Kate Chapman and Richard Merritt

Color Me Fierce! by Nike Desis (2008).

Coloring for Grown-Ups: The Adult Activity Book by Ryan Hunter and Taige Jensen (2012).

Does it really work?

“One of the first psychologists to apply coloring as a relaxation technique was Carl G. Jüng in the early 20th century,” reports the Huffington Post. “He did this through mandalas: circular designs with concentric shapes…with origin[s] in India.”

Psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala explained in a blog post that when adults color, it “brings out our imagination and takes us back to our childhood, a period in which we most certainly had a lot less stress.”

She explains why coloring works as a de-stressor: “The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.”

Want to try it?

Here are a few free pages to download.

From Johanna Basford: Enchanted Forest Samples (pdf), Valentine Heart (jpg), Christmas Star (jpg)

From Emma Farrarons: Mindfullness Coloring Book Sample (jpg)

From Coloring For Grownups: New Year’s Day

Another source is everyone’s favorite image search place, Pinterest where pinners create their own coloring page boards.
Here’s mine:

Follow CheekyAttitude’s board Coloring Pages for Adults on Pinterest.


Listen to an NPR interview with Johanna Basford:

If you would like to support me, I will receive a small commission if you buy these and other books via Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)

5 Books for Young People about Protest and Social Change

5 Books for young people about social change

The news around the country about civil unrest, inequality and protest provide teachable moments with young people. Here are 5 stories from history to spark conversation:

Markel, Michelle, Melissa Sweet, and Rachel Zegar. 2013. Brave girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909. (find in a library)

An illustrated account of immigrant Clara Lemlich’s pivotal role in the influential 1909 women laborer’s strike describes how she worked grueling hours to acquire an education and support her family before organizing a massive walkout to protest the unfair working conditions in New York’s garment district.


McDonough, Yona Zeldis, and Malcah Zeldis. 2002. Peaceful protest: the life of Nelson Mandela.  (find in a library)

A biography of the South African leader who became a civil rights activist, political prisoner, and president of South Africa.


Sheinkin, Steve. 2014. The Port Chicago 50: disaster, mutiny, and the fight for civil rights. (find in a library)

Presents an account of the 1944 civil rights protest involving hundreds of African-American Navy servicemen who were unjustly charged with mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions after the deadly Port Chicago (Oakland, CA) explosion.


Tonatiuh, Duncan. 2014. Separate is never equal: Sylvia Mendez & her family’s fight for desegregation. (find in a library)

Years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez, an eight-year-old girl of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, played an instrumental role in Mendez v. Westminster, the landmark desegregation case of 1946 in California


Weatherford, Carole Boston, and Jerome Lagarrigue. 2005. Freedom on the menu: the Greensboro sit-ins. (find in a library)

The 1960 civil rights sit-ins at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, are seen through the eyes of a young Southern black girl.




If you would like to support me, I will receive a small commission if you buy these and other books via Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)

Navajo Weavers Ellen and Lucy Begay


Recently, one of my local libraries hosted an afternoon talk by Gary Beaudoin, an Oregon collector of Navajo rugs and author of “Unbroken Web: The Art of Ellen & Lucy Begay” (find in a library).


Through Beaudoin’s words and display of his personal collection, we entered the world of this mother and daughter, who weave traditional Navajo rugs.



Only the red color is dyed, all the variations of browns and creams are the natural color of the Churro wool they get from their own flock.


Rare treasures, each rug is unique and takes about one year to make. The designs incorporate traditional motifs as well as the artist’s interpretation of natural forms.


Passed from generation to generation, weavers learn mostly by watching rather than direct instruction.

These women use weave by hand rather than by using a shuttle. The artist uses her fingers to choose each strand of the warp to go under or over.

In the video below you can see the process about one minute in:

For more information about the process, artists and their work here are a few helpful links:

The World of Navajo weavers and Navajo weaving

A History of Navajo Weaving

Arizona State Navajo Weaving Exhibit

A Brief Social History of Navajo Weaving (The Collector’s Guide)