Book Review and Interview with Kate Coombs: Today I Am a River

I live and breathe picture books. I am always in awe of the creativity and passion children’s book authors weave into their work. When I read Today I Am a River by Kate Coombs I was immediately in love with it and had to share it with you all! Following my review, you can get the inside scoop on the creation of this beautiful book in my interview with Kate!

Children pretend their way through the pages and poems of Today I am a River, buoyed by Kate Coombs’s joyful message that they can be anything-everything! They are the wind, “touching flowers with fingertips,” the rain, “born of clouds, sister to thunder and lightning, and a stone “strong and still, thinking my own thoughts.” With each page ( trees, spiders, leaves, sunlight), you feel the love, power, and peace of nature. Anna Emilia Laitinen’s gorgeous soft watercolor illustrations play well with the text. The pairing sets this poetry book apart! —Danna Smith Books

Interview with Kate Combs

DS: There are fourteen poems in Today I Am a River, all as beautiful as the next. Did the book start as a stand-alone poem? And if so, when did you realize you wanted it to be part of a picture book?  

KC: My Sounds True editor, who edited Breathe and Be, asked me to write a companion book. I love nature and nature was a strong presence in Breathe and Be, so I returned to it in the second book. The first two poems I wrote were “Today I Am a Tree” and “Stone.” I was just experimenting, but it turned out imagining myself as different things in nature helped me express my joy in nature. The poems are also about paying attention to the details, like one beautiful leaf or a shine of quartz on a rock.

DS: Your lines flow so well into the next, you make writing poetry look easy! How long did it take to write and polish your manuscript?

KC: Thank you! I think the whole thing took 3 or 4 months, though I later revised the poems with my editor. I wrote a few poems to show my editor so she and the rest of the publishing team could see if they wanted to go ahead with the project. They liked the poems, so I wrote more! I’ve learned to write a fast draft of a poem, tinker a little, then let it simmer for a day or so and come back to it with fresh eyes. I revisit the poems over and over as I build a collection. Each word in a poem needs to be just the right one. Of course, I always write more poems than are needed so my editor can pick and choose.  

DS: You paired up with illustrator Anna Emilia Laitinen on Breathe and Be. Did you go into this project knowing Anna would illustrate it?  

KC: No, though my editor may have mentioned the possibility. First I wrote the poems. Then my editor sent them to Anna Emilia to see if she wanted to be involved. I’m happy to say that she loved them and started making sketches right away! Anna Emilia loves being out in nature. The textiles and dinnerware and other things she designs all feature leaves and flowers.    

DS: I noticed the animals that got their own poems aren’t the usual sweet and cuddly ones. You chose a snake, a spider, a skunk, and an owl.

KC: I did want to celebrate animals that may not always get a lot of attention, or at least positive attention. Besides, though I don’t love poems that focus mostly on messages, I had a few thoughts about my animals and their “personalities”: persistence and hard work for the spider, bold self-confidence for the skunk, a willingness to go one’s own way (especially as a creative person) for the snake, and living/enjoying one’s strengths for the owl. The fact that I’m writing for a publisher that emphasizes meditation and mindfulness did give me a certain feeling and direction.

DS: If you could be any ONE thing from your book today, what would you be and why?

KC: I think probably the tree. I am so in love with trees! Right now I keep looking out my office window to enjoy the glorious greens of summer trees.  

DS: What can readers expect next? Is anything else in the works?

KC: I have a few ideas for new collections, but nothing I’ve settled on yet. However, I keep a poetry journal, writing a poem a day. Some of those give me ideas for new books. Here’s a little poem from last week:


the bears of summer

trundle through woods,

cubs at their heels,

looking for grubs and berries,

snorting and snuffling,

cubs tumbling,

the bears of summer.

—Kate Coombs ©2023 all rights reserved

DS: So lovely! Thank you for sharing your journey with us Kate!





Kate Coombs is the author of many books, including four poetry collections: Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems, Today I Am a River, Monster School, and Water Sings Blue, which won the national Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and got four starred reviews. She has also written middle grade books, picture books, and numerous board books. Kate lives in Bountiful, Utah, where she teaches college English and works with struggling readers. Kate loves nature, especially trees, clouds, seashells, and frogs. Learn more about Kate and her books at

3 thoughts on “Book Review and Interview with Kate Coombs: Today I Am a River

Leave a Reply