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Utah resident shares love of yoga through an illustrated bunny

While living in New York City, illustrator Brian Russo decided to enroll in yoga teacher training. During the training, he had to memorize a sequence of yoga poses, so he decided to make flashcards. At the time, he was working on a side project involving rabbit illustrations. Instead of drawing stick figures doing yoga poses on his flashcards, Russo drew a bunny.

When Russo, now a Utah resident and the author and illustrator of "Yoga Bunny" (HarperCollins, $17.99, ages 4-8), shared his yoga bunny flashcards with the rest of the class, they loved them. After the training was over, he was teaching himself some web design and he decided to make a website, bunnyoga.com, with his yoga bunny illustrations.

These illustrations grew in popularity as others reposted them on their websites and social media.

"And it would get more likes than I ever get on my social media," Russo said in an interview with the Deseret News. "Like, the same number that I get but with a K after it. I think it was blowing up in a micro way."

Then, HarperCollins reached out to him. Lisa Sharkey, senior vice president and director of creative development, had independently come up with the idea of creating a children's book about a bunny doing yoga. After doing a Google search, she found Russo's website and contacted him about doing a picture book for them.

Russo said he had already written an unpublished children's book once before, but the experience of working with HarperCollins to develop the book they wanted was completely different.

"They had an idea of something they wanted to do, and it was working with them to get this collaboration across," he said.

He pitched different story ideas to them for months, he said, before they were able to settle on what they wanted.

"When I saw the finished book … I was really blown away by how beautiful and professional it looked, and I'm really excited for people to see it," he said.

In "Yoga Bunny," Bunny is wishing his friends would join him for yoga, but they're too distracted by all their problems to give it a try. But it doesn't take long for Fox, Lizard and Bird to realize yoga is actually the solution they have been looking for all along.

Russo hopes there will be more yoga bunny books to come, and he's excited to see what effect it will have on the children who read it. He said he came to yoga as an adult and found that it helped him with the anxieties that come with adulthood. But he knows children have anxieties as well, and he hopes that some of them will be able to "find some kind of peace and mental clarity" through yoga.

If you go …

What: Brian Russo book signing

When: Saturday, Dec. 10, 2 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East

Web: kingsenglish.com

Note: The signing line is for those who buy a copy of the featured book from The King's English.