written by Nancy Ling
Here’s to quiet reflective gratitude books, which are often hard to sell to publishers, but so needed in the world today.
When a child expresses gratitude, the world somehow seems like a better place. What a delight it is when they notice the sunlight falling upon their comforter or the sweet, sloppy kiss from their puppy. Surely, a child with a thankful heart makes us smile.
Often this sense of gratitude comes from observation, and while it can be spontaneous and natural, it can be a practice that we instill in our children and ourselves.
*originally published 7/8//21, updated 7/19/23
10 Gratitude Books for Children
FOR EVERY LITTLE THING (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers) edited by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Helen Cann
Our hope is that parents and children will celebrate the wonders of the universe as they read together. For Every Little Thing will take a child from morning to night with easy-to-read, memorable selections that families will treasure. Each prayer, poem, and blessing offers an appreciation for the small and big gifts of the world. Here, children can discover thankful hearts for their daily blessings and a personal way to draw closer to God and one another.
WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA (Charlesbridge) by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac
In the tradition of the Cherokee people, this award-winning book is a “reminder to celebrate our blessings and reflect on struggles.” With sensitivity and depth, Sorrell shows how the weaving of buckbrush and honeysuckle into baskets serves to remind a culture of tragic losses, such as the Trail of Tears. Still, there is beauty in such happenings as new births, animal friends, and shared stories over buttery bean bread. It’s hard to step away from this story when it is done.
THANK YOU, OMU! (Little Brown) written and illustrated by Oge Mora
How refreshing to have an older character like Omu in a picture book! In a Stone Soup fashion, this story shows Omu’s generous heart, as she offers her delicious-smelling “thick red stew” to those who stop by her home. But will Omu have any soup left for herself? Thankfully, the folks in her neighborhood whom she feeds also reciprocate, in gratitude for all Omu has provided, and their gathering in her home brings great delight.
THANK YOU, EARTH: A LOVE LETTER TO OUR PLANET (Greenwillow Books) by April Pulley Sayre
This is a gorgeous and lyrical letter, addressed to Dear Earth. Combined with stunning photography, Sayre makes us feel like we’re stepping into a world that we may have missed, though it’s all around us. With images of “parallels” and “patterns” and “prickles” and “curves,” we discover what a glorious world we live in.
THE THANK YOU BOOK (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
This book has such a sweetness to it, between the words and illustrations. One of the first lines says so much: “Thank you isn’t just for learning manners. It’s also for when something wakes a little hum—a happy little hum—inside you and you want to answer back.” Ray continues by taking the reader through the big and small (from bubble baths to the earth we sit on) daily gifts we encounter.
THE BLUE TABLE (Greenwillow Books) written and illustrated by Chris Raschka
Everything happens around this simple blue table and it’s both magical and inviting. While Caldecott Medal winner Raschka never shows the people involved, he uses the blue table to show the love and daily events that happen there. Not surprisingly, the word “Thankful” is at the center of it all.
APPLE CAKE: A GRATITUDE (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books) by Dawn Casey and Genevieve Godbout
This is a great read in combo with The Blue Table above. With so few words, Casey allows her readers to reflect on how food arrives at our tables? From the busy honey bee to the hard-working farmer, all these ingredients working in harmony to bring apples to our table and, if we’re lucky, apple cake. Thankfully, there is also a recipe in the back of the book, to make this apple cake complete.
WHAT I LIKE MOST by Mary Murphy, illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang
Of all the things that a little girl notices and likes in her everyday world, there is one thing that she loves the most. While people come and go as she watched from her window, she can adjust to those changes because she is grateful for the constant love of her mother. In childlike fashion, the thing that the child “likes most” changes with each flip of the page, as it does in real life.
BE YOU (Orchard Books) written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Sometimes we all need a reminder to be grateful for who we are. This book captures that childlike joy of loving ourselves in all of our uniqueness. It also makes a perfect present for a recent graduate, as they head off to discover the way in which their talents can be used to make the world a better place.
BEFORE YOU SLEEP by Annie Cronin Romano, illustrated by Ioana Hobai
Such a poetic bedtime story which fosters the reflection of one’s day through all five senses. “Before the sun slips to the west, tuck in your senses snug to rest.” A child will travel through the smells, sounds, tastes, sights and feelings they encountered to find the unique beauty of each day.
About Nancy Tupper Ling
Nancy Tupper Ling is the winner of the prestigious Writer’s Digest Grand Prize and the Pat Parnell Poetry Award. She draws her inspiration from the multicultural background of her family and the interwoven fabric of familial culture which is, on the surface, seemingly everyday. She is the author of My Sister, Alicia May (Pleasant Street Press), Double Happiness (Chronicle Books), The Story I’ll Tell (Lee & Low Books) and the founder of Fine Line Poets (www.finelinepoets.com). Currently, she resides in Walpole, Massachusetts with her husband, Vincent, and their two girls. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.