UTO Reads!

UTO Reads!

By: 
The Rev. Canon Heather L. Melton, Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

One of the things we get asked about most are resources for teaching gratitude to toddlers, children, and youth. At the last UTO Board meeting, we agreed to start a new segment of the e-newsletter featuring a review of a book that teaches about gratitude. Each month, we’ll have a review of a new book that we think does a great job of teaching gratitude, generosity, or kindness. We’re by no means the experts on this, so we hope you’ll submit your own book reviews! Just send me (hmelton@episcopalchurch.org) a photo (of you or the book) and a short description of the book, stating who you think will enjoy it and what you liked best about it. We’ll run a new book review each month, so let us know what you’re reading to help you live a more grateful life!

To kick off our new series, UTO Reads!, I thought I’d start with two books for little people, getting help from my twin 3-year-olds who love books and have very strong opinions on them. So, I’ll give you my thoughts and theirs with each book. Let me begin by saying that I started with these two books because I wasn’t sure what age group they were really good for, and one is focused on gratitude and the other on generosity. One is good, but one is great.

Quilt Maker's Gift and ThankfulThankful by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Archie Preston
I found Thankful in the board book section, so it’s a little sturdier for the “I like to read and eat books” crowd. The text, which suits that toddler age group, is a wonderful, simple introduction to gratitude for each and everything that we encounter that brings us joy in the day. The story follows a brother and sister through a day of play. Each page gives thanks for the activity of the brother or the sister. It starts with the sister watering her garden and giving thanks. We give thanks for reading a story, and even for glitter. It’s a very simple book, with simple and soft illustrations. The message, however, is very clear and powerful: give thanks at all times and for all things. As a mom, I like it. It’s a message of gratitude I want my kids to understand and embrace alongside their parents. It’s a simple message: What should you be grateful for? Everything! The toddlers, however, were less interested. In our house, a really good book is fought over and then demanded to be slept with. This book was returned to the shelf. I think this book would be better for children 0-2 years old. It’s probably a little too simplistic for kids much older than that, but it is a great foundational book.

The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau, illustrated by Gail de Marcken
The Quiltmaker’s Gift is a story about the importance of generosity and caring for others. I found it as a hardback book, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book go to support a variety of charities, so it’s nice that it practices what it teaches. As the mother of girls, I love that there is a strong female character at the center of the story. As an admirer of quilters (starting my first quilt as we speak!), I love the attention to detail given to the quilts and the quilt squares on the inside covers of the book. The dust jacket is a find-and-seek game, which I will never show my children lest they destroy the dust jacket! Every part of the book is well thought out and beautifully designed.

This is a beautiful book – there’s so much to look at and look for on each page! The emotions, particularly on the king’s face, are striking and allowed us to talk about how the king was feeling as he moves through the story. The story is also beautiful. There’s a woman who lives on the top of a mountain, and she sews these beautiful quilts that everyone wants. She refuses to sell them because each time she finishes a quilt, she goes out at night and finds someone who needs it to give it to. We then learn about the king who makes everyone bring him gifts – so many that he has lists of the lists of gifts he’s received! His castle is overflowing, and he’s still not happy. He learns about the old woman and her quilts and demands that she give him one. She tells him that, for every item of his that he gives away, she’ll add one square to a quilt for him. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen immediately. Eventually he gives away one marble to a child, and when he sees how happy the child is, he begins to give away more things. The king eventually finds great joy in giving to others and gives away all of his things. He receives his quilt and then goes on to help the woman give away her quilts to those in need.

This is a great story that my girls immediately were interested in. It was so loved that we had to read it twice and had to set up a schedule for who got to sleep with it. I think we’ll be reading this every night for a while! I highly recommend this book, especially as we are heading into the holiday season. For many small people, it’s hard to give away toys that they don’t need anymore, but this book helps tell a story of why it’s important to share and be generous. I would recommend this book for ages 3-6. I would especially recommend giving this book with a “Toys for Santa” bag. (We have this one: https://www.etsy.com/listing/481575078/santa-bag-santa-sack-custom-old-toys-for?ref=shop_home_active_16. Or there’s this one: https://www.etsy.com/listing/532195532/santa-bag-santa-sack-custom-old-toys-for?ref=shop_home_active_15, but you could certainly make your own or just use Christmas gift bags.) I think it would help children understand that gently used toys and clothes they have outgrown can go on to bring joy to others. Or that giving new things (like the quilt) to those in need can bring great joy to the recipient and the giver. Teaching generosity and caring for others is so important and sometimes difficult, and this book will be a big help. I highly recommend this book – it would be great to read in a Sunday School class before shopping for gifts for those in need, at home when trying to help your children with the handing down of clothes and toys, and any time you want to read a beautiful story that reminds us that giving is always better than receiving.

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