A wonderfully illustrated ode to gratitude.
Publication date: 1st December 2015
Publisher: Mascot Books
The first thing to say about Saying Thank You by Dr Monisha Vasa and illustrated by Alaina Luise is that it’s nowhere near as sickly sweet as the concept might suggest. I feel like public expressions of heartfelt gratitude are common in American culture but, like any expression of strong emotion, it can be quite alienating in the UK. As far as I am aware, Mascot only operate in the US and Canada, however with the world how it is, I’m sure copies of the book will end up on this side of the pond as well.
The picture book follows the classic repetition technique to present the things that the narrator is grateful for, by applying them to various animal families. The relationships portrayed are adult-child ones throughout, meaning that it is a work with a heavy focus on bonding. It is a positive, feel-good book, with a perfect balance of ‘thank yous’ for people and situation in life, e.g. “your kind and loving spirit” and “the food that nourishes our bodies.”
The illustrations are thoughtful and animated, without a huge amount of detail, giving the book an ambience of essential simplicity. The text can look like it has been shoe-horned into the image as it is typed into white gaps, however it does not jar overpoweringly. The selection of exotic animals is interesting and diverse, highlighting the common need for others, even amongst those who seem so different.
Luise also avoids the cliche of ending with a human example, meaning that the effect does not narrow in the face of familiarity, but remains this open, sweeping question. Gratitude does not need to be limited to the home, or perhaps the adult reader, it can stem from anything in the world. This is a beautiful note to end on, and one which allows the child reader to focus on the concept rather than being confined by the presence of the adult reader next to them.
I would recommend this picture book for bonding ‘quality’ time reading, perhaps with step-parents or older siblings, who might want to prove that they are grateful for the child reader. Individually, I would recommend it to adults who are receptive to mindfulness, or wanting a nudge to remember what to be grateful for, and to children looking to appreciate the world around them and their luck in being surrounded by loved ones.