Arts & Culture

Gratitude: Children’s Books Show the Way

BY Linda Wiegenfeld TIMENovember 14, 2015 PRINT

Around Thanksgiving, children hear a lot of talk about gratitude. However, getting a child to adopt this attitude is not easy because gratitude does not come naturally. It is a learned, very important way of understanding life.

The relationship between gratitude and happiness is well-known. Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, an internationally recognized expert in brain/mind health once stated that “if [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.”

For gratitude to be effectively instilled so that it becomes a habitual response, a child needs to be exposed to the idea often. Books are a powerful way to show what gratitude looks, sounds, and feels like in different situations.

Here are eight children’s books featuring gratitude in varied situations.

‘Gracias ~ Thanks’

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“Gracias ~ Thanks” (English and Spanish Edition) by Pat Mora. ( Lee & Low Books)

“Gracias ~ Thanks” (English and Spanish Edition) by Pat Mora has a young boy expressing what he is thankful for in a typical day. The boy’s words are written in both Spanish and English.

The boy is thankful for simple events such as a ladybug that lands on his finger, the chocolate syrup that melts into thick syrup over ice cream, and the cricket serenading him as he goes to sleep.

He is also thankful for the interactions with his family and friends such as running with his sister in the waves, fishing with his father, and having his family clap for him, even when he trips on the stage in a school play. 

The illustrations in the book are bright and fun. This is a fantastic book in any language.

‘A Turkey for Thanksgiving’

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“A Turkey for Thanksgiving” by Eve Bunting. (HMH Books for Young Readers)

Not all books on gratitude need to be serious. “A Turkey for Thanksgiving” by Eve Bunting is a humorous story about a turkey’s dilemma. 

Mrs. Moose decides that she wants a real turkey for Thanksgiving since she is the only one who doesn’t have one. 

The other animals all help her look and finally find a very fearful one. It seems that the turkey will meet his final destination, until the end of the book when the turkey discovers that Mrs. Moose wants him as a guest rather than as the meal. Mrs. Moose is a vegetarian.

‘Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’ ‘

I prefer the older version of “Thanksgiving at the Tappletons'” by Eileen Spinelli, which features people rather than wolves preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. I think children can relate better to people. Yet the message here is the same.

A series of funny mishaps prevents dinner from being ready in time. As the family stares at their empty plates, Grandmother says a beautiful prayer expressing her gratitude for her family. She stresses that being together is what matters and not what is on the platters.

After that, the family proceeds to have a wonderful dinner of leftovers and enjoys each other’s company.

‘In Gratitude Soup’

“In Gratitude Soup” by Olivia Rosewood, a fairy is grateful for the same things that an ordinary child would be grateful for. The fairy stirs all her grateful memories in a pot, shrinks the pot, and then holds the pot close to her heart. The fairy says that any child can do the same thing.

At the end of the book, there are little pots for the child to cut out and carry in a pocket to remember gratitude thoughts.

Today is a gift—that’s why we call it the present.
— Rana DiOrio, author

Also a companion arts and crafts book, “My Gratitude Soup: Create Your Own,” allows children to create their own artistic gratitude pots.

‘An Awesome Book of Thanks!’

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“An Awesome Book of Thanks!” by Dallas Clayton. (Two Lions)

“An Awesome Book of Thanks!” by Dallas Clayton is, well, awesome. Clayton wants children to think about what they have to be thankful for. The book begins by showing that in the beginning there was nothing, but today there is an abundance of things to be thankful for.

Clayton goes on to name nature, trees, trains, breeze, rain, your brain, and many more things in an extensive list. Children can add their own ideas as they read along.  

I especially like the section where the author says to be thankful for bad things that can turn out to be good. He recognizes that even bad situations have some good aspects to them. That section of the book especially requires deep thought.

‘What Does It Mean To Be Present?’

“What Does It Mean To Be Present?” by Rana DiOrio is a book geared for children, but it is also perfect for anyone who needs to be reminded to live each day to its fullest.

DiOrio wants you to savor the moment and not worry about what is happening next. When talking about gratitude, she makes excellent use of multiple meanings when she says, “Today is a gift—that’s why we call it the present.”

‘Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message’

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“Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message” by Chief Jake Swamp.
(Lee & Low Books)

“Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message” by Chief Jake Swamp is a book written by a contemporary Mohawk chief that celebrates the gift of the natural world and the resources of the Earth.

The book shows Iroquois Native Americans saying a morning prayer that has been translated into easy-to-understand words. It thanks Mother Earth and all the beauty that she holds. The original address, written in Mohawk, is included at the back of the book.

‘Thanks a Million’

“Thanks a Million” by Nikki Grimes is a book that has poems ranging from haiku to a rebus to a riddle, and all express gratitude. The collection of 16 poems reminds children to express thanks for simple joys such as sharing pie, beginning to enjoy math, and helping mom by watching a little sibling.

Thank every one of the ten thousand things: gratitude turns our world right-side-up.
— Ezra Bayda, author

This book will expose the child to different written ways of expressing gratitude as well as different ideas about what gratitude is.

There are many more books that feature gratitude in different situations. The books that I have written about are just a starting point. Expressing gratitude will help children connect to something larger than themselves and to think about all that life has to offer.

As Ezra Bayda, an author about spiritual living, said, “Thank every one of the ten thousand things: gratitude turns our world right-side-up.”

Linda Wiegenfeld is a retired teacher. Please send any comments or suggestions to

Linda Wiegenfeld is a retired teacher. She can be reached for comments or suggestions at
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