Double Book Review: PK Hallinan’s Let’s be Thankful and Thank You, God

If you are a Christian, you should buy Thank You, God for your child. It’s a hard book to track down but I ordered my copy through abebooks.com.

This book’s only mention of Jesus is on the page that reads as follows:

And thank you, dear God,

For all that you are —

From the cross on the hill

To the Bethlehem star.

I like this open-ended reference to the importance of the cross, because I don’t think we need to get all into atonement theology with our children right away. I’m still figuring out what the cross means in my own life, and I may very well spend the rest of my life still trying to work it out. So I think it’s good to introduce the cross as an important symbol to children, but not to try to give a tidy explanation about what it means.

This book also does not refer to God with any gendered pronouns. Inclusive language win! Because I don’t want to have to explain to RJ some day that even though I’ve been reading her books for years in which God is a “he,” God is not actually male.

Thank You, God has lovely, lilting rhyming verse, and highlights all the sweet and simple things in life that kids enjoy and parents sometimes forget to enjoy. It concludes with reminding us to be grateful for God’s love. Although I find the illustrations are nothing spectacular aesthetically, they do succeed in conveying the excellent message of this book.

If you are not a Christian, you could consider buying Let’s Be Thankful. Same author, similar premise and rhythmic verse, and if you live in the city of Winnipeg, you can just take it out from the library.

Even though these books are by the same author and about the same topic (gratitude), there is something that fundamentally changes when God is removed from the story. In a world, or book, where there is no God, gratitude is no longer directed to a giver or a provider of all the things we enjoy. Maybe you want to direct your gratitude towards “the universe” (people do that, right?). Well either the universe is indifferent or, if the universe is not indifferent, isn’t that kind of the same as believing in God?

Anyway, in an indifferent universe, the exercise of gratitude is mostly an exercise in self-improvement. On some level, Hallinan acknowledges this on the page where he writes:

For when I am thankful,

It’s easy to see,

I tend to spend life

Living more joyfully!

So in a way, this secular gratitude is a little self-serving. But hey, religious gratitude also can function in a self-serving way, and appreciating the world does bring more joy into one’s life. And the more joy you have in your own life, the more you can spread it around. And that is something we can all believe in and be a part of whether we believe in a higher power or not.

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