Give Thanks to the Lord by Karma Wilson; illustrations by Amy June Bates
Karma Wilson’s sweet Thanksgiving picture book called Give Thanks to the Lord, happens to be based on Psalm 93 that reads:
It is good to praise the Lord
and make music to your name,
O Most High.
The picture book, Give Thanks to the Lord, published by Zonderkidz, a children’s imprint of the religious publisher, Zondervan, has a sense of the sacred in a secular world. And, if you and your young readers look at the current life landscape across our world today, being in touch with the sacred in our lives is certainly warranted.
And, especially at Thanksgiving, we are reminded of its early beginnings, and the Puritans dream of a world free of persecution with the ability to worship as they wanted. So their journey to the New World began with prayers to the Almighty and trust in His guidance.
In Give Thanks to the Lord, the annual feast in modern day American is seen through the eyes of a young boy. In its poetic cadence, are the sights and sounds of a typical Norman Rockwell-like gathering of family and relatives at the annual feast known as Thanksgiving. At the very first Thanksgiving in 1621, after a long journey’s end, there was a celebration with the native Wampanoag Indians who had generously helped them through the pilgrim’s arduous experiences in how to make the land fertile. And, both came together for the bounty and blessings they had received.
The first Thanksgiving had at its very beginning, a very long journey based on faith in a guiding hand, and hope for the future in a New World. Primary sources are said to put the attending numbers somewhere in the vicinity of 140 folk present at that first Thanksgiving. And the event lasted for three days. When the Wampanoag Indians traveled two days to attend, it makes sense not to eat and run, right?
As families gather at the table today, perhaps that number is not the same as at Plymouth in 1621. But then again, as relatives assemble from near and far, I’m sure the numbers do add up. And we feel blessed for the numbers small or large that arrive.
And, as seen in the picture book called Give Thanks to the Lord, there is the familiar marking of this annual feast of reunion and thanksgiving, with the arrival and melding of relations from far away, entering a cozy house brimming with the smells of the dinner to come.
Pre-dinner, there is ample time to scoot through piles of russet-colored leaves with the faithful family hound joining in the leaf toss. And, all of this is seen through the eyes of a young boy, set to a poetic cadence.
Young readers may see their own families, or ones they have visited, reflected in the words that are simple and serene. From the chugging down of cups of cider, to a secret taste test of the pies cooling on the table just waiting to be downed, to the reason they are gathered in this place, with hands joined in prayer:
We all sit down, we all join hands.
Our heads are bowed as we say grace,
We give our highest praise to God
and feel him in this place.
It’s good to give thanks to the Lord.
Though Thanksgiving typically is a very American holiday, I am sure there are families of many faiths and creeds that gather on this day at table. And in their own ways they recognize the blessings that individually and collectively have been given to each of us this year.
This picture book is also a perfect entree to a discussion with young readers about those who struggle daily for the necessities of life. Many parents today help children gather Thanksgiving staples to stock the shelves of local food banks in their town. That is a very important lesson to be taught by example at a young age.
I can remember, as a child, my mother’s reminder as I went out the door with something in my hand to eat, she would say, “Always make sure when you go out, that you have brought enough to share with the other children.” I have never forgotten those words.
And, even the family golden retriever lingering close to the table loaded with savories, hopes for a chomp on the boy’s huge turkey leg.
Amy June Bates has illustrated Give Thanks to the Lord with rich golden autumn colors that fairly glow, as do the faces of the relatives that gather. The depiction of the family and relatives assembling, have a familiarity that young readers will find comforting.
Before the madness of Black Friday descends, and the ramp up to the Christmas frenzy begins, a quiet sit-down with a young reader and the beautiful picture book by Karma Wilson called, Give Thanks to the Lord, may be just the ticket to put the holiday hubbub in perspective as to WHY we celebrate this remarkable day that is not merely about the sharing of a meal, but also about the many blessings, large and small, that have come our way….including the people and pets around the table…and those absent from it.
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