Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs for Thanksgiving
edited and with reflections by Katherine Paterson
illustrations by Pamela Dalton
Handprint Books / Chronicle Books, 2013
The season when we focus on giving thanks will quickly be here. If you are looking for a gift to take to your hosts, to give to your family, or to give to yourself, this book is ideal.
There are times when words fail. How do we give thanks in meaningful, soul-stirring ways that properly express how we feel?
How can we reflect on being grateful, acknowledging beauty, appreciating community, understanding the joy and pain of this life?
In our household, all occasions are made richer with a book.
Together, Katherine Paterson and Pamela Dalton have created a treasure that will at once inspire you, delight you, have you nodding your head in agreement, and even singing along to the lyrics that are printed as poetry. Have several bookmarks on hand to mark your favorite poems, lyrics, sayings, and graces.
“Ooooooooooh, / The Lord is good to me, / And so I thank the Lord …” (the Johnny Appleseed grace) can be found in the section, “A Celebration of Life.” Eleanor Farjeon’s “Morning has broken, like the first morning / Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird” is present on a page decorated by an intricate butterfly and reassuringly round moon. A Native American proverb, the text for Cecil Frances Alexander’s “All things bright and beautiful,” the collection is plentiful.
I find myself feeling grateful to have all of these essential expressions of thankfulness in one book.
Author Katherine Paterson offers a reflection on each section, including “Gather Round the Table,” “The Spirit Within,” and “Circle of Community.” Reading any piece from this collection would be appropriate for your days of thanksgiving, no matter the time of year. You might also read aloud her short essays that range across marveling at the hatching of a cicada to overcoming hatred to understanding what it means to “be poor in spirit.”
I have written before about Pamela Dalton’s breath-stopping illustrations. She is a master of Scherenschnitte, a sixteenth-century paper-cutting art that fascinated Hans Christian Andersen and many others over hundreds of years. I have tried my hand at this art form; I understand how very difficult it is. In her hands, it is filled with grace and thanksgiving, a perfect complement for this book. You can see two samples in this article, showing her technique of cut paper, stained with a coffee solution, and then “illuminated with watercolor.”
As I read through Giving Thanks, I found myself anticipating whether my favorite pieces would be included and I found each of them, including my favorite by e.e. cummings from “This Amazing Day”:
“I thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and
a blue true dream of sky, and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes”
Along with my favorites, I found many new treasures. I believe you will, too. Give this book as a gift of thanks to those you love. You will all be grateful.