Thanks a Million
Nikki Grimes and Cozbi Cabrera
One of my favorite poems is “Messenger,” by Mary Oliver (found in her collection, Thirst). In it, she writes:
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished…
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
Gratitude. I would love to say that it’s the fundamental posture of my life. At this point, let’s just say that it’s my highest aspiration. It’s a habit to be cultivated. And as I’m working on it myself, I’m trying to help my kids along the way too. So I was thrilled – grateful even! – to stumble across Thanks a Million at our local library branch last week.
Thanks a Million is a collection of poems about gratitude. What I love is how Grimes’ poems take seriously the whole range of children’s thanks: there are poems about weekends, ball games with dad, and a new friend in the lunchroom. Those simple moments are treated with as much respect as the thanks given by children who have lost parents, been embarrassed in front of classmates, or are sleeping in a homeless shelter. On setting the book down, the reader walks away with the sense that there is blessing everywhere, if only we know how to look.
And oh, the illustrations. They are vibrant, sensitive, and beautiful. The interplay between images and language is wonderfully done. Both my literate five-year old and her wiggly two-year-old brother were happy to sit and take in the poetry, and they were arrested by the illustrations. As we’re approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, this is a wonderful volume to spend some time with, and to spur us on towards becoming people whose work is gratitude.