‘The Thank You Book’

By Mary Lyn Ray

“The Thank You Book,” by Mary Lyn Ray, offers a nod to the little things we take for granted. Ray’s sweet book shines a light on our daily blessings, and Stephanie Graegin, a personal favorite, illustrates Ray’s poetic words with petite pictures of animals and children cute beyond words.

It begins, “Thank you isn’t just for learning manners. It’s also for when something wakes a little hum — a happy hum — inside you and you want to answer back.” On the spread a little boy holds the paw of a striped cat as they gaze toward a mountain, a path laid out before them symbolizing the journey of thankfulness that’s about to begin.

There’s a thank you in the morning for a “new day,” and for the “buzz and bloom and grass (and toes) and all that makes us wonder.” There’s gratefulness for “glue and glitter and for learning something new,” and “for parades” and “for puddles.”

All seasons are represented, each with merit, from playing in a tree house, dressing up for Halloween and offering a prayerful thank you for “family” and “home” when gathered around a food-laden table.

“The Thank You Book” encompasses all we have to be grateful for, from “ . . . zippers that zip jackets,” to “ . . . the earth we ride on, and for the stars beyond.” Add to your thankful list this lovely book, perfect for Thanksgiving or any time of year. Ages 4-7.

‘Dear Sister’

By Alison McGhee

We may wonder if siblings will ever get along when they exclaim, “That isn’t fair” over injustices they perceive. In “Dear Sister,” a graphic novel by Alison McGhee, a brother walks readers through the perils of living with his sister, complaints outlined in handwritten letters.

The story begins when the little girl is born and the boy’s parents urge him to draw a picture of her for her baby book — his rendition shows a screaming infant with a big “Waaaaa!” erupting from an overlarge mouth. Suffice it to say, the picture doesn’t make it into the baby book because the parental unit, “the wardens,” don’t think it’s very nice.

The letters the “tormented big brother” writes are a progress report of highlights in his sister’s life, her birthdays and such, as well as annoyances the boy endures, like having to read the same book to her, “763,” then “99,999 times.”

Clever illustrations by Joe Bluhm mimic pencil sketches a child would draw, detailing the unfair treatment the boy receives when he pulls a quick one on his sister, or bans her from playing with him and his friend Joe.

When his sister goes to kindergarten, the boy enters eighth grade, a milestone he’s not particularly happy about because Joe has moved to Florida. Though his sister is young, she feels for her big brother, gradually ushering in a change in their relationship that gradually blossoms until the boy is off to college.

Lessons abound in “Dear Sister,” a springboard that might elicit empathy if left in clear sight of a big brother, who doesn’t want to be bothered, or is shared with a little sister who feels like a third wheel. Ages 8 and older.

‘Saving Winslow’

By Sharon Creech

Add “Saving Winslow” to a growing list of heartfelt books by Sharon Creech. Readers are sure to relish the touching story of a newborn miniature donkey, a “pitiable-looking thing” that Louie, a 10-year-old raises when his dad feels sorry for the creature born on his brother’s farm and brings the donkey home.

Louie hasn’t had much luck with pets, which have run the gamut from an earthworm to a goldfish, all biting the dust while in the boy’s care, leaving him grief stricken. So Louie’s parents greet the new family addition with trepidation, trying to prepare Louie for the inevitable — the donkey probably won’t make it, they gently tell their son. Louie doesn’t agree and throws all of his energy into caring for the pet he names Winslow.

Other well-drawn characters play into this lovely tale, including Louie’s friends, Mack, a 13-year-old totally smitten with Claudine, whose sister Nora, grows close to Louie and adores Winslow. But loss in her past makes her believe the donkey isn’t long for this world either.

Throughout the novel frequent references are made to Louie’s older brother Gus, who’s away in the Army, “Louie wondered how the absence of one person could take so much air out of the house.” Excerpts from Gus’ letters are included in the book, and Louie’s reaction to them offers insight into the brothers’ relationship.

“Saving Winslow,” isn’t a long book, and it’s far from exciting, only one incident toward the end a bit hair-raising. But this slim novel has great heart and will be lauded as a quiet read to be savored with its strong themes of loss, love and acceptance. Ages 8-12.

Books suggested in “Book Sprouts” are available for purchase at Neighborhood Reads in Downtown Washington.