Friday, January 25, 2019

Review - Grow Grateful

Grow Grateful
by Sage Foster-Lasser & Jon Lasser
illustrated by Christopher Lyles
Date: 2018
Publisher: Magination Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Kiko goes on a camping trip with her class and learns about gratitude! Throughout the trip, Kiko discovers different things she appreciates about her family, friends, and opportunities. This story is based on the "theory of mind," which is the ability to take perspective of others and recognize that each person has their own thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. Growing gratitude leads to greater happiness and interpersonal relationships. A "Note to Parents and Caregivers" provides information on teaching children how to be grateful.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm having a hard time with this book. It got me thinking, to be sure, but I'm also kind of confused (which is probably not what the authors were going for).

This playfully illustrated book takes a vague look at gratitude. Taken on its own, the story is simple (perhaps a little too simple) and fairly easy to understand... for adults, anyway. I'm not sure if the teacher's explanation of gratitude would really be enough for some kids.

What I found a bit puzzling, however, were the notes at the end. I'm still not sure how "theory of mind" ties into gratitude, although I'm not a psychologist, so I may be missing something. Is it not possible to feel gratitude without being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes? I would argue that it is, and I think it's important to recognize that this could be the case. "Theory of mind" can be tricky for people with conditions such as autism, but just because they may have trouble with putting themselves in another person's shoes doesn't necessarily mean that they can't see how something affects their own life and be grateful for that. So much emphasis is put on this "theory of mind" stuff in the notes that I'd be concerned about the kids who simply can't get there, for whatever reason (the notes actually tell parents to seek psychological help if their kids "exhibit chronic irritability or a pervasive state of negative affect"; maybe the kids are just annoyed from being pushed to do something that their brains are simply not capable of doing).

I'm not a fan of books that require pages of notes at the end to explain what they were trying to do. In this case, my dislike is compounded by the fact that the story and the notes bear little resemblance to one another. If volunteering and writing gratitude letters to the neighbours and talking about how others might feel if you do something nice for them are so important, why didn't those things show up in the story? I'm still having a hard time seeing how the camping trip was related to the concept of gratitude, except for the spiel Ms. Cooper gave the kids around the campfire.

The pictures are lovely and colourful, and on its own, the story is fine. It's when these supposedly related end notes get brought into the picture that I start to feel a little uneasy about recommending this book; I'm afraid that those notes kind of work against the simple message of gratitude.

Thank you to NetGalley and Magination Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

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