I’ve heard it said a few times recently that ‘gratitude is subversive’. I like that. It’s probably fair to say that, living amidst what has been deemed ‘Generation Me’, thankfulness can sometimes seem a bit of a rare find. The under-current of entitlement thinking hardly seems particularly conducive to gratitude.
That said, I once read a Buddhist who argued that gratitude was subversive because it taught us not to ask for more (and thus subverted the consumeristic norms of capitalism). Yet her point ended up being that gratitude’s positive ‘blessing’ was that it reinforced that we were sufficient in ourselves. I’m sure there’s something valuable in refuting the whole consumer thing, but that analysis also struck me as odd. It seems to me that gratitude is actually all about being dependent upon Another. As a Christian I believe that to be God, our Father in heaven, the giver of all good gifts. In that sense, we’re quite obviously not sufficient.
As one writer in the Bible puts it:
Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.
– 1 Chronicles 29 v 14
That’s all a long way round to saying that I think it’s brilliant to have children’s books that emphasise the importance of saying ‘thank you’, but that also, crucially, introduce us to the generous God from whom we have received every good thing we have.
And that’s exactly what we have in ‘Eric Says Thanks’, a new kids’ book by Welsh pastor and part-time rapper Dai Hankey.
In essence the story is a fun adventure, with inquisitive and chirpy Eric embarking on a quest to find out who’s to thank for the toast he enjoys for breakfast.
After asking his mum, she points him in the direction of the baker, so Eric heads off to visit him. However, the baker in turn suggests Eric thank the delivery driver, and this pattern continues as we get to meet a whole host of other cheery characters in this bread supply chain. Finally Eric visits the wise old farmer who suggests that actually Eric should be thanking God.
Dai’s rhyming prose is a delight to read aloud. If you’ve heard Dai speak or you follow him on Twitter, then you won’t be surprised to discover that plenty of Dai’s trademark ‘epic’s and ‘buzzing’s are found on Eric’s lips. Likewise, the illustrations by Xavier Bonet are fun and bright, with what I felt was an American 50’s retro feel to them.
Admittedly, our oldest daughter (2) is not quite in the intended age of the audience (3-7), yet she’s still enjoyed the story. And because she’s already becoming accustomed to our family rhythms, such as ‘giving thanks’, there’s that connection between the story and real life. In that sense the story is a great tool to embedding thankfulness in practice – rooted in the ultimate Giver. As Dai suggests in the book, you can take your kids on their own ‘Eric trail’ and think through all the different people to thank when you’re enjoying a meal together – not least God himself.
A minor thing is the size of the font, which does seem smaller than most of the children’s books lovingly scattered around our family room.
Eric Says Thanks is a really fun children’s book, with a simple but revolutionary message. Pick it up from its publisher here. And here’s Dai giving a read-through:
Full disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of the book for free, but I hope this is still a fair and honest review!