We all want our kids to be grow up to be happy. It turns out that gratitude is the surest path to happiness. These 14 picture books all have a different take on gratitude and thankfulness. What are you favorite books on this topic?
14 Picture Books to Teach Gratitude
Penguin Problems by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith
Mortimer, the little penguin is the opposite of grateful as he starts his morning.
“It’s way too early. My beak is cold. It’s too bright out here. I’m hungry. It snowed some more last night, and I don’t even like snow.”
As he hunts for food, he is also being hunted. He has so many problems (and complaints). Finally, a walrus sets him straight with some zen thoughts, challenging him to appreciate what he has both in his community and the natural beauty that surrounds him.
Do walruses understand penguins? They do seem to understand gratitude! Kids will enjoy this hilarious picture book about looking at things from a different perspective. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
The Quiltmaker’s Gift by
A greedy king is unhappy despite his piles of treasures and he thinks a quilt from the magical quiltmaker will fulfil him. She only gives her quilts to the poor and needy and agrees to make him a quilt on one condition:
“Make presents of everything you own, she said, “and then I’ll make a quilt for you. With each gift that you give, I’ll sew in another piece. When at last all your things are gone, your quilt will be finished.”
“I can’t do that!” cried the king. I love all my wonderful, beautiful things.”
“But if they don’t make you happy,” the woman replied, “what good are they?”
The king can not part with his treasures so he punishes her instead. With each attempt, she foils him with sewing projects that help an animal, who helps her in turn. Finally, the king decides to give away his things. Slowly he learns that giving away his treasures actually fills him with happiness.
This is a wonderful classic about how true happiness comes from giving to others in need. It belongs on every bookshelf! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
It’s hard to be grateful for donated velcro shoes with a cartoon animal on them when all the other boys have cool black and white shoes with two white stripes. Jeremy wants those shoes so badly, but his grandma can only spend on “needs” not “wants,” and he needs new snow boots. When Jeremy finds his dream shoes in a thrift store, he buys them even though they are too small. He notices that Antonio’s shoes are falling apart, and his foot is smaller than his. What should he do? This picture book covers themes of poverty, gratitude, friendship, and generosity. It’s a must read for all kids! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Mr. Duncan put the magic pebble in an iron safe. Some day they might want to use it, but really, for now, what more could they wish for? They all had all that they wanted.
The Caldecott winning beloved picture book reminds us all about the importance of family, even when a magic pebble can make any wish come true. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Thankful by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Archie Preston
With rollicking rhymes, Eileen Spinelli reminds us to appreciate the everyday blessings we find in our lives. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
Gracias Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra
A little boy give thanks for the sun, the creatures he encounters, the ocean, family and friends. It’s the little things that are blessings to be thankful for. Extend this book by talking about what you aren your kids are thankful for and spread the gratitude. [bilingual Spanish picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
Todd inspires us all to think of the thinks we are thankful for.
I am thankful for the library because it is filled with endless adventures.
I am thankful for my pets because they keep me warm.
I am thankful for my feet because they help me run and play.
In Todd’s inimitable way, he encourages kids to think and appreciate the little things in life. His bright illustrations and gentle words are like a warm hug for kids in the form of a book. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
Rich or poor,
We all own
two tiny treasures.
Worthless if saved.
they are priceless when spent.
What are they?
I love this diversity poetry book with sixteen poems in different forms. It reminds us how wonderful it feels to be thankful. The answer to her poem, “Mystery,” is “thank you.” You’re welcome! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
CJ and his grandmother take a bus ride to the end of Market Street, and when he notices things that they don’t have, she points out the true beauty of the world around them. Their destination is the soup kitchen where they volunteer, and CJ finds the beautiful that his grandmother sees so easily. Matt de la Peña conveys that gratitude is in the eye of the beholder. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Giving Thanks by Jonathan London, illustrations by Gregory Manchess
A father reminds his son to give thanks every morning as they take a hike through the woods. He thanks all the gifts from nature: the frogs and crickets, the wild mushrooms, the trees and the animals. A lovely reminder to create a daily routine of gratitude. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Tigers Pay a Debt of Gratitude adapted by Wang Bo, illustrated by Liang Peilong
A Chinese doctor is lost and encounters two men who are happy to find a doctor to help their ailing mother. Dr. Yin uses acupuncture and moxibustion to help her. He doesn’t know that she and her sons are shapeshifters that can turn into tigers. Three years later, he is attacked by a pack of wolves. Two tigers come to his rescue; they are the sons whose mother he cured. Doctor Yin’s kind deed has been repaid back by the tigers, grateful for his help. This Chinese folk tale reminds us to pay it forward because those that we help are grateful never forget that kindness. [folk tale, ages 4 and up]
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
As much as this picture book is a beloved classic, I confess to annoyance that the boy never learns to be grateful, and only takes, takes, takes his whole life while the tree makes the ultimate sacrifice. This book is a parable for unconditional love and encourages the reader to think about gratitude, giving and receiving. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
Thank you to @eat.love.read on Instagram for this suggestion. My son learned to read independently from the Elephant & Piggie series so this has a special place in my heart. Piggie wants to thank EVERYONE, but Gerald is worried Piggie will forget someone important. She doesn’t though! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton
Thank you to @romenendez14 on Instagram for her recommendation. Inspired by the idea of being thankful for all that you have, An Awesome Book of Thanks! is a beautifully written, fantastically illustrated walk through a world of magical unicorns, robotic dinosaurs, and all of life’s simple moments, great and small. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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