Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thankful: The Thanksgiving Bowl by Virginia Kroll

Veteran writer of holiday stories Virginia Kroll has a little gem in her newest picture book, The Thanksgiving Bowl.

The story begins on the title page, where we see a car loaded with parents and kids driving up to an old farmhouse whose yard is aglow with autumn leaves. Inside, Grandma Grace is ready to preside over a family feast whose delicious smells fill the house. As the relatives pitch in to serve Thanksgiving dinner, Grandma urges everyone to drop an unsigned note telling what they are most thankful for into her big, yellow plastic bowl.

After dinner all adjourn to the outdoor picnic table for pumpkin pie, where Grandma draws out and reads each note and the diners vie to guess the author of each thankful statement. "I'm thankful that everyone I love is thankful," says Grandma Grace. Unnoticed as the family clears the table and hurries back inside to escape the sunset chill, the yellow bowl blows away in the wind.

Thus begins the yellow bowl's yearlong adventure. In December it becomes a safe haven for a mouse fleeing a diving owl; in January it becomes a hat for a neighbor's snowman. As the year proceeds, it floats away in the spring thaw, becomes the base of a nest for Canada geese, a pot for an April seedling project which becomes a blooming Mother's Day gift, a tank for tadpoles taken to school, a boat for a toddler's wading pool, and the perfect mold for a sandbox castle. As the September wind blows it from the sandbox and across the parking lot, it is dutifully placed in a recycling bin, only to blow off the truck and become an October toy for baby raccoons, who push it across the road and leave it in a pile of leaves near an old farmhouse.

Of course, that farmhouse is the home of Grandma Grace, where last year's baby Joshy, now a TV-savvy toddler back for his second Thanksgiving, finds it and inverts the yellow bowl on his head like a hard hat. "I'm a builder!" he proclaims. "My helmet!"

"Mercy," Grandma Grace exclaims. "I've been looking all over for that. Wherever did you find my Thanksgiving bowl?"

"Right where we left it last year!" replies granddaughter Sara with great certainty.

Kroll's book, with its curriculum ties to the cycle of the seasons, is a perfect read aloud for preschool and Kindergarten children and a great way to introduce Grandma Grace's "grateful game" to our own families at Thanksgiving. "What goes around comes around," and even a humble plastic bowl has much to give.



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