November 19, 2013

Poems and prayers of gratitude from Katherine Paterson

Interview by
Displaying tremendous grace after the passing of her husband, Paterson spoke with BookPage about her gorgeous new book and inspired us yet again.
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Katherine Paterson is a living legend of children’s literature. She has won the Hans Christian Andersen and Laura Ingalls Wilder Awards—as well as multiple National Book Awards and Newbery Medals—and is the author of such classics as Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved.

Following 2011’s picture book Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Paterson and illustrator Pamela Dalton once again join forces for Giving Thanks, a collection of prose, poems and songs of gratitude. In between these inspirational snippets and Dalton’s paper-cutting designs, Paterson shares meditations and personal stories that illustrate thankfulness in her own life.

Giving Thanks includes prayers, proverbs, poetry and wisdom from many different religious and cultural traditions. Tell us why this is important to you.
I believe that the one I call God is infinite and therefore far beyond my finite comprehension. I need the vision of the Infinite from other religions and cultures to broaden my parochial vision.

What does being gracious mean to you?
It means opening my mind and heart to the gifts and the needs of others.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by daily obligations and distractions. How do you remind yourself to stop and give thanks?
This may sound self-serving, but actually I have been greatly helped by the book Giving Thanks that Pam, our editor Christopher Franceschelli and I did together. I have been going through a particularly difficult period of my life with the serious illness and then death of my husband. Doing the text and then rereading it with Pam’s wonderful illustrations has reminded me over and over again to give thanks for people and things that come to me every day in the midst of hard times.

You share many personal stories throughout Giving Thanks, which encourages readers (and listeners) of all ages to share their own stories while delighting in the poems and prayers here. What advice would you give a family that hopes to make the sharing of personal stories a regular part of their lives?
In order to share stories, we have to take time to do so. In our full and harried lives we forget that a vital part of growing together as a family means we need to listen to each other and tell each other things of importance. This happened best for our family around the dining room table or in the car on the way somewhere. But you have to think to do so and consider this sharing of as much importance as shopping or texting or posting on Facebook.

Do you have a favorite poem or proverb from this collection?
I think the alphabet prayer on the frontispiece is perhaps my favorite in the collection. It reminds me of St. Paul’s words, that we do not know how to pray as we ought but that God’s spirit intercedes for us “with sighs too deep for words.”

What are three things you’re thankful for this year?
I have so many things to be thankful for that it is hard to limit myself to three, but I am particularly grateful for the years my husband and I had together and for the last week of his life that was a time of many blessings. I’m grateful for my children and grandchildren’s loving care and the support of so many friends. And incidentally, for my dog who is a great comforter in a small body.

Do you have any special Thanksgiving traditions in your family?
Growing up the child of a minister and then as wife of one, the actual going to church for a service of Thanksgiving took precedence over the turkey or the football game, but, of course, they had their important roles in the celebration.

Get the Book

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

By Katherine Paterson
ISBN 9781452113395

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