Edited by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Helen Cann. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2021. 96 pages. $18.99/hardcover or eBook. Recommended for ages 4–10.
For Every Little Thing is a worthy addition to the genre of spiritual poetry collections for children. It does not offer anything radically new in either format or content, but it is a beautiful book that does exactly what it sets out to do: offer a structure that children can use to focus observation of daily wonders, gratitude for blessings large and small, and a sense of Divine Presence drawing them into communion and community with the world.
The poems themselves are collected from a variety of writers, from classics such as Emily Dickinson to lesser-known modern poets. Most of the poems are written in simple language, and while some verge on simplistic or clichéd, this seems appropriate for a book intended to be shared with children as young as preschool. One thing I like very much about the choice of poems is their arrangement into seven categories, including the usual “Morning” and “Family and Friends” that many similar books include but also some slightly more abstract sections, such as “Love and Kindness,” and some quirkier categories, such as “Dreams.”
What really makes this book shine is the illustrations. The bright artwork by Helen Cann ranges from detailed portraits of insects, birds, and the natural world to looser illustrations of a diverse range of children enjoying a variety of settings and activities. Some are ordinary everyday scenes, while others are dream-like and fantastical, but all reinforce the book’s goal to help children practice an attitude of wonder and gratitude.
The book could easily be used among families for grace at meals, reflections at bedtime, or moments to pause and center throughout the day. The book is appropriate for reading to children as young as preschool or for older elementary-aged children to read by themselves. It could foster a lovely family tradition of allowing a child to choose a poem to be read before dinner or at bedtime each night. It is explicitly religious, with many poems mentioning God, but it is not explicitly Christian, allowing for a range of theological orientations to use and share. In a First-day school setting, it could be used to open each class with a centering poem or to spark lessons on topics including earthcare, gratitude, listening, love and kindness for all, and finding the Divine in the everyday. The age range is listed as 4–10, which seems accurate to me. The poems are definitely chosen for children, as they do not have the depth and nuance that would appeal to adults. This is not to say that adults won’t enjoy reading the poems and sharing this lovely book with children.
Anne Nydam is a member of Wellesley (Mass.) Meeting. She is a former middle school art teacher who now works as an author and artist.