________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 29 . . . . April 3, 2015



Marion Mutala. Illustrated by Elisha Revke.
Regina, SK: Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, 2014.
24 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-927756-29-4.

Subject Headings:
Gratitude-Juvenile fiction.
Ukrainians-Social life and customs-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.

Review by Meredith Cleversey.

**½ /4


“Why can’t I have a teddy bear? I wish I had more toys.”

Matya said:

“Be grateful you have some toys. You have a baby doll with the clearest blue eyes and the softest hair. She needs a little girl to love her. Some children have no toys.”

But I’m 5. I want lots of toys

...and I’m not grateful.


A little girl and her mother share a conversation over many years, as the child complains about the injustices of her young life, and the mother reminds her not to lament what she doesn’t have, but to cherish what she does.

     Marion Mutala’s Grateful is a quiet, reflective story about how children sometimes see the world. A little girl wishes for different things at different ages, like wanting to be an only child at the age of seven, wanting her own room at age nine, and at 12-years-old, wanting smaller feet. Her mother, sometimes referred to as Matya, tells her to be thankful she has siblings, a nice place to sleep, and feet to walk and dance on. The child doesn’t understand and isn’t grateful for the things she wishes were different. But when the girl has grown into a woman and her old mother lays dying, the daughter finally learns to appreciate the lesson she’s been taught. She realizes that she is thankful for what she has, and she begins to give her own children the same advice her mother once gave her.

     Grateful is written primarily as a dialogue between mother and daughter. Physically, this is a small book without a lot of text, making it well suited for one on one reading shared between an adult and a child. Although it is the conversation between the two characters that is the true focus of this tale, the black and white ink and pen illustrations by E.R. offer nice depictions of the mother and daughter as they grow throughout the years.

     While the significance of Grateful’s plot is easy to recognize, some readers may find it hard to appreciate the moral of this story. The daughter is told repeatedly to be grateful for what she has, but she is only given a brief explanation as to why she should feel this way (for example, being told she has a doll to play with, while some children have no toys). The message is a good one, but since the girl does not have a firm understanding of it, she fails to grasp its importance, and some young readers may find themselves similarly confused or unaffected by the text. The story does not seem to sympathize with the child, and no further attempts are ever made to help her comprehend her mother’s words. In fact, the girl only gains a true understanding of her mother’s meaning when she is an adult, and Grateful even ends with the grown daughter knowing her own children do not understand why she tells them to be grateful, either. The young characters of the story never really see the validity of their mothers’ wisdom, and the tale may not resonate with readers who likewise find the advice uncaring or unclear.

     Grateful deals with the feelings of unfairness many children experience from time to time. The story is meant to show how, over the years, one little girl learns to appreciate and cherish what she has, and, in this purpose, Marion Mutala’s tale is successful. The lack of sympathy for the daughter’s sadness and frustration may not appeal to everyone, but this book could be a good starting point for discussion among readers about what it means to be truly grateful.


Meredith Cleversey is a librarian in Cambridge, ON. She loves to read, write, and live in a world of pure imagination.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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