Circle of Thanks (Illustrations by Peter Catalanotto, Ages 4-8) is a wonderful fable for children and parents alike. The main characters are a boy, his mother, and an entourage of unique animals, including Arctic Fox, River Otter, Mother Caribou, and Raven. The tale begins with a young boy and his mother who live on the Alaskan tundra where there is no color and no sound except for the howling of winds and wolves. There, in that isolated region of the world, children will learn all living things are inter-related, and each act we commit begets a reaction. Through a series of mishaps and adventures, these animals and people affect one another by sharing food, saving each other's lives, and displaying kindness. Finally, the circle ends where it began, with the small boy whose mother started the goodwill chain of events by pulling Otter Pup from an icy river.
Young readers will love Peter Catalanotto's vibrant water color illustrations. The seasons are represented in their entirety. Winter is a mirage of blues, spring becomes a cacophony of oranges and pinks, summer is a time when Color skips across the land, and autumn vibrates with greens and yellows. Obviously, the illustrations in Circle of Thanks are integral to the text. Children will find beautifully animated animals who, like the seasons, change their coats and/or living habits. The grazing, swimming, and leaping characters provide plenty of action! The language, too, is full of fun and beauty. If ever parents wanted to introduce their children to poetry, Circle of Thanks would be a good starting place. With language such as, " Grasses poke through the wet snow and shiver in the cool air," children will take with them not only a different perspective about the natural world, but a welcome moral story.
In Circle of Thanks, Susi Gregg Fowler has written a wonderful children's book that young people will want to read again and again. And each reading will be rewarded with abounding new discoveries. Parents will appreciate the book's virtue. Children will learn that we are members of the larger world and all living things are worth our consideration no matter if we are thanked for our efforts or not. What valuable lessons!
Crystal Williams is a poet currently pursuing her MFA at Cornell University.