What more apt place to fortuitously run into author Katie Bloom than a reception honoring Br. David Steindl-Rast, the 93-year-old Benedictine monk whose teachings on gratefulness have touched hearts all over the world? Bloom showed me a copy of her new book, The Thank-You Game, and I was immediately smitten by the story's power to make a difference. As a practicing psychotherapist working with traumatized women who struggle with addiction, Bloom got her inspiration from mothers seeking positive practices they could readily share with their children.
Her story's main character, Alex, tells her mother that she overheard girls in her class talking about a party to which she wasn't invited. Wanting to assuage Alex's sadness over being left out, her mother suggests that she play the Thank-You Game: naming all the things she's grateful for and would miss if they were gone. The magical part, her mother tells her, is that God gets the next turn in the game. "When God hears you saying 'thank you,' God and all the angels laugh with joy and send you more to be thankful for." Alex will know that God is playing along, her mother explains, when she feels good — "a tingling in your belly, or you'll find yourself smiling."
Even just the thought of the game helps Alex fall contentedly asleep, at which point the book asks us as readers whether we can name five things for which Alex can be thankful. These moments of engagement, sprinkled every few pages throughout the book, give readers opportunities to practice before they've even reached the story's end.
Realistically, the game does not instantly transform Alex. As she struggles to find her way through various hurts and disappointments, Bloom provides lessons in crucial skills like sharing troubles with friends and not letting anxiety about possible losses get the better of you.
Veronica Rose Jones' bright, spunky illustrations add to the overall uplift of this book. Bloom leaves us on a note of inspiration from Br. David:
"It is not happiness that makes us grateful.
It is gratefulness that makes us happy."